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Mnemonic Devices: Your Shortcut to Exam Success

October 27, 2021

Mnemonic Devices: Your Shortcut to Exam Success
What are mnemonic memory techniques? How can they help you to succeed on an upcoming proctored exam? Mnemonic devices are essentially memory tools and clever hacks to make studying easier for you. These techniques are designed to help improve your recall so that you can readily access course content or exam information on the fly. Read on to learn how to improve your test scores by using creative mnemonic devices such as acrostics, acronyms and chaining. 

What Makes an Effective Mnemonic Device? 

Dr. Francis Bellezza from Ohio University investigates the requirements for how to effectively and efficiently come up with mnemonic devices in his academic article on the classification, characteristics, and criteria of mnemonic devices. He claims that "constructibility, discriminability, associability, and invertibility are... important properties of cognitive cueing structures" and effective memory recall. In simple terms, an effective mnemonic device is something that you can easily build or construct in a short amount of time. You should be able to clearly distinguish the pattern and each mnemonic device should only be associated with one concept or idea. Dr. Bellezza further explains that memory "recall with mnemonic devices is mediated by cognitive cueing structures" set in place during your studying session. Your chosen mnemonic device should be short and simple enough to jolt your memory without too much fuss. 

Recommended Devices and Techniques 

  1. Acronyms: Chances are you are already actively using acronyms in your daily life to help you remember basic concepts and ideas. You may not know what deoxyribonucleic acid is, but you probably know about DNA, right? Acronyms are quite simply shortened code words and abbreviations to help you remember more complex content. 
  2. Acrostics: Using another fun version of wordplay, acrostics are simple puzzles based around a singular word. Each letter in the word is the first letter of another word which makes up the puzzle. 
  3. Chaining: This technique involves pulling together a string of words to create a story or picture that you can more easily recall in an exam scenario. 
  4. Clustering: This one is pretty straightforward too. Clustering involves grouping together similar ideas or concepts into an easy mindmap or table so that you can remember them as a group more easily than memorizing individual, disconnected items. 
  5. The Method of Loci: Sound familiar? No, we are not talking about the cunning Norse trickster. The Loci Method is actually a pretty famous memorization technique dating back to antiquity. Start by visualizing a familiar place to you, perhaps a neighbourhood from your childhood, your favourite coffee shop or a street that you walk down every day to get to work. Take your mind on a walk through the space or area and notice obvious focal points, furniture pieces, signs or other interesting landmarks. The next step is to mentally associate the content you need to memorize with each of those individual focal points. Then when you go back to recall those concepts or words, you will have a clear visual to assist you. 

Going Beyond Memorization 

Mnemonic techniques are an excellent way for you to improve your recall of core concepts and important course material that you may expect on your exam. Mnemonic devices are also a particularly helpful study tip for auditory learners because the acronyms and acrostics will sound more familiar to your ears than written content or uncondensed information. Just keep in mind that your exam success will be about more than simply memorizing and repeating content. Exam proctoring services usually measure your critical thinking skills too, so you will need to effectively analyze and filter the content once you recall it. Check out the Ultimate Exam Survival Guide by ATS for additional tips to help you improve your study habits and ace your next exam.   Written by CJ McGillivray