This is usually the most sought-out topic in the study skills section, but unfortunately, there is no one definite answer on what will work. Everybody is different, and there are probably hundreds of different study and memorization techniques; the trick is finding the ones that work for you. Here is a categorization of memorization techniques developed by Brown and Miller (1996):
- Memorizing through association
- Memorizing through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic systems
- Memorizing through grouping
- Memorizing through repetition
- Memorizing through mnemonic techniques
Memorizing through association
It easier to remember something if we link it to something we already know. Try to relate new information to personal examples as much as possible. Analogies can also be very powerful: some students remember the the cell structure and function of the organelles by relating them to a factory (the cell body would be the boss who gives the orders, the ribosomes are the messengers, etc).
Memorizing through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic systems
Although you may have already found out that you have preferred learning style when it comes to the presentation of the new information, try to incorporate as many of the senses as possible when studying -- not just your preference(s). Each sense is processed in a different part of the brain, and by using all the different senses, you are using more of your brain, which will help in the retention of material. Examples are walking as you rehearse your flashcards and drawing pictures to represent abstract ideas and definition.
Memorizing through grouping
Students literally have to remember hundreds of pieces of information. One of the key aspects of memory performance is to learn the material from the general to the specific. In order to achieve this, graphic organizers are often a must.
Think of all the information you need to learn as books in a book shelf. If you simply shove in one book after the next without any kind of organizational structure, it will be very difficult to find one particular book (especially if you have hundreds of them). However, if you organize the books according to topic and subtopics within each course, then it would be easier to find one specific book for which you are looking.
The brain functions much the same way. It needs some kind of mental organization in order for you to retrieve the stored information.
Click here for samples of different types of mind maps, concept maps, or graphic organizers.
Memorizing through repetition
This is probably the one aspect of studying that most people know -- and dread. However, even though most of us know that we should have lots of repetition, we don't know how important it actually is. Click here to see a how fast the retention of material drops with and without reviews of lecture material.
See the sample weekly schedule for an example of how to integrate reviews into a routine schedule. You don't want to end up like this -- COMPLETELY STRESSED OUT!
Also, repetition, in the context of memorization, means different interactions with the new material. In other words, it is more than a simple rereading of notes. It could include making flashcards, talking as you draw your mind maps, and writing lecture summaries.
Memorizing through mnemonic techniques
Mnemonics are very powerful memorization devices that work especially well for memorizing lists and sequences of items.
The words technique is usually used for lists, e.g. the mnemonic word HOMES is a memory trigger for the great lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).
The sentence technique works well for items that need to be remembered in sequence, e.g. "My very elegant mother just served us nine pancakes" stands for the nine planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto).
The key to mnemonics is to build a strong association between the mnemonic and for what they stand. Mnemonics take a little bit of practice, but become easier the more you use them. Click here for some sample mnemonics compiled by the Counselling Services at the University of Victoria.
Try these five different strategies and check out the links below, and hopefully your college experience will be one smooth journey.
Cordoso, S.H. (1997). Human memory: What it is and how to improve it. In Brain & Mind: Electronic Magazine on Neuroscience. Brazil: State University of Campinas, Center for Biomedical Informatics. Retrieved May 18, 2004, from http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n01/memo/memory.htm
- Written by Dr. Silvia Helena Cordoso, a psychobiologist, this non-education site links to seven articles: Types of memory, Remembering and forgetting, The brain mechanisms of memory, The brainís growth, Loss of memory, and Test your memory.
University of Texas Learning Center. (2002, Oct 17). Making the Grade 101: Improving memory. Austin, TX: Author. Retrieved May 18, 2004, from http://www.utexas.edu/student/utlc/makinggrade/improving.html
- Although this site from the University of Texas Learning Center is mostly text based, it gives excellent memory strategies, which are categorized into eight sections: 1) Pulling it all together, 2) The funnel approach, 3) Organizing through meaning and association 4) Vivid associations, 5) Active learning, 6) Visual memory, 7) Talk it out, and 8) Visualize yourself teaching the material.
York University. (2002). Note-taking at University: Review strategies. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Counselling and Development Centre. Retrieved May 18, 2004, from http://www.yorku.ca/cdc/lsp/notesonline/note5.htm
- This site explores what to with the notes that were taken during lectures. The information is organized into reviewing notes, constructing an outline, writing a summary paragraph, making personal examples, elaborative rehearsal, generating questions, writing preview questions, and consolidating the material.
Brown, S.A., & Miller, D.E. (1996).The active learner: Successful study strategies (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Company.
Copyright © 2004, Andrea Kosling, Selkirk College