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Study Tips: Memory Tricks to Remember What You Study

May 5th, 2008 admin

Sometimes flashcards and rewriting notes will get you through a test, but for those trickier questions-orders of occurrence, lists of amino acids, etc.-mnemonic devices can be the key to making info stay in your head for the long term. Here are a few ideas, and remember, the sillier you make these, the more memorable they’ll be!


Acronyms are simply a way to shorten several words into one or a few “words” by combining their first letters. Remember ROY G. BIV, the acronym from elementary school that helped you remember the colors of the rainbow in order? (Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet!) You can use the same technique to help you memorize any list of things, from amino acids to the oceans of the world to the presidents of the United States.


PEMDAS, the order of operations in math (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction)


Acrostics, use the first letter of the words you want to remember, too. But instead of making a word, they make a sentence with whole words that start with those letters. These, too, are great for remembering lists in order.


Every Good Boy Does Fine., the order of notes on the G Clef (EGBDF)

Kings Play Chess On Fine Green Sand., the order of taxonomy (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species)


As goofy as it sounds, putting words to a familiar tune can really help it stick in your mind. This works especially well for formulas, lists, and processes (like production of ATP, for example). You’ll probably have to sing it to yourself a few times to get it down, but once it’s in your mind, it will be hard to shake!

Example: In high school, some of my friends put the Quadratic Formula to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel”-I still get it stuck in my head sometimes, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget that equation. There are even songs that list all the countries in the world or all the elements on the periodic table!

Word Associations

These work particularly well for names of people, places, and things (and lots of other things if you get creative!). The key is to associate words and names along the theme of the question you want to answer.


To remember who the fattest U.S. president was, I think: Taft. Taft sounds like Taffy. Too much taffy makes you fat. : )

I try to make it as silly as possible!

“State-Dependent” Studying

Commenter Nichole suggested studying at the same time of day, in the same environment as you will be in when you take your test. This technique is supposed to help your mind recall more easily when you get into the test environment. Thanks Nichole!

Photo: Chess pieces by hortongrou

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amy  |  May 5th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    I remember studying for biology and thinking
    Oh no! = Oviducts to remember that the oviducts are where fertilization occurs (the Oh no! being, of course, what someone would say if they got pregnant). 🙂

  • 2. Jamie  |  May 5th, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    @ Amy: That’s AWESOME. A great example of how your brain makes connections (plus it gave me a good giggle, which I needed!)

  • 3. Katherine  |  June 11th, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Haha, I always use word associations for studying vocabulary words… ex:

    “Chary” sounds like cherry and means reluctant… I am reluctant to eat cherries because of the pit.

    “Rife” sounds like rifle, and means widespread… rifles are widespread in western movies.

    I swear, it helps. In chemistry, I think PC to remember that a constant pressure matches with Charle’s law.

  • 4. Jamie  |  June 12th, 2008 at 9:14 am

    @ Katherine: Great examples. Isn’t it weird how well these work? When one of my friends was studying for a pre-grad school test I told her to start using them. She thought it was silly until I made a word assoc. for this one name she couldn’t remember by associating his name with Fabio’s. It was so funny that she still remembers it over a year later. 🙂

  • 5. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  August 13th, 2008 at 9:17 am

    […] Memory Tricks @ Surviving College Life […]

  • 6. Katrina  |  March 21st, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Can someone give me any tips on how to remember medical terms.?I’m having a little difficulty with that

  • 7. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  September 29th, 2009 at 11:34 am

    […] Study Tips: Memory Tricks to Remember What You Study […]

  • 8. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  February 26th, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    […] need to have the foundation of solo-study. For tips about how to study on your own, check out these memory tips and consider these thoughts on how to kickstart your study habits. (Still not getting anything […]

  • 9. Mari Franklin  |  March 30th, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Anyone can help me with terms for Dental Radiation?

  • 10. Catie  |  October 19th, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I remember everything from second grade, because my teacher taught us it in song form. I have songs for: types of clouds, the US presidents in order, the Greek gods, the US states in alphabetical order, the Roman government structure, the great lakes, and more that will pop into my head as soon as I submit this. My math teacher taught us the quadratic formula in song form and I’ll never forget it. I wish all information was taught in song form!

  • 11. Venkatesh  |  October 26th, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    I’m studying PG mca. Now i cant able to remember what i was done in my regular activities. And studied also. Please tell me some suggestions. And tell me on time job finish(done daily work).

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