Memorization Tips and Tricks

Educational Consultant, Research Psychologist, and Writer

There are two parts to memorizing something: getting it into your brain and then getting it out again. Surprisingly, the first part is relatively easy. Your brain can hold a lot of information. Just think about all the song lyrics and tunes that are in your head.

Don’t try to memorize too much at one time. Instead, break it up into parts. If you are trying to memorize a poem, don’t do the whole thing at once. Memorize just one stanza at a time.

You can sometimes “chunk” information. Remembering 10 numbers in a sequence is hard (3 0 7 5 5 5 8 2 9 4). But remembering 10 numbers in telephone format is a lot easier (307-555-8294).

Remember just the critical information. If you are making a presentation about constellations, you don’t have to remember every one of them. Find out what your teacher expects for the presentation and focus on those aspects.

Repetition over time is the most important method of getting information into your head and retrieving it readily. Don’t cram; the information won’t stick. Repeat the information frequently over time.

Writing things down and saying them out loud are wonderful ways to help you remember things. When you use these two strategies, think about what you are trying to remember. Just don’t say things out loud when they will annoy other people.

Mnemonics work for some people. This is the strategy where you associate information with something else. One of the classics is the mnemonic for the planets, at least when Pluto was included: “My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas.”

Adding a tune to what you are memorizing can be really helpful. The best example is the alphabet song, which you probably learned when you were four or five years old. Isn’t it unbelievable that you could remember all 26 letters at that age?

One of the toughest memory tricks is unlearning incorrect information. Instead of trying to unlearn it, try recalling it with a different cue. If you are constantly misspelling “weird” as “wierd,” you can always get it right if you remember it as “We are weird.” The “we” will help you spell it correctly.

Here’s something you should memorize. Ask your friends for their memory tricks. They might not all work for you, but some of them certainly will.

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