We’ve all been there: hours of pacing the hallway with a textbook, parroting a sentence over and over, and then getting to the exam and going completely blank. With finals breathing down our necks, we thought everyone could benefit from a refresher on the best and fastest memorization techniques to avoid those moments of terror when facing seemingly endless scantrons and Blue Books.
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1. Repeat, repeat, repeat
Sure, it sounds basic, but we all intrinsically memorize data by raw repetition. Reading aloud employs 3 different facets of our minds—seeing, verbalizing, and hearing the information, making memorization more effective. When testing ourselves, we should write down and then read aloud what we have memorized to maintain the threefold engagement of our brains.
2. Think before memorizing
Why is it easier to remember several verses of a poem than a new credit card number? Because words carry meaning more readily than numbers and our brains need to rationally connect concepts in order to retain them. Despite how we often feel about our study materials, they typically do make logical sense. All we need to do is think about the data before we attempt to carve it into our cerebral cortex. In essence, don’t try to memorize something you don’t have a good grasp of first.
3. The 80/20 rule
Generally speaking, about 20% of the information that we pack into our short-term memory will not make it over to the long-term retention center of our brains. So, with the exception of last-minute pre-test cramming, we will do well if we plan our studying with the 80/20 rule in mind.
4. Mnemonic devices
CRAM—Cognizant Repetition Aids Memory—is an example of a mnemonic device, which creates a shortcut for our brain to access desired information. Forgetting, in practical terms, often means that our brains simply lost the key to the safety box in which the information is still neatly folded away. Mnemonic devices help the brain retrieve the path to the hidden treasure of knowledge.
5. Sleep on it
The power of sleep is undeniable, and it does not only apply in the cases of interpersonal conflict or difficult decision-making. Believe it or not, taking a nap after a study session or reviewing notes before bed considerably enhances the ability of our brains to follow through with memorizing. So, despite popular practice, ease up on the coffee, drop the idea of a sleepless cramming night, and try to relax and take a nap instead.