Become a Superstar Memorizer – Part 1

In the following posts we will cover the essence of learning and recalling. For many students forgetting is a big issue and the main cause of stress and headaches – especially before exams.
Therefore I found it very important to talk about great memorization techniques which are applicable to studying for school.

There are many techniques that you can use to improve your memory. With these techniques you will be able to remember more than you ever thought possible.
You will find that some of them work better for you than others – I recommend you to try all of them and see what you like. So here they are:

1. Imagine and associate

All of these techniques are based on the power of imagination – if you want to remember something, just clearly imagine a tangible picture of it. Next, you have to make it weird in some way – otherwise you will forget it! The more unusual you imagine your picture, the harder it is going to be to forget what you have learned.

Many students try to connect a new word with the sound of another word they know – this is not bad, but they tend to quickly forget what they have learned! Therefore give it a try and imagine a tangible picture of what you want to remember. You can always involve the sound of the words too, but you should still imagine your tangible pictures!

Here is an example: For my biochemistry exam I had to remember the compond »cyanogen bromide«. Cyano reminds me of Keanu, so you can imagine Keanu Reeves and -gen sounds like gene. For gene I imagine the DNA double helix. Now we have to connect these two. The trick is to make the picture weird and see it clearly. Keanu Reeves can be sliding down the DNA double helix, or having a body twisted as the double helix. Imagine it clearly and connect the next word, which is bromide. Brom – you can imagine a car going broom broom, and for -ide an eye. To connect these two, you can imagine a car shaped as an eye, and eye driving a car, a car with eyes…

Here are a few suggestions to make the pictures more memorable and less likely to be forgotten (try to include as many of these as you can):

Imagine the pictures as clearly and as detailed as you can. You can do this by including more senses (next to the visual picture add smell, touch, taste, sound) for example: What noises does the car make? How does Keanu Reeves smell like? … 

Include movement in your pictures – when you imagine the picture, imagine it moving. For example, you can imagine the car driving around.

Make the pictures weird by imagining the things in new, unusual situations (for example the eye is driving a car)

Imagine them huge or tiny, imagine something in large quantities (you can for example imagine one thousand Keanus, a very small Keanu (you can put him in your pocket ;) or a huge giant Keanu)

Make the pictures look funny (apply your humor)

Make things dirty – this is going to be very memorable. But be careful, you don’t want to disturb yourself with inappropriate thoughts during an exam… so decide if this one is appropriate for the given situation.

2. Connect two pictures

As you saw in the previous example I connected two pictures to remember one word (you can, of course, connect as many as you want – all you have to do is to expand your picture, add new information to it). You can use this to remember names, lists of items or processes, you can imagine one big topic (the mentioned cyanogen bromide is used in polypeptide sequencing – you first imagine a picture to remember polypeptide sequencing (in this case I think of salami :) and then connect the picture of cyanogen bromide (Keanu with a helix body) with the salami. Keanu can be eaten by the salami, for example. Now you can add another technique of polypeptide sequencing. Just connect the new picture with the salami). This way you can connect anything and add as many things as you want.

You can connect two things by:

Substitution – you can substitute their uses. I can imagine driving a car, but it is going to be much more memorable, if I imagine how a car drives me…

Getting action into the picture – imagine the a car driving very fasy, crashing, Keanu slapping you in the face (this is very efficient, because you included touch and yourself)

You can stick two things together – as in the example of Keanu with the helix body.

Or put things on top of or inside of each other

After a while you will not need the weird picture and you will have remembered the item. However, after a long time of not using it you might forget what you have learned – this is when the picture-link will be useful again. You will recall the picture you imagined with much less effort than the actual item.

As you can see the only challenge is to think of a weird picture – you need good imagination skills and you have to be creative. Don’t worry if it takes some time in the beginning to create a picture. Your imagination is almost like a muscle which you can train – it will get better with time. This technique has incredible potential also when it comes to creativity and problem solving, which we will cover in later posts.

I use associations and links for most of the material I have to memorize. Still, sometimes we have to remember numbers and various letters or a procedure in a particular order. In such cases I would use other techniques, which we will cover in part 2.

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