"Forgetting is either the inability to recall stored information or the failure to store it in the first place."

Think about your brain as a filing cabinet. You have unlimited space to store information, but it must be organized and easy to access. The more you use information in your memory, the easier it will be to recall it when you need it.

Try these techniques to help remember information:

Organize It

  • Get the big picture, then look at specifics

  • Make it meaningful - tie the information to a goal

  • Create associations. Make them personal, sensory and imaginative. The strongest associations elicit an emotional reaction. Some examples of associations are:

    • Acronyms: For example, SKILL lists the excretory organs of the body (Skin, Kidneys, Intestines, Liver, Lungs).

    • Acrostics:

      For example, EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FUDGE is an acrostic for the order of G-clef notes on sheet music - E, G, B, D, F.

      Or, PLEASE EXCUSE MY DEAR AUNT SALLY to remember the order of calculations in algebra - Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction

    • Rhyme Keys: to memorize lists of items, associate words that rhyme with numbers and images with the items you need to remember. For the four food groups, imagine cheese on a bun (one), cows and fish wearing shoes (two), a sack of grain in a tree (three), and a door (four) to a room full of fruits and vegetables.

    • Chaining: create a story that cues the next idea or word to remember

    • Substitute word system:

      Ecuador = sounds like = echo+door

Use Your Body

  • Learn it once, actively
    • Method of Loci: Associate locations in a well-known room to remember items, then move around the room to review

    • Create a "Body List," mentally attaching items to images of your body parts moving from head to toe.

  • Relax - make sure your body is ready to receive the information

  • Create pictures

  • Recite and repeat

  • Write it down

Use Your Brain

  • Reduce interference

  • Overlearn

  • Escape the short-term memory trap, review material often

  • Use daylight hours to study material

  • Distribute learning over multiple study sessions

  • Be aware of attitudes - stay positive!

  • Choose what not to remember

  • Combine memory techniques

Recall It

  • Remember something else

  • Notice when you do remember and use that technique again

  • Use it before you lose it

Ellis, D. B. (1991). Becoming a Master Student. College Survival: Rapid City, SD.

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