How to be a Master Memorizer

The thought of memorizing vast amounts of content is enough to steer students far from particular classes or even majors.

Student A: “How’s Dr. Smith’s nuclear power class? I heard it’s a fun and interesting course! Everyone raves about it!”

Student B: “Well, it’s great! But there’s a lot of memorization…”

Student A: “Nooope. No thank you. I’ll just take math history…”

Memorization gets a bad reputation, but having the ability to retain information is not only critical in some fields of study (biology, chemistry, speech pathology, theater),  it’s actually useful! It’s also probably not as daunting as one might think, especially if you know how to effectively memorize with these tips:


Those who use flashcards swear by them. You’ve probably made them out of index cards but in today’s high-tech world, you could also do them electronically via the computer or smart phone. (Yes, there’s an app for that.) Some companies make flashcards for courses, such as anatomy, that you can purchase online or at your college bookstore. Use your flashcards often and at least several days prior to being tested.

Have you gotten your memorization on today? Do your flashcards everyday at the following times and places:


  • Standing in line for food or coffee
  • Five minutes before class starts
  • While waiting for your friend to use the bathroom
  • During the commercial breaks of your favorite TV show
  • While on the bus or train
  • As a transition between homework assignments
  • Five minutes before your club meeting starts
  • While you warm up or cool down at the gym
  • While you wait for your pizza rolls
  • As you wait for the shower to free up
  • Before you fall asleep


Bust a Rhyme:

There’s a reason you remember “i before e, except after c” or the quadratic equation set to “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Link words and ideas to what you already know or what they make you think about. Find some sort of relationship between what you need to memorize and how you can remember. Even if it only makes sense to you, you’ll be more likely to remember the information not only for your next test, but for years to come.

Read with Intent:

There’s a difference between reading your notes and textbook in front of the TV four times, and reading your notes and textbook in a quiet room with the point being to retain the information. Reading something over and over sounds like the answer to memorization, but if you’re not focused on it, it won’t do anything for you. If you’re going to read, and re-read, really focus on what you’re learning and make connections to the material in your mind.


The best way to memorize is to start early, and to refresh your mind often in quick spurts. Instead of setting aside an afternoon before the test, set aside twenty minutes, twice a day, for a week. The information will go a lot further.

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