Revise Better: 5 Creative Ways to Memorize

The Revise Better Series: Being host of the Tracklist for the Dean’s List show on IIUM.FM for the past semester has taught me a couple of things about what makes certain students excel. Since it’s Revision Week once again for IIUM students, in this series I will share some of the studying patterns I found in Dean’s List students over the next few days. I hope they’ll benefit, insyaAllah.

Today’s Pattern: Use Creative Memorization Techniques

All of us are created unique in every way. The way we walk, the way we talk, what drives us to succeed, what makes us tick – each of us are flavoured differently. In fact, even the way we learn and memorize differ from one person to another, MasyaAllah!

Most of the Dean’s List students I interview, either on or off the show, all use different memorization techniques that are suitable to what they are trying to memorize. The criterion for choosing which technique to memorize with are two-fold:

1) Their unique learning style. Are they

  • Visual learners: people who learn better through visual aids like graphs, diagrams, images etc
  • Auditory learners: people who learn better through listening to things, be it lectures or music etc
  • Kinesthetic learners: people who learn better through hands-on experience or activities
  • A combination of this and that?

2) The content they are trying to memorize.
Some techniques work with certain content, while others don’t. The key is to experiment until you find what technique is most suited for you. I personally use all five of the techniques I will be sharing below, depending on what I feel is easiest to implement.

So with the above criteria in mind, here are 5 creative techniques that can help you memorize better:


Technique One: Build Memory Castles

This is probably my favourite technique, one that I learnt about when I read the mind-illuminating book “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything”. I love it so much because it’s easy, it works all the time, and all the memory pros in the world use it in one way or another.

How the technique works

In summary: Plant images in your spatial memory, and walk around it to retrieve information

We’re going to start with the basics by having you remember the following shopping list:

[creativ_columns structure=”50|50″][creativ_col position=”a”]

  • Banana
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 3 salmon
  • Garlic
  • Strawberry

[/creativ_col][creativ_col position=”b”]

  • Wall clock
  • Backpack
  • Koko Krunch Cereal
  • BBQ pit
  • Goggles


Step 1: Choose a place that you remember very well to be your memory castle. It can be your room, your mom’s room, your living room, the shopping mall, wherever. It doesn’t matter where you choose, as long as you’re very familiar with the place and where everything goes.

Step 2: Plant the objects in the room in the form of images as you walk around it in your head. Close your eyes and visualize yourself in that place. Open the door, start walking around the place, and make an effort to notice and remember where everything is the last time you saw it.

Then imagine yourself at the door again, only this time, you have the things in the shopping list in your hand. Start walking slowly around the place, placing the items around the room in order. The more bizarre you make the images out to be, the better!

For example, if my place is my room, I would start by imagining a banana wearing a pair of socks on his feet, and another pair on his hands, lying on my bed. Then, walking further in, I would imagine the three salmon talking at my study table, their mouth stinking of garlic breath. Looking at the wall above them, I’d see a wall clock in the shape of a strawberry. Then turning to my right, I would imagine hanging my backpack in my cupboard, filled with delicious Koko Krunch cereal. And lastly, as I make my way back to the door, I bump into a BBQ pit sitting happily in the middle of the room, and hanging behind the door is my goggles.

Now you try it. Imagine a place, and start placing bizarre images of your items in different places. When you want to recall the items again, just take a walk in that place and remember all the weird things you imagined!

When explaining the memory castle technique to a friend, she questioned if we could apply the same technique to concepts instead of physical things. Alhamdulillah, you can! All you have to do is tie the concept to certain things, and then use the same technique explained above.

For example, in one of my classes last semester, I had to memorize the 7 characteristics of the brain. This was how I memorized it:

  1. Good in good out, garbage in garbage out: An image of a rubbish bin
  2. A success loving mechanism: A trophy
  3. Loves to copy: A photocopying machine
  4. Likes to fill in the blanks: An open workbook with a page for filling in blanks
  5. Loves new knowledge: A shelf full of new books
  6. Love truths: A judge sitting in the corner
  7. Likes to strive: An exercising machine

Now all you have to do is place the objects around a specific place like you did earlier. Awesome ey? You need to use different places for different items though, so as not to confuse yourself :)


Technique Two: Connect to Real-life People and Situations

Sister Husna from the Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyah of Laws shared this technique with me during the TLDL Interview. Throughout their undergraduate life, law students have to remember countless names with their respective cases, and it’s easy to get the pairings mixed up.

What she did was to assess the case and the name involved, and try to relate them to someone she knows in real life. For example, for a case involving the power of the court, sister Husna recalled that she had a Discipline Master in her earlier school with a similar sounding name with the person involved in the case. By making connections like such, she no longer has problems remembering both the names and their respective cases!

This technique is not limited to Law students, of course. You can also apply it when you want to remember technical jargons.

For example, a dean’s list student from the Psychology department shared that the way she remembers functions of cells is by relating it to certain characteristics. A cell whose function is to heal other cells would be nicknamed the Mummy cell for instance, in connection to her Mum.

Another way to perform the connection is by relating it to your own personal experiences. Bring the general concept or theory down to the micro level, and try to recall how you, or someone you know, have actually done something that is related to what you are trying to memorize.

The more connections you make in your mind, the stronger the memory holds, and the longer it stays. Your neurons fire in succession, and recall will be much easier, insyaAllah.


Technique Three: Play Around with Words

One of the most common technique is by making acronyms from the key points that you need to remember. I will explain how you can use acronyms as a memorization technique, and then I will touch on a different play of words that I have recently used.

1) The Acronym Method

Let’s say I have to remember the below key words:

  • Changes in Media
    • Concentration of media ownership
    • Conglomeration
    • Globalization
    • Audience Fragmentation
    • Hyper-Commercialization
    • Convergence

The acronyms are the first letters in the beginning of each word, so as reflected in the underlined letters, my acronyms are “C, C, G, A, H, C”.

But that’s hard to remember isn’t it? So the next step in using the acronym technique is to make it easier to memorize the acronyms. There are two ways to do this.

The first way is to create sentences from the acronym. So in the above sentence, a sentence would be something like “Charlie the Cat Go And Hug Chickens.” (haha)

The second way is to rearrange the acronyms to something that makes sense to you. So for myself, I would rearrange it as “3CG! AH!”. (3CG rhymes with the BCG injection I took when I was twelve which was a painful experience, hence the ‘AH!’)

2) Playing with Words Method

I discovered this recently in Arabic class, but I don’t think it’ll work for everything.

In trying to remember the grammar term “Majhul” and all that relates to it, this is my thought process:

  • Majhul is related to the word jahil, which means being ignorant
  • Hence, Majhul is to describe a sentence that excludes (is ignorant of) the object
  • Also, the word Majhul has six letters, and there are altogether six kinds of Majhul sentences

Again, this doesn’t really work all the time but if you’re creative you can definitely find ways to work around it. I remember explaining Majhul using this method in class, and wallah I see eyes light up hahaha.


Technique Four: Make Melodies

Until today, I cannot recite the alphabets without the melody that I learnt it with, and every time I want to recall the names of the Prophets, I have to hum to Raihan’s 25 Rasul.

(I think I scored straight As in my weekend madrasah school when I was younger all thanks to Raihan’s songs.)

So if you’re a person with a vault of songs and tunes in your head, put them to good use. Change the lyrics to the study materials that you have to remember, and just hum it quietly in your head during the exams!


Technique Five: Take Pictures With your Mind

For those who love to do mind maps, sister Radhiah recommended that you take photos of it with your mind.

Last semester, I drew mind maps filled with pictures and symbols, and pasted it all over my wall. Then I took a few minutes just to stare at each mind map, not reading or analyzing the words, but just capturing the image like a camera does. I stare at it, and imagine the image getting imprinted onto my mind.

Then during the exams, I would close my eyes, sift through my photo albums, and zoom in on the detail that I need to remember. Granted, my image-capturing is not in HD format, so to make recalling easier, I used more pictures and symbols than words, and I made sure to use a variety of colors.

It may sound unscientific, but it works for sister Radhiah and I (and I’m sure many others too), so why not give it a shot? :)

Just as all the students I interviewed stressed, it is important to note that what works for me might not for you, and vice versa.

To figure out what works best for you, experiment with the different techniques above (or others), and be conscious of how it actually impacts your memorization. Use this, don’t use that, combine techniques together, be creative and start memorizing the way your mind wants you to :)

If you found this article beneficial, please share it with your friends! Yesterday, I shared how to make A-grade notes. Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing on how to overcome Exam Day anxieties, insyaAllah.

All the best, and happy studying!

P/s. What is your memorization technique? Leave comments below if you’d like to share it with us. May we all benefit, insyaAllah.

Fadhilah Wahid
My name is Nur Fadhilah Wahid. I am a seeker of knowledge, a Muslimah in progress, and a writer. I believe in the magic that can happen when like-hearted and like-minded individuals come together :)

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