Study Tips: Memory Tricks to Remember What You Study

Sometimes flashcards and rewriting notes will get you through a test, but for those trickier questions-orders of occurrence, lists of amino acids, etc.-mnemonic devices can be the key to making info stay in your head for the long term. Here are a few ideas, and remember, the sillier you make these, the more memorable they’ll be!

Acronyms

Acronyms are simply a way to shorten several words into one or a few “words” by combining their first letters. Remember ROY G. BIV, the acronym from elementary school that helped you remember the colors of the rainbow in order? (Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet!) You can use the same technique to help you memorize any list of things, from amino acids to the oceans of the world to the presidents of the United States.

Example:

PEMDAS, the order of operations in math (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction)

Acrostics

Acrostics, use the first letter of the words you want to remember, too. But instead of making a word, they make a sentence with whole words that start with those letters. These, too, are great for remembering lists in order.

Example:

Every Good Boy Does Fine., the order of notes on the G Clef (EGBDF)

Kings Play Chess On Fine Green Sand., the order of taxonomy (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species)

Music

As goofy as it sounds, putting words to a familiar tune can really help it stick in your mind. This works especially well for formulas, lists, and processes (like production of ATP, for example). You’ll probably have to sing it to yourself a few times to get it down, but once it’s in your mind, it will be hard to shake!

Example: In high school, some of my friends put the Quadratic Formula to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel”-I still get it stuck in my head sometimes, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget that equation. There are even songs that list all the countries in the world or all the elements on the periodic table!

Word Associations

These work particularly well for names of people, places, and things (and lots of other things if you get creative!). The key is to associate words and names along the theme of the question you want to answer.

Example:

To remember who the fattest U.S. president was, I think: Taft. Taft sounds like Taffy. Too much taffy makes you fat. 🙂

I try to make it as silly as possible!

“State-Dependent” Studying

Commenter Nichole suggested studying at the same time of day, in the same environment as you will be in when you take your test. This technique is supposed to help your mind recall more easily when you get into the test environment.