Techniques for Improving Your Memory

As have seen, your memory isn't always reliable, and often it seems you forget what you need to remember most. So is all hope lost? Is it all just a game of chance? No. There are strategies you can employ to help preserve that information you want to remember and increase the likelihood of its retrieval. You may already have a few tricks of your own, and by all means continue to use them. If you don't have any or would like to learn more, take a look at the following and see if you can use either of these strategies to help you not to forget.

The SQ3R Method

One of the best ways to trap information for future use is to effectively catch it coming in. The way you encode information determines where it is placed in your long-term memory. If information is encoded in a well-organized and efficient manner, the likelihood of its later retrieval increases. The SQ3R method is one of the best encoding strategies.

Francis Robinson's SQ3R method was invented during World War II to help military personnel in the Army Specialized Training Program comprehend the material they were learning in the accelerated college courses they took for those specialized skills they needed to fight the war.

In 1941, psychologist Francis Robinson came up with a fantastic strategy for studying (and remembering) written materials. His strategy is called the SQ3R method — Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. The first step is to survey, or scan, the material you will be reading. Take only a few minutes to do this. Look over the material, taking in the headings, subheadings, and any charts or illustrations. This will give you an idea of what you will be reading and will prepare your brain for how it will be organized.

The next step is to create questions that will be answered in your reading. The easiest way to do this is to turn the headings into questions, such as “What is SQ3R?” After you've come up with a list of questions, read through the material and write down the answers to your questions. To help you recall the information in the future, recite the answers and any other key points you encountered in the material. To finish and set the information in your long-term memory, review the material once again, while continuing to recite important points and the answers to your questions.


Mnemonics are strategies, such as a rhyme or formula, that are used to improve memory and help you retain and retrieve the information by making use of the information already stored in your long-term memory. Most people were taught at least a few mnemonics during our school days. For instance, do you remember the rhymes “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” and “Use i before e except after c”? Your teachers used these clever mnemonics to help you store that information for easy retrieval. Word associations, visual images, rhymes, and formulas can all also be used as mnemonics. You can even create a short story including those words or phrases you need to remember.

Another way to boost your memory of facts and information is to teach what you have learned to another person. Study groups can be particularly beneficial to students because each member can take the role of the teacher and relate what he or she has learned to the rest of the group members. As you can see, there are many different techniques that can help boost your ability to store, retain, and recall information. While you should certainly continue to use the strategies that have worked for you in the past, think about incorporating a new method into your normal routine. Researchers have found that adding an element of novelty to your memorization strategy, such as trying a new study technique or varying the location of your study sessions, you can actually boost your long-term recall of the information.

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