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4 proven study hacks that will boost your memory

Have you ever wanted to remember something so desperately but have found it nearly impossible? Often, it’s not your fault for not being able to remember the content- but the fault of how you are trying to remember the content.

Mental Imagery/ stories

One great way to remember content is to make up a story for yourself!

For example, if you need to remember the periodic table, you can make a story out of it. An example story would be: One day you walk into the local shopping centre, but the fire alarm goes off because there is a H-bomb (HYDRODEN) in the carpark. So, you run outside and grab hold of a couple balloons (HELIUM) which carry you up and away from the inevitable fact that you were going to die. Next, a battery (LITHIUM) falls from the skies and pops one of your balloons…….. you get the point.

Any story that you will remember will work- often the weirder it is the better you will remember it.

John Dunlosky, professor at Kent State University, and his colleagues found that comprehension performance went up by almost 10% when students were asked to form mental images of the material they were reading.

Name Mnemonics

This is a learning technique that involved taking the first letter of each word and combining them to form a new word. This technique works wonder for remembering lists! For example, a common name mnemonic used to remember the order of colours in the rainbow in “ROY G BIV”.  By using this technique, you’ll only have to remember one word, instead of the whole list.

 Self- explanation

According to Dunlosky, self-explanation involves explaining “some aspect of your processing during learning”.  In other words, after you have arrived at an answer to a question, you attempt to explain to yourself how and why you got that answer. By doing this, you are integrating new knowledge with prior knowledge, making it much easier to understand and learn.

In a study (Dunlosky et al.), two groups of students were given problems and asked to solve them. One group was asked to explain how they arrived at the answer (eg: why did you pick this answer?,  explain what this sentence means to you, Why is the numerator 14 and the denominator 7 in this step?, etc.), while the second group was not asked to explain their reasoning.

Although these groups performed similarly when given straight forward (concrete) questions, the first group outperformed the second group when faced with abstract questions. The first group displayed 60% more problem solving accuracy when faced with abstract questions.

Summarization and note taking

Often, students have A LOT of content to remember and it can get very overwhelming. Making summaries and taking notes can take your studying down from an entire textbook to a couple of pages. Take notes on only the important material and skip out on repetitive and unimportant sections.

Studies show that students that make notes and summaries score up to 12% higher on tests when compared to their non-note taking peers.

Even though note taking and summarization are excellent techniques for remembering information, it only improves marks if good quality notes are made.


Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E., Nathan, M. and Willingham, D. (2013). Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), pp.4-58.

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