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Strategies to Improve your Memory

Four Steps to a Better Memory:

1. Make an Effort to Remember

Make it Interesting

The brain prioritizes by meaning, value, and relevance. In order to remember something, you must be interested in it.

Strategies to increase your interest in study materials include:

  • Have a study partner
  • Get to know the professor better
  • Teach an assignment to someone else
  • Seek ways to make information personal
  • Find personal value for the information

Be Intentional

A positive ATTITUDE is a key factor to remembering. Research shows that if information does not get enough attention or if it is not deemed necessary for long-term memory, it will be encoded in short-term memory only and ultimately discarded.

Strategies to improve your intent to remember include:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a good breakfast
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Reward yourself for getting it right the first time

Make Connections

Your understanding of new material will depend on how much of it can be connected to knowledge you already have.

Strategies to form connections include:

  • Review notes from the day before
  • Survey a chapter before you read it (SQ3R)
  • Create similes and metaphors from experiences in your life
  • Review the reading and/or notes (if available) ahead of time

2. Control the Amount and Form of Information

Be Selective

You must determine what is most important, and select those parts to begin the process of studying and learning.

Strategies for being selective include:

  • Pay attention to major headings, bold print, italics
  • Read chapter summaries and answering questions at the end of the chapter
  • Highlight as you read
  • Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal clues during lectures (i.e., numbering of items, repetition of an idea, things written down on the board)

Make the Information Meaningful

You will learn and remember better if you group ideas into meaningful categories or groups. The brain can only process 5-7 bits of information at a time.

Strategies to make information meaningful include:

  • Break an assignment into smaller, manageable steps (task analysis)
  • Group information according to shared qualities
  • Use mnemonics (something to help you remember like an acronym, rhyme, or visual)

3. Strengthen Neural Connections

Recite the Materials

Involves saying something out loud in your own words. It is not the same as rereading. Recitation triggers the intent-to-remember switch (gets you involved in the material) and gives you immediate feedback.

Strategies include:

  • Use flash cards
  • Teach the information to someone else
  • Write down lists over and over
  • Use the R3HI, RAP-Q methods
  • Recite lists, mnemonics, etc.

Visualize the Materials

Make a mental picture of what needs to be remembered. You remember pictures much longer than words.

Strategies include:

  • Use the LINCS strategy when learning new terms
  • Try concept mapping (flow charts, diagrams, etc.)
  • Develop graphs, charts, etc.

Make Associations with Other Information

Tie new information in with something you already have stored in your long-term memory. You may find new information to be easier to retrieve and easier to remember.

Strategies include:

  • Use the same items listed above under 'Making Connections'
  • Create similes, metaphors, analogies

4. Allow Time to Solidify Pathways

Reinforce What You Learned

Your brain must have time for new information to establish a neuronal pathway, much like how people walking over the same stretch of grass form new paths across campus over time.

Strategies include:

  • Take notes in class
  • Ask questions in class
  • Review notes
  • Stop after each paragraph and writing a jeopardy question
  • Design practice tests using Bloom’s Taxonomy


Distribute Your Studying

An effective way to remember material is to study over a series of shorter study sessions distributed over several days, rather than fewer and longer study sessions.

Strategies include:

  • Task analysis
  • Use of frequent breaks (Pomodoro Technique)
  • Not cramming at the last minute
  • Good time-management skills
  • Reviewing information immediately before or after class for short periods of time

Another Memory Strategy: SAVE CRIB FOTO

S  Selectivity: Identify what is important?
A  Association: Link to something familiar
V  Visualization: Paint verbal pictures
E  Effort
C  Concentration
R  Recitation: Repeat verbally
I   Interest: Catch or create interest
B  Big and Little Pictures: Used pictures to clarify levels of information

F  Feedback

  • Give feedback during and quickly after performance – avoid lengthy delays
  • Oreo – positive, negative, positive

O  Organization

T  Time on Task
O  Ongoing Review


More about Mnemonics

  • A Mnemonic is something to help you remember like an acronym, rhyme, or visual cue
  • Use Chunking (also called reduction mnemonics) to break large pieces of information into smaller, parts
  • Use Visual techniques
    • Graphic organizers, especially Venn diagrams
    • Illustrations
  • Use Auditory / Verbal techniques
    • Songs, Rhymes, Humor
    • Reduction or Rhyming Mnemonics

Examples of Mnemonics

Rhyming Mnemonics

  • The Spanish Armada met its fate in fifteen hundred and eighty-eight
  • Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. (the fate of Henry VIII's wives, in chronological order)
  • The number you are dividing by, Turn upside down and multiply. (Rule for dividing by fractions)

Reduction (First Letter) Mnemonics

  • HOMES for the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)
  • PEMDAS for Order of Operations or "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, Addition and Subtraction)
  • ROY G BIV for the seven colors of the spectrum My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas for the Planets in our solar system

Strategy to Create Your Own First Letter Mnemonics

  • F   Form a word (Uppercase, Recognizable or nonsense)
  • I    Insert letters (Lowercase)
  • R   Rearrange the letters
  • S   Shape a sentence
  • T   Try combinations

First Letter Mnemonics tips

  • Word or phrase should be connected to the topic when possible
  • Gross, silly, inappropriate more easily remembered (some sayings involve instruction in behavior)
  • Encourage student involvement in mnemonics