Ace your exams
When it comes to preparing for exams, a memory palace can be your best friend. They serve as mental filing systems, aiding in information retention and help your brain organise your learning.
Why memory palaces are an essential tool for your exams
In its basic form a memory palace is a mental construct where you “store” information in sequential locations in an imaginary place.
It is a particularly useful technique when you need to remember a sequence of items, but here are a heap of reasons to use them as well.
1.Memorise information in order
When you use a memory palace you are naturally remembering the information in an order. Make sure you take advantage of this! If you are ever memorising information, question before you begin if it would help to order the information differently. It might be you can order the information from date, size, etc. Taking this time at the start will maximise your learning.
2.Memory Palaces ensure a complete answer
Memory palaces do more than sort information in order – they are excellent tools to ensure you don’t miss any crucial details, even when order isn’t important.
Example: Remembering famous scientists and their contributions
Imagine your exam question is to provide details about various famous scientists and their contributions. You rely on your memory palace to retrieve the information. Each room in your home has a different scientist and their contributions. As you write your exam you may feel you have not covered every example from class. Simply walk around (mentally) each room in your childhood home, following the path you used inside each room. If for example you notice something missing from the room of Albert Einstein, it will prompt you to review your answer and include the missing fact for full marks.
Had this information not been placed in a memory palace you may well have left the exam with a niggling feeling you had missed some details.
Remember, the quality of your exam answers are only as good as the information you have memorised. So take the time at the start to make sure what you are memorising is what you need to know. Once you really know how to use memory palaces this preparation is actually the most important step. And, while we are at it – even if the exam doesn’t need it – you could add ‘free’ information by ordering the scientists by year : )
3.Improved understanding of related topics
Memory palaces can be used to link related topics or concepts. This approach helps you visualize relationships between different pieces of information, making it easier to understand and recall how they fit together.
Think of it as like a mind map. For example, you may have a memory palace with rooms of famous scientists and their contributions. In another separate palace you have rooms full of in-depth information about the theory of relativity. While creating the Albert Einstein room in the first palace a visual image code was added to recall his development of the theory of relativity. If you use this same image ‘code’ in the second theory of relativity palace, your recall will be likely to effortlessly connect this to the roomful of information about Albert Einstein. These added associations help strengthen the understanding of connections and deepen the recall.
For a massive project (such as studying for a legal bar exam) you can have a whole memory city, not just a palace. Do some city planning before you begin. Here you have Tort Law Terrace and there is Family Law Lane 😊.
4.Reduce study time and therefore improved understanding
Like all effective mnemonic techniques, memory palaces can massively reduce the time spent on traditional rote learning and reviewing, in particular during initial memorisation. They work because people are generally good at remembering places they have been and pathways they have taken. Recall is enriched by scaffolding new information onto some location that is well known. This saves a lot of time, allow time for deeper comprehension and applying problem-solving to the material.
5.Convenient study material
This one is actually a biggie for me. Stuck somewhere boring without your study materials? (ie like in a dentist’s chair). This used to drive me nuts and feel like a waste of time. But it is easy to pull out the palace you need to review in your mind and get going. If you have any blanks, look them up when you get home.
6.Reduced anxiety and stress
This is also a biggie for me! The confidence that comes with knowing you’ve effectively memorised your study material can significantly reduce exam anxiety and stress. Memory palaces provide a systematic study approach that boosts self-assurance.
The information stored in a memory palace can be retained for an extended period. This is especially helpful for exams covering a broad range of material, such as final exams or standardised tests. This technique aids in long-term memory retention beyond the immediate exam. You will still need spaced reviews of the palace contents to cement it as long-term learning.
8.Quickly differentiate information that’s otherwise hard to recall
Using different palaces to represent groupings can be very useful. This is best explained with a language example. Select any language with grammatical gender – masculine or feminine. Looking for which particle to use for a particular vegetable? If it is a masculine vegetable, you could place the foreign word (when first learned) in your brother’s kitchen. If it is a feminine particle, you will find it at your sister’s place in her kitchen.
9.Adaptability and use of a range of learning styles
Memory palaces are versatile and can be adapted to suit various learning styles, catering to both visual and spatial learners. Whether you’re a visual thinker or someone who benefits from tactile memory, memory palaces can be tailored to your preferences. You can store objects, actions, any of your senses, or even feelings to represent the information you are learning.
10.Active engagement with material
Creating and navigating a memory palace is an active and engaging process that requires focused attention. This hands-on approach encourages active learning, which is more effective than passive reading or highlighting. The fact that it is fun also helps to keep up the memorising mojo.
11.Improved exam strategy
Memory palaces can provide a strategic advantage by helping you to structure your exam responses. By mentally walking through your palace with its ordered information, you ensure you include all the necessary details in your answers. If you have spent time thinking and organising your information before memorisation it will lead to a more comprehensive and organised response than you could provide normally under time pressure.
Exploring Memory Palaces Further
If you are not sure how to use one for your learning situation, I’d love to hear from you!