15 Ways To Improve Memory When Learning Something New

Is having a high IQ a prerequisite for having a good memory? The debate continues if there is a connection, or if improving memory is a learned response despite IQ. Regardless, a transmission needs to occur, as the learning material needs to be absorbed by the brain to comprehend and store.

There are fortunately strategies to help anyone who needs to learn something, to develop a more efficient effective memory system.

These steps are by no means exhaustive, but rather meant as a starting point to begin and improve.

1. Take The Mystery Away

The first and perhaps most important strategy, is to insure everyone understands how memory works. How to identify your particular profiles of memory strengths and challenges.

Once these are understood, then those who need to learn can be taught certain memory management strategies.

2. Give Directions In Multiple Formats

Students benefit from being given direction, in both visual and verbal formats.

Their understanding and the memorizing of instruction can be confirmed, by encouraging them to repeat the direction given, and explaining the meaning of these directions.

Examples of what needs to be done, are also often helpful for enhancing memory of directions.

3. Over The Learn Material

Students during class for instance, should be taught the necessity of “over-learning” any new information.

Often, they just practice until they’re able to perform one error-free repetition of the material. However, several error-free repetitions are needed, to solidify the information.

4. Use Visual Images To Learn Quicker

Another memory strategy is making use of a cue, known as word substitution. The substitute word system, can be used for information that is hard to visualize.

The word occipital, can be converted to “exhibit hall” (because it sounds like exhibit hall).

The student can then make a visual image of walking into an art museum, and seeing a big painting of a brain with big bulging eyes, as (occipital is the region of the brain that controls vision).

Using this system, the vocabulary word the student is trying to remember actually becomes the cue for the visual image, which cues the definition of the word.

5. Give Prepared Handouts Prior To The Seminar Or Lecture

Class lectures and series of oral directions, can be reinforced by-preparing handouts by the speaker beforehand.

The handouts for class lectures, could consist of a brief outline or a partially completed graphic organizer the student would complete during the lecture.


Having this information both enables students to identify the salient information given during the lectures, and to correctly organize the information in their notes.

Both of these activities enhance memory of the information as well. The use of Post-It notes, to jot information down on is helpful for remembering directions.

6. Teach Students To Become Active Readers

To enhance short-term memory registration and/or working memory when reading, students should underline, highlight, or jot key words down in the margin when reading chapters.

They can then go back and read what is underlined, highlighted, or written in the margins.

To consolidate this information in long-term memory, they can make outlines or use graphic organizers.

Research has shown that the use of graphic organizers, increases academic achievement for all students.

7. Write Down Steps For Math Problems

Students who have a weakness in working memory, should not rely on mental computations when solving math problems.

For example, if they are performing long division problems, they should write down every step including carrying numbers.

When solving word problems, they should always have a scratch piece of paper handy and write down the steps in their calculations.

This will help prevent them from losing their place and forgetting what they are doing.

8. Provide Retrieval Practice For Students

Research has shown that long-term memory, is enhanced when students engage in retrieval practice.

For example, taking a test is a retrieval practice. This is the act of recalling information that has been studied from long-term memory.

Thus, it can be very helpful for students to take practice tests.

When teachers are reviewing information prior to tests and exams, they could ask the students questions or have the students make up questions for everyone to answer.

This rather than just retelling students the to-be-learned information.

Also, if students are required or encouraged to make up their own tests and take them,

it will give their parents and/or teachers information about whether they know the most important information, or are instead focused on details that are less important.

9. Help Students Develop Cues When Storing Information

According to the memory research, information is easier retrieved when it is stored using a cue, and that cue should be present at the time the information is being retrieved.

For example, the acronym HOMES can be used to represent the names of the Great Lakes, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

The acronym is a cue that is used when the information is being learned, and recalling the cue when taking a test will help the student recall the information.

10. Priming Memory Prior To Teaching And Learning Activities

Cues that prepare students for the task to be presented are helpful. This is often referred to as priming the memory.

For example, when a reading comprehension task is given, students will get an idea of what is expected by discussing the vocabulary and the overall topic beforehand.

This will allow them to focus on the salient information, and engage in more effective depth of processing.

Advance organizers also serve this purpose.

For older students, “Cliff Notes” or other similar study guides for pieces of literature, are often helpful aids for priming the memory.

11. Use Post-It Notes

The use of Post-It notes for jotting down information, can be helpful for students who have short-term memory or working memory challenges.

12. Activate Prior Knowledge

In order to enhance the likelihood that students will elaborate on new incoming information, teachers should activate their prior knowledge.

Then they should make the new information meaningful to them.

An easy way of doing this task is to ask, “What do you know?” “What do you want to know?”

13. Give Extended Time

If students have difficulty with the speed of retrieving information from memory, they should be given extended time for taking tests.

What this reveals is the true picture, of what the student actually knows, will be gained.

14. Use Multi-Sensory Methods

When learners, both young and old, experience something through multiple senses, they are much more likely to remember it.

So use a multi-sensory approach, by engaging as many of the senses as possible when teaching, which includes seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, and tasting.

15. Review Material Before Going To Sleep

It’s found helpful for students to review material, right before going to sleep at night.

Research has shown that information studied this way, is better remembered.

Any other task that is performed after reviewing and prior to sleeping, such as getting a snack, brushing teeth, listening to music, etc., interferes with the consolidation of information in memory.

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