How To Memorize: 3 Techniques to Improve Your Memory

We’ve all encountered that class in which we need to memorize facts and figures for an exam. There are a couple of strategies to improve our memory’s retention ability, but let’s first dive into the basics of how our memory works. 

There are three main processes that characterize how memory works: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding is the process by which you learn and understand information. When information first enters your mind, your brain tries to make sense of it and forms connections between the new data and the knowledge that already exists in your brain. Storage is how information is saved into your brain warehouse; there exists short term memory and long term memory. Retrieval refers to how you access your memories in either short term or long term memory. In short term memory, the information is stored for about 15-30 seconds before it is either discarded or transferred to your long term memory storage. There are four ways in which your brain accesses long term memories: recall, collection, recognition, and relearning. The below techniques help with each of these methods of accessing long term memory storage.

  1. Mnemonics

Forming acronyms helps you make connections between a letter and a word and chunks the information so that you can recall the information more easily. For example, PEMDAS stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. This acronym is easy to remember so you can recall the order of operations when solving an algebra problem. Another acronym that is popular in trigonometry is SOHCAHTOA (Sine, Opposite, Hypotenuse, Cosine, Adjacent, Hypotenuse, Tan, Opposite, Adjacent). This acronym helps you remember the relationships between different sides of a triangle with its trigonometric function. 

You can also use mnemonics to memorize vocabulary, which is helpful for kids to learn new words. 

  1. Chunking

Grouping individual pieces of information like long strings of numbers into larger groups will help you to remember things. Think of it as filing forms in a file cabinet system to make retrieval more organized and efficient. When you categorize and label the information you’re encoding into your memory, it makes it easier to retrieve. This is why phone numbers are separated by a dash (718-459-6744), to make the numbers easier to remember. This number is actually my old home phone number, which I still remember, thanks to this neat trick!

  1. Memory Palace

This technique, also known as Method of Loci, involves mapping out a physical space you’re familiar with and placing images representing the information you’re memorizing in various spots. First, choose your place (it could be your room, a library, etc), and create a mental map of it. Second, identify distinct loci throughout your palace by mentally walking through the space and picking different locations where you can place mental images. Then, assign images to specific locations in your mind palace. When you walk through the palace, you will be able to recall information whenever you visit a preassigned loci. 

One way of using the memory palace is to use props to form connections between physical objects, sounds, or visual cues with the information you are trying to remember. Then, when you are making your memory palace, try to mentally picture the associated prop in a specific place in your palace. 

If Sherlock Holmes can do it, so can you! Hope these techniques help you in your learning journey!

About the Author

Shirley Xu

Shirley Xu

Shirley Xu is an experienced STEM tutor at GooRoo. She tutors a variety of subjects including math, science, and programming. Gooroo is a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors based on their customized learning needs.