How To Effectively Memorize

There are a number of ways to train your brain to memorize things faster and to optimize learning. Typical study methods like lectures, cramming, and re-reading are ineffective because they don’t help retain information over the long term. What works is spaced repetition: You may want to test yourself on a fact repeatedly, spacing out your repetitions over time. I hope you enjoy my Tuesday Tip! ~Cathy

Break Down the Facts

To study a set of knowledge, you need to break it down into its constituent facts. You should break them up and study each one. The best way to do that—the best way to turn most knowledge into something you can study—is with flashcards. Put a word on one side of the card, its definition on the other. Or put half a sentence on one side, the other half on the other. Or put a sentence with a blank on one side, and the missing keyword on the other. Or put a picture on one side, and identify it on the other.

Cloze Deletion

Some like to memorize quotations, which are a little harder to break down into flashcards. But it’s still possible, using the “cloze deletion” method: on each card, leave out a different part of the quotation. Study all of them, on the right schedule, and eventually, you’ll memorize the entire quotation.

Good Flash Cards

A good flashcard should include pictures, sounds, or personal details. To learn words in another language, match them to pictures. Make those pictures personal. This might seem complicated. It’s teaching the word and pronunciation. Because this information is presented as one package and belongs together, it still works.

Spaced Repetition

If you want to remember something for a long time, you need to study it at the right moment: the moment that you’re just about to forget it. If you do that repeatedly, you’ll remember the fact longer each time. A good pattern, supported by over a century of research, is to make a card, study it the next day, then study it two days later, then four days later, then eight days later, and so on. Do this seven times and if you got the card right every time, you can throw it away. You’re probably going to remember that fact forever. But any time you get the card wrong, you have to start over: study it again tomorrow, then two days after that, and so on. Eventually, you’ll get it right all seven times, and you’re done with the card.

Flash Card Apps

If you’re studying a lot of cards at once, this study schedule gets complex. If you use a flashcard app, several of them have spaced repetition built-in, so they can automatically schedule your cards. If you keep screwing up a card, then see if you can break the card down into multiple cards, or make it more memorable with a picture or a hint. There are tons of flashcard apps and they all work a little differently. Choose an app based on your study habits, device or aesthetics.

I hope you enjoyed Cathy’s Tuesday Tip this week. To view more of Cathy’s Tuesday Tips, visit our blog.


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