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Mnemonics for Better Memory By Dennis Congo

Mnemonics are memory devices that help learners recall larger pieces of information, especially in the form of lists like characteristics, steps, stages, parts, phases, etc. We knew back in 1967 from a study by Gerald R. Miller that mnemonics increased recall. He found that students who regularly used mnemonic devices increased test scores up to 77%!

Music Mnemonics

How many lyrics to songs do you remember? How did you come to remember them? The same method you used to recall song lyrics also can work just as well in academics. Music can used to help students recall important details to main ideas and many learners have made songs out of information when a list of items must be learned. Advertising on radio and TV uses music to help potential customers remember their products when shopping. With sufficient repetition of commercials, advertisers have discovered that when shoppers see their product in the stores that often the shopper will start reciting a oft repeated phrases from the commercial or start singing the lyrics to the promotion melody. The results has been increased sales of the product.

You can make a song or jingle using any type of music you choose for any list of items. Music Mnemonics work best with long lists. For example, some children learn the ABC’s by singing the “ABC” song. Other children learn all the states in alphabetical order using the “50 Nifty United States” song.

Name Mnemonics

In a Name Mnemonic, the 1st letter of each word in a list of items is used to make a name of a person or thing. Sometimes, the items can be rearranged to form a more recollectable name mnemonic. Examples:

ROY G. BIV = colors of the spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.)

Pvt. Tim Hall = Essential amino acids (Phenylanine, Valine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Isolucine, Histidine, Arginine, Leucine, Lysine.

Expression or Word Mnemonic

This is by far the most popularly used mnemonic. To make an Expression or Word mnemonic, the first letter of each item in a list is arranged to form a phrase or word. Examples:

For physical laws dealing with gasses, try these:

Charles’ Law: For a constant volume, pressure is directly proportional to temperature.

The simple way to remember Chuck is if the tank’s too hot, you’re blown into muck.

Henry’s Law: The solubility of a gas increases with pressure.

To remember good old Hank, remember the bubbles in the shaken Coke you drank.

Boyles’ Law: At constant temperature, pressure is inversely proportional to volume.

Boyle’s law is best of all because it presses gasses awfully small.

In English, the 7 coordinating conjunctions are For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So = FANBOYS.

The order of operations for math is Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, and Subtract = Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.

The categories in the classification of life are Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, Variety = Kings Play Cards On Fairly Good Soft Velvet.

For those who have to remember the order of color coding on electronic resistors: Black, Blue, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Brown, Violet, Gray, White, Silver, Gold.

Bad Boys Rile Our Young Girls, But Violet Gives Welts (to) Silly Guys


Bad Beer Rots Our Young Guts But Vodka Goes Well (in) Silver Goblets.

Almost every anatomy class has to remember the eight small bones in the wrist: Navicular, Lunate, Triquetrum, Pisiform, Multongular (Greater), Multongular (Lesser), Capitate, Hamate.

Never Lick Tilly’s Popsicle, Mother Might Come Home.

Create an Expression Mnemonic for remembering the order of the planets from the sun outward: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

Model Mnemonics

In a Model Mnemonic, some type of representation is constructed to help with understanding and recalling important information.

Examples include a circular sequence model, a pyramid model of stages, a pie chart, and a 5-box sequence. Models should be used in addition to words and lists because they make recall at test time much easier. With a large model such as the Krebs Cycle, it is easier to learn and remember if it is divided into quarters and learned one quarter at a time; hence, the cross hairs.

Ode or Rhyme Mnemonics

An Ode or Rhyme Mnemonic puts information in he form of a poem. Examples include:

A commonly used Rhyme Mnemonic for the number of days in each month is

30 days hath September, April, June, and November.

All the rest have 31

Except February my dear son.

It has 28 and that is fine

But in Leap Year it has 29.

You’d probably prefer your doctor to know the difference between cyanate and cyanide: Cyanate “I ate” and Cyanide “I died.” Cyanide is a little fatal.

Remember this one? In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

How is your spelling?

I before e except after c

or when sounding like a

in neighbor and weigh

Here is an easy way to remember the nerves: olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, acoustic, glassopharyngeal, vagus, spinal accessory and hypoglossal.

On Old Olympus’ Towering Tops, A Finn And German Viewed Some Hops

Image Mnemonics

The information in an Image Mnemonic is constructed in the form of a picture that promotes recall of information when you need it. The sillier the Image Mnemonic is, the easier it is to recall the related information. These images may be mental or sketched into text and lecture notes. Don’t worry about your artistic ability. As long as you know what your sketch means, Image Mnemonics will help you learn and remember. Examples:

You can use an Image Mnemonic to remember BAT (the depressant drugs mentioned above - Barbiturates, Alcohol, and Tranquilizers). Visualize or sketch in your notes a limp, depressed bat that took Barbiturates, Alcohol, and Tranquilizers.

Picture meeting someone new at a party named John Horsley. Use an Image Mnemonic to help you remember his name. Visualize a horse sitting on a john: not pretty but effective in recall. No example provided on this one.

What is a numismatist? Visualize a new mist rolling onto a beach from the ocean and beach is made of coins. Silly? Of course, but sillyography makes it is easier to remember that a numismatist is a coin collector.

How about using a bad joke to help you remember? Picture two numismatists having a drink for “old dime’s sake.” Corny? Yes, but cornography often makes things easier to remember.

Connection Mnemonics

In this type of mnemonic, the information to be remembered is connected to something already known. Examples include:

Remembering the direction of longitude and latitude is easier to do when you realize that lines on a globe that run North and South are long and that coincides with LONGitude. Another Connection Mnemonic points out that there is an N in LONGitude and an N in North. Latitude lines must run east to west, then because there is no N in latitude.