How to Improve Your Memory for IGCSE Success

“If I had a better memory, all this work would be no problem”. Does this thought sound familiar? Does it creep up on you before a test? Day to day in school? Many of us tell ourselves that we’ve just got a bad memory and that there’s nothing we can do about it, but more often than not what distinguishes ‘good memorisers’ from ‘bad memorisers’ isn’t so much their brain power, but the techniques that they use!                                                       

While there is of course more to the IGCSEs than just remembering facts and figures, being able to recall all these facts, formulas, words and ideas is a massive part of getting the top grade. It’s not enough to be able to understand something in class. Wherever stage you’re at in your IGCSEs, you’re going to have to remember all the things you’re learning when it comes to the final exams.                                                                 

You might think that this is what revision is for, and that revision still feels a long time away. But actually, there’s a lot that you could be doing to improve your memory right now. And given that some research suggests the adult attention span has got worse by roughly 12 minutes in the last decade, you might want to think twice before relying on the technology around you to get by! From techniques developed over the course of centuries to practical things you can do every day, here are my top tips for improving your memory.


Want even more top IGCSE tips? Click here to download our FREE IGCSE Study Skills guide!


Mnemonic Devices                                                                                

Mnemonics are techniques created to help us remember large chunks of information, and they use methods such as association, sense memory and reorganisation to give your brain shortcuts to what it needs to know. A study of mnemonic devices back in the 60s showed that students who regularly used these devices increased their test scores by up to 77%!

Examples include:

Acronyms and Acrostics: playing with the words and letters in the information you need to remember can be really effective in turning things that are hard to remember into something, well, memorable. These are especially useful for subjects with hard facts, like sciences. You can create your own or find ones already in use. e.g. “How I wish I could recollect pi” – count the number of letters in each word of that phrase to get the sequence of digits: 3.141592!                                                                   

Chunking: breaking down big pieces of information into smaller ‘chunks’ of information. We already do this to remember things like telephone numbers, when we’ll break down a list of 10 digits or more into a few smaller chunks of 3 or 4 numbers. So, instead of memorizing a long formula, break it down into smaller chunks and it will prove much easier.                                                               

Music mnemonics: how many song lyrics do you think you’re holding in your head right now? Did you sit down and learn them? We doubt it. Music, especially catchy melodies, does wonders for helping words stick in our brains. That’s why half the adverts on TV contain some sort of jingle, or set the brand name to music in some way. You don’t have to be a composer to make this technique work for you though, and you don’t even need to write a whole song (although if you want to, go for it!), but reciting information or words to a melody is a great way to make it stay in your head. Even if you’re not the most musically inclined person, you can take a famous song that you know and just replace the lyrics!

Don’t Repeat – Reorganise

Repetition is probably the most common method of revision and memorising information, but it’s actually one of the most inefficient methods. Most of us find it boring, and that is exactly because repetition alone involves only the most basic, surface level of the brain. Instead, find a way to reorganise the information, and connect it with what you already know – activate your brain. In fancy terms this is called ‘elaborative rehearsal’. So, next time you learn something new in class, don’t just copy down what the teacher is saying, rewrite it in your own words. Next time you are reading a big chunk of text, make notes in your own words in the margins. Think about how this information connects with what you’ve learnt before, and how it changes the information.

So there we have it, top advice about how to improve your memory! If you’re looking for more advice or IGCSE help, click here to find out about the other services we offer!

Want more IGCSE tips? Check out our recent blog!

Share article links