Revision Techniques: Mnemonics

When you’re revising for assessments or exams it’s useful to have a range of techniques such as mnemonic techniques to recall specific information such as lists of people, places ….

The most useful ones are generally those that you design yourself and meaningful to you.  They don’t have to be understood by other people.

Acronyms are very common in our day to day lives and our used in all sorts of contexts – NHS (National Health Service), TUC (Trade Union Congress) MEP (Member of the European Parliament).
Acronyms are formed by using each first letter of a group of words to form a new word.

Common ones in education include SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) targets, ICT (Information, Communications and Technology), ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).  Of course there are many, many more.

If you want to create your own mnemonic to remember some type of group or list – write down the items, take the first letter and then rearrange them into a word that is familiar to you.

Acronyms can be useful but they do have a couple of disadvantages – 1 They do not aid understanding 2) They can be difficult to form as not all lists can be formed into a memorable word.

Similar to acronyms they are acrostics are formed using the first letter of each word that you want to remember, but instead of forming a new word you use the letter to form a sentence

For examples if your wanted to remember the planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Pluto and Neptune.

My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Served Us Pine Nuts

Or the colours of a rainbow: red orange yellow green blue indigo violet!

Richard Of York Gave Battle in Vain

Acrostics are a useful technique to remember a list in a specific order.  They are less limiting that acronyms, however they take more effort to form and like acronyms do not actually aid understanding just memorisation.

Rhymes and Songs
Using rhythm, repetition, melody and rhyme can help you to remember things.  It’s a technique that has been used by storytellers to remember tales that were passed on from one generation to another.  You can use the technique for your studies and are fun for people who enjoy creating and learn tunes, songs or poems easily .  However,  be aware that it should not take over your studying.
Using these techniques can be fun, particularly for people who like to create.

Rhymes and songs draw on your auditory memory and may be particularly useful for those who can learn tunes, songs, or poems easily. Like the other techniques in this section, however, they emphasize rote memory, not understanding. Also, when devising rhymes and songs, don’t spend too much time creating them. Use these techniques judiciously and don’t let them interfere with your studying.


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If you’re studying a course that requires you to remember a lot of numbers, chunking is a very useful technique.  It’s based on the fact that our short term memory can only retain between 5 and 9 numbers.  If you needed to learn 37561972 – you would break it down into chunks 37, 56, 19, 72.  This would be much easier to remember.  You could also divide it 37, 56, 1972  (You might even connect the numbers to people or memorable dates.

Journey System (Method of Loci)
This technique is useful for remembering long lists and you use a combination or organisation, visual memory and association.  You need to identify a ‘journey’ that you make on a regular basis.  This might be from one building to another in university or college.  You then visualise the journey and think of the different landmarks that you pass.  It might be a statue, a bench, halls of residence ….

The number of landmarks you choose will depend on the amount of information that you’re trying to remember.  You will then associate particular information with the landmarks your have chosen.  By mentally associating them in this way it will help you commit them to memory and recall them when necessary.

These are just five techniques that can aid your revision. The success of these techniques depends upon you keeping it simple and making them easy to remember.  If you’re spending a lot of time trying to create any of these techniques then they are not the right one to be using.

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