Understand how your mind works to maximize your memory + Memorization Strategies to stay engaged while studying
Once you have a solid foundation and have taken awesome notes (check out the note-taking series for help with this), you need to prepare for exams by working on memorization strategies. Grab your free memorization cheat sheet covering the best memorization tips from the series.
First, I have to come clean.
I am notorious for thinking and saying I am terrible at memorization. Actually, it works really great for me because if I am terrible at memorization, then I’m off the hook. “Oh, poor you…you just can’t remember things. Don’t worry about it. You’re just not built for this kind of work.”
Anyone feel sorry for me after my pity party? I hope not!
What I should have been thinking is I don’t have the right memorization techniques, or I really need to improve my memorization skills. Those are the truth. I know this because I can do a decent job committing random information to memory when I need to. Memorization is not something that comes easily to me, but I have learned some techniques and strategies enabling me to remember lists, terms, dates, etc. The good news is I am about to share those memorization strategies with you!
Is it always fun? Um, no…I would rather watch Netflix.
Can I do it? Absolutely.
Will I get it done? For sure!
I want to earn a grade/degree, and I’m going to get it!
The Most Important Factor to Successful Memorization
Before we talk about ways to help you remember individual facts, it’s important to lay out the least glamorous and most important part of memorization: repetition.
Unless you have a photographic memory, you can’t look at something one time and expect it to be in your memory for next week’s exam. It’s not a realistic expectation, yet I know so many people beat themselves up when memorization doesn’t come that easily.
You need spaced repetition, meaning regularly touching the information with time in between for your mind to rest and process. The Pomodoro is a great technique for this. I personally like to schedule a couple of 10-15 minute memorization study sessions each day, every day. Some examples of what these small study sessions may look like:
- Every morning when I wake up, I take 10 minutes and drink my coffee.
- Before I go to sleep at night I spend 15 minutes.
- During my lunch break at work, I sit in my car for 15 minutes.
- I record myself reading the terms with pauses in between and work through them while driving to work.
These are only a few examples, but you get the idea. You shouldn’t try to work on memorization for two hours at a time. Your brain will check out! But anyone can fit a couple small study sessions like this into any day. If you are preparing for an exam, try to fit in two regular sessions each day. Schedule these reoccurring times!
Repetition is the key to memorization.
Then dive into what to do during your memorization sessions below.
We Need Multiple Memory Strategies
In the series, we will cover multiple memorization strategies, and it’s important to have several different approaches in your toolbox. Why? Because of how the brain works.
Stop for 5 seconds and notice all of the sensations around you right now: the colors, light, shapes, and textures you can see; the temperature, breeze, fabric you feel against your skin; the smells of coffee brewing mixed with dirty diapers (no? just my house?). We’ve only touched the surface of three senses, but you get the idea that it’s a lot of information!
The brain can’t consciously process all of the information it encounters every moment of every day. You would overload and shut down. To help you out, the brain focuses only on new data, or things that are different.
When you first put your shirt on it registers how the fabric feels against your skin. As you go about your morning, that sensation disappears. Your brain decides it isn’t the most important thing and it forgets about it in favor of focusing on something new.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because it explains how we remember information when we study. And it’s just interesting!
When you study your brain focuses on and pays attention to information that stands out and is different. Look at the same page of notes the same way every day and you aren’t paying attention anymore. You’re going through the motions but your brain is not actively working to commit information to memory.
the memorization strategies Series
Finally, let’s dive into the strategies to boost your memory. These various memorization strategies will help you to keep your approach fresh and offer your brain new ways of seeing the information so it can stay engaged in the work of memorization. Here is what we will be covering in this four-part series:
- The Most Important Factor to Successful Memorization – Check! You just finished this part.
- Four Steps to Master Memorization – If you only pick up one strategy, make it this one! It is simple and extremely effective.
- Using mnemonics to remember lists and processes
- Sketch your way to an A with this visual strategy
- Using Quizlet for Memorization
Remember that study skills like memorization are only a small piece of being successful in college. Plan your studies so that you can study less for your online courses and don’t forget to focus on the biggest factor in college success. Finally, as you memorize your material, don’t forget to also crush exam fear so you do your best work on the test.