Bookmark and Share

Memory Strategies

How memory works:

The first thing to figuring out how to improve your memory is to understand how memory works. When you are introduced to new information, it is brought into your "sensory store". Once there the information is either used or discarded. If you do not use this information, you likely will not realize you received the information at all. Information that is used is stored in your short-term memory. Short-term memory is useful for accomplishing tasks, but it cannot hold a lot of information at once and it does not hold it for very long. In order to house more information in short-term memory, chunking is used to combine information into units that are easier to store. (This is why numbers such as phone numbers and social security numbers are seperated into 3-4 digit units.) The difficulty is now getting short-term information into your long-term memory.

Long-term memory is a seemingly endless storage house of information.  It is not always clear how information ends up in long term memory and the information stored there must be retrieved in order to be used. Below are some tactics for getting information from your short term memory into your long term memory as well as ways to access that information when you need to retrieve. 

There are some general things to consider when thinking about how to get information into your long-term memory.

  • You only recall things that you have actually thought about first.
  • Our sensory store is bombarded on a daily basis with information, but we only perceive a small fraction of that information.
  • What we perceive is what we are actually thinking about at the time.
  • The first thing to help your memory is to actually think about what it is that you wish to remember.
  • Thinking deeply about a subject or investigating it and using critical thinking skills builds strong long-term memories.
  • Even things we think about and think about deeply can be difficult to access and recall when needed.
  • We can easily remember things that are connected with an emotionally charged event such as a certain smell that brings back a happy childhood memory.
  • You can create a more easily accessed memory by using as many senses as possible when creating the memory (see Qualitative Repetition below).

No matter how you think about it, it is thinking about the subject that is most important.

Qualitative repetition

  • It is not the amount of times you repeat a task, but the quality of the connections you create. 
  • Use as many of your senses as possible.  Read it, write it, say it, sing it, and draw it.

Short reviews/not all-nighters

  • Review material from class for 10 minutes after leaving.
  • Review material from the day for 10 - 20 minutes before sleep.


  • Group ideas and concepts into smaller related groups.
  • Group vocabulary by 5-10 related words.

Tell a Story

  • Tell yourself or a friend about what you are learning.
  • Take the groups above and discuss their commonality.


  • Use the first letters of key words to create a new word that is easy to remember.

Play Games

  • Exercise your brain the way you exercise your body.
  • Create a game of Memory or another game to making learning more fun.  

Additional Resources:                                            

Memory strategies