Study Skills – Memorization

Do you have difficulty preparing for tests and exams that require a lot of memorization?
Are you interested in learning how to maximize your memory for facts and information?
Are you interested in learning how your brain works in the memorization process?

The following tips and information will help you learn more about the process of memorization and strategies you can use to improve your memory.

Memorization topics:

  1. What does it mean to memorize?
  2. How can you create an efficient memory?
  3. How can you effectively use your short-term memory?
  4. How can you effectively use your long-term memory?

1.  What does it mean to memorize?

Learning how your memory works is the first step in improving it. Here’s how your memory works:

Your brain is always busy perceiving signals, sorting and storing information.
Your memory is thus continually being used to process information.

IMAGE: Memorization

Information sorting is divided into short-term memory and long-term memory. All information passes through your short-term memory, but to commit information to your long-term memory, you must:

  • Understand it well.
  • Link it to information already understood.
  • Experience it by using multiple senses (for example, reading aloud allows you to use two senses: sight and hearing).
  • Use it.

Write, Link, See: these are three techniques to help you purposefully place information in your long term memory. For example, remembering an author’s name will be easier if:

  • You WRITE the name down.
  • You LINK the author to a known literary trend.
  • You SEE the name in your reading material.

2. How can you create an efficient memory?

Memorization depends on the senses you use to best store information. Most people are visual or auditory learners, but some people can also learn by using kinetic senses.

How do you learn best?

Visual learners learn best by seeing pictures or words.
Auditory learners learn best by sound association and having information being told or read to them. Kinetic sense learners learn best by using their sense of touch and incorporating practical experience.

A healthy lifestyle can improve your memory:

  • Spend some time outside and get some fresh air.
  • Get enough sleep and exercise. It will minimize stress and help clear your mind.
  • Avoid cigarettes and alcohol: nicotine harms your memorization abilities, and alcohol prevents you from consolidating information.
  • Eat right: vitamins, minerals, and protein are part of a balanced diet.
  • Establish a regular working schedule: this schedule will help you avoid overworking at the end of semesters.
  • Be informed and aware of the effects of medications on your memory process.

3. How can you effectively use your short-term memory?

Your short-term memory is also known as your working memory. It transfers and stores information into your long-term memory. Information processed by your working memory allows you to reuse this information when needed. Your short-term memory stores a small amount of information for a short period of time only. Consequently, it is very important to avoid mental passivity.

Mental passivity occurs when you are not making an effort to understandlink, and repeat the information given in class. Unfortunately, students often experience this lack of effort in classes that have little student-professor interaction.

A good learning situation gives you the opportunity to process the information you need to remember and thus help you reflect, organize, experiment with, and reformulate the information you receive in class.

Here are some tips to help you in this process:

  • Listen actively.
    • Review and silently repeat the professor’s explanations to yourself.
    • Associate what the professor says to what you already know.
    • Go over the professor’s key words.
    • Take notes in a way that you’ll be able to re-read later.
  • Select information to memorize.
    • Identify the main ideas and stay focused.
    • Highlight or underline the important information.
    • Add key words in the margins of the page.
    • Make a short summary in your own words.
    • Create your own tables, graphs, or diagrams.
  • In preparation for exams, organize information in units.
    • Create a summary that reduces many pages of notes to only a few pages.
    • Use visual representations such as tables, graphs, and diagrams.
  • Choose memorization techniques appropriate for the material.
    • To retain abstract concepts, use concrete and personal examples.
    • To retain a list of dates, repeat them in and out of order.
    • To understand the content of a long text, write a summary in your own words.
    • To give a personal slant to the knowledge, make associations to real-life situations.
    • Formulate your own questions.
  • Learn from general to precise.
    • Skim through the information you need to learn before learning details.
    • Concentrate on understanding the essence of what you’re learning by understanding main ideas and the links between them.
  • Use more than one of your senses.
    • Read and speak: read the key elements in the text aloud or talk about them with someone.
    • Read and write: create a summary or a table.
    • Read and do: put the elements of the text to use and apply them.
  • Visualize the information.
    • Create relevant mental images.
    • Imagine yourself performing a task by visualizing the context as precisely as possible.
  • Use mnemonic tricks (mental associations).
    • Use different colours for your notes.
    • Create acronyms or acrostics.
    • Sing the information to the tune of a popular song.

The best way to achieve an efficient short-term memory is to train it. Use daily chores such as memorizing your grocery list or phone numbers of friends to keep your mind active. Be confident in your abilities!

Your short-term memory is capable of storing 5 to 9 pieces of information for a short period of time. 
To retain more information for a longer period, you will need your long-term memory.


4. How can you effectively use your long-term memory?

To transfer information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory, you need to:

  • Stay focused
  • Take good notes in class
  • Review your notes after class
  • Re-read your notes regularly between classes
  • Reuse the information as often as possible

Back to Study Skills to find other helpful guides.

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