At many universities, particularly in undergraduate degree programs, memorization of sets of facts is an important part of getting good grades and performing well on exams. There are a couple of memory aids that will enable you to memorize even long lists of facts quickly so that you can spend more time understanding those lists and less time worrying about the memorization part of it.
Mnemonic devices are aids that you can use to quicken your memorization of even long sets of facts. Mnemonic devices aid human memory by providing either memorable sentences or words where the first letter of each word in the sentence or each letter in a single word represent some fact that you need to remember.
For example, let’s say you need to remember all the planets in the solar system for an exam. Those planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
An example of a sentence mnemonic would be as follows: My Vacuum Eats Monkeys Just So Underwear Never Prevails. The first letter of each word represents one of the planets. If you can remember this sentence, which is pretty easy after a couple repetitions, your memory will recall the planets, the facts that you need to know. Granted, this is a pretty easy example, but it works for even very long lists of concepts or facts that you need to memorize to ace that exam.
An example of a word mnemonic would be something like this for the same list: SPUN JEMMV. This is not really even a word, but it is easy to remember the image of this arrangement of letters. Again, as long as you can remember the mnemonic, your memory will recall the facts more readily.
Imagery is another very effective tool to improve memorization. Imagery involves creating a scene in your mind that will help you recall facts that you need to remember. It helps to exaggerate certain facts that are more important so that they will be more memorable.
For example, let’s assume you need to remember details about a battle during the American Revolution where George Washington troops approach Boston, causing General Howe and the British forces to retreat. Again, this is a simple example, but will illustrate the effectiveness of imagery.
I would picture a person, but rather than that person having a head, I would replace that head in my image with a washing machine. This seems ridiculous, but I will know that the washing machine represents General Washington. I would also picture a boat leaving and, on this boat, there is a giant wolf howling into the sky. If I visualize this in my mind a couple of times, it is very easy to remember because it is so ridiculous. But, at the same time, it has helped me to remember who was involved and what happened in this scenario. For more complicated sets of facts, you simply must spend a little more time up front creating your image.
Using these two steps will improve your memory, help you learn more in less time, and, therefore, get better grades.