3 Simple and Effective Memory Tips for Exams
What is the most efficient way to memorise for exams? This is one of the most frequently asked questions by students worldwide seeking to improve their exam results.
In this post, I will share our tried-and-tested methods to memorising for exams, broken down into 3 simple rules to help you optimise your study time and maximise your marks.
Rule 1: Don’t write, TALK!!!
One traditional (but ineffective!) method of memorisation is to simply write and rewrite until you retain the information. This often requires you to write it out at least 3-4 times.
Imagine that you have one page of facts (approx. 300 words) to memorise. The average handwriting speed is 13wpm, but hopefully by your exams you’ll be closer to 20wpm. Nonetheless, it will take you 15mins to write out one page...to write it out 4 times will take you an hour!
Alternatively, now imagine that you decide to read the facts aloud to yourself. The average talking speed is close to 125wpm, which means that it will take you less than 2.5mins to read that one page aloud to yourself…
In that same hour, you could read one page of notes aloud to yourself 25 times!!!
Evidently, you can save hours of wasted time by reading your notes rather than writing and rewriting.
There are numerous other benefits to talking rather than writing; you can do it anywhere, anytime and it is far less physically draining than spending hours writing out notes.
So don’t write, TALK!
Rule 2: Don’t recite, CHAT!
Have you ever wondered why it is so easy to remember entire albums of song lyrics but it’s much more difficult to memorise a page of simple facts?
There are several factors to consider. Firstly, many studies have shown that stronger memories are created from our audio receptors than our visual receptors (which supports Rule 1).
But, more importantly, songs are conveyed in regular, everyday language which allows you to connect with the lyrics. Thus, when you sing a song, you aren’t mindlessly reciting words, you’re telling a story through the lyrics.
Central to memorisation for exams is ensuring that you aren’t simply RECITING your notes to yourself, but you are actively learning and understanding them. How do you do this?
You explain your notes to yourself using everyday language. In other words, you CHAT to yourself!
Why does this matter? Because the best way to memorise information is to UNDERSTAND it. Being able to verbalise content in a CONVERSATIONAL manner demonstrates a level of understanding which is superior to someone who is simply able to RECITE information. And more importantly, it is far easier to remember information which is expressed in familiar language than in overly-formal or academic language. This may mean using slang, text-talk or even profanities to explain the content to yourself, a trick which I found especially useful. It also made the process much more humorous and enjoyable.
There is no one correct way to study and there is certainly no need to make studying a dull and formal process; instead, try to think of studying like memorising song lyrics; after familiarising yourself with the song enough times, you will naturally gain an understanding of the story whilst also inadvertently memorising the lyrics.
So the second key tip to boosting your memory skills is to CHAT using everyday language rather than formally RECITING facts.
Rule 3: CHUNK and CODE
This rule is less of our opinion and more fact-based. Many psychological studies support the concept of ‘chunking’ pieces of information into larger groups. The process involves grouping 5-10 pieces of information into a larger and more meaningful whole which can be more easily memorised. Personally, I used chunking to memorise quotes for English Literature HL - I’d group quotes based on theme/voice/setting/structure/symbol and then memorise them in chunks.
The second part of this rule, relating to using CODES, is my own contribution to this concept. I employed the following theory from Year 10-12 with great success.
Essentially, once you have separated your information into chunks, you assign each chunk a number based on how many pieces of information you have in each category. Personally, I used this system for memorising quotes for both English HL and History HL
For instance, in my trial exam for English Paper 2, I prepared to compare The Great Gatsby and An Imaginary Life. For each book, I had 20-30 quotes. Below is an example of a code which I used to memorise 24 quotes for the Great Gatsby in less than an hour:
This code meant that I had 7 quotes on themes, 2 on narrative voice, 1 on structure, 7 on setting and another 7 on symbols. I was able to use this numerical code, both during my study and in the exam, as a checkpoint to guide memory recall and to ensure that I didn’t forget any quotes. While the code itself changed between trials and my final exam to include far more quotes for my finals, the concept remained the same.
Using this strategy I was able to memorise over 100 key quotes for my final English Literature HL Paper 2 exam, in which I scored 25/25.
Hence, our final trick is to CHUNK and CODE!
These are our 3 Rules to help you make the most of your study time and memorise more efficiently. If you have any questions about the strategies discussed in this blog post or any of our other products and services, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Alexander Ciarroni (44/45) - Partner and Tutor at IB Solved