The art of memorisation and why it isn’t as difficult as you may think
Exams require memorisation. It would be naive to believe that a person can walk into an exam every single time and refer to something they studied a year ago, all while giving a top scoring answer for the examiner to squeal in excitement with.
The truth is, education is simply a case of learning content for an exam, before swiftly forgetting it and memorising more content for the next exam.
I finished my GCSE exams about about a year and a half ago now; and as an 18 year old student that is studying A-Levels, memorisation is still as important as ever.
Sure, I no longer have nine subjects to revise for, and some of the subjects don’t require anywhere near as much memorisation as others do- but there is still an element required no matter what course you take.
This article will explain a method that the 16 year old version of myself came up with, which successfully helped him memorise over 100 quotes for English Literature, as well as all the formulae needed in Physics, Chemistry and Biology GCSE.
How does the method work?
I am a firm believer that every human learns from their mistakes, and it is okay to repeat said mistakes if they continue to learn from them. I took this concept, and used it to come up with a method of memorisation that will take advantage of the content that doesn’t quite stick in your head.
This example will use GCSE physics equations as the ‘items’ you are going to learn. The below image shows a list of 10 physics equations that need to be quickly memorised.
These equations are in no particular order, which is something we need to change. Once you have your list of quotes, formulae or even single words down, you need to order them from 1 to however many objects you have; in the order of confidence. I will outline this below:
As you can see, some of the equations have been switched around to suit my level of confidence. In this example, the formula for Kinetic Energy is my most confident equation, while force of a spring is my least confident formula.
Now that we have introduced confidence into the game, the memorisation technique finally begins. You see, repetition is a very well-known way of getting data to stick in your head- and this is exactly what this method takes advantage of.
On a separate sheet of paper, you need to write down your least confident item., which in my case is the ‘Force = Spring constant x Extension’ formula.
In your head (or out-loud if you’re alone) you should rehearse the formula over and over again until you don’t have to refer to the piece of paper anymore. Once this has been achieved, flip the paper over and test yourself. Every time you make a mistake, you must start from the beginning. You may not advance until you successfully complete the ‘test’.
Good. You have just learned your first item- and it was your least confident one, too! Next up, you have to write your second-least confident item on the piece of paper.
Once again, keep practicing it until you no-longer need to refer to the piece of paper. You will test yourself again, by saying (or thinking) item number 10, then item number 9. Every time you make a mistake, you must start the test from number 10 again. You may not advance until you successfully complete the test.
This process is then repeated until so that you go down the numbers. You will move onto number 8; rehearse it, and test yourself — if you make a mistake, you have to start the test again at number 10 until you get it right. You can then move onto number 7.
“How did I do that?”
As I said above, repetition is the key to memorisation. Every time you make a mistake in the test part of the exercise, you have to start the test again all the way at number 10. As a result of this, you are constantly repeating your least confident item until it ends up as your most confident!
For instance, you may repeat the process, but make a mistake when testing yourself on item 5. This results in you trying the test again by re-practicing items 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, and 5. Once you get it correct, you can move on.
Don’t forget: this process should be revisited every day or so as you approach the exam so you don’t forget the content!
Exams require memorisation. The method I have shown to you today was something I came up with at the age of 16, and still make use of today. The pain of making a mistake when testing yourself only makes you want to try again, and when you eventually get all of your items correct- you are able to recite a list entirely from your memory. I wish you the best of luck, and please let me know if this is a method that has helped you!
Thanks for reading.
This is my first article on Medium
Thank you for dropping by! I am an 18 year old student that is working hard towards a future in Motorsport Journalism (specifically Formula One). If there are any ways I can improve the quality of my work, please let me know.