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How to use your memory for learning

<p>Douglass student Matthew Patterson uses notecards to aid his studying. </p>

Douglass student Matthew Patterson uses notecards to aid his studying.

Did you know that success in school is often measured by how well you can recall facts, formulas, definitions, and concepts on quizzes and tests?

Having a method of memory for learning is important.

For example, in an English class, you may be required to remember vocabulary words and their definitions.

Similarly, in an Algebra class you would be required to memorize the order of operations.

Research done by the Egyptian Society of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, has proven that using memory techniques, INCREASES test scores by 77%.

Believe it or not, you may already use techniques to memorize and may not know it.

Well, now all of that can change!

By studying the four techniques below, you can improve your memory and grades in no time!

Adapted from the book "Learning and Using Study Skills" by Barbara L. Marrs


Visualization is simply seeing pictures in your mind that help you recall information. For example, repeatedly looking at a word and associating it with its definition, over and over, helps to get a visual of that word and definition. In the process, the brain snaps a shot of what you visualize and it is then stored into the memory.

Memory cards

Memory cards are flash cards that you make to help you retain and recall what you have selected to learn. To study effectively with your memory cards, place the word or topic of each on the front of the card, and the important information that needs to be retained on the back of the card. Then, divide your cards for each class into groups of no more than 7, shuffle the cards and begin quizzing yourself. Remember, always carry your cards with you so you can review them whenever you find yourself with a few moments to spare.


Mnemonics is creating memory devices or tricks to help you remember new information. It can be a song, rhyme, acronyms or word expressions. By far, the two most popularly used mnemonics are acronyms and expression  or word mnemonics. For example:


Words that are made up by taking the first letter from each word that you want to remember and making a new word from all those letters. Examples:

To learn the Great Lakes, you would remember the acronym HOMES, which stands for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

To learn the 7 Coordinating Conjunctions, you would learn the acronym FANBOYS, which stands for For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.


In science, the expression

“Mother Velma eats many jumbo sandwiches, unlike nephew Phil,”could be used to remember the order of the planets from the sun outward: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

In Social Studies, the expression

“Large elephants jump slowly and sink rapidly,” can be used to remember the Seven Articles of The United States Constitution: Legislative, Executive, Judicial, Supremacy, Amendment, Statehood and Ratification.

Classifying or Grouping

Once you have Selected what it is you want to memorize, you need to organize the information. The material should be arranged or grouped according to the order easiest for you to recall. One of the best ways to organize information for memorization is classification. Classification is dividing information into groups or types, to which other information like it is assigned.

Remember, no matter what methods of memorization you use when learning new material, the key is reviewing the information in the first 24 hours, If you want to store that information in your long-term memory. If you do not review, you most likely forget the information.


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