Exams are coming up, and it can be hard to stay on track with all the assignments, projects, and quizzes while avoiding burning the midnight oil.
What if there was a way to remember every single thing on your syllabus and ace all your tests? And do it easily? Have you ever heard of mnemonic devices? If we caught your attention, keep reading and find out about the best mnemonic devices to have a stress-free exam session.
Mnemonic device definition
Let’s cut to the chase by saying that your preschool teachers used mnemonic devices to introduce you to the world of knowledge. All those little rhyming songs and memory card games in times when winning was a matter of life or death were mnemonic techniques to make learning fun and easy.
To be technical, mnemonic devices are techniques that aid the learning process by allowing the memory to retain a larger quantity of information in the longer term through the use of clues that can be verbal, visual, and/ or auditory.
Every person memorizes in different ways, and it is important to find the mnemonic device that works best for you. For this reason, we have collected a few of the most useful ones, so you can give them a try and choose the one for you. Ready to try them out?
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7 mnemonic devices examples
Students use an infinite number of mnemonic techniques, from the most well-known to those they invented themselves. This goes to show that every mind works in a different way, and what is useful for one person is detrimental for another.
Because mnemonic techniques are most effective when they are the right ones for the person that uses them, go on and give a try to different options and once you understand your learning style, stick to the one you have chosen. Here you have a list of the 7 most common mnemonic devices.
1. Memory palace as a mnemonic technique
Ask anybody about mnemonic devices, and they will probably mention the memory palace, one of the most useful and ancient mnemonic devices used to remember information organized in lists.
Read this list of random objects: lizard, eggs, milk, elephant, sun, toy, light, car, ring, sticker, lamp, glass.
Can you recall the list without looking at it again? Likely, the answer is no, and that is because it is hard to remember things when they have no connection among them or to things we already know.
That’s where the memory palace technique comes in. It was invented in ancient Greece to help deliver speeches by politicians and philosophers, and it takes advantage of our knowledge of familiar places to remember lists, especially of numbers and words.
To use this device you have to imagine or go to a place you know well, and assign to each object, room, and floor a concept, idea, or piece of information you need to memorize. By associating things in this memory palace with things you need to learn, you will be able to remember them simply by taking a mental walk through the rooms and looking at the objects.
Now, test it by giving another try to the list you read at the beginning. Can you remember it now?
2. Imagery as a mnemonic device
You might find it amazing and impossible at the same time, but there are a few lucky students who can look at a page of their textbook or notes and remember it as if they were reading from a picture. Well, this is because they can take mental pictures and look at them as the need arises.
Now, even though that is not something very common, and you might feel a bit of envy (we do too) know that many students find it useful to use images as a mnemonic device because you do not need any special ability to master that strategy.
When it comes to images as a mnemonic device, students use them to remember a new piece of information by creating a connection between clear images of things they know and new images. The connection can be formed based on similarities, differences, strangeness, and so on. Although it partially works like the memory palace, imagery as a mnemonic device allows more freedom because you do not need a whole room or palace to memorize things.
For example, if you meet someone whose name is Leo and you want to remember it, you can picture a lion and recall that image every time you see that person to remember their name. Or if someone has a striking resemblance to someone from a movie you love and they share the same name, you can think about that actor every time you see the person.
3. Keywords as a mnemonic technique
Keywords are largely employed by students who are learning multiple languages because keywords can help you remember some of the trickier words. An easy example is the word cat for Spanish, which is gato. Students of Spanish can picture a cat on a gate, and the word gate quickly recalls gato.
Keywords are great to remember facts, names, words, and similar things quickly, but to make this knowledge pass from the short-term memory to the long-term one, our knowledge has to be put into practice, or we would simply forget the connections we made in our mind.
For example, try learning new words in your target language using keywords, but then practice what you learned with flashcards!
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4. Rhymes as a mnemonic device
Who doesn’t know the rhyme to remember how many days each month has? Well, it appears that remembering if a month has 30 or 31 days is a common problem worldwide because that same rhyme exists in many languages and countries.
This is just a classic example of the use of rhymes to remember information, but this mnemonic device has an infinitive number of applications because you can invent a new rhyme every time you need it.
Some students prefer rhymes as a mnemonic device because if the rhyme is good and the overall result has a catchy tune, they won’t forget the rhyme and the information that is embodied within it.
In this same group, we can also include the use of alliteration, which is the repetitive use of a particular letter or group of letters. To make it clear, alliteration is what makes tongue twisters easy to remember but hard to pronounce.
And of course alliteration, just like rhymes, is frequently employed by poets so that your teacher can then force you to learn poems by heart claiming that it won’t take a lot of time to learn because, well, it rhymes.
Alliteration applied to real-life learning is used, for example, to remember names and lists that are incomprehensibly complex.
5. Acronyms as a mnemonic device
How many times have you used the acronym HOMES to remember the names of the five Great Lakes? So many times you probably do not even remember the exact number. Acronyms are mnemonic devices used to remember these types of listings.
In some other cases, phrases like that can help remember things, even if the acronym does not make a lot of sense per se. For example, younger students use PEMDAS (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally) to remember Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction, which is the correct order of math operations. High school students dealing with biology, on the other hand, use IPMAT to remember the various stages of cell division.
6. Music as a mnemonic technique
If you haven’t heard The Countries of the World song by Rob Paulsen, you have to! This is one of the most singable songs that have to do with the world countries because in a bit more than two minutes you will get a complete list of every part of the world.
We are talking on a more advanced level, but do you remember the alphabet song or the big numbers songs? Truth is, we could go on all day listing songs that we all have used to remember even the simplest of things.
This proves that songs are an extremely useful tool to learn just about anything. All you need is a bit of creativity, and don’t panic if you are not a great singer. You can simply hum it or review it in your mind.
7. Chaining as a mnemonic technique
There is no way of hiding this, but we all have our mental movies. You close your eyes and you are living the adventure of a lifetime, even though at this point we are getting so good that we do it with our eyes open.
Who knew that all these mental movies could come in handy when studying?
Chaining as a mnemonic technique works exactly in this way. If you have a handful of information to memorize, just create a small movie to play in your mind when necessary.
Some students find it useful to add details or humor to their mental movies because it makes it easy to remember all the different scenes.
And three, two, one… action!
FAQ – Mnemonic devices
If you have never used a mnemonic device before, you probably have questions about them, but do not worry. In this section, you can find some answers that we hope can help you.
What are mnemonic techniques?
Mnemonic techniques are devices used to help in memorizing a large amount of information. They are particularly useful for students or for those who work jobs that require knowledge in different areas. There are different types of mnemonic techniques that use a variety of clues, but the final goal is always the same.
How do you use mnemonic techniques?
To use mnemonic devices, first, you need to find the one that suits your learning style. After that, apply it every time you need to remember every piece of information that is important or useful.
Know that it might take a while to discover which one makes it for you, so do not worry or stress if you cannot see results from the get-go.
How can mnemonic devices be used to assist in learning?
Some say that what is important is the outcome, not the process. Every person learns in differents way and if some people find it easy to memorize large chunks of information, for others it is one of the most difficult things to do. In this case, mnemonic devices can assist in learning because they allow to create a bridge between things already known and new knowledge. Moreover, they can be used at any age and school level, from preschoolers to university students.
What are some mnemonic techniques?
There are different types of mnemonic techniques that use different types of clues, but this does not mean that they all work for you. On this page, you can find a list of some of the most commonly used mnemonic techniques, give them a try and see what works for you. Do not worry if you cannot find it immediately, it can take some time to figure out what works for us.
Which mnemonic device is the least effective?
Generally speaking, it is impossible to say which mnemonic device is the least effective. Mnemonic techniques that work amazingly for part of the population, are completely useless for the other part. Our advice is to try a few of them to understand which is the most and the least effective for your learning style.
Do mnemonic devices improve memory?
Mnemonic devices help with memorization and can help improve memory. However, they help above all with efficiency when it comes to learning, and improving memory is not the ultimate goal.
Why do mnemonics work?
Memorizing lists of objects or numbers of complicated concepts, especially when they have no apparent connection to things we already know, does not come easy to everyone. Mnemonics help in creating that connection so that information can form part of the long-term memory and can be accessed at any time.
Can mnemonic devices help with memorization?
Yes, that is exactly the reason why mnemonic devices are used. If you have any trouble remembering what you are trying to learn, use one or more mnemonic devices to memorize things quickly and recall them when needed.
Mnemonic techniques for studying – an overview
On this page, we have listed some of the most known mnemonic techniques for students, from the memory palace to rhymes, keywords, and acronyms. Since every person has a different learning style, try all of them to find out which one is the best for you and your needs. And if none of them works for you, you can even create a new one!