blank'/> A LITTLE BIT OF LACQUER: Memorization Tips

September 22, 2014

Memorization Tips

Happy Monday everyone! I hope those of you in school feel like things got off to a great start! Many of you have already taken your first exams of the school year (and I'm sure you did great), but one question that keeps popping up is how to memorize so much information in such a short period of time! I hope today I can share some tips that may help some of you take in what feels like a firehose of information!

Read with intent. We all can recall times we read a page only to have to go right back and re-read it because we were thinking about something else while reading or answering text messages or looking up to see what was happening on your TV show. What a waste of time! Try your best to shut out all distractions (I love putting headphones on and just listening to white noise) and really read with the intent to have that stuff stick. Highlight things you need to take notes on, and go back later to take organized notes. Ask yourself questions in your head while you read and try to make connections with information you already know. This style of active reading will really allow you to get a better grasp of the information.

Review and repeat. Try to get your reading for class done the day before, so that class itself can serve as the review session (or a chance to clarify anything that didn't make sense). During class edit any of the notes you had taken. Review these notes again before you go to bed (and after you've done the reading for the next day). Your review list at night will seem like it gets longer and longer but you'll soon find that you're remembering a lot of the earlier material. Don't waste time re-reviewing that until before the exam, instead focus on the stuff you still have to memorize.

Close your eyes, visualize. If you are a visual learner like me, taking organized notes and using figures (either for pathways, organ systems, or anything really) will help as you review material. Pretty soon you'll be able to use these visual aids to remember things (I literally will remember which corner of the page a certain detail was on). Having full pages of notes make this difficult to do - break it up into smaller more digestible pieces.

Use study aids. Some people really like flash cards, and if you're one of them, use them! Make new ones after each class once you've solidified your "notes" on that material. There are lots of apps now that allow you to make flashcards on your iPhone or smartphone, some even have saved libraries of other flashcards that may be applicable to what you're studying. I've never been a huge fan of flashcards but they can definitely be helpful, especially in quizzing yourself. One thing I have always done is take pictures of diagrams or figures I made on my phone and add to a "study" album so I can review those wherever - on the train, at the gym, or in bed!

Say it out loud. I don't know but for some reason actually saying things out loud helps with memorization. Especially if you're memorizing something like a speech or presentation, practice out loud (in a place where no one will mind, haha)! I'm super super corny, so please don't judge me for what I'm about to share, but I sometimes like to act like I'm giving a lecture on the material - it really helps!

Use mnemonics. Especially in medical school where the list of things to memorize is ENDLESS, mnemonics are a med student's best friend. They really are wonderful triggers to help remember lists of things - like the cranial nerves, or the side effects of medications, or the criteria for mania - anything! There are tons of resources online and books (like First Aid) that will have lots of mnemonics - one website I really like is Sometimes simply numbering your lists can be enough - knowing that there are 5 nail findings in psoriasis you need to memorize may be trigger enough.

Understand. At the end of the day, what will help the most with long term memory of any material is to really understand it. You can (and will) forget the minor details at some point if you're not using it all the time, but if you really understand the material you can still work your way through many problems and figure it out.

I hope some of these tips were helpful! What things help you the most with memorization? Would love to hear any of your tips or tricks in the comments section!

(image via)


  1. I always love reading your study tips! Thank you for posting that white noise website, it really helped me get through some biochem studying tonight :)

  2. these tips will definitely come in handy with midterms around the corner!

  3. Hola! I'm Adriana. I recently came upon your blog while doing some med school related online searching. Then I happened to recognize your face on one of my good friend's (Kellie) Facebook photos! What a small world! I have been reading through your posts and I have to agree with our mutual friend, you do have a beautiful way of looking at life. I'm currently studying for the MCAT so these memorization tips sure came in handy =) I'm sure I'll be following your blog in between my breaks from studying, homework, and work. Nice to meet you! (sort of)

  4. Thank you so much! I'm at the library now....anatomy here we come!!!

  5. Thanks for this post!

    I really appreciate your tips. I recently read somewhere that when trying to memorize, read the item through once and then repeat it ten times. That worked for me during my CVS block and to this day I can still recall things from a stack of flashcards-not always 100%.

    I enjoy reading your blog and I hope you don't mind if I link this post on my blog.


  6. I have been trying to preread before classes and it has been hit and miss. I really need to get into habit of doing it. I have not done reviewing before going to bed, but I should try it.

  7. I love your tips! You're such an inspiration!

  8. You probably hear this a lot, but I really appreciate all of your blog posts. You are really an inspiration to a lot of medical students, even those who aren't going into dermatology! Just seeing someone else's experience going through medical school and knowing that you aren't alone is really great. I'm a third year student in rotations right now and it's mindblowing how much we have to memorize! This article is really helpful so thank you!!!


I love getting your comments, they make my day! If you have a specific question you want answered, please send me a message by clicking the Contact tab at the top, or even better, contact me on twitter or facebook and I'll get back to you ASAP! Thank you so much for reading!

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