Studying

7 Ways to Improve Your Memory In Time for Midterms

In a world now full of hard drives and digital RAM, our natural memory tends to be unneeded until the four times of the year we memorize textbooks worth of information we retain for maybe a couple of hours or a few days at most. Though I am not a major in science or history, where memorization is a constant tedious task for terms and dates, I do practice languages, around seven to be precise. Here’re seven ways I learned seven languages. I will also try to give examples of ways we can use these methods in other practical areas of life.

Repetition

If I could do it in Arabic (which is not my native tongue), you can do it English. Repeating something enough times helps, but saying it out loud helps a lot more. When I had to memorize the Quran, I understood nothing. I spent hours just saying the sentences out loud and before I knew it, I had a page done in a single sitting. Remember Dora? She always did three tasks and often asked thrice as well. This is how song lyrics work, three reps of the chorus is all they need to hook you. Even if I don’t understand the song in Spanish, I put it on my tongue and familiarize my brain with the sound. It makes me happy to just be able to recognize the word in a conversation even though I don’t know its meaning. But with that said, you have to say it in a manner that encourages an understanding of the content you memorize. If you’re reciting Hamlet’s monologue, try to understand why he feels as he does and repeat his lines accordingly.

Acronyms

As someone who loves to paint, I never understood how the colors in the rainbow worked. But that’s when ROYGBIV came in. Acronyms are an abbreviation pronounced as a word. They are formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word – usually individual letters (as in NATO- North American Trading Organization). Like that, DR & MRS VANDERTRAMP were also some of my really good friends in elementary school. Putting this into a university context, when you have to memorize names of people, steps or parts of a theory, or a group of similar actions, make up a word to remember that’ll jog your memory for the individual components.

Rhymes

I mean, Hannah Montana did it to learn the names of the human bones and muscles, it can work for us too. If you’re a wannabe rapper like yours truly, this should be quite easy. My history teacher once started the lecture with “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. Since then, I have gotten the date etched into my brain. Just the process of creating the rhymes will force you to study.

Chunking

This is a method to remember an ideology or a story rather than just terms. Buying groceries for example: When I forget what to get, instead of trying to remember, I call my mom. Moms know. But a better way to do this while exercising your brain is to divide and conquer based on Location, Person, and Action. For groceries, arrange groupings according to the sections. What do you need from the fruit section? Meats section? Broke student instant noodle section? having smaller lists is a lot easier than one giant one. Putting things in their environment helps a lot, as we will see in the next step.   

The Method of Loci

This is a method of memory enhancement which uses visualization to organize and recall information. It is a mnemonic device adopted in ancient Roman and Greek discussed by Cicero. How it works is through spatial memory recognition. So, take a place you know most well, maybe your home or Ryerson campus, and assign it attributes.

To test it out, let’s try to memorize something: my schedule from last semester with its locations.

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Social Justice Media: The readings for this class were really long and the walk from campus to TRSM was really long.

Fairytales and Fantasies: My favorite prince is Eric from Little Mermaid so it’s in Eric Palin.

Food, Place, and Identity: The library does not allow some foods so it’s in the Library Building.

Spanish: Only engineers can’t take language courses so it’s in ENG building.

Principles of Persuasion: Who persuades us? The media, therefore, the place filled with media is the AMC theater.

These may sound really silly but they work. Desperate times call for desperate measures. You can try it with the different floors of the SLC and names of philosophers etc.

Association

You know those facebook posts about commenting on one thing you remember the author by? Association works similarly. I remember my childhood friend who arrived way too early to a party I threw. We were best friends for four years and this is all I can think of when her name comes up. Maybe letting a fact be triggered by the professor’s delivery or tone could be a good bookmarker for memorization of the subject.

Imagery

Imagery is turning a concept into a picture. If you’re learning about WW2, draw a picture, a map or a graph because whether we like it or not, we’re all visual learners.

These are just a several ways your mind can attain information. The human brain can hold five times as much data as the Encyclopedia Britannica. PS, the Encyclopedia Britannica contains over 900 years of history, that’s 70 terabytes, making the power of our brain pretty darn impressive. Think of this the next time you’re stressing over a few chapters in a textbook.

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Zahra Khozema
A 3rd year RTA student and a life loving Torontonian who loves to globe-hop from time to time. Writer of fun and useful articles, maker of cool things, terrible singer of lovely songs. A must have galpal.