Being a successful student is far more about being a smart user of effective strategies than about being ‘smart’. In fact it is possible to predict how well a student will do simply on the basis of their use of study strategies.
While mnemonics do not help you understand your material, they do help you remember those many details you need to achieve expertise in a topic — details such as the names of things, technical words, lists of principles. Moreover, mnemonics can help you remember tags or labels that allow you to access clusters of meaningful information — for example, headings of a speech or main points for exam essays. For both these reasons, mnemonics are a valuable assistance to building up expertise in a subject, as well as in helping you ‘cram’ for an exam.
However, despite a number of studies showing the effectiveness of mnemonic strategies, these remain the least frequently used formal memory aid used by students. Perhaps the main reason for this is that their effectiveness is not intuitively obvious — truly, no one really believes that these ‘tricks’ can so remarkably improve memory until they try them for themselves.
While you can find basic information on the various mnemonic strategies in many books and websites, this concise book goes far beyond the same tired descriptions, using the latest research to explain exactly how these strategies work and are best used. The hardest part of permanently improving your memory is changing your habits and becoming an effective user of effective strategies. The best way to do this, research has shown, is through understanding how different strategies work, and when and how to use them. Through examples and exercises, that is what this book aims to teach you.
Keywords: study skills, mnemonics, college study
Dr Fiona McPherson has a PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Otago (New Zealand). This theoretical grounding has been the foundation stone for the research she has spent the last twenty years exploring — the question of how to improve human memory. In 1999 her book The Memory Key was published in New Zealand. It has subsequently been published in the United States and Germany, and has most recently been republished in revised form by Random House UK as Perfect Memory Training. Since 2000 she has maintained a website (www.mempowered.com) dedicated to providing information on memory and how to improve it.