Updated February 2, 2022
Do you need some tips to memorize content for an exam or quiz? Here we share some techniques that will allow you to retain all the information you need to excel in your courses.
People say that memory is fragile, and when you have to remember appointments, work schedules, your kids’ favorite snacks, and key concepts for your college class, you need to step up your game and look for ways to keep everything inside your head. Using memory techniques for your exams and other assignments where you can’t check your beloved notes can save you time, and you can avoid a quite literal headache.
According to Dr. Fabiana Franco from Psych Central, while small amounts of stress can be motivating, your brain shuts down when subjected to overwhelming amounts of pressure. Your head goes into a sort of “flight or fight mode,” meaning that you will be more aware of imminent threats than remembering definitions or dates. So don’t blame yourself and think you have a poor memory if you can´t remember difficult concepts!
Some of our clients here at Gradehacker often mention they cannot understand how people can remember everything for a test when they have so many things going on. In a certain way, they are right. It is impossible to remember everything, but only if you keep practicing outdated memory techniques that involve repeating information and reading your notes until your eyes give up.
Do you want to know how to retain more information even when the world around you is going crazy? Keep reading because we’re about to show you 5 Essential Study Hacks to Improve your Memory While Studying, so you can turn into a memory champion and get a perfect score in your next exam with no sweat.
Method of Loci: Home Is Where The Concepts Are
Also known as the memory journey or memory palace technique, this study method is simple and great for those with great imagination. You only have to visualize your home and assign some bit of information to each room or space. For example, let’s say you want to remember what kinds of germs exist:
“I enter my home, and the bacteria greets me in the living room. I go to the kitchen, and there are viruses. I open the backyard door, and in the bushes, I can find fungi. In the pool, there are a bunch of protozoa.”
You have to note one important thing about this memory trick; for best results, define a well-known route for your memory palace and always follow it in the same order.
- Why It Works: By associating new content with something you can easily visualize, any upcoming information will gain the same value in your brain. Also, it is quite a fun way to study!
- Best Used For: Any subject as long as you can divide it into small data pieces that you can easily associate with some object or space.
UAOA: Use A Lot Of Acronyms
An acronym is an abbreviation where the first letter of each work creates a new word. Sometimes they make sense, and sometimes they don’t, but the letters will help you recall the concept you want to remember.
For example, let’s say you want to know the names of the four phases of mitosis. Yes, you know they all end with -phase, but that won’t be enough for your professor, right? So instead, you only have to remember this: PMAT.
Instead of memorizing four entire words, you only need to know one acronym, and you are set. Obviously, you have to know what the letters mean, but you will know what you are looking for by stimulating your brain a bit.
- Why It Works: Instead of memorizing a huge list, you will remember just one that can make you recall many. It is like putting all the content you need in a nice and easy-to-process package.
- Best Used For: This one is great when you need to remember a list of names, concepts, or stages of a process.
Story Method: Small Stories To Remember Everything
Do you ever ask yourself why it’s so easy to remember silly anecdotes instead of, you know, how World War I started? This is because some processes are unfamiliar to us and are not yet processed as a succession of concepts.
The brain has a natural ability to remember stories, so take the keywords of whatever you are studying and create a story with them. It doesn’t need to be an epic tale à la Tolkien. Just like with the memory palace technique, keep it simple! A silly story will be enough.
For example, let’s say you want to remember the first 5 U.S. presidents:
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.
“George Washington arrived at John Adams’s house party with Thomas Jefferson. James Madison and James Monroe sent a text saying they were late.”
If you remember how these presidents have fun, you already have the answer to this question in your mind.
- Why it Works: you are organizing new information under a well-known framework that “flows” instead of being entirely disconnected between concepts.
- Best used for: lists or processes that involve stages. You can memorize everything by only organizing it under your favorite story.
Color Association: Put Those Markers To Good Use
This memory trick might seem a bit weird, but visual learners will know what we mean. Some people are lousy at remembering concepts, but they can tell you many things related to the textbook, where they found it. They can even tell you where to find it or what font was used on the page.
As random as it sounds, this makes total sense. When you are a visual learner, you make an image in your mind and you stick with it, so take advantage of that! This method works like this, assign a color of a concept category, and make your own symbology. For example:
Red: Crucial concept
Once you clearly understand your system, your study sessions will become easier. By recognizing the nature of the information you need, you can recall a color and find the ones you have associated with inside your mind.
- Why It Works: Colors are easier to remember than entire pieces of information, so they become an effective method to recall concepts.
- Best Used For: When you need to make sense of large pieces of text or books, this method will give you a sense of organization and help you find critical information more easily.
Musical Chunking: Put Your Concepts Into A Song
Songs can get stuck in your brain for days so take advantage of that! Take the rhythm of that catchy song driving you insane and change it for something you actually want to remember. Are you still doubting this? Keep in mind that you might have learned the alphabet by singing it. Some people still need the melody to remember if the J goes after or before the L.
We have heard people putting the most incredible concepts into songs like using “Country Roads” to remember Japanese conjugations or cartoon songs to memorize an entire continent’s geography.
If you are not very musically inclined enough to make your own rendition of your notes, you can check other people’s work like Arie Perry’s best hits on physiology. He uses common songs like “Silent Night” and fills it with Alzheimer’s concepts like this:
Alzheimer’s disease, a dementing disease, with progressive loss of memories / Cognitive deficits predominate, a several-year course is the typical rate / With increased disease as we age, with increased disease as we age…
If you are not feeling like using other people’s lyrics, you can create your own. However, keep in mind that you have to pick a very familiar melody. Don’t try your hand in new music genres for this one because the key to this technique is familiarity. Stay with your personal classics, and you will be fine.
Also, you don’t need to use an entire song. If you just cannot recall some chunk of information, give it some rhythm and make it the ultimate earworm!
Memory Techniques: What You Have To Know Before You Go
Even if these techniques might seem Godsend when you are in the middle of finals season, keep in mind that this is no magic trick. It’s not just about having the best cognitive abilities or the biggest memory capacity.
You still have to understand what you are memorizing and at least read about the concepts you’ll need to memorize before applying any of the tricks we just told you.
However, this shouldn’t be a bummer for you. How memory works is often considered some sort of mystery, but that’s not the case at all. With the right motivation and preparation, it is possible to memorize large amounts of information for your test. Why should this matter to you? Because for college classes, you will need to retain many concepts you are not familiar with at some point.
If you are in a rush because your life is already too hectic, creating a memory palace, singing a song, or making up some silly word association can really make a difference in the score you get in your next test. Don’t be stubborn, and give these memory tricks a try to make your brain more organized and fun!
Do you want to know more about how to improve your study sessions? You can also check these other blogs related to this topic that will be as helpful as this one: