How to Memorize Paragraphs, Sentences, and Passages Fast

| Learning, Podcast

how to memorize paragraph feature imageWant to know how to memorize a paragraph fast? 

Tired of the standard advice about using linking and rote repetition? 

I hope so, because it’s bad advice.


Because linking and “chunking” are often more overwhelming than repeating sentences over and over again.

Well, you’re in luck. 

I’ve memorized many paragraphs and on this page will show you how to do it.

You’ll learn the technique progressively and exactly how the old memory masters used to memorize entire books.

Back then, they had to carry entire books in their heads. Books were rare and expensive back then. And they were too heavy to carry on their backs. That’s why they needed the techniques you’re about to learn. 

And those techniques still work today.

So let’s dive in. 

How To Memorize Sentences Fast

Before you can memorize an entire sentence, you need to be able to memorize words. 

The ancient memory master who wrote Rhetorica ad Herennium circa 90 BCE made this point very clear.

To paraphrase, the author says:

Those who wish to memorize more difficult things must first learn to memorize words. 

Learning how to memorize vocabulary is very good advice. It is the path to being able to memorize more than one word at a time.

So how do you do it? 

Develop skills with association. You need to be able to look at the letters that form a word and connect them to other words. 

Developing Associations Quickly

To do this quickly, you want to develop your skills by learning the pegword method

peg leaves

Let’s say the sentence you want to memorize is from Plato’s apology

Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you?

Later, you’ll be able to compress “Someone will say” into a single image. But for now, just focus on “Someone.”

If you have your tools ready, maybe a famous actress like Suzanne Somers has already come to mind. Maybe she has a sum of gold in her hand. She may even be under the summer sun. 

Use Dynamic And Gripping Associations

By making alphabetical-sound associations between like-sounding words that evoke dynamic images, it’s easy to make associations.

I highly recommend you develop parts of your pegword system based on celebrities so that these associations can be richly evocative. 

I sometimes refer to this as a “Celebrity List.” You can also build them from:

  • Politicians
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Teachers
  • Musicians
  • Artists
  • Authors

good will huntingThe point here is this:

It’s easier to imagine a familiar association doing something that triggers back the target words when you’re memorizing sentences.

For example, to add “will say,” you can have Suzanne Somers with a character from the movie Good Will Hunting, or Will Smith. She can be saying something to Will Smith, or even to Tom Sayers.

From there, move on to the next word. And as you go, I highly suggest you place these associations in a Memory Palace. That way they’re not floating in the void of your mind. It will also help with recalling the sentences word-for-word later. 

How To Memorize A Paragraph Quickly

First, count how many sentences you’re dealing with. Read it aloud and get a sense of its general tone. 

Notice any words that leap out at you or that you don’t understand. If you need to look something up, now is the time so that you’re not slowed down later.

This point is important: 

If you truly want the best way to memorize a paragraph, you need to remove all obstacles first.

(This also means that you’ll want to have at least one “Celebrity List.”)

Once you know how many sentences are in the paragraph, create or identify a Memory Palace. It should have enough space to accommodate the amount you need to memorize.

If you don’t know how to create a Memory Palace, register for this:

Magnetic Memory Method Free Memory Improvement Course

You want your Memory Palace design to have some structure based on the paragraph. 

how to memorize a paragraph in a memory palace visual example

For example, I prefer to mentally “paint” my sentences in rooms from top to bottom. In the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass, we call this the “Pillar Technique.” 

With this approach, I’ve been able to memorize up to 17 words on a single Pillar. 

Usually, you can get 4-8 sentences in a single room when you’re using the walls and the corners (8 Pillars per room). 

In the beginning, you might be be able to memorize only around 1-3 words per station. Don’t stress it: We all start somewhere.

how to memorize a sentence visual example

How To Memorize A Passage Fast

Let’s say that you’ve mastered paragraphs.

What about how to memorize a long passage? 

That’s exactly what I faced when I had to memorize and then deliver a speech at a TEDx event. 

The talk was 1506 words divided over 60 paragraphs!

Luckily, I had no problem memorizing it quickly with this as the result:

Now, there are different Memory Palace examples you can explore. In this case, I used an entire neighborhood. It started in a building, but then moved out over several streets. 

how to memorize a passage memory palace example

All you have to do is start preparing Memory Palaces like these in advance. With a general estimation, you should be able to accommodate any passage of any size in most neighborhoods.

And if you need more space, just add more buildings and neighborhoods. 

One of the benefits of using neighborhoods is that you can then walk “through” the passage you’ve memorized.

Walking was one of the tips my speaking mentor Thomas Krafft suggested for instilling how I memorized this long passage of text. 

I almost ignored the suggestion, but am glad I gave it a try. It’s not only good exercise, but does seem to deepen the associations and speed up the process.

Getting Sentences, Paragraphs And Passages Into Long Term Memory

So far we’ve talked about making associations. Memory scientists call this elaborative encoding.

However, to make the content we memorize stick, we also need active recall.

In brief, this means making the brain work a little to recall the associations and the target paragraphs. 

To do this, you simply call back to mind the Memory Palace, then the association, then the information.

With training, you’ll find that the paragraph comes back to your memory faster than either the Memory Palace or the associations. 

There are a few more ins-and-outs when it comes to using active recall for paragraph memorization. I call these my “repetition rules.”

Advanced: How to Memorize Numbered Paragraphs

Let’s say you not only want to memorize a paragraph. You also want to know exactly which sentence is 5th into the paragraph.

Or perhaps you need to know the Bekker numbers of a philosophical text. Scripture memorization often also involves memorizing numbered paragraphs.

In this case, you’ll want to employ an additional mnemonic device called the Major System. You use this to create a full 00-99 PAO. This means that you have an image for each number from 00-99.

That way, you can number every station in a Memory Palace in advance. Each station will have a pre-assigned association that you can trigger any time. 

numbered memory palace example using a 00 99 pao

Although ambitious, this advanced approach to memorizing paragraphs is tremendously useful.

For example, it can help you compare two passages in two different books. 

You Really Can Conquer Paragraphs

So long as you’re willing to set yourself up with the needed memory techniques, memorizing any paragraph will be a breeze.

Make sure that you go one step further, however. Effective learning is not just about regurgitating entire sentences, paragraphs or entire passages.

You also need to be able to understand the key points. 

And to do that, I suggest you:

  • Write your own summaries of the material
  • Mind mapping key ideas
  • Have discussions with others about the facts and concepts
  • Follow-up with more reading from multiple sources
  • Seek video and audio supplements to experience similar content in different media

If you’re memorizing the paragraphs for an exam, taking practice tests is highly recommended as well.

The more you include variety, the more opportunities for different levels of active recall you’ll get. And that means more memory benefits.

So what do you say?

Are you ready to get out there and start memorizing some paragraphs? If you have any questions, please just pop them below. I’ll get back to you a.s.a.p.

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