A Complete Guide to Memorizing for a Test
If you’re going to master the art of studying, you’re going to have to master one of life’s basic skills: memorization. Most Content Exams such as Nursing Certification require memorization. Relax. It’s not as hard as you’ve always thought. There are actually four principles that are fairly basic; if you master them, memorization will be a cinch for you. More on Studying for a Content Exam.
How to we Remember?
- 10% of what we read
- 20% of what we hear
- 30% of what we see
- 50% of what we see and hear
- 70% of what we discuss with others
- 80% of what we personally experience
- 95% or what we teach others
– Edgar Dale
How to Memorize
One of the best techniques for memorization is repetition.
Repeating reinforces a memory, making it stick with you. It is important that you first remember the information, so that you work on understanding it as well. You normally remember knowledge that is significant to you. When you study something over and over again, then your brain is recognizing the material as being important. By reviewing test content both consistently and repeating the same techniques, you will start recognizing the facts that you need to remember. Make sure that you are also quizzing yourself on the material you are repeating to ensure that it’s staying with you. These check-ins will show which information you are remembering and what you should revisit. See our post on Using Flash Cards.
Overall, repetition forces your brain to remember facts, words, speeches, etc. so much that it can’t help but remember them.
Memory Technique 1 -Write it down.
While typing may seem like the faster and more convenient option, your fingers on the keyboard do not make the same connections. That’s because now, you’re getting your body involved in the learning process. The wording becomes etched, not just on your paper, but on your mind also. When you combine writing with repetition, your brain picks up the fact that this is important material you’re dealing with and it keeps it in that section it allocates for easy recall. Typing is an almost mindless act, which is evident since you can type on the computer without even looking at the screen. When you hand write information, your brain has to do more thinking about what you’re writing than it does when you’re typing. Physical note taking has become almost obsolete in this digital age
Writing down the information increases your brain’s ability to memorize and comprehend material. It also allows you to take notes it various formats that your computer might limit. You can draw, highlight, or chart the information in a way that is conducive to your own learning needs. Taking notes on the computer is mechanical and doesn’t encourage your brain to process information. It may be old-fashion, but it works.
Memory Technique #2 – Say it out loud.
Have you ever read through a page and then found yourself not able to recall what is was even about? Reading can become passive if you are not fully engaged. Verbally reading forces you to engage directly with the material. You are seeing the information, speaking it, and hearing it out loud. This action creates auditory links to your brain. It involves your brain in yet another way, increasing the likelihood that you’ll remember the facts when you need them. While it might take you longer to study this way or even seem silly, it is an effective tactic that will help you remember.
In particular, you should read out loud material that you are struggling with such as definitions, facts, equations, and quotations. The production effect is the benefits of reading information out loud as opposed to silently. By creating the words yourself, you make them stand out and encode into your long-term memory. Reading out loud to someone else further enhances this effect, and lets you recall the information easily.
Memory Technique #3 – Association.
Have you ever heard of the trick to remember someone’s name when you first meet him or her? The trick is to associate their name with something to make a connection, and therefore a memory in your brain. So, Becca works at my favorite bakery. Bakery starts with a B like the first letter in Becca’s name. This holds true to studying as well. By creating a strange association, your brain will see this out of the ordinary and the brain remembers things that are out of the ordinary more than it does the commonplace. So the more bizarre you make this combination, the better your chance of recalling the information. Making connections help you anchor the material you are trying to learn into your brain, and help you understanding it a deeper level—not just surface memorization.
In addition, using mnemonic devices—or a system linking letters, numbers, ideas, songs, etc. to remember—is an association technique to better memory. For example one of the most commonly used mnemonic devices in school is:
ROY G. BIV. = (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet) or the colors of the spectrum.
You can create songs, rhymes, acronyms, expressions, etc. to help you memorize difficult material.
Memory Technique #4 – Discuss
After you have gone over the material or even during studying, it is also helpful to discuss what you are trying to remember for a test with a peer. Discussion furthers understanding as it encourages you to ask deeper questions or give personal explanations. If you are able to hold a discussion with someone about the topic, then good chances are you have remembered what you have been studying.
Memory Technique #5 – Teach it
Another way to use peer interaction to help you memorize material is through teaching—this action is referred to as the protégé effect. Teaching helps you personally understand the lesson. Students who tutor one another have more incentive to understand the material they so they can teach it to another. It creates a drive that will allow the person teaching the material to recollect the material more competently and correctly.
More specially, you should try teaching the information to someone younger or inexperienced with the topic. This is effective because you have to simplify the information and terms in a way that someone else with no background knowledge can understand. It can also highlight the gaps in your own knowledge, which in turn you can study further. By putting the information into your own words for someone else, you are showing a deeper comprehension. Peers can also give you live feedback, which encourages you to explain the material in diverse ways so you both can succeed in learning. If you ever find yourself not knowing how to explain something to the person, you probably need to study it some more. Try a study group.
Prepare for the Test
Make sure you get enough sleep before the day of the test. You have to have adequate sleep in order for the brain to operate correctly, and to have maximum recall. If you don’t get enough sleep, it will interfere with your memory (In fact, there have been some studies that suggest that during sleep, memories become consolidated). Resist the temptation to stay up all night cramming for a test. This will probably hurt you more than it will help you. See our Post on What to do Before a Test.
In addition to getting enough sleep, make sure you are also taking breaks during your studies. While it might be tempting to grab a coffee and have a non-stop cramming marathon, your brain and body need time to relax. Go for a walk and get some fresh air, so that your brain has time to solidify the information into your long-term memory.
Give yourself time. Even the best students have been guilty of procrastinating. You can cram last minute for a test and still do well on it, but if possible avoid this situation. Start planning in advance what material you are going to cover bit-by-bit, so you are not overwhelmed when it comes time to fully study for the test. This means reviewing the homework and quizzes that you have before a test, but also asking questions about what you don’t understand. If you have a good amount of time set aside to study before a test, you will feel less overwhelmed and more encouraged to tackle the information.
Find the right studying environment. While a busy café might be fine for writing essays, it may not be the best place to memorize for a test. Find an area suitable to your needs such as a study room or library, so that you limit your chances of being distracted. Your bedroom might be quiet, but it is also a tempting place to lose focus and relax. While you don’t want to be stressed on when studying, a comfortable bed inches isn’t the best idea to stay on track.
Know what to eat right before the test. The key is balanced. You don’t want to be hungry, but you also don’t want to be stuffed. When you’re too full, there’s a chemical reaction in your body that makes you sleepy. Also, fatty foods tend to induce sleep. That’s NOT what you want to experience right before taking a test! You should eat properly so that you are alert and ready to go.
If you avoid eating altogether, then you will be left with a growling stomach to distract you from the task at hand. So make sure to eat! Be careful with coffee. If you normally have a cup in the morning, then go ahead–but don’t drink too much. Too much caffeine can lead to shaky nerves and confusion. Plus, over-stimulation causes many people to make dumb mistakes on tests. Most importantly—keep hydrated! While you are studying and during the test, you should be sure that you are in taking enough fluids, so you don’t become dehydrated. Your brain and body both need water to stay healthy and fully functioning.
Ultimately, everyone has a different learning style, so what memorizing techniques works best for you, may not be the same case for your study partner. From your past testing and learning experiences, think of what tactics seemed to be effective for you. If you know that you are an auditory learning, then read the information out loud or play music that goes along with it. Whereas if you are a visual learner then try looking at pictures or drawing the information in a way that you can understand. Understanding your learning style along with the methods provided will help solidify your abilities to memorize for a test, and succeed on it!
Modified: September 25th, 2017
Published: October 23rd, 2009