Improving Academic Performance

Ten Awesome Memory Techniques for Standardized Test Taking

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Tue, May 21, 2013 @ 08:30 AM

test taking memory techniques

Sometimes test preparation requires memorization. For example, the SAT and GRE require building your vocabulary. Here are some tried and true memory techniques.

The Roman Technique

This technique involves setting what you want to remember to the layout of something you’re very familiar with, like your childhood home or route to school. So imagine, for example, that you want to remember your to-do list. Say your first item was to telephone the GRE board to set your test appointment. You might visualize your front door opening but having tons of phones blocking the passage way. Say your second thing on your to-do list is to buy paper. You could imagine your hallway with paper in the picture frames instead of the portraits that normally went there. The idea is to walk through your home putting what you want to remember along the route. Because our spatial memory is more long term memory versus short term memory, this helps us organize and remember the data.

Study in the Same Place

Studies have shown that studying in the same place where you take the test helps memory. We know this isn’t possible for the tests like the GRE and SAT. Luckily, just imagining the place you usually study while taking the test can help you remember the material you were studying.

Take Frequent Breaks

Researcher has shown that you remember the beginning and end of studying the most, so by taking a break every 20 minutes or so there can be multiple beginnings and ends.


Chunking involves lumping things together when you can. For example, is it easier to remember 3-1-7-2-1-4 or think 3/17 and 2/14- St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day?

Practice Retrieving the Memory

Recent research has shown people remember things best when they practice retrieving the memory. The retrieval of memory leads to better memorization than focusing on storing the memory.

Make the Memory Bizarre

It is easier to remember something if you think of something strange. For example, if you want to remember the left anterior descending artery on the heart, you could picture a bunch of young boys (“LAD”s) crawling all around the heart.

Use All of Your Senses  

If you are trying to learn something, bring as many senses into it as you can. How does it look, feel, smell, sound etc.?

Focus On What You’re Trying to Learn

It takes eight seconds of extreme concentration on average to imprint a memory. Make sure you study somewhere with very little distractions so that you can focus completely on what you are trying to learn.


Rhyming the information makes it easier to memorize. For example, if you were trying to memorize the definition of alacrity (which is cheerful readiness) you might think: “Someone with alacrity has the capacity to do tasks happily and succeed academically and financially.”

Know the Key Points

Research has shown that outlining can help a lot with memorization because it boils down the information to key points. It can also be helpful to have an image with the most important points exaggerated or use a different color for the most important points.


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