Trinity College Dublin

Skip to main content.

Top Level TCD Links



Memorisation is about reproducing information while understandign is about being able to remember information so that you can build meaning, seek relevance, and discover relationships and applications.

There are effective learning strategies if the purpose is to memorise material and there are effective strategies that work best if the purpose is to understand. It is important to know what they are, how to use them and when to use them.

There is a difference between memorisationand remembering for understanding.

Your memory and how it works:

Attention Taking the information in
Encoding Formatting the information for use by the brain
Storing Maintenance or retention of the information
Retrieving Bringing forth the information to be used

Cognitive learning strategies

Basically, there are three categories of learning strategies that help you process information and remember (encode, store and retrieve).

1. Rehersal Strategies for memory
2. Elabortation Strategies for understanding
3. Organisational Strategies for memory and understanding`

Rehearsal Strategies

Rehearsal Strategies are useful to aid and develop memorisation.

Use repetirion to help increase familiarity with the material and better hold it in your memory
For use if the purpose is memorisation of material
Can be time consuming (remember learning your times tables!) use sparingly


Mnemonics are techniques for improving rote learning


Imagine that each item that you are trying to memorise is pegged to something else. For example, the item could be pegged to another word in a rhyme, or to an object in the room, on your desk.

Here is an example:

one is a bun
two is a shoe
three is a tree
four is a door

You might use the pegword system to remember that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Imagine a hotdog bun [1] entering a gate [8] made of sticks [6]. Since we tend to retain images for a longer time than we retain words , it may be easier to recall this wierd scene than the numbers, one, eight and six in order.


Linkwords can be of use for those learning a foreign language. In this case try to form a link between a new word or term in a foreign language and a familiar word.

E.G.: nappe is the french word for tablecloth - so imagine taking a nap on a tablecloth.


The idea here is to devise a sentence in which the first lettersof each of the words in the sentence compose the starting point for items to be remembered.

E.G.: On Old Olympus Towering Top A Finn And A
German Vault and Hop<BR>Run your mouse over the
green letters to find out what the letters stand for.


Here you develop a word whose letters stand for the terms to be remembered.

E.G.: PET - This stands for Pinna Ear Tympanic membrane
Here is another example:<BR>Run your mouse
over the green letters to see what they stand for.

Repeated Reading and Writing

Repetition of material helps to store information in your long term memory. It involves distributed practice of new information on a continuous basis. This could mean:

  • Passively re-reading text books
  • Verbatim copying of notes
  • Repeating things
  • Reviewing material over and over

The key to turning these into useful strategies is to make them more active and personal. Maintain the idea of repeated, distributed practice but make the brain work. For example, put a list that needs to be memorised on your mirror and go over it as you brush your teeth every morning. Then change the list, leaving out parts. Or if you're going to re-read, try it out loud.

Flash Cards

Flash cards is a system that can be used to help you to remember items from your course of study. For example, on one side of the card can be a word, picture, question etc. then on the other can be a definition, phrase, explanation, picture, answer, etc. Start by looking at them on a regular basis, then just look at one side and try to recall the answer.

Here is an example of two side of a flashcard. Side one displays a problem, if X and Y are added together what will be the result? The student has to look at the presenting problem and give a possible answer. After that you can check the correct answer on the back of the card. Tis is an example from chemistry but flashcards can be used for any subject.

Underlining or Highlighting

As you read a book or article, underlining or highlighting the content can be a great way to landmark the work you are currently engaged in. It focuses the brain on what is important. When you return the familiarity of these landmarks jumps out at you immediately.

However, to make the underlining and highlighting strategy even more effective, you need to engage with the text. It is a good idea to write a key word or phrase in the margin. Or at the end write a summary of the text that you have read.

Notice in the example above that the student has not just underlined but has actively engaged the text by writing in the margin and labelling items within the text.

[Back to Top]

Sitemap |  

Last updated 16 December 2015 by Student Learning Development (Email) .