Just as you can use strategies for improving your ability to concentrate, you can improve your ability to retain informationto store it in your brain for future use. It’s helpful to consider how your learning preferences relate to these strategies.

Learning Style and Memory

There is a connection between your learning style and how you remember information. If you’re an aural learner, you might find that when you listen to a lecture, you learn and remember better. You might find that repeating information to yourself when studying, recording yourself while doing it, and then listening to the recording work as a review strategy. Forming or joining a study group where you can listen to others reciting facts and key information can be very helpful to you.

If you’re a visual learner, you might remember best by picturing the page in the book, the content on a screen, or your notes where information is presented. Creating color-coded lists, outlines, diagrams, and mind maps might help you remember. If you learn best by reading and writing, take good notes while you read and then review your notes over and over. If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you may need to be active while studying. As you read course material, making and organizing flash cardson paper cards or with an appand reviewing them as you commute to and from campus or between errands or on a treadmill might work very well for you. If you find it hard to sit and listen to your instructors talk, you might find it useful to take notes and draw charts and diagrams to represent the key points and concepts from the lecture.


Your interest, motivation, and purpose for retaining information can also affect how you store and remember information. For instance, if the courses you are taking closely relate to your career interests, you might learn more easily because you have the desire to become familiar and knowledgeable in the field and want to be competitive in the job market. On the other hand, learning in a course that is not closely related to your program of study or your interests and career goals might be more challenging. In these cases, try to appreciate that the course still has value because it helps you make progress toward your degree and toward becoming an educated, well-rounded individual.



With the help of your instructor, identify other students in your class who share your learning style. With another classmate, discuss strategies for remembering material for exams using your learning style and list the most helpful ideas.

Strategies to Remember

Psychologists and learning specialists have developed a number of strategies you can use when studying to remember information. Some of these strategies may be new to you, and others may be familiar. No matter what course you are taking, you need to remember concepts and ideas in order to complete the course successfully. To store concepts and ideas in your mind, ask yourself these questions as you review your notes and course material:

  1. What is the basic idea here?

  2. Why does the idea make sense? What is the logic behind it?

  3. How does this idea connect to other ideas in the material or experiences in my life?

  4. What are some possible arguments against the idea?

To prepare for an exam that will cover large amounts of material, you need to


Review Sheets. Use your notes to develop review sheetslists of key terms and ideas that you need to remember. If you’re using the Cornell format to take notes, you can make these lists in the recall column. Also be sure to use your lecture notes to test yourself or others on information presented in class.

Mind Maps. Mapping is an effective way to preview content and also a great strategy to remember content. Mind maps are visual review sheets that show the relationships between ideas and whose patterns provide you with clues to jog your memory. Because they are visual, mind maps help many students, particularly English-language learners, to remember the information more easily.

To create a mind map, start with a main idea and place it in the center. Then add major categories that branch out from the center. To these, add pieces of related information to form clusters. You can use different shapes or colors to show the relationships among the various pieces of information. You can find many apps for creating mind maps on your computer or mobile device. Figure 7.3 includes the mind map of this chapter created by using an app called Total Recall. Other apps include MindMeister and SimpleMind.

Figure 7.3: FIGURE 7.3 > Sample Mind Map




On a separate piece of paper or in a new document, make a mind map for another chapter of this book, and see how much more you can remember after studying your map a number of times.

Flash Cards. Just as you can create flash cards during the process of active reading, you can also use them to improve your memory. Flash cards can serve as memory aids with a question, term, or other piece of information on one side and the answer, definition, or explanation on the other. Flash cards are excellent tools for improving your vocabulary, especially if you are learning English as a second language.

One of the advantages of flash cards is that you can keep them in a pocket of your backpack, in your jacket, or on your mobile deviceyou can create flash cards on your mobile device using apps such as Chegg Flashcards and StudyBlue. Review your flash cards to make good use of time that might otherwise be wasted, such as time spent on the bus or train or waiting for a friend. Review them anywhere, even when you don’t have enough time to take out your notebook to study.

Summaries. An immediate benefit of writing summaries of class topics is that they can help you answer short-answer and essay questions successfully. You can also see the connection between the ideas and identify the major and minor details. By summarizing the main ideas and putting them into your own words, you will be able to remember information better. Here’s how to create a good summary in preparation for taking a test:

  1. Read the assigned material, your class notes, or your instructor’s presentation slides. Underline or mark main ideas as you go, make explanatory notes or comments about the material, or make an outline on a separate sheet of paper. Predict test questions based on your active reading.

  2. Make connections between main points and key supporting details. Reread to identify each main point and the supporting evidence. Create an outline in the process.

  3. Review underlined material. Put those ideas into your own words in a logical order.

  4. Write your ideas in a draft. In the first sentence, state the purpose of your summary. Follow this statement with each main point and its supporting ideas. See how much of the draft you can develop from memory without relying on your notes.

  5. Review your draft. Read it over, adding missing details or other information.

  6. Test your memory. Put your draft away, and try to repeat the contents of the summary out loud to yourself or to a study partner who can let you know whether you have forgotten anything.

  7. Schedule time to review your summary and double-check your memory shortly before the test. You might want to do this with a partner, but some students prefer to review alone. Some instructors might be willing to help you in this process and give you feedback on your summaries.


Mnemonics. Mnemonics (pronounced “ne MON iks”) are different methods or tricks to help with remembering information. Mnemonics tend to fall into four basic categories:

  1. Acronyms. Acronyms are new words created from the first letters of a list or group of words you are trying to remember. For example, a mnemonic acronym for the Great Lakes is HOMES, which stands for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

  2. Acrostics. An acrostic is a verse in which certain letters of each word or line form a message. Many students are taught the following to remember the planets in their order from the sun: My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune).

  3. Rhymes or songs. Do you remember learning “Thirty days hath September, / April, June, and November. / All the rest have 31, / Excepting February alone. / It has 28 days’ time, / But in leap years 29”? If so, you were using a mnemonic rhyming technique to remember the number of days in each month.

  4. Visualization. You can use visualization to connect a word or concept with a visual image. The more ridiculous the image, the more likely you are to remember the word or concept. For example, if you want to remember the name of George Washington, you may think of a person you know by the name of George. You should then picture that person washing a ton of dishes. Now every time you think of the first president of the United States, you see George washing a ton of dishes.3

Mnemonics provide a way of organizing material, a sort of mental filing system. They probably aren’t needed if what you are studying is logical and organized, but they can be really useful when material doesn’t have a pattern of its own. Although using mnemonics can be helpful in remembering the information, it takes time to think up rhymes, associations, or visual images which have limited use when you need to analyze or explain the material.




Do your friends complain that you keep forgetting the times you had planned to meet? Have you forgotten your mother’s birthday? Do you have trouble remembering the names of people introduced to you? Improving your memory is actually a lot of fun. There are many memory games available that you can play for a few minutes every day; some of them can be accessed online or on your mobile device. Check out these free apps: Brain Workout for Android, Music Game for iPhone, or Lumosity.