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Cramming for test? Need to Know How to Memorize Fast? Make Your Own Flashcards.

Updated on April 21, 2010

This Technique is intended for rote memorization of large amounts of information over one or two days, tests for school are discussed as examples though any situation in which a large amount of information needs to be remembered for a specific activity applies. Note: cramming is far from the best way to learn something, but it happens and this is what can be done in such a situation.

Phase 1 Preparation

First take into consideration that you are better able to remember a piece of information when conditions are similar to when you memorized the information. Lighting conditions, sounds, smells, locations, how you feel, everything plays a part.

  1. Therefore, if you are hopped up on caffeine when you are studying, chug some Monster or Starbucks before your test. If you aren’t hopped up on caffeine when you study, you should probably avoid it during the test if possible.
  2. If you are uncomfortable in your desk or wherever you’ll need to recall the information, sit somewhere uncomfortable when you are studying. (But not somewhere so uncomfortable it’s distracting.)
  3. Wear the same cloths. (You know smell is the sense most closely tied to memory).
  4. Many people listen to music when they study, if you can hum whatever you listen to while studying it might help. Music also releases endorphins which help calm you and prevent panic.
  5. Try not to panic. Memory blanks are like velociraptors and dogs; they can smell fear.--If you do panic while studying continue with this guide and make sure to panic again during your test. (PTSD flashbacks as a study aid, hmmm…)

Phase 2 Gather and Organize Information

1. Once you have your environment set up you’ll need to gather and organize all the information you need to memorize. (Try not to look at it all at once as it is likely a fearsome beast when gathered).

2. Then you need to break up your information into parts.

    A. First separate the information into categories that make sense; chapter, unit, first initial, anything that makes sense.

   B. Then separate each fact or piece of information into an independent piece of data (each vocab word and definition, etc).

Phase 3 Create Flash Cards

1. Decide on the shortest, most succinct, most interesting way to phrase each piece of information. (It’s easier to memorize a vocabulary word description that sounds like a bizarre sex position than one that sounds like an excerpt from a BBC current events broadcast)

   A. People are more likely to remember things that remind them of people and places from their own lives as well as things that are surprisising, funny, or sexually suggestive so relate each fact to one of these things if possible.

2. Write each of these pieces of information onto a flash card.

   A. People are, on average, 40% more likely to remember something they have hand written.

   B. If you don’t have time to write them out you can download CueCard, an easy to use flashcard creation program, for free.

   C. Assign a color to each category and color code each flash card.

Phase 4 Use Flash Cards

Select the category you think you are likely to have the most trouble with and begin going through the flashcards from that trouble category.

  1. Split the category into 10-20 card “groups.”
  2. Go over the first “group” until you correctly remember all of them once or twice through. Say each word or phrase as you think or read it.
  3. Then go over the next “group” in the same manner.
  4. Once you have successfully flipped through each “group” in a category combine all the cards in the category and begin reviewing them as one big group. (You’ll probably fail horribly the first time you go through the entire section, don’t freak out that’s normal.)
  5. Repeat this memorization technique for every category.
  6. Repeat.
  7. Take a break every 2 hours for 10 to 15 minutes.

Phase 5 Sleep

Go to sleep. Memory is one of the most important reasons for sleep. The majority of our dreams are simply repetition of the day’s events; sleep is when the brain’s filing clerk alphabetizes the day’s files.

  1. The exception to this is if you need to remember the information the next day and will not be able to get more than 3.5 hours sleep; at this point you’re screwed and should just stay up.

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    • KCC Big Country profile image


      8 years ago from Central Texas

      Very good information. I've helped others cram for exams with some of my own techniques. I may have to incorporate a few of these into it as well.

    • Falsor Wing profile imageAUTHOR

      Falsor Wing 

      8 years ago from Lodoss the Accursed Isle

      It works even better for speeches. say them aloud when you practice. If you use hand gestures when you speak do them while you are practicing. Make sure you don't sound like a robot though, you need to be comfortable enough with the information to ad lib at least a little. (I'm a stand up comedian though, if you put me in front of an audience for any reason it will require a mule team and much coaxing to stop talking.)

    • mythbuster profile image


      8 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      I'll try these tips, Falsor Wing. Think they'll work for doing speeches/public speaking instead of written exams? I do "card" my speeches in point form on index cards, but some of these other tips about smell/sound and other "cues" sound like something additional that will help with my public speaking topics. I'll check back soon to see if you've replied - thx for the good tips.


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