How to Memorize Test Material

For many people, it is the most stressful part of any curriculum: the test.  Teachers use it to gauge how much of the course material a student has learned.  The student, for their part, has to be able to repeat as much of what they learned as possible.  For some people, this comes easy.  For others, it’s a hard thing to dredge up facts and minute details, even when they really do know the material. 

There are several techniques that can be used to help memorize material for a test.  Some of them will be better suited to each student than others will.  It’s up to each individual to learn things in a way that works best for them. 

Study Guides.

There are companies that produce study guides for every subject.  Cliffnotes is perhaps the most well known, but there are others like Sparknotes and Northstar.  These study resources reduce the information in any particular subject down to its basic points, the ones the student usually has to concentrate on.  They are of great benefit in that someone else has already sifted through the information for you and is telling you which points to remember, and which ones you can spend less mental energy on. 

You can also make your own study guide by writing down key points as you study in a separate notebook.  Once that is done, you can study the key points in your study guide, instead of reading the entire chapter again and again.

“Clearing the Mechanism.”

In the Kevin Costner film “Field of Dreams,” Costner played a baseball pitcher who had a key phrase that allowed him to focus and block out all outside noises and distractions.  When studying, you need to “clear the mechanism” also.  Let your mind focus on your studying.  Don’t study in a room full of friends, or while watching television, or while chatting online.  Focus on your work.  If need be, remove distractions from your desk or work area.  Go somewhere quiet.  Don’t let minor distractions cause big trouble come test time, when you can’t remember the answer but you can remember every detail of the television show you were watching while studying.

Talk to Yourself.

Now that you have a quiet place to study, use it to your advantage.  It is often easier to remember a piece of information if it is heard, versus reading the same information from a book.  When you get to a point that is important, one you need to remember, read it out loud to yourself.  Then, set your textbook down, and say it again.  Repeating a fact out loud, twice, has two benefits.  First, it allows your brain to get the information from two sources, your eyes and your ears.  And secondly, repeating the information allows your brain more time to process the information, increasing the likelihood the information will move from your short-term memory centers to your long-term memory centers.  Short-term memory is, well, short-term.  You want to hold onto this information at least until after the test.

Word Association.

When you were in grade school, how did you learn to remember the order for the colors of the rainbow?  Chances are you were taught the name Roy G. Biv. The letters in the name are the first letters in the colors Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.  Using this mnemonic trick helped you remember this little factoid, and it can help in most every aspect of study.  Organize your information into easy sentences, then use the first letter of each main point to form a word, sentence, or string of letters you can remember. 

Sing It.

Have a favorite song?  Everyone does.  Take the information you need to remember, and set it to the music of that song.  Set your math to Bon Jovi.  Sing about science set to Alicia Keys.  Set the periodic table to Justin Bieber.  Whatever works for you.  Being able to sing the information in your head will allow you to remember it in a format that is easier than trying to remember words from a page.  For example, the Animaniacs have a wonderful song that lists the countries of the world set to the Mexican Hat Dance song.

Take a Test.

The internet has changed the way we do everything, including study.  Online, you can find previous examples of tests for just about any subject you might be studying.  Taking one of these can give you an idea of what kind of information will be on the test you will be taking.  And, by having already done a pre-test, you will remember the answers easier to any similar questions that show up on your actual test.

If these don’t work for you, talk to your teachers.  Explain the situation and see what suggestions they might have.  Possibly seek out a tutor’s help.  Not everyone learns in the same way and not performing as well as you might like on a test you put your all into is no reason to be ashamed.  But not getting the help you need to do better is.