You’re in an exam hall, and you’re running out of time. You’re trying hard to remember an answer that you’ve studied, but your brain has chosen to play the lyrics to an old song instead. Has this ever happened to you?
The human brain can be tricky. It has immense potential, but, how do you make it work in your favour, especially in an exam setting? Luckily, there are multiple memorisation techniques to help your mind produce the right answer, at the right moment.
Every brain is unique, and every student learns differently. By identifying your learning style, you can pick the right memorisation techniques while studying. How can you know if you’re a verbal or a visual learner?
Ask yourself these questions —
If you said yes to A or B, you would prefer verbal memorisation methods. And, those who chose C or D must try the visual memorisation methods. We also encourage you to try both and see what sticks (to your mind).
Mnemonics are keywords, rhymes, or phrases that act as memory aids. A popular method is acronyms — where each letter of a word denotes a different phrase respectively. For example, VIBGYOR is used to remember the colours of the rainbow. Another mnemonic method is to form catchy sentences — King Henry Died Drinking Chocolate Milk corresponds to kilo, hecto, deka, deci, centi, and milli in the metric system. Learning how to make a mnemonic could help you with remembering the entire periodic table, or a complex trigonometry formula.
Rote learning (repeating something over and over) is tedious and ineffective for most students. Your brain takes time to encode and store information. So, try spaced-out repetition instead. If you learn one concept today, review it again after a day, a week, and a month. Your brain often forgets information unless it is repeated at certain intervals. This is why the revision process is important so that your brain has had enough time to register the information you learn every day.
Chunking is a technique of grouping items together so that they are easier to remember. Every individual “chunk” contains information that has similar characteristics or patterns. A good tip is to not assign more than 7 items to one chunk.
Here’s an example—
Try to remember these letters:
C F K N E H Z Y X M B I C B A T A C
Difficult? Try chunking them into groups of 3:
CAT HEN IBM KFC XYZ ABC
The first two chunks are animals, the next two are companies, and the last two are alphabet ranges.
So, instead of memorising 18 different letters, you can remember them in chunks according to their unique patterns.
If you’re someone who can’t stop humming and singing along to every song in the playlist, then this method could be perfect for you. We still remember nursery rhymes, even after all these years, because they’re simple and effective. Try making your own rhyme or lyrics to remember a formula or a property. For example, this rhyme is used to differentiate the colours of venomous and non-venomous snakes: “Red and black, safe for Jack. Red and yellow, kills a fellow.”
Mind maps are a wonderfully creative tool to remember facts or sequences of events. For this method, you may use paper and multi-coloured pens. Begin by writing your topic inside a circle in the centre, and add branches to the circle as your learning progresses. Every branch can have sub-branches, and be colour coded. For example, use green for formulae, red for dates or events, and yellow for properties. This “linking” technique helps you paint a picture and builds bridges in your mind.
If you are a fan of Sherlock, you might be familiar with his “mind palace”. This is a great memorisation technique and is similar to mind maps. Think of a place you are familiar with — your kitchen, your classroom, your bedroom. Next, put each item or topic that you want to memorise inside that room in different places that you can reach. Whenever you want to recall this information, visualise the space and find it in those locations. The more you use the Loci method, the easier it is to expand your memory palace.
We never forget a good story. Turn any chapter of your textbook into an intriguing story using your imagination. The storytelling method is helpful when you have a long list of items to remember. A character-driven narrative, vivid colours, and engaging plotlines make your mental movie even more memorable. This method is fairly simple — include items that you need to memorise and link them to each other with a storyline. You can have complete control over your story, and even have a little fun with it by including your friends!
Writing things down can help you visualise your topics better. You can use different coloured pens or paper to make this method more effective. Use the chunking method to break down your information and write it down on different pieces of paper. You may use varying colours for different types of information, similar to mind maps. This is a great method to combine with other verbal methods such as spaced out repetition or mnemonics, with the additional advantage of colour coding. Refer to your flashcards during revision, or place them on your wall to glance at whenever you’re studying.
While these memorisation techniques can surely make studying easier for you, don’t forget to boost your brainpower with enough exercise, ample sleep, and a healthy diet. Keep these tips handy for the rest of your life to always remember the important things.
Which memorisation technique do you most relate to? Have you tried any of them already? Tell us in the comments below!
Vandya is a copywriter by the day and an amateur illustrator by the night. She's a cat mom 24/7. As a certified organisation freak, she lives and breathes in Notion. With a head full of ideas, she is passionate about crafting interesting concepts - for work or play. To kick back at the end of the day, she likes binge-watching shows with an inclination for all things spooky.
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