Trouble with Memorizing? Try These Strategies!

Lately, we have grown so reliant upon the internet and all the information it offers us that we have given up storing information in our own brains. Why remember a friend’s birthday when your FaceBook page gives daily reminders of whose birthday should be celebrated on a given day? Why commit to memory what you can retrieve from the internet?

For one thing, memorizing is a form of exercise for the mind. Memorization trains the mind to focus and pay attention. Research has shown that students who use memory tricks to learn new information perform better than those who do not. Furthermore, scientists who study the process of learning show that the more factual knowledge a person has about a topic, the better they can think about it critically and analytically.

There are definite strategies for memorization that you can employ in your everyday life. When you learn and use these approaches you are not only likely to commit information to your long term memory but you will accelerate the ease, speed and reliability of learning new things.

Here are some memorization strategies that will help you remember things long term

  1. Understand the concept. Before you commit information to memory be sure to understand the concepts before memorizing them.
  2. Link the information. Connect the information you are trying to memorize to something you already know. You can even make up a crazy connection. The Learning Center at the University of North Carolina gives the following example. If you  need to remember the fact that water at sea level boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit find some connection to this information. Perhaps the number 212 happens to be the first three digits of your best friend’s phone number. Link these two facts by imagining throwing your phone into a boiling ocean. It’s a wild story but the craziness of it will help you remember this mundane fact.
  3. Write it out. Writing helps to deeply encode information we are trying to learn because there is a direct connection between our hand and our brain. Try hand-writing notes during a lecture or re-write or organize your notes by hand after a lecture. You can also say the information out loud as you are reorganizing it.
  4. Create Meaningful Groups. One strategy for memorizing information is to create meaningful groups that simplify the material. For example, if you want to remember the names of four plants – garlic, rose, hawthorn and mustard. The first letter of each word abbreviates to GRHM, so you can connect that to the word graham cracker. Now all you need to do is remember a picture of a graham cracker and the name of the plants will be easy to recall.
  5. Use the Memory Palace Technique. This technique involves visualizing a familiar place – like your home – and use it as a visual space where you can deposit concept-images that you want to remember. This technique can help with remembering unrelated items, like a grocery list. To use the memory palace technique, visualize your place, a home, dorm room, etc. Next, imagine items from your grocery list in different areas around the place. For example, imagine a cracked egg dripping off the edge of the table or a bushel of apples sitting on the couch. This technique can take some time getting used to but once you do, the quicker and more effective it becomes.
  6. Utilize your five senses. Using as many of the five senses as possible when trying to commit something to memory helps you use more of your brain to retain information better.

Memorization is not easy. It takes effort but using these strategies can help you retain information in your long term memory. While at first they may feel strange, the more you practice these techniques the easier they will become. Pick a couple and try them out this way you can find the ones that work best for you.

This article was adapted from: Wormeli, R. (n.d.). Memorization Still Matters. Retrieved November 9, 2019, from https://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/889/Memorization-Still-Matters.aspx.