How to Memorize Using Mnemonics
Mnemonics are tricks to help you remember information. Mnemonics come in several varieties, allowing you to choose what works for you. Some mnemonics enjoy widespread use because they are easy and effective, but you can always make up your own.
Memorization is very important for a content test where you are tested on what you know instead of your ability to answer tricky questions (aptitude test). Most certification exams, such as Nursing Certification, are content test and cover a lot of material.
Types of Mnemonics
Visual – Visual mnemonics involve creating visual images that sound like the information that is to be remembered. The image should be in some way related to the information. For example, if you are trying to remember that an event took place in Chillicothe, Ohio, you could visualize a cup of coffee sitting in a freezer (chilly coffee). The cup could have a picture of the state of Ohio on it to help you in remembering that Chillicothe is in Ohio.
o This can be helpful in learning another language also. For example, rey is the Spanish word for king or monarch. You could visualize a crown with rays of light coming out from it. The Spanish verb caminar means to walk, so you could visualize an old El Camino model of car that is broken down, forcing you to walk.
Acronym – Acronyms use the first letter of each word to be remembered to create an easy-to-remember word. A well-known example of this is ROY G. BIV. The letters stand for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, which are the colors of the spectrum in order.
o A variation of the acronym mnemonic is to use the letters to create a simple sentence. In the case of the spectrum colors, students in Britain often use Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain – as their memory device.
o A variation of the acronym mnemonic is to use the letters to create a simple sentence. In the case of the Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach represents Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species (taxonomy classifications, often appear in biology).
o The order of sharps in music can be remembered with Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battles. Reverse that to Battles End and Down Goes Charles’ Father to get the order for flats.
o RAVEN stands for Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun. This is used to remember the difference between affect and effect.
Journey – Also known as Method of Loci, journey mnemonics simply involve taking a journey with the information. Basically, you walk through a familiar area and visualize the information in prominent locations. For example, you may walk through your home, from the entrance to your bedroom. Throughout your walk, you see famous paintings or sculptures along the walls, floor, or on the doors. By mentally retracing those steps during your art history exam, you are able to remember the artists and their works.
o This method does not have to be used with paintings, sculptures or other obviously visual items. You can combine this method with the visual technique to use it for any subject. For example, the crown with rays of light coming out of it may be hanging on your bedpost, while the El Camino is parked outside your window.
Rhymes – Rhymes and catchy phrases are an excellent mnemonic. They don’t have to be complicated and can be used for anything.
o I before E, except after C. This spelling mnemonic also comes in variations like I before E, except after C, and weird is just weird – or I before E, except after C, or when sounds like A, as in neighbor and weigh.
o For weather, the rhyme “Red skies at night, sailors delight; Red skies at morning, sailors take warning.”
o This group includes simple phrases like There are 3 e’s buried in the cemetery.
o For stalactites and stalagmites, remember that as the mites go up, the tites (tights) go down.
o Principle and principal – To remember which one you find in a school, use the saying, The princiPAL is my PAL.
o How I wish I could calculate pi. The number of letters in each word represents one digit of pi (How=3, I=1, etc.), giving you 3.141592.
Associations – Another way to remember information is to associate the information with something easy to remember. While associations can be loosely grouped with other types of mnemonics, they are actually a little different.
o Stalactites and stalagmites can be remembered by remembering G for ground and C for ceiling.
o Dessert and desert – In strawberry shortcake and dessert, the letter s appears twice. In Sahara and desert, the letter s appears once.
o For a physical take on associations, look at your hands. Starting with your left pinky knuckle, name the months. The months that fall in the spaces between the knuckles have 30 days, except for February, and the months that land on knuckles have 31. *Note-When you get to the index finger, you move to the knuckle for the index finger on the right hand. July and August both have 31 days.
o Another physical mnemonic is that you can form an L with the thumb and index finger of the left hand. With the right hand, the L is backwards, with the base pointing toward the left hand. This one is useful for children who are learning left and right.
o Mnemonics can make studying a much easier process, regardless of your grade level. Mnemonics do not have to be logical, sensible or even related to your subject, and your favorites may not work for other people. The trick is to make sure your mnemonic is something you can remember.
Modified: March 7th, 2018
Published: January 10th, 2007