Learning is a much higher-level process than memorizing facts and
figures. Getting a grasp of details, however, is a start. We all have
different learning styles and needs. Finding strategies that work is
an important part of being successful in college. Here are some
techniques that help people remember and learn information.
Repeating information, either by reading, saying, or writing it a
number of times can be an effective memorization strategy. For the
most part, this works best for information that is not very detailed
or complex. Most of us can remember algebraic procedures through the
repetition of practicing. On the other hand, not many of us will
memorize Einstein's Theory of Relativity by writing it out repeatedly
on a chalkboard. Try reading information aloud, closing your eyes and
repeating it, and then writing it down from memory. Repeat these steps
until the information is memorized.
When information involves more details than if feasible to memorize
through repetition, one of these mnemonic techniques can be helpful.
Acronyms. There are words formed by using the first letter
of the material to be memorized. Nonsense words can work, as long as
they are pronounceable.
Abbreviations. The first letter words that are to be
memorized can be used to create an abbreviation or short
representation of something that can more easily be remembered. Unlike
acronyms, abbreviations do not form pronounceable words.
Acronymic Sentences. Using words that begin with the first
letter of words to be memorized (acronyms), sometimes we can form a
complete sentence. Remembering that sentence can help us remember a
series of words or concepts.
Pegwords. Building associates with words that rhyme with
numbers can create connections between prior learning and new
material. This can be a powerful memory tool.
Keywords. Often, we can find familiar words that sound like
the words or terms we need to memorize. These can create mental images
that will help remember new words and their meanings.
Rhymes. Creating verses or poems can be an effective way to remember
information that is too detailed to remember by simple repetition.
When information is more detailed, repetition is not an efficient
strategy. There are six basic techniques to use mnemonics to remember
Acronyms. Creating a word out of the first letter of
information to be remembered is called an acronym. While it does not
have to be a real work, it does need to be something that rolls off
the tongue easily - something pronounceable. A common example is the
acronym, HOMES, which can be used to memorize the names of the Great
Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.
Abbreviations. The first letters of important information
will not always form an easy to pronounce word. Often, we can use
those letters to create an abbreviation. Use this instead of an
acronym. If we needed to memorize the names of presidents since
Richard Nixon, we can identify the letters of each president's last
name: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II.
Because there are no vowels, it will not be possible to form a
pronounceable word, but we can memorize the abbreviation NFCRBCB. Now
that we have this information down to a smaller, more manageable
"chunk," we can use repetition, if necessary, to help remember the
Acronymic Sentences. Instead of creating a word with all the
letters of some information (acronym) or a set of letters that stands
for each concept or term (abbreviation), we can take the first letter
of items to be remembered and find words that start with each letter
that will form a coherent, short sentence. The names of the oceans,
for example, are: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Artic, and Antarctic.
These letters are not likely to form a word most of us can pronounce (apiaa).
The could be used as an abbreviation, (APIAA), but many of us will
memorize the names of the oceans better with a simple acronymic
sentence, "Alice and Alan played inside."
Pegwords. When items are associated with each other or
numbered, using words that rhyme with numbers can help. Here are some
common pegwords for the numbers 1-10.
Number - Pegword
One - Run
Two - Shoe
Three - Bee
Four - Door
Five - Hive
Six - Sticks
Seven - Heaven
Eight - Gate
Nine - Vine
Ten - Hen
When one needs to remember more than 10 items, simply
pick more pegwords that rhyme with the other numbers. The Bill of
Rights grants 10 freedoms. We can use pegwords to remember what each
right (one through 10) means.
The first right is Freedom of Religion. Our pegword
for 1 is run. Imagine people running from a church - associate the
first right with this image.
The second right is State's Rights to Have a National
Guard. Our pegword with the number 2 is shoe. Imagine the boots that
soldiers where, those shoes are kept a shiny polished black. Let this
image help you remember that the second right relates to state's
The third right relates to citizens not having to give
food or shelter to soldiers on demand during peacetime. Our pegword
for 3 is bee. Imagine an army of bees demanding honey from you; you
are not required to give it to them. Use that image to help associate
the number 3 with that right.
Getting the picture? Let's skip to the 10th right,
States Run Public Schools. Our pegword for 10 is hen. Imagine mother
hen taking care of her chicks - we can use that to help make the
association between the 10th right and state run schools.
Rhyme. Many of us can remember poems that we
learned years ago. This can be a powerful memory tool. Common rhymes
that serve as memory tools include: Thirty days has September, April,
June, and November; or In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed
the ocean blue. Don't worry about the quality of your poetry here -
just be sure that it is something that helps you remember. If you feel
shy about writing poems, you do not need to explain your rhyme to
anyone; just use it to help remember important information.
When information contains a great deal of details, too
much to memorize with repetition or mnemonics, a visual presentation
of how concepts are organized can be helpful. This can involved
creating flowcharts or concept maps. These can be drawn by hand, with
common productivity software like Microsoft Word, or specialty
computer applications like Inspiration.
A concept map presents or organizes detailed or
complex information visually. For many people, this is a most
effective way to gain understanding and learn. There are different
types of concept maps - they can be identified by their form (or
formats) or their function (or purpose). Lets look at some typical
forms of concept maps: