• 6 hours
  • Easy

Free online content available in this course.



Got it!

Last updated on 3/10/23

Boost Your Memory Using Mnemonics

Over to You

What's the point in studying if I forget it all after a few days, weeks or months?

Learning should not be just about memorizing information. Having a good memory or enough confidence in your retention skills helps you have a better learning experience.

Mnemonics are all the practical applications of psychology research into memory skills, in order to improve them.

In this chapter, you will use a few mnemonics to enhance your ability to learn.

Break Down Information Using the Chunking Technique 

As the name suggests, chunking is about breaking down information into chunks. The method is very simple and proposes that smaller bits of information are easier to remember.

Imagine that the information is the food, and your learning session is a meal. To better digest the knowledge, try cutting up your food into small pieces and chewing it for a bit, rather than swallowing it whole.

Here's a little exercise for you to try:

Write down the phone numbers of four of your friends, either on paper or using a set of flashcards.

Divide up the digits that make up the numbers into chunks of between three and five digits each.

AnkiApp flashcard app
AnkiApp flashcard app

Optional: Associate an image, fact or unique meaning to each of the chunks.

Study Intelligently Using Spaced Repetition

You must review the information at different intervals to embed it in your long-term memory. American linguist Paul Pimsleur developed the method of spaced repetition to determine interval length.

This method provides a basic rule you can use as a starting point for planning your review schedule.

Set a reminder to review your friends' telephone numbers:

  • Tomorrow

  • In 3 days

  • In 6 days

  • In 12 days

Revision schedule based on Pimsleur's spaced repetition method
Revision schedule based on Pimsleur's spaced repetition method

Plan Your Sessions Using the Principles of Distributed Practice

This method is based on a simple yet fascinating observation. You are better at retaining information that you come across at the beginning and end of a session.

Plan your sessions following the principles of distributed practice
Plan your sessions following the principles of distributed practice

The practical application of this is that you should have more but shorter sessions to increase your retention. This way, there will be more session beginnings and endings.

Have short breaks in between your sessions
Have short breaks in between your sessions

According to this logic, I could end up with 5-minute sessions. Can sessions ever be too short?

There no scientific consensus on this, so it depends. To examine this further, let's consider two types of memory.

  • You use your explicit or declarative memory when you consciously store and access information in order to express it using language. 

  • You use your procedural or implicit memory when you repeat movements so that they become automatic.  

These two types of memory are based on slightly different brain mechanisms, making it difficult to find a rule that applies to both. Therefore, it's better to use the following:

  • If your session uses your declarative memory, plan to work for 20 to 30 minutes.

  • If your session develops your procedural memory, train for roughly as long as you would do the activity for "in real life." In other words, choose lengths that reflect real situations.

With this in mind, go back to your schedule and identify sessions that you could break down into shorter ones.

Go Further

Note that the three mnemonics introduced in this chapter are far from being the only ones. Do your research and find others. In the last activity in the course, you'll learn the mind-mapping technique.

In the meantime, I’ll see you again in the next chapter, where you’ll see why it’s important to share what you’re learning with your community of learners.

Ever considered an OpenClassrooms diploma?
  • Up to 100% of your training program funded
  • Flexible start date
  • Career-focused projects
  • Individual mentoring
Find the training program and funding option that suits you best
Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement