Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (2023)

Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (1)

One of the biggest fears every student has as they enter the exam hall is that their mind will go blank and they will suddenly forget every last thing they know.

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It’s the stuff of nightmares, but fortunately, it’s highly unlikely to happen. First of all, you’d be amazed what facts start to come flooding back to you once you pick up a pen and start answering a question. Second of all, there are lots of memory tricks you can use that will help you recall information in a more formal and structured way. In this article, we’re going to show you just how much you can do to commit facts and figures to memory ready to recall them in exams, and we hope that as well as boosting your confidence, this should also ward off those nasty pre-exam nightmares!

1. Get organised

Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (2)

Before we even get started on memory tricks, there’s something fundamental we need to begin with. If there’s one enemy of a good memory, it’s disorganisation. A cluttered working space with unfiled notes here, there and everywhere; a notepad filled with scrawl on numerous different subjects with no particular order; a poor computer filing system. All these spell disaster for your ability to recall facts in the exam room. So, start by getting yourself organised. Tidy your room, or whichever space you’re using for studying. Get your notes organised neatly into different subjects. Physically decluttering and bringing about order in your environment has the strange effect of doing the same to the mind (perhaps there is something in feng shui), making you far better able to cope with memorising and recalling facts.

2. Mind palaces

If you’re a fan of Sherlock you’re probably already familiar with the concept of a mind palace, but just in case you aren’t, let’s go over it again. Officially known as the ‘method of loci’, the memory palace can be used to memorise huge volumes of information, and best of all, because it’s all down to your imagination, you can constantly expand it. It works like this:

Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (4)

1. Visualise a building or road. Populate your mental image with details, such as what you see in each room or what’s on either side of the road.
2. Mentally connect an image of each of the features you see – such as a chair in your imagined house, or a tree by the side of your imagined road – with a manageable chunk of information (such as a chemical formula). Think about the two together in depth and make sure you’ve really learned the information and its associated image.
3. To recall the information in the exam, simply retrace your steps through the building or down the road and pick out the objects you’ve associated with the information.
4. When you want to add additional information to your memory bank, you can simply add another room to your imaginary building or take a turn off your imaginary road that will house this new information.
This must be a foolproof memory trick because it’s been in around since Greek and Roman times. The Roman orator Cicero, who needed to be able to recall large amounts of information from memory when giving speeches, described them in his treatise on oratory, De Oratore. If it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for us!

3. Mnemonics

Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (5)

You’ll be pleased to hear that the concept of a mnemonic is a lot simpler than its confusing spelling. It involves translating information into an alternative form that you’re more easily able to remember. One way of doing this is by taking the first letters of a string of information you want to remember and then using them to create a more memorable phrase that you find easier to recall than the original information. For example, some people remember the points of the compass with the mnemonic ‘Never Eat Shredded Wheat’ (North East South West). The first letters of the information can also make up a word in their own right, as in the case of the colours of the rainbow, the mnemonic of which is the name ‘Roy G. Biv’ (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet).

4. Rhyming

Putting information into a rhyme is another way of making it easier to remember. An example is the rhyme that helps people remember how many days there are in each month:
30 days hath September, April, June, and November.
All the rest have 31
Except February my dear son.
It has 28 and that is fine
But in Leap Year it has 29.
This may prove a more effective way of memorising bigger chunks of information than the mnemonic examples we gave above. Your rhyme could be a little more modern-sounding to help you remember it, or you could use some tried and tested rhyming schemes such as rhyming couplets to help cement facts in your brain. Here’s a truly terrible example I just made up to help you memorise the order of the planets:

Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (6)

Close to the Sun, hottest and between us
Are the burning fireballs of Mercury and Venus.
Next come homely Earth then Mars, then gas giants Jupiter and Saturn –
Are you starting to see a planetary pattern?
Icy Uranus and Neptune follow, and, bringing up the rear,
Humble Pluto – no longer a planet – sheds a tear.
As you can see from my embarrassing attempt, you don’t have to be an accomplished poet to do it!

5. Making the most of a photographic memory

If you’re lucky enough to possess a photographic memory, you can make the most of it by combining images with text to reinforce what you’ve learned. This makes it easier to recall the information, because all you have to do is bring to mind the image and you should be able to recall the information. Even if you don’t have a photographic memory, you can apply the same principle. Arrange your notes in a pictorial fashion, such as in a spider diagram (where you have the concept in the middle and arrows pointing out of it to different pieces of information). Then, when you need to recall a particular piece of information, the idea is that you remember whereabouts it was on the page and that jolts your memory of what it was about.

6. Setting facts and figures to music

Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (7)

An extension of the rhyming idea is setting your notes to music. I don’t know about you, but I find it much easier to remember the lyrics to my favourite songs than I do to recall dry information such as the names and dates of the English monarchs or Roman emperors. If you’re struggling to commit a chain of information to memory, try putting a tune to it. Even a rap will do! Then all you need to do is remember the tune and the words should come flooding back. To make it easier to recall, you could try using a tune you already know – perhaps even a children’s nursery rhyme, if you can bear to associate a childhood favourite with your present exams! As long as you’re guaranteed to remember it, though, anything goes.

7. Experience things practically

Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (8)

By ‘experience things practically’, we mean: don’t just learn from books. It can be very difficult to remember things if your only experience of them is reading them in a book. To take an extreme example, you couldn’t learn to ride a bike simply by reading about it; you need to learn by doing it. If what you’re learning about can be experienced in person, try to do so, because this is a much better way of learning and the information is far more likely to stick with you. For example, if you’re learning about a scientific experiment, try to do it in real life rather than simply reading about it in a textbook. That way, when it comes to the exam, you’ll have practical experience to draw on and you can recall what really happened when you undertook the experiment. Similarly, if you’re studying a piece of music in A-level music, try to play it on an instrument if you can – it will give you a far deeper appreciation of it. This trick can even apply to English literature; if you’re studying war poetry, for example, try visiting a war museum – or even what’s left of the trenches in northern France – and reciting the poem you’re studying in such an environment. It will give it much greater meaning, help you understand and appreciate it in the spirit and surroundings in which it was intended, and help you emotionally engage with what you’re learning – thus making it easier for you to recall information about it in the exam room.

8. Utilise your sense of smell

Your sense of smell can be a powerful memory aid, as you’ll know if you’ve ever experienced that odd sensation of smelling something for the first time in years and instantly being transported back to the moment you last smelt it. You could try using this to your advantage by dabbing your wrist with a particular perfume or aftershave each time you study material for a particular exam. Then, when that exam comes round, you put on the same perfume or aftershave and (theoretically) it should help transport you back to the time you were learning the information in the first place. You could try using different scents for different subjects, wearing the corresponding scent for the relevant exam.

9. Make up a story

Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (9)

To help your brain absorb bigger chunks of information, another trick you could try is to break the information down and make up a story linking together each piece of information. It’s a little like the memory palace idea we discussed earlier in this article, but it plays with the imagination to a greater extent because the story you make up doesn’t have to be spatially limited in your mind. For example, if you need to memorise a complicated chemical formula, you could name the molecules with human names beginning with the same letter (Carol = Chlorine, for example) and make up a little story in which the actions of the characters mirror those of the molecules in the formula. This can be a remarkably effective method of learning trickier, drier information, as it helps to bring it to life a bit and gives it a more human touch that makes it easier to relate to.

10. Get a good night’s sleep

Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain (10)

It may not sound like it, but one of the best things you can do to help you remember things is to get a good night’s sleep – not just the night before the exam, but every night. We’re not just saying that because getting the right amount of sleep will help you perform better, retain mental agility and ward off stress and tiredness. We’re saying it because it’s when you’re sleeping that your brain performs the vital task of converting facts from short-term memory into long-term memory. During the course of a good night’s sleep, your brain processes the information you’ve learnt during the day and stores it, meaning that you’re far more likely to be able to recall it than if you barely slept. So, get the recommended eight hours’ sleep each and every night. Sleep may feel like a luxury you can’t afford right now, but believe us, it’s one of the most important things you can do for exam success!
So there we have it: ten simple tricks and tips that will greatly help you to increase your capacity for learning all kinds of facts and figures, no matter how much you’ve struggled with them up to now. Rest assured that your brain is more than capable of housing the vast swathes of information you need to learn in order to pass your exams: you just have to make it easier for it to absorb more than usual during the busy exam period!

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Memory Techniques for Exam Preparation: 10 Astonishing Ways to Harness the Power of Your Brain? ›

The most common use of 3-2-1 I've seen is in response to a reading or lesson–usually 3 things you learned, 2 things that made you curious or confused, and 1 most important thing you learned or should do with what you've learned.

What is the 321 memory technique? ›

The most common use of 3-2-1 I've seen is in response to a reading or lesson–usually 3 things you learned, 2 things that made you curious or confused, and 1 most important thing you learned or should do with what you've learned.

What are the 3 R's of memorization? ›

3 'R's: Remember It, Recall It, Retain It.

What is the 2 3 5 7 revision rule? ›

Revise a topic, then revisit it the next day, after three days, and after seven days. This is thought to be the perfect amount of time to help your brain remember information.

What is the most powerful method of improving memory? ›

The best way to protect and improve memory is by making good lifestyle choices: exercising regularly, limiting stress, eating healthfully, and getting enough sleep. You can also keep the mind agile by learning a foreign language or playing brain training games to improve thinking skills and short-term memory.

What is 1247 memory techniques? ›

What is 1247 Technique? Its a memory technique wherein you should revise whatever you have studied thrice after the 1st study. So effectively, you will study 4 times in 1-2-4-7 order.

What is the 7 2 rule memory? ›

Most adults can store between 5 and 9 items in their short-term memory. This idea was put forward by Miller (1956) and he called it the magic number 7. He thought that short-term memory could hold 7 (plus or minus 2 items) because it only had a certain number of “slots” in which items could be stored.

What's the memory palace technique? ›

The Memory Palace technique is a memorization strategy, based on visualizations of familiar spatial environments to recall information. “Loci” is the Latin term which means “places” or “locations”. The technique involves envisioning a location or physical space that you are extremely familiar with.

What is the paradox of memory? ›

This 'memory paradox' — that the absence of memory or the inability to recall memories properly in an emotional context leads to dysfunction, but that memories that generate too much emotion can also be disabling — was the subject of the Neuroscience & Cognition Dialogue between Richard Morris and Rachel Yehuda held ...

How can I memorize faster and easier for exams? ›

Simple memory tips and tricks
  1. Try to understand the information first. Information that is organized and makes sense to you is easier to memorize. ...
  2. Link it. ...
  3. Sleep on it. ...
  4. Self-test. ...
  5. Use distributed practice. ...
  6. Write it out. ...
  7. Create meaningful groups. ...
  8. Use mnemonics.

What is the 80 20 revision rule? ›

The 80-20 rule states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Sleep, eat, school, homework, volunteer; rinse and repeat.

What is the 7 day revision method? ›

Let's say you learned something you want to remember in the long-run. Now, what you should do is read it today (1), tomorrow (2), the day after tomorrow (3), and then on the 7th day from your first reading (7). If you read something today, say, August 10th, you'd re-read it on the 11th, 12th, and the 17th.

What is the 1 3 7 revision method? ›

1-3-7-21 Revision technique: After first read, revise whatever you read the very next day, then 3 days after; then again 7 days after and then after 21 days. And voila, you'll never forget this for the rest of your life.

What is the mega drilling memory technique? ›

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

But one innovation, called mega-drilling, has proven especially powerful. According to this technique, “you've got to actively recall the memory 30 times,” Cooke says. So when you meet someone new, you might want to repeat her name 30 times.

What strengthens your memory? ›

Crosswords, word-recall games, Tetris, and even mobile apps dedicated to memory training are excellent ways to strengthen memory. A study that included 42 adults with mild cognitive impairment found that playing games on a brain-training app for 8 hours over a 4-week period improved performance in memory tests ( 23 ).

What is the ancient technique for memory? ›

In ancient Greece and Rome, people would construct mental maps with a technique known as a memory palace or method of loci. As their mind walked from room to room, scholars and clergy were able to recall facts and data they had attached to certain household features, like a rug, a desk, or a window.

What is mnemonic memory trick? ›

Mnemonics are strategies used to improve memory. They are often taught in school to help students learn and recall information. Examples of mnemonics include: Setting the ABCs to music to memorize the alphabet. Using rhymes to remember rules of spelling like "i before e except after c"

What are the 4 memory strategies? ›

Rehearsal is found to be the most frequently used strategy, followed by mental imagery, elaboration, mnemonics, and organization. Previous study also found that rehearsal is the memory strategy taught most often by teachers to their students (Moely et al., 1992).

What is the Miller's law of memory? ›

Miller's Law is a cognitive psychology principle that states that the average person can only hold about 7 (plus or minus 2) items in their working memory at a time. This is also known as the “magic number 7”.

What is the Miller memory theory? ›

George Miller was a psychologist who theorized that short-term memory can hold between five and nine pieces of information. This information can be stored in single units called bits or in groupings called chunks. Creating chunks of information allows you to hold more information in short-term memory.

What things most affect memory? ›

Here are several common factors that can affect your memory:
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Stress and anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Thyroid problems.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Alcohol abuse.
  • Medication.

What is the Cicero method? ›

The Ciceronian technique: 6-part outline. In each talk, there are 3 main components: the speaker, the speech, and the audience. Cicero talks about how each of these three components will either sway or dissuade your audience from being convinced by you and your message.

What is a magnetic memory palace? ›

What is the Magnetic Memory Method? The Magnetic Memory Method is a set of video courses created by Anthony Metivier. It teaches the fundamentals of memory palaces and mnemonic devices for memorizing different types of information. In fact, Anthony has even written an introductory article about memory palaces for Fi3M.

What is mind palace technique for exams? ›

A memory palace is a mnemonic technique used to improve memory retention and recall. It involves mentally placing information to be remembered in specific locations within an imagined physical space, such as a palace or building, and then mentally "walking" through that space to retrieve the information when needed.

What is the rarest memory? ›

This rare condition also known as highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM) causes people to remember just about everything that has occurred in their life. This includes every conversation and emotion ever experienced as well as every person encountered, regardless of how insignificant or minute.

What is memory dissonance? ›

Cognitive dissonance theory posits that people will change their attitudes, beliefs, and evaluations to maintain consistency between their behaviors and self-concept. One underexplored method of reducing cognitive dissonance created through self-concept violations is the distortion of memory.

What is illusion memory? ›

Memory illusions may be defined as cases in which a rememberer's report of a past event seriously deviates from the event's actual occurrence.

How can I learn 10X faster? ›

Research proves there are ways to learn new skills and concepts with speed and ease.
  1. Teach Someone Else (Or Just Pretend To) ...
  2. Learn In Short Bursts of Time. ...
  3. Take Notes By Hand. ...
  4. Use The Power of Mental Spacing. ...
  5. Take A Study Nap. ...
  6. Change It Up.
Aug 30, 2016

What is the active recall method? ›

Active recall is an evidence-based study technique that involves actively retrieving information from memory rather than simply reviewing or re-reading material passively. This means that instead of simply re-reading notes or textbook chapters, you actively try to recall and reproduce the information from memory.

What is the revision rule? ›

A precise assembly has links (occurrences) to specific item revisions of its components. When a component is modified to a new revision, you manually edit the assembly to remove the old revision of the component and replace it with the new.

What is the rule of 80? ›

The “Rule of 80” (or “Rule of 90” for MSEP 2011 members) simply allows some members with many years of service to reach normal retirement age sooner than they otherwise would. If your years of service plus your age equal 80 or more (90 or more for MSEP 2011), then you may reach retirement eligibility sooner.

Which time is best for revision morning or night? ›

Being able to focus and revise whenever you feel like it is a great skill, but setting a time and a regular schedule prepares your brain for activity. For example, if you revise around 7pm every day, your brain is geared to revise at that time because it gets used to it.

What is the best studying method? ›

One of the most impactful learning strategies is “distributed practice”—spacing out your studying over several short periods of time over several days and weeks (Newport, 2007). The most effective practice is to work a short time on each class every day.

What is the most effective revision time? ›

According to The Student Room, students revise 15 to 20 hours per week for their exams, which might sound a lot until you break it down. You've probably worked it out for yourself, but the recommended time equates to three to five hours of revision per day with weekends off!

What is the 1 3 5 revision method? ›

The 1–3–5 rule structures revision in a way that asks students to think more deeply about the work they need to do on their drafts. The strategy requires that students move beyond the idea of making corrections. It requires them to choose tasks that are more than simple editing and proofreading.

What is Pomodoro technique revision? ›

The Pomodoro method follows a basic pattern of 25 minutes studying followed by a five minute break. If you do four of these in a row you can then have a longer break. It works because you learn better in short sessions and you don't have to punish yourself with unbroken hours of revision.

What is the three step study method? ›

The 3 steps of the model are preview, study and revise. 00:00. 3.1. In improving your study techniques, you will learn about a brain-friendly study method.

What are the six memory techniques? ›

  • 6 Easy Memory Techniques for Students. Gayatri. ...
  • Visualization. Our brain is more friendly with images than text and hence, visual learning is an easy tool for memorizing. ...
  • Grouping and organizing notes. ...
  • Distributive Practice (Spaced repetition) ...
  • Mind mapping. ...
  • Mnemonics. ...
  • Sleeping.

How do you deep process memory? ›

Deep processing involves elaboration rehearsal which involves a more meaningful analysis (e.g. images, thinking, associations etc.) of information and leads to better recall. For example, giving words a meaning or linking them with previous knowledge.

What are major memory techniques? ›

11 memorization techniques to boost your memory
  • Acronyms and acrostics.
  • Music mnemonics.
  • Rhyming mnemonics.
  • Chunking.
  • Build a memory palace.
  • Write it down.
  • Use spaced repetition.
  • Make visual connections.
Apr 6, 2023

What is the number 1 food for your brain? ›

Research shows that the best brain foods are the same ones that protect your heart and blood vessels, including the following: Green, leafy vegetables. Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene.

What vitamin is best for brain memory? ›

Like vitamin D, vitamin B12 has so many mental benefits. Getting enough vitamin B12 may give you more energy, improve memory, and make learning new things easier.

What is the number one food for memory? ›

Top 10 foods to improve your memory
  • Oily fish. We've long been told that fish is the ultimate 'brain food', and there's convincing evidence to support this. ...
  • Blueberries. ...
  • Walnuts. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Pumpkin seeds. ...
  • Rosemary. ...
  • Coffee. ...
  • Dark chocolate.
Mar 27, 2023

What does Mayo Clinic recommend for memory? ›

Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory
  • Be physically active every day. Physical activity raises blood flow to the whole body, including the brain. ...
  • Stay mentally active. ...
  • Spend time with others. ...
  • Stay organized. ...
  • Sleep well. ...
  • Eat a healthy diet. ...
  • Manage chronic health problems.

What is the 5 word memory test? ›

Administration: The examiner reads a list of 5 words at a rate of one per second, giving the following instructions: “This is a memory test. I am going to read a list of words that you will have to remember now and later on. Listen carefully. When I am through, tell me as many words as you can remember.

What are the 3 foods that fight memory loss? ›

What are the foods that fight memory loss? Berries, fish, and leafy green vegetables are 3 of the best foods that fight memory loss. There's a mountain of evidence showing they support and protect brain health.

What is the ancient memory trick? ›

In ancient Greece and Rome, people would construct mental maps with a technique known as a memory palace or method of loci. As their mind walked from room to room, scholars and clergy were able to recall facts and data they had attached to certain household features, like a rug, a desk, or a window.

What is the memory brain rule? ›


The human brain can only hold about seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds! Which means, your brain can only handle a 7-digit phone number. If you want to extend the 30 seconds to a few minutes or even an hour or two, you will need to consistently re-expose yourself to the information.

What is the Sherlock study method? ›

Sherlock's Mind Palace is a mnemonic technique the consulting detective uses to memorise large amounts of information such as people, objects, facts or ideas. He does so by creating mental images of them; placing the items in an imaginary environment to retrieve them later.

What is the Roman room technique of memory? ›

The Roman Room technique is similar to the Journey method. It works by pegging images coding for information to known things, in this case to objects in a room. The Roman Room technique is most effective for storing lists of unlinked information, while the journey method is better for storing lists of ordered items.

What is the Brown Peterson technique? ›

The Brown-Peterson distractor technique presented a trigram, followed by the directive to count backward from a given number by threes or fours until a light signal prompted the participant to say the trigram. This distractor technique measured short-term recall without the use of rehearsal.

What is the hardest memory to forget? ›

Emotional memories are often difficult to forget because of the involvement of an area of the brain that plays an important role in controlling behaviors that are important to your survival, including feelings of fear.

Which memory does not forget? ›

Non-volatile Memory:

Example: ROM, HD (Secondary memory), flash memory, floppy disk etc. Hence option 1 is the correct answer.

What is 7 memory theory? ›

It is often interpreted to argue that the number of objects an average human can hold in short-term memory is 7 ± 2. This has occasionally been referred to as Miller's law.

What limits a person's memory? ›

According to recent studies, the human mind has a memory limit of about 3 to 4 items. This means that without doing any memory tricks, the average human can only remember 3 to 4 things at a time. These things may include numbers, names, or tasks. This short-term memory is also called the working memory.

How can I increase my memory power? ›

Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory
  1. Be physically active every day. Physical activity raises blood flow to the whole body, including the brain. ...
  2. Stay mentally active. ...
  3. Spend time with others. ...
  4. Stay organized. ...
  5. Sleep well. ...
  6. Eat a healthy diet. ...
  7. Manage chronic health problems.


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