Skills: Memorize with Mnemonics
Memory techniques for College
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:
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,
Count Every Blockhead Acquiring My Amphibians