Breaking Down Steps For Efficient Memorization

By OptiLingo

Memorization isn’t mysterious. A person who can memorize a poem doesn’t necessarily have a better memory than you – that person has a better technique than you have.

This is a two part article that will help you better commit words and grammar to memory so that you spend more time learning and less time wondering why you can’t get something to stick in your memory.

Chunks and Categorization

The best way to memorize something is to break it up into smaller chunks and categorize them. For example, at some point you memorized your phone number. Most people commit their phone number to memory by breaking it up into 3 numbers, 3 numbers, and 4 numbers.

This is a great natural response because scientists and researchers have found that chunks in 3 or 4 units are the easiest to memorize.

With a phone number, you tend to categorize without thinking about it. The first three numbers are the area code, the last four numbers you will need to know to identify your number. The middle three numbers are just the middle three numbers.

Categorization goes a bit further though. If you have a list of 15 different countries that you have to memorize, you will probably start to group those countries into something you can easily identify. This might be the first letter of their names, the continent they are on, the language spoken there, or how familiar you are with them. It is completely up to you how you want to group them.

Once you categorize the information, you have more manageable chunks that you may find easier to memorize. You can take the first category and memorize those few countries. Once you know them, you memorize the second category.

When it comes to memorizing a language, the best way to do so is to memorize things that are related at one time. By building the words around each other, you will be able to have context to reinforce what you are learning.


Spaced Repetition

Studies have shown that the human memory works better when you memorize over time instead of trying to do it all at one time. There are many apps that work based on this principle, giving you a deck of flashcards that changes with what you learn. If you demonstrate that you are familiar with a word, it will appear less often in the deck than words that you are having trouble learning. That is because the app is spacing out the learning of that particular word.

By seeing words you know less often, you spend more time working on memorizing the words you don’t know. But the deck does not entirely drop the words you know either. It simply brings them up less often, making sure that you still remember them.

There are a number of benefits for using spaced repetition flashcards. Usually, you can tailor them to your particular interests, and it will make additional suggestions. It tracks the words in a way that is easy for you to see your progress. Of course, the biggest benefit to these apps is that you don’t have to haul hardcopies of cards around to keep up with your studies. When you have a moment, just pull out your phone and start studying.

Working with Your Memory

One of the hardest things for people to understand about memory is that everyone’s memory is different. The method that works for one person can be an utter failure for someone else. You must work with your memory, focusing on the things that you find difficult and making them easier to remember.

There are 11 properties used to determine memory difficulty level:

  1. Familiarity is the amount of exposure you have to something.
  2. Size indicates how much or many of something you must remember.
  3. Order refers to the structure of what you are memorizing.
  4. Immediacy is when you need to know something.
  5. Salience is how much interest you have.
  6. Complexity is how difficult a concept is to grasp.
  7. Relevance indicates how useful something is to you.
  8. Importance indicates what kind of impact it has on your life.
  9. Sensuous is how you perceive something with your senses.
  10. Humanness is how well you can relate it to other experiences.
  11. Abstractness indicates how conceptual something is.

Each of these has a best method of committing something to memory.

  1. Familiarity is most successful when reviewing frequently.
  2. Size is most successful when done in chunks.
  3. Order is successful when you structure something in a way that is logical to you.
  4. Immediacy is best learning through deadlines.
  5. Salience is best remembered when you make the memorization interesting, like through a funny story.
  6. Complexity is best done through breaking down the lesson into simple steps.
  7. Relevance is best learned through figuring out how it relates to your life.
  8. Importance requires you to set goals.
  9. Sensuous is best learned through association with your senses.
  10. Humanness is best learned through association with your own experiences.
  11. Abstractness is best learned through relating it to something around you.

Your memory may work better with order than familiarity. Many people should use salience because the more interesting something is, the more likely most people are to remember it later. Figure out which method best describes how you tend to remember stuff. Then use that method to better memorize your newest words or grammatical concepts.

Preparing Before You Begin

Your brain requires preparation to really commit stuff to memory. To ensure that you are maximizing your memory’s ability to connect, here are the things you need to put away before you start.

  • Your music – Yes, this one is hard for me to, but if you are listening to music while learning, you are distracting yourself and your memory is going to be less reliable.
  • Put away your devices – Of course if you are using a device for flashcards, this can be difficult. Disable notifications and set your status to Do not disturb so that your entire session is distraction free.
  • Use optimal times – If your mind works better in the morning, make more of your study sessions in the morning. Don’t try to work on memorization when you are tired or distracted because you will come out of it having memorized next to nothing.
  • Move – If you walk around while you study, your body pumps more blood, which not only helps keep you awake, it moves more oxygen to your brain.

Preview Before You Start

I am definitely the dive right in kind of person, but most of the time a preview will give you a map of where you are going. Take some time to get an overview of what you are about to memorize so that you can map it out in your mind.