Memorization can be frustrating but is sometimes necessary. As much as I want my education to be a process of digesting and integrating new learning, sometimes it’s essential to simply memorize a list of facts, dates, or names.
In this post, I’ll be showing you how I use multiple memorization techniques based on intersecting learning styles to quickly memorize long lists of complex information.
Memorizing something in multiple formats, such as by list, by action, and by visual, can help you to remember the data when you need to recall it.
In a course on relational psychoanalysis I took last term, the professor deemed it necessary to memorize a list of therapeutic intents and therapeutic stances. The list wasn’t a simple list, and instead had adjectives, descriptors, and conjunctive verbs peppered in which made memorizing extra challenging!
When memorizing something simple, a mnemonic device is the fastest way to commit to memory the list items needed to know for the test or quiz.
But mnemonics fail when:
- 1. the items to memorize are complex,
- 2. there is more than one grouping of information to remember, or
- 3. there are multiple recurrences of the same letter in the mnemonic.
So to memorize this complex list of 19 “stances and intents” for my psychology class, I utilized several different methods:
People learn in different ways. Although there is been some research indicating that learning styles are not as important as once proposed, I’m very convinced that we learn best when we are able to work with information in multiple ways (such as seeing it visually, reading it, hearing it, and then enacting it). The study linked above demonstrated that, for example, auditory learners don’t score better on tests when they study in exclusively auditory formats, but common sense would indicate that studying using multiple study methods can result in multiple ways to jog your memory during test taking, and thus higher scores.
Multiple Memorization Methods
The classic method for memorizing a list is to create an acronym, and then give that acronym a silly sentence that I can easily be remembered. I won’t go into detail because this is the most widely used and commonly understood method of memorization.
Sometimes, a mnemonic device not enough. For example, when I sat down to take the test for which I needed to know the list described here, I found that I was left with a test paper that had only first letters for a few items. I simply couldn’t remember the corresponding phrases that went with the letter of my mnemonic device. That’s when this next type of memorization saved the day:
Iconic memorization for visual learners.
To create a visual layout of information to memorize, I start by listing the information I needed to memorize. Then, because I had two lists to memorize (and needed to keep them separate!), for the first list I created frames and drew icons within the frame while the second list I drew without frames in a nonlinear group. Using this format (frames versus no frames, list versus linear, helped my brain visualize the list items differently).
For me, drawing icons is the easiest way to create a memorable visual and even create memory through the drawing process. If you aren’t artistic- it doesn’t matter! The icons only need to make sense to you! If drawing isn’t possible, you can also download and save relevant images to use in the same way.
Movement-based memorization for Kinesthetic Learners
A third way to memorize for a test is through actions. Create, and reinforce while studying, a hand action or body movement to associate with each item to be remembered (or for each letter of your mnemonic). This method works best when there are verbs and adjectives in your list, but can be used for nearly any information if you use creative associations with the words you are studying.
More Creative Study Methods:
This overview of how to use multiple study methods to quickly memorize complex lists has worked great for me in graduate school. Below I’m including some additional memorization tips garnered from the Instagram community. Got a study tip that’s not listed? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section!
- Writing a song with lyrics from your study materials
- Chewing a specific flavor of gum during studying and then chewing it during the test (this could work with essential oils too)
- Reading the information aloud while studying
- Making up a short story and incorporating what you need to memorize.
- Repetition, repetition, repetition (verbal, written, movement, drawing, or a combination of all types)
Therapeutic Intent and Stance sketchnotes are adapted from Core Competencies in Relational Psychoanalysis by Roy Barness,