Studying for Exams? Here are the memory techniques for exam success

There’s no doubt most concepts, courses, and learning materials require you to memorize or remember chunks of information.

Unfortunately, memorizing can prove a daunting or frustrating task, especially if you have to cover multiple revision materials before exams. Besides, you don’t want to get into an exam room feeling empty in mind: because that would be the first sign of your failure.

The good news is, you can always train to develop some adequate memorizing abilities to help retain more of the information you study for the examination. Throughout this article, we have covered some of the best memory techniques that you should consider for your exam success.

Simple Memory Techniques for Exam Success

To successfully help you memorize, prepare and pass for your exams, we have covered three simple tips and tricks that would ensure your brain remembers much of what you learned.

  • Retrieval practice techniques
  • Visual and spatial techniques
  • Lifestyle habits and techniques​

a. Retrieval technique and how they help boost memory

Retrieval practices are all about trying to remember everything you had previously learned. In other words, trying to pull information from your memory. With this technique, a student learns or reads a concept or material, puts it aside, and then tries to figure out if they can recall what they have read/learned.

What are the benefits of retrieval practice?

Results from different studies have shown that retrieval practice or practice testing, as most studies call it, is significant in helping students improve their grades. According to Frontiers, Psychology retrieval practice is effective in enhancing the forward effect of learning. It helps prepare students for exams in many ways, including:

Locking information and concepts into your memory- if you can pull a concept out of your memory, that means there are high chances that you'll easily remember it in the future.

Help identify a gap in your knowledge- if you find it hard to recall a concept, then it means you know where you need to put more of your efforts.

Help you figure out some problems based on what you have learned- retrieval is about learning facts and applying the concept learned to different ideas. So if you can remember what you learned, you can easily use it to solve or unlock various problems in exams.

So, how can you apply retrieval practices in memorizing for an exam?

Write it down

After studying or reading a concept, it is now time to write down everything you covered on a blank sheet. Scribbling down is the best and easiest way to help you encode information that you have studied.

After putting down everything and you feel you have exhausted the concept or the topic, go back and counter-check if you’re missing any detail. Noting down ideas and concepts helps you remember them and boost your retention ability.

Use practice question

After covering a concept of a topic, it can then be a good idea to conduct a self-test or practice test. The act of pre-testing would help identify your knowledge and understanding gap. Or identify those areas that you struggle to remember. Even better, pre-testing ensures higher retention of concepts/ideas or information.

Therefore, find topical questions after every topic you cover and try handling them. This can significantly help you should the same concept be set in your actual exams. Better still, ask yourself questions after reading and find out if you can answer the questions without rereading it from the book.

Link the information to something

One of the easiest ways to remember concepts or ideas is by connecting what you have read to other concepts you have already known.

Act the concept out

Apart from relating or connecting the information you learn to something, you can also learn by acting the concept. So, use your hands, gestures, and other body movements to help better your retention and muscle memory.

Deploy repetitive techniques

Some concepts can indeed prove hard to absorb at once, but by repetitively studying and doing them. So, to move the idea from your temporary memory to long-term working memory, ensure you repeat the concept.

Study in different locations

Different aspects within its environment trigger the human brain. So, if you're experiencing challenges in memorizing a concept, please try to change your environment. Studies have shown that spending time in a different environment helps improve brain and cognitive health.

A different location forces your brain to make associations with the material you’re studying for better memory and retention abilities. Thus creating mental scaffolding.

Create or participate in meaningful groups

You can do this by joining or creating a project-based learning group that allows you to share your skills and knowledge about a specific concept or topic.

Through discussions, you get the opportunity to explain the ideas that you have covered. You also get to know different concepts from your group mates and compare them with your notes for more complex ideas. It offers a platform to simplify learning materials for quick memory.

b. Visual and spatial techniques

Visual and spatial tricks are memory techniques that use your different senses to boost or maintain your retention. They involve feelings, images, songs, and your body to help sink the information or concept studied.

In most cases, these retention strategies provide memorable, creative, and memorable ways of recalling information. And they make you see, hear or feel that need/want to remember.

Also, they help free up your memory, build focus and boost long-term retention of concepts and ideas. For instance, if you group concepts together in the form of an image or diagram, you tend to pay attention while following the diagram/image until you reach your final stages.

So, what are some of the visual and spatial techniques you can deploy?

Use memorable visual images- Most studies show that the human brain processes images faster than words: in fact, at 60, 000 better than texts. That said, we tend to remember pictures better than words because the photographs connect directly with our brain's visual-spatial centers.

Therefore, try turning equations and words into images to help you remember any difficult concept or when you want to get the best out of your performance. Instead of just visualizing the images, please try feeling or smelling the photos too.

Deploy the memory palace- also known as the method of the loci: This technique is vital in recalling unrelated concepts. To use mind palace, you can visualize familiar space. At the same time, you populate your visual-spatial center with the images of what you see. This place can be an exam room or dorm, then imagine the concept you study around or inside that place.

Use of songs and jingles: almost the same as the mind palace, songs and rhymes use the brain's right hemisphere to help remember complicated concepts. So if you’re struggling to memorize chunks of information, then try putting the idea or ideas into a tune you have already know. In other words, create songs with extensions of rhythms or lyrics of your favorite music.

Use acronyms and mnemonics- related to creating songs; these retention strategies are very useful in recalling information. When you're unable to remember concepts, you can make abbreviations from the first letters of what you're studying. For instance, if it's a process involving different steps, use the first letter of every effort to make a song or abbreviation that would quickly help you remember a concept.

Some common mathematical abbreviations include PEMDAS, BODMAS, or BIDMAS.

Lifestyle habits and techniques

Some of the activities we do help improve or reduce our memory of ideas or concepts. Here are different lifestyle techniques that you can deploy to help improve your memory and retention abilities.

Get enough sleep

Sleep and memory have a complex connection. According to the sleep foundation, getting adequate sleep helps a person process new information. Once you sleep after learning a new concept, the chances are high that you consolidate the information you learned into memories while you're asleep. And in the process, your brain stores them for future use.

Therefore, to boost your memory and retention abilities, take a power nap or a good night's sleep immediately after you have learned a new concept or idea. Even better, most research has found that those students who sleep for up to 8 hours have better retention than those who never get enough sleep.

Eat healthy

Maybe you're wondering how what you take affects your memory and retention abilities. Simple, some foods would help boost your memory. For example, foods like the Mediterranean diet have severally been found by different studies to improve memory. So, taking olive, seafood, nuts, and other Mediterranean foods would help lower your memory decline, thus boost your retention.


To pass your exams, you must be able to remember most of the things you have learned. And that requires practicing some of the best memory or retention strategies. So, ensure you practice effective retrieval, visual and spatial, or your lifestyle habits and techniques. Remember, the more you practice them, the more you’ll retain and memorize information.