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Memory Tips and Test Taking Strategies

Knowing More & Remembering it Longer

Remembering Strategies

  1. Select
    • Select what you want to remember.
    • Ask the teacher
    • Examine your class notes
    • Read the text assignments
    • Study the handouts
  2. Remember
    • Choose your techniques that will help you remember.
    • Visualize
    • Associate
    • Apply
    • Repeat
    • Use mnemonic devices
  3. Review, Read, Recite, Rewrite
    • Use these techniques to keep what you want to remember in your memory.

Using Mnemonic Devices to Remember Information

  • Rhyme. A rhyme is a poem or verse that uses words that end with the same sound. Example: Thirty days has September, April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty-one except February which has twenty-eight.
  • Acronym. An acronym is a word that can be pronounced that is made by using the first letter of other words. Example: The names of the five Great Lakes in the U.S. form the acronym HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).
  • Abbreviation. An abbreviation is a group of letters made from the first letter of each word to be remembered. Example: FBI is an abbreviation for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • Acrostic. An acrostic sentence or phrase is formed by words beginning with the first letter of each word to be remembered. Example: The phrase very active cat might be used to recall the three typed of blood vessels in the human body: veins, arteries, capillaries.
  • Pegwords. A pegword is a word that helps you remember something by forming a picture in your mind. Pegwords are used to remember lists of things. Each pegword helps you remember one thing. If you memorize 10 pegwords, then you can use them to remember 10 things. If you memorize 20 pegwords, you can remember 20 things.

Using Repetition to Remember Information

  • You have probably used repetition many times without realizing it. Anytime you have read, said, or written something a number of times to remember it, you have used repetition. A good way to remember information when using repetition is to read, say, and write what you want to remember. For example, if you need to remember a list of words and their definitions, here is how to use repetition to do this:
    • Read aloud the word and its definition. If you need to, use a dictionary to help you pronounce a word.
    • With your eyes closed, say the word and its definition.
    • Without looking at the word, write the word and its definition.
    • Repeat the steps until you can write the word and its definition from memory three times without an error.
    • Do this for each word on the list.

Four Ways to Forget

  • Disuse. Information not periodically used withers and disappears. Do you remember all of your previous telephone numbers?
  • Interference. It is easy to confuse materials that are similar and related. When confused, we are more likely to forget which is which. Learning two similar foreign languages at the same time may present some problems.
  • Repression. We have very strong systems of belief. Sometimes what we learn doesn't fit with what we believe. When in conflict, odds are our beliefs will win. Believing that we are no good at remembering names will make it all that much more difficult to learn new names.
  • Not learning it in the first place. This is probably the number one culprit in forgetting. Even if we've been exposed to something, unless we solidify the learning we are not likely to remember it.


Taking Objective Tests

If you are taking an objective test (multiple-choice, true/false, or comparable type), you will probably achieve your best results by following this procedure:

  1. Read an item through quickly, with high concentration, and answer on the basis of your first impression.
  2. Then re-read the item, asking yourself what it really means and expressing its thought in your own words.
  3. Ask yourself if your original answer still appears correct in light of your close analysis of the item, but do not change your answer because of a mere doubt.
  4. Always keep in mind that your instructor is not attempting to trick you in the questions. They are designed to measure your knowledge of a subject, not your ingenuity in solving verbal puzzles. So don't out-smart yourself looking for devious, tricky interpretations and ignoring the obvious, straightforward meaning.

Essay Tests

In taking a test where you are to write answers in your own words, observe these guidelines:

  1. Read the question carefully. Then re-read it and express its meaning in your own words. Check each word in the question to be sure that your interpretation omitted nothing important. To give a satisfactory answer to a question, you have to correctly understand what the question is asking.
  2. Answer the questions you know first. This way you will be sure not to use all your time puzzling over questions you do not know the answers to, and then run short of time for writing answers you know well.
  3. Outline your answer on a piece of scratch paper before starting to write it in full. In this way you can organize your thoughts and check your answer against the question for possible omissions. Writing from your outline, you can present what you know more clearly and completely than you could if you just started writing down your thoughts as they came to you.
  4. Write with a good pen, or a well-sharpened No. 2 pencil, so that your writing can be easily read. Also, watch your penmanship, spelling, and punctuation.
  5. Read over your answers after you have finished your paper, checking for thought and completeness, as well as for spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. All these factors are related to your mastery of course material. What is involved in answering a question "completely" is determined by the question's wording and the preferences of individual professors. From the number of questions on the test and the amount of time you are allotted, you can form a rough approximation of how fully you should answer the questions.
  6. Count your questions and answers before you hand your paper in to be sure you did not overlook anything. Be sure your pages are in correct order so the instructor will not have to shuffle through them trying to sort them out.

Preparing for Finals

  • At least a week before exams, shift into overdrive by beginning an extensive review. Set up a detailed time schedule for the remainder of the semester.
  • Attend all classes as instructors often use the last few classes prior to an exam to summarize, review, and clarify.
  • Prepare summary sheets, one set for text and one for lecture.
  • Pick out the most important facts.
  • Organize information into categories in a manner different from the way you first leaned it. For example, History is chronological, so try organizing your notes under headings that emphasize time instead of themes.
  • Review summary sheets and include key words for important facts.
  • Recite information orally - ACTIVE learning is essential! How you store information determines how well you retrieve it, so use all your senses when reviewing.
  • If you must cram, resist trying to memorize too much material. Select only a handful of facts even at the risk of leaving out something important.

    During Exams

    • Arrive early and remember to BREATHE!
    • Read and listen to directions.
    • Skim the exam and plan your time.
    • Answer the easy questions first to build confidence and create momentum. You may work the test from back to front, answering the last question first.
    • A question you can't answer can be skipped, often another question will trigger your memory or provide that elusive answer.
    • Answer all questions.
    • Save a few minutes at the end to go back over questions you skipped, to review your answers and look for careless mistakes.


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