You will have a lot to remember this school year. There will be dates, places, and names from history. You will need to recall math facts and many new words. Plus, you can’t forget your class schedule (or your locker combination)! How in the world can anyone remember everything?
No one is born with a great memory. Remembering is a skill you can practice — like playing the piano. And you can get better. Just ask Alex Mullen. He memorized the order of 1,626 playing cards! That helped him win the World Memory Championships. He was the first American to win the title. And he did it three years in a row!
Mullen began training his brain when he was a student. “I felt like my memory wasn’t good,” he told News-O-Matic. “At first, I just wanted to improve my memory for classes,” Mullen explained. “Then I started practicing memory techniques.” The 27-year-old is now a grandmaster of memory.
“There are many different ways to improve learning and memory,” said Mullen. The following list gives five possible ways. The memory master had some advice as well!
1. Rip a Rhyme
When you were young, you had to learn the alphabet. Most likely, you used a song to recall all 26 letters. That’s because songs — and rhymes — are powerful ways to remember information. They get stuck in our brains! (Just try to say the alphabet without singing the song!) Songs can help us remember the months of the year or new vocabulary.
30 days has September,
April, June, and November.
When short February’s done,
All the rest have 31.
2. Create Keywords
“One very powerful technique for remembering is the keyword method,” said Mullen. That is “using the strength of your imagination to remember,” he said. “Turn each word into a visual image you can see,” added Mullen. “For anything you’re struggling to remember, turn it into a picture.” He said, “Your brain will hang on to it better!”
The word “cake” in Spanish is torta. To remember that, you could imagine feeding cake to a tortoise (for “torta”).
3. Attempt an Acrostic
You may not know the word “acrostic.” But you’ve likely used one before. An acrostic is a group of words in which certain letters stand for other words. For example, the first letter of each word in the sentence may represent another word.
You can remember the order of the planets with the acrostic My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles. The first letter of each word stands for the name of a planet: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
4. Use an Acronym
An acronym is a single word formed from other words. People often use acronyms when texting. You may use “BRB” for “be right back.” Acronyms are very valuable when you have to remember information.
You can remember the colors of the rainbow with the acronym ROY G. BIV. The letters stand for the different colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
5. Test Yourself
“The simplest technique for improving memory is testing yourself,” said Mullen. That is much more useful than “simply rereading something,” he explained. “Make an effort to close your eyes and bring the material to mind from memory.”
That technique is called retrieval practice. “It has been shown to improve long-term memory extremely well,” said Mullen. “So, next time you're studying, close the book and really try to bring it to mind from memory.”
Jonas von Essen is also a grandmaster of memory. He won the World Memory Championships in 2014. He told News-O-Matic what worked for him. “Come up with funny stories,” he said. “Use your imagination a lot!”
The memory master had one final tip. “Make sure that you always have FUN when you are learning,” von Essen explained. “That is the best way to remember things!”
Updated September 2, 2019, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Russell Kahn (Russ)