Memory Techniques

Here are 20 memory techniques. You may not find all of them useful, but read through each section and try using the ones that fit your learning style. Not all these ideas will work for everyone, but you should find something new here!

There are 4 areas here:


1. Learn from the general to the specific.

When you receive a reading assignment, skim it to get an overall idea of the subject matter. Then reread it for the specifics.

2. Make it meaningful and relevant to you.

What do you want from the information? How does this information relate to your goals? The answers to these questions will make it relevant to you.

3. Create associations.

Try to link each new piece of information with something you already know. (This will also help you when writing term papers.)

Use your body

4. Learn it actively.

Reinforce the words with action. Stand up, sit up straight, pace back and forth, and/or gesture with your hands to get your body involved when you study.

5. Relax.

It's easier to learn when you're not stressed and tense. Take a short break. Get a cool drink, or go for a walk. Play some music which makes you happy. When you feel more relaxed, try another study session.

6. Be artistic.

Draw pictures, charts, or cartoons to connect facts. The act of creating the picture will help fix the information in your mind, and you may find it easier to remember the picture and what it depicts than the original words.

7. Recite and repeat.

Audible repetition uses both your physical and auditory senses, which accelerate your learning ability. Hearing the information as you recite in your own words increases your ability to remember.

8. Write it down.

Writing, or typing, is active learning. Writing requires you to be logical and reveals missing information. Try re-reading your notes out loud - you might think of something new to add, or find gaps which need to be filled.

Use your brain

9. Keep distractions down.

Find a space free of distractions. Multi-tasking is great for some things, but not when you're trying to remember complex information!

10. Overlearn.

Dissect the information, add to it, and go over it until it becomes second nature. When you think you've got it, read your notes one more time then put them away for a few days.

11. Escape the short-term memory trap.

Short-term memory lasts only a short time, whether it's a few minutes or several hours. Make sure everything you've learned is in long-term memory by reviewing until you have overlearned; put your notes away for a few days, then test yourself - do you really remember it? If not, re-learn it, put the notes away, and re-test until you're sure the information is there.

12. Use daylight.

Try studying difficult subjects during the daylight hours when your concentration is more effective.

13. Distribute the learning.

Schedule time to study into manageable increments, between one- and two-hour sessions. Reward yourself with regular breaks... unless you are engrossed in an idea and cannot think of anything else. In that case, don't stop the momentum - keep going!

14. Be aware of attitudes.

Your attitude about a subject or topic may be different from your instructor. That's all right; simply acknowledge them. You don't need to feel the same way, or even agree with your instructor (as long as you can justify your opinion!). Your awareness can deflate an attitude that is blocking your memory.

15. Choose what not to remember.

Be selective. Decide what is essential, and apply memory techniques to those ideas. If you have time, learn more, but make sure you cover the key facts and topics first.

16. Combine memory techniques.

Memory techniques work better in combination. Consolidate two or three of the techniques and experiment with them. In the end, it doesn't matter how you remember the information, just that you remember it!


17. Remember something else.

Brainstorming is a technique used to promote recall. Try remembering something similar - or something discussed at the same time - and the answer will probably appear.

18. Notice when you do remember.

Everyone learns and remembers differently. Pay attention to the styles that work for you. Equally, just because your friend swears by re-writing her notes at 2am with her favorite music blasting does not mean that it will have the same positive effect for you.

19. Use it before you lose it.

Practice using information regularly - read it, write it, speak it, listen to it, or apply it. The more you use information, the greater the recall.

Try having a discussion/debate with some of your friends, tutor another student or join a study group.

20. Remember that you never forget.

Properly stored information is never lost, though you might have problems recalling it. As an aid, use positive statements like "Let me find where I stored it" rather than "I can't remember anything!". It might be there, on the tip of your tongue.

20 Memory Techniques adapted from "Becoming a Master Student, 10th Edition", Dave Ellis, Houghton Mifflin Company.

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression and genetic information in the University’s programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access,, 1246 W. Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS, 66045, (785)864-6414, 711 TTY.