Update on 21 Mar, 23
As a college student, you know that the more you can memorize, the better off you'll be. The material you learn in your classes will help shape your future, and if you can't remember a good portion of it, you're going to struggle.
That's why it's important to find methods that work best for you and improve your memorization skills. In this article, we will discuss five methods that have helped many students improve their memorization skills.
To start things off, you should aim to understand the subject matter, not simply cram as much information as you can in the shortest period of time. This is especially important for core subjects that would greatly contribute to your success in future professional and academic endeavors.
Another thing to keep in mind when trying to improve your memorization is that different methods work for different people. What might work for your friend might not work for you, and that's perfectly fine. You'll be able to figure out what seems to be working best when you retain information with little friction.
Here are the various strategies to improve your memorization:
One of the most popular methods is to associate new information with something that you are already familiar with. This could be a picture, a word, a phrase, or an idea. When you create these associations, your brain will be better able to remember and access the information later on.
For example, if you are trying to remember the first 20 elements on the periodic table, you could create a sentence that starts with the first one or two letters of each element's symbol.
Here's an example:
Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage, Near Our Friend Nelly Nancy MgAllen.
In this case, "Happy" begins with "H", and that stands for "Hydrogen". Then, "Henry" starts with "He", which represents Helium - you get the idea.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend an enormous amount of time trying to tie the new information to what you currently know. Rather than racking your brain trying to find the existing associations, focus on forming new associations. To make them crazy effective, create associations with something you already know well and/or are passionate about.
When it comes to remembering complex information, visualizing things can be incredibly helpful. This is where diagrams and pictures come in handy. If you can see the information visually, it's easier to remember it.
For example, let's say you're trying to memorize the different parts of human anatomy. Instead of just reading about the body parts, organs, and muscle groups, why not draw a diagram yourself? This will help you to see how all the pieces fit together and make it easier for your brain to remember.
Most people are visual learners, so this is especially effective in not only understanding the relation of certain concepts to one another but also all the high-level things as well. You can draw one using a pen and paper, or you can create a digital diagram using an online flowchart maker.
And, bonus: it can also be fun and colorful!
Next time you're studying for an exam or trying to learn a new concept, try drawing a diagram to help you out. You might just be surprised at how well it works.
One of the best ways to improve your memorization is to break down complex information into smaller, more manageable pieces. When you try to take in too much at once, it can be difficult to remember anything.
By chunking information together, you make it easier for your brain to process and remember.
For example, if you're studying for a biology test, try breaking down the different types of cells, their functions, and how they interact with one another. Try to simplify the topic before you dive into the details, as this will help you understand things from the top down.
Another way of doing this is to take all your class notes and summarize them into a single page. This might take multiple tries, but if you can zoom out and see things from a big-picture lens, you’re going to be able to understand how everything fits together.
Another underutilized tactic to drastically improve your memorization rate is explaining the concept out loud. When you verbalize a concept, your brain is working twice as hard to process the information.
Not only are you processing the material, but you're also organizing it and putting it into words. This can be an extremely effective way to learn and remember new information.
You don't have to be in the presence of another person to do this. You can talk out loud in a secluded space by yourself; it may seem silly at first, but you'll be surprised by how quickly you can identify gaps in your knowledge.
You can also figure out analogies to help you remember and understand complex topics. Once you're able to explain a topic fluidly, you're much more likely to retain the information.
One of the most effective ways to improve your memorization rate is through testing and retesting yourself. This can be done in a variety of different ways, but you must be constantly challenging yourself with new material.
The reason this is so effective is that it helps narrow down the areas you don't know as well, and it makes you apply your knowledge.
Typically, textbooks will have practice questions at the end of every section and/or chapter. You can also find a lot of practice questions for just about any subject online. If you're well connected, you can ask to borrow past tests from students that are a year ahead of you in your curriculum.
Once you have completed enough practice tests, identify the questions you got wrong, and review that information again. Keep doing this process until you consistently get all (or most!) of the practice questions correct.
Effectively memorizing all the necessary information when you have a packed course load is not easy, but it's not as cumbersome if you leverage these tried and tested techniques. As with any studying, the key is to figure out what works best for you and double down on that.
Make sure to set aside enough time to practice these memorization techniques consistently, and you'll be well on your way to retaining information like a champ.
About the Author
Claire Westbrook is the founder of LSAT Prep Hero, a hub of free LSAT resources aimed to help aspiring law students ace the LSAT. She’s on a mission to help as many students feel prepared and confident in their academic endeavors.
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