Back to College
  main | site map | search | features | journal | forums | bookshelf | contact | newsletter  
The Library

Bookmark this page!


Gregory LloydStudy Skills: Memorize with Mnemonics

Memory techniques for College success

by Gregory Lloyd

What did you learn in high school? If you 're like me, you learned a lot. You just don't remember it. That's the blessing and the malediction of our memories. We absorb so much knowledge throughout our lives, but when it comes to remembering it for say an exam, we can't put it into words or even recall it. If we do bring it to mind, the information is incomplete or doesn't serve us well. Does that mean we're just victims of our imperfect brains? The good news is, no. We all have more than enough brainpower to remember anything we want and recall it when needed. All it takes is a slight change in how we commit things to memory.

Think back to some of your earliest recollections. Why do they stand out? Were they shocking, fun, or unusual in some kind of way? That's one way to emblazon something on your memory. But what do you do when you have to learn material that is dull or painstaking to learn, such as numbers, formulas, dates, terminology, names, places, and concepts? We can't make them fun or unusual, can we?

Yes, we can, by using mnemonics, a memory system developed by the Greek scholars and orators to help remember long passages and speeches. Today there are many fun mnemonic techniques you can use to encode information so that it can be stored almost effortlessly in your long-term memory. These techniques work especially well for multiple-choice tests, which don't require special writing prowess, superior phonetic ability, or lengthy memorization. You merely have to encode your memories so you can trigger the information when you need it.

Here are just a few of the fun mnemonic techniques I've used to remember what I needed to know for tests:

1. Rhymes. Thirty days hath September ... How many of us remember this one? This technique works just as well for memorizing dates and facts: Examples:

America discovered:
In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Path of incoming air (in order):
Pharynx, larynx, trachea, left and right bronchia, bronchioles, alveolus.
(This is an ideal list because there are three rhymes or almost-rhymes built in to the sequence. If you want, you can pronounce bronchi as bronchia.)

2. Silly sentences. When the list must be memorized in order, form a sentence from the initial letters of the words you are trying to memorize. Examples:

Remembering the division of the animal kingdom (in order):
Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species
King Paul Called Out For Gus and Sam

Remembering the six stages of fertilization (in order):
Contact, Entry, Blocks to polyspermy, Activation of cell, restart of Meiosis,
and Amphimixis.
Count Every Blockhead Acquiring My Amphibians


ęCopyright 1998-2004 WD Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Policies.

main | site map | search | contact | advertise