Now you’re likely aware that when you’re in college, studying for exams is a way of life. This doesn’t have to be as much of a bummer as it seems, because you can make your studying easier and more efficient with some powerful lab-tested techniques.
One of these techniques is to make things meaningful when you study. It’ll make information much easier to remember. I’ve discussed this before, in an earlier post about the difference between maintenance and elaborative rehearsal. Here are some mnemonics, or memory aids, to help you do this.
1) Put the information you need to remember into categories. This is called “chunking.” Let’s say I told you to remember the following letters: FBICIANYCNFL. You could try to remember each letter by itself, but it would be more efficient to group the letters into units that already have meaning: FBI, CIA, NYC, and NFL. This means that you only have to remember 4 things rather than 12.
2) Take material you already know and associate it with information you want to remember. For example, in order to remember the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite, you could remember that a “stalactite,” which grows from the ceiling, has the letter “c” in it, which stands for “ceiling”. A “stalagmite,” which grows from the ground, contains the letter “g.”
3) Use rhymes. We’ve all heard the alphabet song, rhyming grammar rules (“i before e except after c”), and rhyming history facts (“in fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”). Make up some rhymes of your own. There are even websites that use rhymes to help medical students remember anatomical vocabulary.
4) Make an acronym by spelling a new word from the first letter of each one of the words you’re trying to remember. You may have used an acronym to learn the colors of the visible spectrum (ROY G. BIV) or the names of the five Great Lakes (HOMES). It’s easier to remember one word or a short expression than a lot of words.
Don’t stop here, though. If you need to, come up with other ways to make information meaningful. Good luck with your studying!