Mnemonics: My Favourite Memory Technique

By Alexandra Bosco, 3rd year Con-Ed LifeSci/Psych student

As a Life Science and Psychology student, there is often a great deal of information to know. Often, there is no way around memorizing a good chunk of this information. I always do my best to UNDERSTAND rather than MEMORIZE facts and details but there are some things that one must memorize in order to be able to go on and understand it.

I often find that repetition helps to ingrain facts or pieces of information into my head. However, there are times when I need a little bit of help to remember something because that fact just won’t “stick”. These tend to be facts or pieces of information that I have a hard time making a meaningful connection to other information with. This is where mnemonics come in.

What are mnemonics?

Mnemonics (pronounced ni-MON-iks) are a memory tools that help you remember things. It can take the form of a short song, phrase, or story that aids your memory through use of association. By associating the new piece of information with something that is easy to remember, the new piece of information therefore becomes much easier to remember and recall.

Do you remember these common mnemonics?

As a kid you may remember the rhyme “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November; February has twenty-eight alone, All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting leap year, that’s the time, When February’s days are twenty-nine.”

Or perhaps you were taught the phrase “King Phillip Comes Over For Good Spaghetti” or “Krabby Patties Cook On Fry Grills, SpongeBob” to remember Kingdom Phylum Order Class Family Genus Species. These are all examples of different mnemonic devices.

How I use mnemonics in university

The possibilities are endless when using mnemonics in your own studies! It is only limited by your creativity! During exam time, when I begin studying, I am constantly coming up with silly phrases, funny sketches and ridiculous stories that help jog my memory and help me recall information. My #1 mnemonic strategy is the sillier, the better! Silly nmemonics are the ones I always remember best and are the ones I’m most likely to recall in the middle of an exam.

Examples of Mnemonics

Music Mnemonics: Music mnemonics work well when trying to remember a long list of things. Ex. The alphabet, The Periodic Table Song or even Hannah Montana’s “Bone Dance”

Rhyme Mnemonics: Putting information into a short poem or rhyming phrase. Ex. “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” or to help chemistry students differentiate these two chemical compounds, “Cyanate-I ate, Cyanide-I died.”

Image Mnemonics: Making a mental image or sketch on your notes of a picture that helps your remember information. You don’t need to be an artist to use image mnemonics! As long as the image makes sense to you, that is all that matters!

Connection Mnemonics: Connecting information you already know to a new piece of information. Ex. Remembering the direction of longitude and latitude. There is an N in longitude so longitude runs north/south. Latitude has no N, so it goes east/west.

Expression or Word Mnemonics: Making an expression or word from the first letter of each item in a list.

Things to keep in mind

Remember that while mnemonics can be incredibly useful recall tools, they are not tools for compression or understanding. Additionally, mnemonics are great memory aids, so long as your chosen mnemonic makes remembering something easier, and not more difficult. If the mnemonic is difficult for you to remember, then don’t focus your time on it! Instead, focus your attention on remembering the information using another method such as reciting out loud. If you would like to know more about memory strategies you can check out resources on the learning strategies website or booking a one on one appointment with a learning strategist!


Information about Mnemonics from: