Memory Techniques for Exams: The SECRETS of Memory Athletes (Updated)

Memorizing doesn’t have to be a chore.

I’ll tell you the truth.

You don’t have to repeat the same thing 2 million times in a row to remember it.

But only if you use the right techniques.

In fact, after learning some handy memory tricks, memorizing would become the most exciting thing you’ve ever done in your study career.

After reading this post, you’ll learn:

  1. The UNDERUSED memory techniques you didn’t know you KNEW
  2. The “Urban Legend” Secret—why they STICK to people’s minds
  3. How to use the MOST POWERFUL memory tool—LOCATION.
  4. For Pete’s sake, just read

Memory techniques are all about remembering things at a QUICKER rate.

Have you seen people memorize a deck of cards? How about a hundred decks?

“Yup, I searched in Google”

These people, memory athletes, have TRAINED their memorization skills up to a point where it only takes them an instant to remember information they wanted to remember.

But, just like anyone else, they still forget things from time to time.

They just trained themselves to remember things more quickly than others—and that’s the beauty of it.

ANYONE can improve their memory. “Good memory” isn’t a fixed trait.

It’s just a limiting belief that good memory is something you’re “born with”.

Because memory athletes knew this fact, they were able to “fulfill” their memory’s potential.

They knew that remembering something is a skill that can totally be trained for.

A Primer on Memory Techniques

Here’s one misconception about memory techniques: Memory Techniques will give you PERFECT recall.

Using memory techniques doesn’t mean that you won’t forget the information anymore.

They still require recall and practice—but less.

Ever experienced remembering a mnemonic, but don’t remember what it means?

Without practice, your ability to decode something from a memory technique gradually declines. I discuss this in my revision techniques post.

Check it out here.

What memory techniques actually do is give you a more robust piece of stimulus for the brain.

They make the information much simpler and/or extraordinary to our brains.

Essentially, memory techniques make it easier for the brain to remember something.

In addition, memory techniques only serve as “Something that reminds us of the information” that we have to decode to get the original one. It’s like cryptography, but on a more personal level 😊

Still not getting it? Here’s an example from my personal collection.

Memorizing Some Law Stuff

I was memorizing some parts of the law about Board Members in my profession. These were the section titles: Composition of the Board, Powers of the Board, Qualifications of Board Members.

I imagined a keyboard with a piece of sheet music, then Son Goku (Dragon Ball) played it and yelled: “I can do it”.

(but it works…)

I associated “Composition” to a keyboard with sheet music, “Powers” with Son Goku (because who gives a damn) and “Qualifications” with “I can do it”.

Using the same techniques, I remembered the titles of all 43 sections and 8 articles in just a short period of time (less than an hour).

Now, memory techniques allow you to be extremely personal—that’s what makes them fun and interesting.

It’s like letting your imagination run wild while simultaneously remembering stuff that you need to remember.

Let’s get you started with the basics.

The Basics of Memory Techniques

You already know a TON of memory techniques—you’ve even used them when you were still a little kid!

It’s just that you, ironically, forgot about these memory tricks.

Don’t believe me? Let’s have a recap.

Acronyms

ROYGBIV. (roy-gee-biv)

Acronyms are perhaps the most basic memory technique of all—but they’re amazingly effective.

Acronyms are best for memorizing lists, or a sequence of things especially unconnected ones.

How do you do it? Simple—get the first letter (or letters) and try to form a word, or even just a collection of syllables using as much letters as possible.

You can even use the number of words to remember something, ex: 5S, a Japanese workplace organization method, means seiri (整理), seiton (整頓), seisō (清掃), seiketsu (清潔), and shitsuke (躾).

If the Acronym sounds funny/explicit, it’s even better for your memory.

Here’s another useful example.

The SUCCES principle, according to the book Made to Stick by authors Chip and Dan Heath, is the main principle behind why some ideas stick, and why others die.

Later, I’ll discuss this further–you’ll learn how the SUCCES principle can be applied as a powerful memory technique.

You might ask, “I form acronyms, but sometimes the first letters repeat.”

It doesn’t matter. As long as you know how to decode the information, you’re gonna be fine.

Sometimes it could even become a good thing, just like the example above.

You can remember it as “Success without an S”. Pretty catchy.

Mnemonics

Mnemonics Memory Technique
Photo from Digikey

Mnemonics are like acronyms…on steroids.

Our brain does not memorize information one by one but rather in chunks.

Instead of E G B D F, we say “Every good boy does fine”.

Instead of the actual colors in the resistor color code (image above), we remember “Bad Boys Rape Only Young Girls But Violet Gave Willingly Gold and Silver”.

The more absurd, exaggerated, funny or explicit your imagination is, the better.

Everything’s just in your mind after all. 😉

100% of the time I use mnemonics to remember formulas that I have a hard time recalling.

Creating Mental Images

Our minds can supposedly process an image 60,000 times FASTER than words.

Actually, that’s yet to be proven according to Alan Levine (who, by the way, did an EXTENSIVE investigation of the topic).

But images are just way too powerful to overlook.

Dr. John Medina states it very well in his book, Brain Rules:

“We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.”

To apply this technique, it’s best to create mental images one at a time.

In addition, you’d want to write down what those images are beside the written information you’re trying to remember.

That’s exactly what I did in my example earlier. Click here to go back to the example.

Powerful Memory Techniques: Applying the Basics

Okay, for a change, I’ll show you how great your memory is.

You’ll see that you CAN remember a lot of things at once using memory techniques.

The Story Method

Have you wondered why some great, truthful facts and ideas FAIL to circulate, while the shitty celebrity stories tend to thrive, become the trending news, and sometimes shape people’s beliefs?

According to Dan and Chip Heath, author of Made to Stick, it’s because they follow the SUCCES principle.

Stories almost always have Emotional and Unexpected elements—that’s why it’s the best bang for your buck.

If you make stories simpler, they’re even easier to remember.

Stories are also why urban legends continue to propagate. They stick so hard to people’s minds even without regurgitating it a million times (which, by the way, most students tend to do).

For our purpose, we only use two principles of making ideas stick: Unexpected, and Stories.

Let’s see the difference. Try memorizing the 11 first presidents of the United States.

Washington. Adams. Jefferson. Madison. Monroe. Adams. Jackson. Van Buren. Harrison. Tyler. Polk.

Now, when I say imagine something, you really have to imagine it to experience the benefit.

I want you to imagine a Washing machine with an Adam’s apple.

He’s inside a Jeep, looking at a Mad Sun.

The sun was mad because the Moon was low.

Upon seeing that, the Adam’s apple took a moonwalk on a plank made of Bamboo.

Shortly after, it bumped into a hairy sun, waiting for his tailor to make his boxer shorts with Polka dots.

By remembering that story, you’ve just remembered the 11 first presidents of the United States.

  • Washing machine – Washington
  • Adam’s apple – Adams
  • Jeep – reminds me of Jefferson
  • Mad Sun – sounds like Madison
  • Moon, low – reminds me of Monroe
  • Adam’s apple again – Adams
  • Moonwalk – reminds me of Michael Jackson. Oh, Jackson was a president.
  • Bamboo – reminds me of Van Buren (Van Bu – Bamboo)
  • Hairy Sun – sounds like Harrison
  • Tailor – sounds like Tyler
  • Boxer shorts with Polka dots – something I first remembered when I hear Polk, the 11th president.

Notice that everything doesn’t make sense at all—they’re unreal. That’s the point.

You want to make the images and the stories so unreal and exaggerated in order for your brain to remember it (Unexpected) and then connect them through a story.

If you think that’s the best memory technique, you’re leaving a LOT on the table.

I mean, A LOT. Enter the Memory Palace. (No pun intended)

Memory Palace: The most effective, and most robust memory technique

The memory palace technique is THE memory technique.

It’s like a MENTAL HARD DRIVE, except better—it’s actually HARDER to forget information.

Ever wondered how your mother knows where every item in your house is located?

She doesn’t even review them again and again—so how is that possible?

Imagine this: You enter your house and placed your keys above the refrigerator. You put your shoes near the stairs. You put the book you just bought on a chair in the living room.

3 hours later, you still know EXACTLY where to find these items.

You didn’t even have to repeat the information over and over again, did you?

What’s the secret? Spatial memory. Your brain associated your “object” to a “location”, and EVERY TIME you associate something to a location and actually SEE it—whether physically or mentally, it’s Spatial Memory.

Object + Location = Memory Gainzz

The memory palace technique doesn’t just only use the “normal” memory, but rather the spatial one—it completely utilizes human’s ability to remember and visualize places better.

How to Build A Memory Palace FOR BEGINNERS

Here’s a Memory Palace infographic that I created to make this easier for you.

When I was still starting to make Memory Palaces for myself, I was literally struggling to find a guide that would help me build them easier.

At first, I found this video on creating memory palaces, from Memory Champion Ron White:

Even with the great instruction, I really struggled to visualize information that I wanted to remember—it’s a skill that needs to be trained after all.

So, I thought of a strategy that made it 10X easier, and that’s exactly what I’m going to share to you right now.

It only takes 3 EASY Steps.

Step #1. In your list, WRITE down the Images that comes first into your mind. Use the SEE principle

Here’s the thing—you want to follow the SEE principle when visualizing something.

SEE stands for:
-Sensory (uses as many senses as possible)
-Exaggerated, and
-Energized (has action).

Personally, I don’t bother too much with the Sensory part—I just use visuals.

In the book, Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina states that “Vision trumps all other senses”, and “We learn and remember best through pictures, not spoken words”.

If we can use visuals to trump all other senses, then, by applying the 80/20 principle, we can eliminate using the other senses without experiencing many consequences.

Now, on a piece of paper, write down/describe the imagery of something you want to remember.

Take your paper with you and let’s go to the next step.

Step #2. Go in front of the nearest Door in your house.

Instead of the common “imagine a familiar place” advice, I thought of looking at my bedroom’s door.

Yes, the freaking door. It’s simple, has 4 corners, 4 sides, has a doorknob, and a center—that’s EASILY 10 places to store your information.

Of course, if you want to get better at this, you have to rely on this technique less and less and more on actually visualizing a familiar place. And even that technique is for beginners.

One of the many things I learned is to use corners—a “magnetic” area to associate your information.

Corners are adequately spaced, easier to “visualize” images on, and are extremely simple.

Anthony Metivier from Magnetic Memory Method states that corners are the most “magnetic” places in your Memory Palace.

As a side note, if you want to use rooms rather than doors, choose fixed objects to “peg” your information to, rather than on furniture than can be moved anytime.

It gives you that peace of mind that the information you associated with it isn’t gonna go anywhere.

Step #3. “Place” the images into locations on that familiar place.

It’s just as the step said.

Imagine your images ON the actual corners of the door.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense—your brain can’t distinguish it from reality, anyway.

By doing this, your brain will associate the location to the information. In other words, your “images” are now put into spatial memory.

And that’s PRECISELY what we want to happen.

Here are Some Things about Memory Palaces You Won’t Probably Read

The Memory Palace is the hardest one to use as a memory technique—and the longest to build (at the start).

But even AS A BEGINNER (not gonna lie here), I have memorized the titles of 43 Sections and 8 Articles of the ECE Law (RA 9292) in LESS THAN 30 MINUTES.

Obviously, if you get better at it, you’ll be able to create memory palaces much faster and memorize things in an instant.

Don’t take my word for its effectiveness though. Take the word of the best memorizers in the world.

Dominic O’Brien, Ron White, and Alex Mullen are some of the best ones. All of them are Memory Champions, by the way.

Personally, I follow Anthony Metivier from Magnetic Memory Method—he’s really passionate about Memory Techniques and has an excellent channel on YouTube.

Anthony has devised original ideas to apply memory techniques, and has already helped hundreds and hundreds of people become better learners.

In fact, one of his students just memorized 1200 digits of Pi. Absolutely incredible.

He’s my go-to guy for memory techniques! Check him out at https://www.magneticmemorymethod.com/

Common Issues with Memory Palace Technique

“It doesn’t work. I always forget where I placed my keys/phone/watch/etc.”

It’s not a memory problem, but rather an attention problem, according to memory grandmaster Kevin Horsley.

You will feel the effectiveness of the memory palace once you make one yourself.

Heck, sometimes you’ll be able to visualize images in your memory palace but don’t anymore remember what it means. (Happens when you don’t review them)

“I’m not great at visualization. Maybe I’m not a visual learner.”

The “visual learner” crap has already been debunked. Check it out here.

Visualization, though, just like any other skill—it can be improved.

Here’s an article that may help you out: 3 Powerful Visualization Exercises [Step-by-Step Walkthough] https://www.magneticmemorymethod.com/visualization-exercises/

Conclusion: Memory Techniques for Exams

The memory techniques that you learned aren’t just for exams—they’re for everything!

Memory is what allows us to learn new skills and get better at them.

Memory is what allows us to form fresh ideas from seemingly unconnected information.

If you have any questions, leave a comment down below and I’ll be happy to answer them for you!

Besides that, stay tuned.

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