Students can never escape the nightmare of memorising from textbooks and lecture notes. At ‘A’ level, memorising lecture notes is the minimum a student is expected to do as the jargon and content knowledge are the foundation of higher-order thinking questions, especially for Science and Humanities subjects. As a normal student who finds memorising notes a chore, I would like to share some of the methods I find effective in helping me to remember the key points in the shortest possible time.
Being a visual-audio learner, mindmapping and dictation of key points prove very useful to me. While mindmaps require a lot of time to compose, it is that very time spent visualising the links between the key points that helps me understand the concepts I am mapping. Once complete, mindmaps are great to whip out for a quick revision before tests and exams. However, when I do not have the luxury of time to mindmap, I would instead draw a diagram for each sub-chapter and write down keywords to be associated with the diagram. Dictation, to me, is reading the key points over many times, until the words are ingrained in my mind. As dictation can get tedious and boring, I sometimes make up questions to quiz myself.
Example of a mindmap I made
Other productive ways to memorise include using acronyms and colour-coding my notes. One example of a very helpful acronym I learnt is “Professor Samuel Chen mutated a zebra in London”, which indicates in decreasing order the reactivities of metals, from Potassium, Sodium, Cobalt, Magnesium, Aluminium, Zinc, Iron to Lead. A colour-coded highlighting system also helps me organise my notes. For instance, orange highlighting means structure and yellow highlighting means function, and this system helps me to extract and link useful content material in a clear and logical manner.
Last but not least, do not try to cram all the material overnight! Not only does it mess up the information in the brain, you will be too exhausted to write any logical answers to score a decent grade. Instead, try to spread the course of memorisation over at least three days and memorise a little at a time. This also helps in retaining information in long term memory, which is essential because — there’s no getting around it — all the chapters will be tested during the final examinations!
In a nutshell, while all these methods are useful in studying for examinations, do note that blind memorisation is as good as not studying at all! To reap the most benefits, memorisation should come after understanding, especially since it eases the tortuous process, and is crucial for application questions that require both content and understanding to answer.