Memorizing is very common in a student’s life. It is a skill used for every subject and could be vital depending on the subject.
Memorizing is also coincidentally a skill that many people find difficult to master and even fear. However, the truth is, it is actually not as difficult as everyone thinks it is.
In the first part of this article, I will be sharing why people think memorizing is difficult when it actually isn’t. Afterward, I will be giving some tips on how memorizing can be made easier and more effective.
So firstly, why do people think memorizing is difficult? Here are 3 common reasons:
1. They do not re-visit the material regularly.
People do not visit the material regularly or do not even re-visit it. One key essence of memorizing is that there needs to be some repetition.
Every hour after memorizing a content, the amount of information that you can recall decreases rapidly. Look at the forgetting curve in this article. I explain the forgetting curve and how we lose the information that we have learned.
Hence, without re-visiting the material again, there is a high chance that you will forget almost everything you have memorized. When this happens, memorizing becomes difficult.
2. They are not memorizing correctly.
Another reason why memorizing is difficult for some is because they are simply not memorizing correctly. Even if they re-visit the material, their way of memorizing could be wrong.
Memorizing involves actively learning and trying to absorb the information.
Some people actually simply read the material and expect to memorize the content, but this method just doesn’t work. There is no engaging of the brain to recall, process, and understand the information so memorizing does not work.
An analogy is when you are talking to someone but he/she isn’t listening. Obviously, he/she will not be able to remember what you said because he/she was not consciously listening to you.
It works the same way as memorizing. If you are not actively trying to memorize, your memorizing technique is wrong. At the end of the day, you will also not remember what you just memorized.
3. They have misconceptions or myths about memorizing.
Additionally, some people could have misconceptions or myths about memorizing.
One common example is thinking that memorizing the night before an exam can actually reduce the amount of information you will forget. As long as you memorize closer to the exam, you will be able to remember more.
Technically, this is true because every hour after you memorize a content, you forget bit by bit. However, what is not true is actually waiting until the night before the exam to memorize. If you think that you can easily retain the information in your head by visiting the material once or twice only, you are wrong.
This is a myth because it simply does not work. Memorizing only works if there is spaced repetition. If you try to memorize the night before the exam, there is simply no time for spaced repetition.
It is extremely difficult for your brain to capture information in just one night. Thus, you won’t be able to remember most of what you memorized, even if you memorize a few hours before the exams.
There are many other myths about learning and studying that are harming students’ grades. If you are curious, you can check out my article here.
Overall, memorizing is not that difficult. People think it is difficult because of incorrect practices and understanding of it. As long as they memorize correctly, memorizing should be easy for them.
Now that you know why memorizing is actually not that difficult, here are some tips to memorize effectively and quickly:
1. Regularly re-visit the content multiple times.
In the initial part of the article, I explained that people do not re-visit the content regularly or even at all.
A simple way to solve this issue is simply to re-visit the content multiple times periodically. This not only reinforces what you memorized, but this also gives time for your brain to fully absorb the content.
Spaced repetition is found by many studies around the world to improve memorizing and learning. Just like this one:
According to a study conducted by researchers Paul Kelley and Terry Whatson, it was discovered that “experimental subjects acquired long-term memories of complex material as required by England’s national curriculum in one hour” by using spaced repetition.
2. Actively recalling what you memorized.
Another way to memorize more effectively is by actively trying to recall what you memorized.
I know this may sound weird that you need to recall to memorize more effectively. However, it works!
By trying to recall, you are engaging your brain to replay what you have memorized. Repeatedly trying to do so strengthens the nerve pathways that are created when you form a memory of what you learned.
One way to actively recall information is by testing yourself. For example, if you were memorizing the definition of nuclear fusion, you can test yourself in this way:
Fill in the blanks below:
Question: Nuclear fusion is when _______ nuclei are _______.
Answer: Nuclear fusion is when two or more nuclei are fused/combined together.
3. Use memorization techniques.
You can also try using memorization techniques like mnemonics and mind maps. These methods help you associate what you want to memorize to something else. That something else could be something you see daily or something you like.
By doing so, there is a strong association with what you are memorizing. This helps the information stick easier in your brain.
Furthermore, some memorization techniques also help you visualize the material you are memorizing.
As such, when you need to recall the material, you can simply visualize again or find the associations you have created with the material.
For example, if you want to remember what groceries to buy, you can use a mind map.
In Chemistry, there is a common mnemonic called OILRIG.
It stands for Oxidation Is Lose (electrons), Reduction Is Gain (electrons).
5. Keep your feelings in check while memorizing.
An often neglected factor that affects memorization is your feelings.
Obviously, when you are angry or sad, a lot of thoughts will be running through your mind. As such, you will not be able to focus on memorizing and your brain will easily wander off.
Hence, try to keep your feelings neutral. If you are unable to, postpone your memorization. It does not help if you spend time memorizing nothing.
6. Understand the concept behind the content first.
This is a simple tip to improve your memorization. Understanding the concept allows you to easily make connections among facts. This is much like a mind map.
To recall, you simply have to jump from one connection to another in your already constructed virtual ‘mind map’.