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Last Updated: Tuesday May 03 2005 16:47 GMT

Exam revision: Memory techniques

Brain scan: Picture from Corbis

Memory techniques or mnemonics are ways of remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall. If you need help revising for your exam, try some of these:

Rhyme

You are more likely to remember the words of a song or a poem rather than a paragraph from a book. That's because rhyme often sticks in your mind.

You can use this 'sticking power' by making up a verse about the topic you are revising, for example:

30 days have September, April, June and November.
All the rest have 31, except for February alone.
When leap year comes once in four, February then has one day more.

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Acrostic

One way to remember a list of words in order is to make up an acrostic, using the first letter of each word in the list, for example:

The colours of the rainbow in order, from the outside to inside are:
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.

They can be remembered using this acrostic:
Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.

Acronyms

Acronyms are similar to acrostics but they are words (as opposed to sentences) created by the first letters of a series of words.

Many organisations use acronyms such as Action on Smoking and Health or ASH.

Here are five things you might need to bring to school:

games Kit, reading Book, packed Lunch, school Trip money, Calculator

This gives you the acronym:

BLoCK iT!

A top tip is to use vowels (aeiou) in the acronym but only let the consonants stand for the words to be remembered.

Numbers and rhyme

A way of remembering numbers is by picturing objects that rhyme with each digit from 1 to 10, for example:

1 rhymes with bun
8 rhymes with gate
6 rhymes with sticks

So to remember that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, you imagine a bun (1) going through a gate (8) made of sticks (6) whilst being struck by a two bolts of lightening.

This strange visual image will help you remember the numbers one, eight, and six in order and associate that figure with 'light' (lightning) and 'per second' (two bolts).

Spelling techniques

Breaking words down into parts can help you remember how to spell them, for example:

  • A friend is always there when the end comes.
  • I before e except after c. This helps you remember how to spell words like retrieve and receive.
    But remember weird is spelt weird!
  • Separate is a rat of a word to spell.
  • You wear one collar and two socks. This is a reminder of how many cs and ss in necessary.

Grouping

A good way to remember a long list of items is to group them into categories.

Look at this list of sports:

Skiing, basketball, netball, tennis, long jump, 100m sprint, hockey, rounders, ice-skating, discus, golf, high jump, volleyball , javelin, football, rugby, lacrosse, cricket, gymnastics, hurdles.

It is easier to remember them if you separate them into categories, e.g. athletics, sports played on a pitch, racquet sports. That way you will have less sports to remember per group.

Names and pictures

You are more likely to remember something out of the ordinary. Creating strange images in your head helps you remember.

For example, if a new girl called Nina joined your class and you wanted to remember her name, you could think of an object image associated with her name, for example:

  • ambulance (siren sound ni-na)
  • knee (Ni-na)
  • Hyena (rhymes with Nina)

Picture your classmate alongside one of these objects e.g. with a flashing siren on her head.

This strange visual image will make it easier to remember their new name.

Journey and peg

Another way to remember a chain of information is to peg each bit on a landmark from a familiar journey.

Think of a journey you do quite regularly. This could be your route to school or the journey from your bedroom to the front door.

Write down all the landmarks you pass in order on a piece of paper; each on a separate line.

Now pick some information from one of the subjects you need to learn.

Write down each bit of information next to a landmark.

Now imagine yourself making the journey, passing each bit of information pegged to each landmark. This will help you recall the details more easily.

Teach

Another good way of retaining information is to teach someone else what you have learned.

This method can help you remember 90 per cent of the information.