How to Memorize a Textbook: A 10-Step Cheatsheet

Post updated 12/30/19

How to Memorize a Textbook: A 10-Step CheatsheetPicture this:

Exams loom on the horizon and you’re staring at a stack of unread textbooks so large it would make any sane student shake in their boots.

Maybe you got behind in your reading over the course of the semester…

Or maybe your professor assigned additional reading you haven’t gotten around to yet…

Whatever the case, you have a ton of information to memorize before your exams roll around, and you’re feeling the pressure.

Well, guess what?

You are not alone! In fact, almost every student ends up feeling like this as the end of the semester approaches. And hardly a week goes by that I’m not asked about how to memorize a textbook and textbook memorization.

The good news is: memorizing a textbook is not as difficult as it may seem. 

At the end of the day, it’s not just about memorizing — that would be an utter waste of time!

Instead, the real goal is to understand the books you read. And more than just understanding the content, you want to use the textbooks you place in memory to create new knowledge.

In this post, you’ll learn how to:

  • Correctly set your expectations of what the book will contain
  • Understand why you need to read the book (or if you actually need to!)
  • Quickly determine how much of the book you really need to read
  • Make a dedicated Memory Palace system to memorize the parts you really need
  • Learn how to take notes from a textbook onto index cards or flashcards, and 
  • Determine how much time you’ll need to practice the information you’ve memorized

If you want to jump to a particular section, you can do that here:

How to Memorize a Textbook vs a Book
Do You Really Need to Memorize a Book Verbatim?
Set Yourself Up For Success
How to Memorize a Textbook (Realistically)

  1. Examine the book
  2. Make an equation
  3. Get index cards
  4. Find the big points and jot them down
  5. Make use of your Memory Palace
  6. Create crazy imagery to help you recall the info
  7. Stick each crazy image onto a Memory Palace station for recall
  8. Test yourself before the teacher does
  9. Let the info grow into knowledge
  10. Bonus! Save your knowledge for later

Example: How to Memorize Verbatim
Bonus Example: How to Memorize a Formula
How to Study a Textbook for Maximum Retention

Want this post in infographic form?

how to memorize a textbook infographic

You can download this infographic, just like Aldolfo:

Aldolfo Artigas printed AND laminated this “How to Memorize a Textbook” infographic and now his sons are using the technique too!

So are you ready to learn how to memorize a textbook, the right way?

Let’s get started.

The Question That Inspired This Post

So you may be wondering: Hey Anthony, if people have been asking you about this topic for so long, what finally made you decide to write about it?

how to study a textbook

Well, the truth is, I’ve written about textbook (and book) memorization before, just never in the context of memorizing an entire textbook. 

You can check out my post about how to memorize a chapter out of a textbook. And you might also be interested in another post I wrote, about how students with dyslexia can still ace their exams.

In the end, the reason is simple: I decided to write this post and record a podcast to help out one of my audience members.

Here’s what this struggling student wrote:

“Hi Anthony. I want to memorize some physics, chemistry, and math formulas, and also some texts that I have to memorize verbatim, but it needs a lot of Memory Palaces and too much time. Plus, I don’t know how to memorize formulas. 

For instance, memorizing sin(A+B)=AcosB+cos

Do I need just one Loci, and how do I memorize this? Of course, this is a very simple formula, but exams are coming! I need your help.”

Now that we know why this student needs help, let’s quickly talk about the differences between a textbook and other kinds of books.

How to Memorize a Textbook vs a Book

For the purposes of this post, we’ll use the words “book” and “textbook” interchangeably. 

When it comes right down to it, the only real difference is that someone has called a textbook a textbook. Other than that, they’re remarkably similar — pages stuck between two covers with a spine.

Very little else differentiates them, except for some signature that has been applied to them by the author or publisher. Mind you, textbooks often come out in multiple editions, and a quick win is to be aware of how recently the edition you’re reading appeared on the market. You can sometimes find a nearly identical (and much cheaper) version from the year before.

But overall, a book is a book, by any other name.

And whether it’s a book or a textbook (even boring books), the first question you should always ask is: do I actually have to memorize this entire textbook verbatim?

Do You Really Need to Memorize a Book Verbatim?

One of the things I always ask people when they come to me with this question is: why?

textbook reading strategies

Why do you need to memorize the textbook verbatim? Are you certain you need to memorize the whole thing – or even long passages – verbatim? What will memorizing the whole textbook get you?

If it’s just speed that you’re after, think again about how to study fast with this guide to high volume learning at speed.

There are certainly ways to memorize long passages of text word-for-word that are 100% effective. There are people who are known to have done it. 

But, if you don’t absolutely have to put in the time and effort to memorize verbatim, why would you?

Instead, what if you could learn something deeply enough to be able to discuss it, to connect it, and to frame it in a certain context?

Chances are, memorizing in this way will not only be easier, but also more effective. Memorizing verbatim is rarely necessary and the mind will fill in the blanks if you structure your approach correctly.

So in this post, what I really want to teach you is the power of memorizing select material from a textbook.

Your first step, as with any task that’s worth doing, is to lay a strong foundation.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Now, let’s be honest for a minute. If your exams are coming up tomorrow or the next day, this approach probably isn’t going to work for you.

best way to memorize a textbook

In an ideal situation, you would take the time to dig your wells before you’re thirsty. What that means in this context is that you want to know what Memory Palaces are, and have yours set up and comfortable before you start to study for your exams.

You could build a ladder to the moon with all the different memorization techniques out there, but I teach a very particular approach called the Magnetic Memory Method. You may have heard of it, especially if you’re a regular reader.

And because I teach this specific approach, I would recommend that you get yourself set up before crunch time — before exams are staring you down, making your palms sweaty and giving you nightmares!

My approach uses location-based memorization strategies, all based around Memory Palaces. You’ll need more than one Memory Palace, and you’ll need to do some self-exploration. But the good news is… it’s super simple to do, and the process is a lot of fun!

The first step in the process is to have a carefully defined Memory Palace.

Before you ever pick up a book, even if it’s scriptural, you’ll determine how much material you want to memorize from it. And then you’ll create a Memory Palace in advance so you can recall that information with ease when you need it.

But what if you’re new here, and you’ve never created a Memory Palace before? I’ve got you covered — grab my free 4-video memory course below, and the series will get you up to speed.

Magnetic Memory Method Free Memory Improvement Course

We’ll talk more about how to use your Memory Palaces later in this post. 

Second, you will get in the right mindset for studying.

Setting a good mental attitude is key, before you even pick up the book. This allows you to mentally take away the most essential information. 

And part of getting into the proper mindset has to do with relaxation. Before diving into any memory technique, I always take a moment to chill out and relax. Chillax, if you prefer. I do this by using traditional meditation techniques

Now, some people have a very specific vision of meditation and what it means, but for our purposes, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Meditation, in my mind, is as simple as sitting with your back and neck straight, imagining there’s a hook in the top of your head attached to a string that’s pulling you straight up. Then, you just sit there and breathe.

Some people believe that meditation is about emptying your mind — here are two of my favorite metaphors:

  1. You’re sitting on the bank of a river. Your thoughts are the river, and you just watch them go by. Then, any time you find yourself being sucked away by the river you just bring yourself back to the shore and watch the river again.
  2. Imagine an elephant that’s tied to a chain on the ground. The elephant – your mind – is romping around like crazy. You tie it to the ground with a stake, and then a couple of seconds later, you have to go get it and tie it down again. And with enough training, you can get the elephant to sit down and go to sleep.

That second metaphor – the mind as an elephant – is a bit more appropriate for memory techniques. 

Alan Watts said that meditation should have no goal whatsoever — it should be sitting just to sit. And in this Tim Ferriss podcast, Sam Harris says, “all you’re doing is paying exquisitely close and non-judgmental attention to whatever you’re experiencing.”

So even if you can’t get your metaphorical elephant to stop running off, still take a moment to sit and breathe. Take the time to chillax before you start memorizing.

This allows you to approach memorization with the right attitude: still, gentle, not fighting for or clamoring after anything. You’re just being… and absorbing information. You might even think about it like this: you are a being, and the information is also like a being. You get to absorb that other being into you, something you can bring into yourself!

And if meditation isn’t your thing, you can also do some progressive muscle relaxation exercises or pendulum breathing — this combines physical processes with a particular way of breathing. Or maybe you can listen to some music to get you ready to study.

Now that you’re relaxed and ready to become a metaphorical knowledge sponge, let’s break down the memorization process step by step.

How to Memorize a Textbook (Realistically)

When I was studying for my doctoral exams – and later for my dissertation defense – I needed to read a total of 500 books to be able to sit for the exams and write my dissertation.

500 books. No exaggeration and I’m not kidding. 

(In fact, if you read my post about how to memorize a chapter in a textbook, you’ll see photographic evidence of me carrying a stack of 20 or 30 of those books. I carried many, many piles like that from the library stacks to the private office I had access to in the Robarts Library in Toronto.)

how to memorize a textbook

The good news for you is that you get to learn from my extensive studying experience — how I operate when I’m conducting research or want to memorize the contents of a book. (You can also use this same method to memorize a novel, if you’re reading between the lines…)

Quick note: looking back at the question from our intrepid reader, you’ll notice that they use the word “loci”. I don’t use that word myself, because the Magnetic Memory Method is much more specific. 

There are operational factors in the 10-step method I teach that may not seem to involve memorization. But trust me, each step is essential to the Magnetic Memory Method of textbook memorization.

Remember: before you do anything else, have a carefully defined Memory Palace that involves a location you’re intimately familiar with. I usually chart out at least 10 – but sometimes up to 50 – stations. Sometimes I even use an entire room or spots within a room.

Let’s call that step zero: create your Memory Palace.

A Memory Palace is a mental construct, based on a real location. You use different spots inside the Memory Palace to store information along a very well-constructed journey. Those spots are called “stations” — an entire room is a macro station, and a spot within that room is a micro station (like a bed, desk, or chair). You can leave associative imagery in those locations, so you can then go back along the journey in your mental construct, decode the images, and recall the information you left there.

Now that you have step “zero” behind you, let’s dive in to the 10 steps to help you memorize a textbook.

1. Examine the book

Now we get to the good stuff! Take your textbook, and take a good look at it:

  • Look at the front cover. 
  • Look at the back cover. 
  • Look over the introduction.
  • Read the conclusion, and
  • Be sure to scan through the index, if your book has one. 

And read the colophon page — that’s the place where they include information about the book’s publication, like the place of publication, the publisher, and the publication date. If you didn’t know what a colophon page is, look it up. It’s fascinating. I also find the table of contents of a book to be very interesting.

These parts of the book are what Gerard Genette called the “paratext.” This means the text beside the text. This step takes about five minutes and effectively trains your brain to understand the scope and the dimension of the book with respect to the topic.

Not included in that five-minute estimate is the time it takes to read the conclusion, which could be a much longer process. So why should you take the extra time to read the conclusion?

Partially, so you can judge whether or not the author’s conclusion about their subject was profound enough to warrant reading the book in the first place! Sometimes when you read a conclusion, you’ll realize that the author hasn’t arrived at any conclusion that makes it worth reading the process or the argument that substantiates what the author concluded.

Okay. So maybe that’s a little judgmental. It’s certainly not a foolproof way to decide what to read. But, when you have 500 books on your plate it’s worth taking the time to determine whether or not the book warrants all that reading. You only have so many hours before your exam, after all.

The conclusion (and introduction) will also give you clues as to where the information is in the book — or at least the important information. And this location data is often included in the context of the concluding remarks, which can be quite helpful.

For example, the author might say, “In chapter one I do this, in chapter two I talk about this, and in chapter three I cover that.”

Next, you’ll make some foundational decisions.

2. Make an equation

When I take a look at a textbook, I decide in advance how many pieces of information I want to retain from it.

how to take notes from a textbook

This is what the Magnetic Memory Method calls the “principle of predetermination.” It’s not an arbitrary or random decision. Instead, you will consider the length of the book and the purpose of your studying. Is this for an oral exam or an essay?

Using this method creates an understanding of what your goal is, and what the outcome would be. It creates a border or frame of sorts, to keep you focused

Usually, 3 to 5 pieces of information per chapter is enough. And for today’s post, we’ll use 3 pieces of information per chapter as our number.

Before we move along to the next step, let’s examine two reasons why choosing a specific number is important.

  1. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

It might sound a bit cliché, but it’s true — especially when it comes to structured reading. When you’re reading for a particular purpose, then it’s vital to plan how you’re going to read. Books are filled with details, pages full of information, and you can easily become overwhelmed if you don’t plan appropriately.

  1. You can avoid getting overwhelmed

When you predetermine how to approach a book and structure your reading process, you prevent overwhelm. You end up denying it from existing in the first place, because you know you are only going to memorize three pieces of information from each chapter.

Of course, you can always add information later if necessary, but containing and maintaining the information before you even get to it is a good strategy.

Plus, less is always more. Focusing on just a few key points will allow a lot of the surrounding information to stick to your specifically memorized points. Go ahead and try it!

Next, you’ll take out a stack of index cards and start organizing.

3. Get index cards

For regular readers here at Magnetic Memory Method, you might want to sit down for what I’m about to say.

I know that I’m usually scowling and calling for the death of index cards… but in this case, they have a different value, other than rote learning. (As you may or may not know yet, rote learning is a no-no in the Magnetic Memory Method.)

Example Index card with notes from completing a memory course

However! When we’re talking about how to memorize a textbook, we do have a certain mania for index cards. In fact, it’s part of what I call “Magnetic Bibliomancy.”

To join in the fun, grab an index card and let’s get started. 

First, write down the name of the author, the title of the book, and the bibliographic information. 

Please note: there is certain bibliographical (or paratextual) information that doesn’t need to take up space in your Memory Palace. And if you regularly use memory techniques, you’ll find yourself absorbing that information anyway. But I don’t tend to offer Memory Palace space to it, since index cards are something you can hold onto.

Now you’ll have one index card that has all the bibliographic information of the book. Number this card in the top left corner — number 1. (I always label my index cards in the top left corner.)

Next, you’ll begin to fill out your other index cards.

4. Find the big points and jot them down

Now that you’re all organized and have your plan, it’s time to get down to business. 

best way to memorize large amounts of text

Because you read the introduction, paratextual materials, and the conclusion, you should already have an idea which chapters you want to read first. You don’t have to start with the first chapter! There’s a high likelihood that your mind already decided how to prioritize your reading efforts.

Remember, for the purposes of this blog post, we’re looking for three primary pieces of information out of each chapter. So, there are 3 pieces of information you’re going to walk away with from whichever chapter you read first. 

You have your index cards ready to go, and you’re ready to start writing down the key pieces of information on each card, numbering them the same way (in the top left corner).

You will want to have some sort of indication on each card about where you are in the book. This has to do with what I call the “ownership mindset” for textbook memorization. You’ve already adopted the attitude that you’re going to succeed. You literally want to feel like you own the key information in your textbook.

One way you can take on this mindset is to pretend you’re a talk show host on a popular show or podcast, and later this evening you get to interview the author of the textbook. Millions of people will be watching or listening, so you really need to know your stuff. And you need to be able to read the book fast.

When you use this mindset, it allows you to ask questions while you’re reading. You get really curious about the topic, and instead of passively reading you end up engaging with the text. There’s pressure: time pressure, the fact that you’re going to interview the author. You could even imagine that the author is sitting there with you as you read, and pretend like you can read their mind about the answers to your questions.

Studying is a numbers game. I’ve touched on this, but I want you to categorize everything using a kind of numbers game. So when you come across a gem of a detail, write it down on your index card along with the page number where you found the information, and sometimes the chapter name or number. 

This kind of information always goes in the bottom right corner. And if you have secondary ideas, you can use the back of the index card to jot them down. I always do this regardless of whether I’ve copied down a quote from a book or just a note or observation. 

Here’s why I diligently complete this step: if I ever need the information again, I’ll know where to find it. 

At this point, you’re not doing any kind of memorizing whatsoever. Instead, you’re:

  • Familiarizing yourself with the material, 
  • Connecting details with already-known information, 
  • Learning new information, and
  • Gathering new facts and details. 

That’s it — but memorization is not ready yet. You aren’t memorizing the book as you go along, but rather focusing on the book and marinating yourself in it.

Next, you’ll take the information from your index cards and transfer it into your Memory Palace.

5. Make use of your Memory Palace

Once you’ve finished reading the book and filling out your index cards, it’s time to place the information into the correct spot in your Memory Palace.

Let’s pretend for a moment that our example textbook had ten chapters. Since we wrote down three pieces of information per chapter, we now have 30 index cards. And because we prepared our Memory Palace ahead of time, we have 30 stations ready to go.

Now it’s time to memorize, magnetically.

In the next step, you’ll make your information visually appealing.

6. Create crazy imagery to help you recall the info

Take each index card and think of an image that relates to the information on your card. Make the images bright, zany, and exploding with action.

how do you memorize textbooks?

I’ll walk you through a few examples so you can see this step in action.

Example 1: Imagery based on the author’s appearance

Let’s take Gerard Genette, the author of Paratext, as an example. If I wanted to memorize material from the book Paratext, I would use Gerard as a lexical bridge or Magnetic Bridging Figure, helping me move from station to station.

Genette reminds me of Gillette razor blades. Not exactly a one-to-one correlation, but I can nonetheless see him shaving in that first room, if I needed to memorize that he was the author of Paratext. He would be shaving away a beard with wild ends growing out of his face. For the context of “Paratext” I could picture a pear bouncing up and down on a textbook, or a can or Para Paint splashing over a book.

Example 2: Imagery based on concepts from the index card

In this example, index card 2 says, “A text does not exist outside of the text itself.”

It may sound pretty obvious, but we don’t often think about the fact that until someone comes along and reads the book, it essentially doesn’t do anything. There are millions of books standing unread on bookshelves around the world that only exist when someone is reading them or talking about them. 

So our minds are kind of texts, and when we read, the two texts intermingle. The second station will feature the book Paratext itself, and words are trying to escape from the pages. And poor Genette is standing there, trying to beat the words back in — because according to him there is no text outside the text itself.

Example 3: Imagery of the author throughout the Memory Palace

To get some of the other concepts in Genette’s thinking, I might see him giving up the battle and then opening up a lid in his head, which is also filled with words. I could use Genette for each and every station, doing something related to the key phrase on the index card.

I’ve done this with Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. I’ve done it with Plato’s The Republic. I’ve done it with novels. Done it with all kinds of things. Once you get used to it, it’s very easy. 

And when using this approach for Ulysses by James Joyce it’s very easy to see Joyce moving through my Memory Palace, not through Dublin, as he does in the novel.

If I knew Dublin, then I might be able to use Dublin, but I don’t. So I was able to use a Memory Palace based on a familiar location and I see Joyce going from place to place so I can remember the different things that are happening in the plot in order to recall them later.

Now you’ve seen three different examples of how you might use wildly exaggerated information to help you populate your Memory Palace stations. Remember, these images should always be big, bright, colorful, and filled with lots of action.

Next, you’ll assign each crazy image to its own station.

7. Stick each crazy image onto a Memory Palace station for recall

This step is the most straightforward of the ten.

You will begin with card number 1, and memorize the biographical information at station number one in the Memory Palace. Then continue on with index card two and station two, index card three and station three… you get the idea.

If you already know the author and title by heart, you might not need to use that first station for biographical information. Use your judgment, so you don’t waste valuable memory real estate.

Since it only takes a second or two to create a really action-packed image for each station, be sure to take the time to really see them in your mind’s eye.

Next, you’ll test your recall.

8. Test yourself before the teacher does

This is the step many people won’t take: practice recalling the info by going from station to station.

memory palace study techniques

After you’ve gone through and used your Memory Palace to put every bit of information on those 30 cards into the proper station, you can make sure the information sticks. Pretend like you’re testing yourself in a real test situation.

Take the details, facts, concepts, and plot points that you memorized, and write a summary from memory. Your index cards should be somewhere else during this exercise — in a box, on a shelf, or somewhere else you can’t cheat. And you can’t look back and forth the whole time to make sure you get things right as you go along. 

Then, check your summary against the index cards. Did you remember all the points from your cards? Did you remember things in the correct order?

Finally, it’s time to let the information grow into something bigger.

9. Let the info grow into knowledge

One of the most important stages of this process is to turn the information you memorized into knowledge that you can use over and over — not just for this single test or exam.

This is one place where the related information that wasn’t on your index cards will come out to shine, as well. You get to see which pieces of information are “magnetic” and stick to your brain. And you can start to apply the things you learned in other situations, perhaps even bringing some of the information into everyday conversations.

Plus, once you make the switch from information and data points into knowledge, you’re much more likely to pass every exam with flying colors!

And speaking of transforming information into knowledge, you can also pull that knowledge out of your brain banks down the line. Let’s take a look at the 10th and final (bonus) step in your memorization process.

10. Bonus! Save your knowledge for later

When you’re done with your index cards, don’t throw them away!

reuse your memory palace

Once you don’t need the information for your exam anymore, you also don’t need to hold the information in your Memory Palace. You can empty out and reuse your Memory Palace for something else, and let the index cards hold the information for a rainy day.

For example, let’s say you memorized the James Joyce novel Ulysses for a literature class. Once you took your exam, you didn’t need the information rattling around in your brain, so you put the index cards in a box and shelved them away for later.

Five years later, you’re asked to give a talk about the novel. You can simply find the box with your index cards, reconstruct your Memory Palace, and save time in putting together and memorizing your talk. 

There’s a high likelihood some of the information will still be in your brain, tucked away in a corner somewhere. And maybe it’s there in the form of paleness, or there are some ghosts or fossils of other information you’ve stored in the Memory Palace since then. But anything that’s still in your memory will become doubly magnetic after working with it again.

One of my university supervisors required me to submit summaries to prove I was reading the books on my reading list. This is what got me into the habit of writing out summaries, and I learned very quickly that writing summaries out of Memory Palaces was just golden. This is material that – if you use it – will change your ability to study and your understanding of how to take notes from a textbook.

You can also use your summaries again later. Save them, and you might find a way to use them for essays, pieces of a publication, or even a Ph.D. dissertation. By using your recall abilities, you’re becoming an expert on your subject matter. 

You put stuff in your mind, filter it, and then reproduce it — all without the benefit of looking back and forth at your textbooks or index cards. And through the process, you become a master of information.

Now, I know I said you may not need to memorize your textbooks verbatim, but what about the situations where you do actually need to remember things word-for-word? Before we wrap up, let’s take a look at a couple of examples of how to do just that.

Example: How to Memorize Verbatim

We’ll use the first line of Homer’s epic poem The Iliad for this example.

Now imagine this — I used to work (more like play) at Hadey Windey’s school in Burnaby, Vancouver. It was called ELIT or English Language Intensive Training.

She’s got a vibrant, brilliant set of students who come to this after-school program for extra training so they can be superstar students, and I was able to develop a lot of teaching around memory skills for them. I also taught the students other things like interpretative abilities and essay writing skills, all of which are connected to memory. 

And I also was able to build, from this place, an amazing Memory Palace. I never really thought of using it as a Memory Palace until I was training Hadey in using mnemonic techniques and Memory Palaces, and she really didn’t believe it was possible. 

I just happened to have an old translation of The Iliad in my iPhone as we were sitting in a park. And I was explaining Memory Palaces to her, and drawing a map of ELIT, showing her how she could use a Memory Palace based on the school.

memory palace based on location

I said, “Here’s the kitchen, and the office that I have, and here is classroom number 3, and the computer room,” and other things, and I showed how you could make a linear mental journey through this area. Starting in the kitchen, I said, “Imagine I’m limping, and I kick a pail from the kitchen to the door where the Statue of Liberty is standing. In response, she digs with her shovel into the ground and throws the dirt at my office door where I’m standing, writing numbers, and then rubbing the numbers away while I’m coughing.”

Well, the first thing I want to point out is that all of these images are laid out along a journey. It starts in the kitchen and then goes to the door of the kitchen. Then an action goes through the hallway to the door of my office. And other parts carry on through classroom number 3 and the computer lab and so forth. But I’m limping, which reminds me of Achilles, because of Achilles’ heel. I kick a pail. Moving on to the pail, Achilles’ father is Peleus. Now, I don’t need to have the whole Peleus, just pail is enough to remind me of Peleus.

So, “Of Peleus’ son, Achilles,” the pail is now kicked at the Statue of Liberty. “Sing, O Muse.” Now that’s personal to me. The Statue of Liberty means muse to me. It’s just because it’s a woman in a gown, I guess — it works for me. 

The hardest thing to teach about Memory Palaces and associative imagery is that you need to use what works for you. You need to draw from your own personal pool of images based on other things that you know. You’re creating associations. So it might not make sense to you, but, to me, it makes a great deal of sense. 

“Of Peleus’ son, Achilles, sing, O Muse.” Me, limping, kicking a pail at the Statue of Liberty, that brings back “Of Peleus’ son, Achilles, sing, O Muse. The vengeance, deep and deadly” which is the next line — so the Statue of Liberty is really angry about this, but instead of attacking back at me, she digs into the earth with vengeance — “The vengeance, deep and deadly; whence to Greece unnumbered ills arose.” 

So she’s throwing this dirt at my office door, and I didn’t really need to think about the fact that it was taking place in Greece. Any time that you don’t need to memorize something, don’t worry about putting it in the verbatim, because verbatim is a weird thing. Basically, if you don’t need it and it comes back naturally, don’t create an image for it.

So, “Whence to Greece unnumbered ills arose,” well, what am I doing as this dirt comes at me? I’m writing numbers, and then I’m wiping them away. Unnumbered. And I’m coughing, I’m sick — ills. “Whence to Greece unnumbered ills arose.”

That’s a very simple example. I created a vignette since it’s not really a single image or a set of images. And I did this on and on and on for as much of The Iliad as I wanted to memorize to create this example for Hadey. And she was blown away.

After that, she came back two days later and had memorized 100 words of English vocabulary. (English is not her first language.) She was really skeptical at first, but that’s how I finally convinced her to give this a try. Now she’s part of Toastmasters, and she’s giving speeches left, right, and center, right from her mind, directly from using the Magnetic Memory Method.

Now, it’s important to remember that this example was how to memorize a poem verbatim, and you may not need to memorize your entire textbook word-for-word.

And in additional good news, you can use this method for anything you want to remember — it doesn’t matter whether it’s a formula, poetry, a quote, phrase in a foreign language, or a textbook. 

Memorization is memorization, when you get right down to it.

The reality is that you can take a spoon or a bucket — the ocean of information doesn’t care. The memory techniques and your brain treat all information equally well. It’s only the ego that sees a difference, and lack of preparation with the memory tools makes it more difficult. 

And finally, since our intrepid reader asked specifically about how to memorize a formula, I’m adding a bonus example to help anyone who needs to memorize them.

Bonus Example: How to Memorize a Formula

Let’s also break down an example of how verbatim memorization works when you need to remember a formula. We’ll use the example our reader asked about:

sin(A+B)=AcosB+cos

how to memorize a formula

As always, we want to start with a well-formed Memory Palace first. 

I think of my friend Shannon because her name starts with ‘S’. I was only in her apartment once to watch a James Bond movie, but that’s all I need to get a good Memory Palace rolling. 

Next, I start creating Magnetic Imagery to encode the first part of the formula. Since the devil is the boss of “sin,” I put him on Shannon’s couch (a micro-station). To memorize the character “(“ I make it a bulldozer. It drives over an Apple computer, which draws upon another technique entirely, called the pegword method.

From this A for Apple computer, an arm emerges and tosses a crucifix at Batman. Why? Because a crucifix is a good memory tool for remember, and Batman helps me remember “b.” 

Now all I have to do is have Batman raise his shield — thus closing this part of the formula with the “)” symbol. But this shield is special because it has two guns to represent the = sign. Then Al Pacino “accosts” Batman throwing a crucifix at Cookie monster wearing Batman “cosplay.”

I know that this process might sound like a lot if you’re a beginner, but you’ll pick it up quickly. And you should — it’s powerful!

So there you have it. Your 10-step cheat sheet for how to memorize a textbook or formula… or any other book you want to remember.

How to Study a Textbook for Maximum Retention

Remember that scenario at the beginning of the post? The one where exams were on the horizon, and you were feeling woefully unprepared?

Now you know how to determine how much reading you actually need to do, how much memorization is on your plate, and the best way to memorize your textbooks so you retain as much information as possible.

Most importantly, you understand that memorizing a textbook isn’t as hard as it might seem!

You’re on the right track to ace your exams and create a whole new set of knowledge that you can use now and into the future.

And if you feel like you could use a little bit more of a memory boost before your exams, check out my free memory improvement kit.

 

Supplementary Viewing

94 Responses to " How to Memorize a Textbook: A 10-Step Cheatsheet "

  1. Jeremy says:

    For my Human Anatomy class I need to learn Action, Innervation, Origin, and Insertion, of many muscles in extreme detail. Is their a way that I could be more effective in memorizing things like that?
    Thanks!

    • Thanks for the comment, Jeremy.

      There certainly are ways to be much more effective in memorizing this kind of information. I suggest that you watch the free videos you can access by scrolling up to the top of the page and registering. They will give you a great headstart. 🙂

  2. sharukh says:

    Post on how to learn a programming language especially c++

  3. Joshua says:

    I’m learning German and i was wondering what words should I try and include in my memory palace that are important? Thanks in advance

  4. tahmid says:

    How can I memorize chemical reaction, value, symbol of molecule?

    • Thanks for this question, Tahmid.

      One of the best things to do first is learn the Major Method.

      Once you’ve got that covered, you can use the visualization aspects of mnemonic memory techniques to create associations between any numbers and symbols that you wish. Give the Major Method a try and feel free to post a specific example here so I can help you further if you wish. 🙂

  5. A guy who saw this thingy says:

    Hello,

    I’m trying to memorize a whole textbook for my exam and this method seems that it uses plenty of time and my exam is just in the corner. So, is there any faster way to memorize a textbook? Thanks for reading.

    • I think that speed needs to be measured against quality. Memory techniques are very fast, but as I suggest in How to Memorize a Textbook, the trick is in being able to identify the key parts of the textbook so that you’re memorizing the right information. That’s ultimately what makes the memorization process even faster. And that ability to identify the information you need will speed up the learning process even if you’re not using memory techniques.

      Though why anyone would want to go without memory techniques in their learning arsenal is beyond me. 😉

  6. parthiban says:

    How to memorize a law book

    • Thanks for stopping by, Parthiban. In addition to reading this post, listening to the podcast and identifying the key parts of the law book you truly need to memorize, you should probably learn how to memorize texts verbatim.

      Do you know how to build a Memory Palace? If so, verbatim memorization requires only that you create images that help you recall each word of a line of text. The trick is in compressing images in such a way that you don’t need a single image per word.

      For example, when I memorized some lines from the Iliad, I saw only Brad Pitt kicking a pail at the Statue of Liberty. She then threw dirt at me where I was standing at a door wiping numbers off a chalkboard. That simple flow of imagery along 5 stations in a Memory Palace brings back the lines:

      Of Peleus’ son Achiles
      Sing O Muse the vengeance
      Deep and deadly
      Whence to Greece unnumbered ills arose

      The only problem with this method – though it likely won’t be a problem with memorizing legal definitions – is that I’m not entire sure where the proper line breaks are.

      That said, memorizing poetry is fantastic practice for memorizing legal definitions and I highly recommend it for getting good at memorizing other kinds of information too. 🙂

  7. kumar navin says:

    I have study biological.disease and their symptoms their cure also. Pls help me

  8. Caleb says:

    Hello! Thank you for your post! How can I apply the method to the reactions of the organic chemistry lab? I enter the building because the image that evokes the essence, and then I can not continue with the sequence. Suggestions? Thank you!

  9. Sumit Kumar says:

    I have to memorise a book related to polity of my country.hence i have to memorise 300-400 articles of my country’s constitution.furthermore the whole book is 500-600 pages thick,with 45 chapters.can u please advice me some steps on how to memorise this book.thanx

    • Thanks for your question, Sumit.

      As I suggest in the podcast and infographic above, the first step is to extract all the information you need to memorize. Then order the information and memorize it using Memory Palaces and the other good tools of mnemonics.

      Following that, proper Recall Rehearsal is the best means of effectively getting the information into long term memory. I also recommend writing out the material you’ve memorized either in lists or, better, in descriptive paragraphs. That will help you use the info in meaningful ways, rather than just as isolated bits of info.

      The most important thing is to experiment and explore the techniques. You’ll learn them at the highest level by using them.

      Hope this helps!

  10. LawG says:

    How do I memorize my law school textbooks? It’s a tad dry and uninteresting info I need to take in, for example laws, years, facts?

    • Great question. Please use the infographic and the audio above to guide your activities. It will help you a lot.

      For memorize years, you should learn the Major Method (sometimes called the Major System).

      In terms of making things that appear dry interesting to your mind, one major step is to stop thinking of the information in that way. All information is, at some level, equal: it’s just units of info. It only becomes bad, dry or boring when we concentrate on it for being so.

      However, if we link a positive feeling to the info, then we can “trick” ourselves into believing that it is the most interesting information in the world.

      Also, you might like to understand the role of motivation in learning. Camilla Hallstrom has an excellent post about memory and motivation when learning here on the site. Give it a read, listen to the podcast she created to go with the post, leave a comment on that page and most importantly, take action.

      It would be awesome too if you’d send along a picture of the Memory Palaces you create. That would be great to see and make it possible to give you any guidance on Memory Palace construction if you need it.

      Thanks again for your post. Look forward to hearing from you again. 🙂

  11. muhammad says:

    How can I memorize the whole poetry of English Literature?

    • Great question, Muhammad.

      The first thing would be to identify more specifically what you mean by “English Literature.” For example, would you start with The Canterbury Tales or something like Beowulf? Or are you thinking of just one form of poetry, more like sonnets or other shorter forms of poetry.

      Once you’ve made this decision and perhaps gotten one of the Norton poetry anthologies, you can start creating Memory Palaces using the Magnetic Memory Method Free Memory Improvement Kit. Then pick just one of the poems and use the tools of mnemonics to memorize the lines.

      After that, everything boils down to practicing Recall Rehearsal, something that you’ll also learn from the Memory Improvement Kit.

      Have fun and keep me posted on how it goes! 🙂

  12. parvin says:

    Hello sir,

    I want to memorize events, battles, music, culture, and Indian history which is as you know is very large. Can you please suggest me a very efficient way of doing it?

    • Thanks kindly for your question, Parvin.

      I believe the best thing is to pick one of these topics first. Create a Memory Palace using the technique described above on the infographic and in the audio. Then start memorizing the key info you would like to have in your memory.

      Once you’ve established that, move on to the next topic in a new Memory Palace. And if you’d like to send a scan or pic of the Memory Palace you’ve created after taking the free video course on this site, that would be great! 🙂

  13. LoveisH says:

    Hello,

    I’m taking the law school entrance exam next year and it’s very difficult. I need to learn 600-900 pages nearly by heart in 3 months, so it’s a lot of work. Do you have any advice how to approach my problem?

    I was thinking the following:

    – Building many memory palaces and making sure I have close to 1000 locis prepared before the law books are published.
    – Learn to use a number method for 00-99 numbers (Association system or major system).
    – Use ANKI or Quizlet for active learning. My idea is to turn the key points/concepts/definitions into questions and just use the programs to recall the information. It’s a lot of work, but it should be more useful than passive learning.
    – Make my own questions and try to answer them in essay form.

    I would like to hear your input on this

    • Thanks for posting your questions. They are very good and demonstrate solid thinking on your part.

      The first question is:

      Do you really have to memorize that many pages verbatim? As I suggest in this podcast episode, you will most certainly be better served by extracting the core information and working with that rather than so much material that you’ll need to scan word for word just to get at keywords and core terms.

      1000 stations in Memory Palaces will be a breeze. I would recommend doing this anyway as good memory practice and preparation. The more Memory Palaces you create, the better you will get at the art of using them.

      A number memory method is also always a good idea. I use the Major Method. There are many approaches, but the most important thing is having one so that you’re prepped when you need it.

      I’m not a fan of rote repetition in any shape or form, but if you want to invest time in setting up things like Anki, by all means. I think your time is better used mastering Memory Palaces, however. Once that’s rolling, you’re golden. At the very least, amplify any SRS activity with mnemonics so that you’re decoding the information from memory, not hammering it into your mind with the hammer of rote learning.

      Making your own Q&A lists is a great idea. You can also often find sample exams from previous years to work with. I used to write a lot of chapter, article and books summaries as well. That’s a very good technique for getting information into memory. It also serves to give you material to draw upon later for essays and articles that you want to write.

      I hope this helps and thanks again for your amazing questions. I look forward to hearing how you proceed and learning about your results! 🙂

  14. Cal says:

    How do I memorize the enormous amount of info that I am required to know in med school? I haven’t visited enough places to use as memory palaces, I’m anxious about running out of places which has hindered me from using this technique.

    • Thanks for sharing this comment about your anxiety, Cal. You’re not alone because a lot of people get hung up on the multiple Memory Palace issue.

      Here’s the thing:

      Don’t get hung up on it. Just start with one Memory Palace. You’ll feel its power and that will motivate you to find more. When you take the free video course on this site, you get Worksheets that walk you through multiple Memory Palace creation and there’s also the How To Find Memory Palaces episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast.

      Most people also benefit from some form of meditation to relax themselves. Here’s how to do it Buddha-style with some discussion of the science behind why meditation helps improve your memory.

      I hope this helps and in the meantime, really appreciate that you took a moment to comment. Please let me know if you have more specific questions once you’re on the road. I might have more resources for you. 🙂

  15. Nazirs says:

    Hello sir,
    I have been experimenting with memory palaces recently. I have a lot of information to memorize so I don’t have time to associate images repeatedly. What seems to be my problem is when I attempt to recall, imgaes get mixed up due to their similarity and also few images dissapear. When I walk through the place I can’t seem to remember what I put there. And also during the period of extreme pressure to recall the information like the examination itself, I fail to get any image at all in many locations. Is there a way to make everything stick first time I put it? And tell me if perfect recall is possible.

    • Thanks for these great questions, Nazirs.

      First up, yes perfect recall is possible, but a lot depends on what you mean and the context. People can memorize a deck of cards in under a minute, or in the case of Alex Mullen, under 20 seconds. That’s with perfect recall within a few minutes of doing the memorization.

      But whether or not he can recall that order a day later, a week later, a month later or a year later … that is also possible relative to the use of the same memory techniques being used to install that information into long term memory. For a long time I had a deck of cards in memory for use in magic tricks, and during that time I had perfect recall. But now, not having used that order for years, I can only vaguely name the first few cards and some of the cards at the end (and that’s all in keeping with what we know about the recency and primacy effect in memory).

      In terms of getting better at recalling the images you’ve created, there are a few things.

      First, you need to make sure that you’re making them striking enough. This episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast called “Mindshock” will help you with that.

      Second is living the art of memory. Mnemonics and the 7 Eternal Laws of Memory Improvement will help you with that.

      Thanks again very kindly for your excellent questions. Please do follow-up with these additional resources and just keep practicing. You’re on the path and so long as you keep traveling, you will get the results you seek. They’re just around the corner. 🙂

  16. hamed says:

    I have one question:

    If I remember a book using a Memory Palace and then it
    goes to my long term memory, then for recalling the book,
    must refer to that Memory Palace or is it already in my memory
    and using my mind palace is not necessary anymore?

    Thanks a lot

    • Thanks for this great question, Hamed.

      The answer is that once you’ve got information into long term memory, you know longer need the Memory Palace (or Mind Palace). You can reuse the Memory Palace or retire it.

      Of course, many people who use memory techniques prefer to keep each Memory Palace rather than reuse it. There are many reasons for doing this, one of which is that you can go back and add new knowledge later. Memory works based on association, so when you’ve invested the time to memorize something, you have created a memory asset. Why not go back and develop it later?

      I noticed that you use both “Memory Palace” and “Mind Palace.” Which term do you ultimately prefer?

      Thanks for taking the time to post your question. I look forward to your next post! 🙂

  17. Bayaw says:

    Hello sir, How can i memorize terminology for example the word fork, but then i need to memorize the meaning of fork. Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Thanks for this, Bayaw.

      I would not necessarily qualify “fork” as terminology. Rather, it is a normal vocabulary term.

      The basics of the Magnetic Memory Method call for your to assign associative-imagery related to your mother tongue to a Memory Palace station in a way that lets you recall the sound and meaning of the word in the same stroke. Have you take then the free video course available here on the site and given the techniques a try? 🙂

  18. Siddharth Bector says:

    Hello Dr. Metivier,

    I was curious to know how often I should rehearse my memory palaces when studying.

    Regards,
    Siddharth

  19. sarah says:

    i m a medical student and its bit difficult for me to memorize to learn all things . and another thing that i cant focus on one thing for example i m in a lectures hall teacher is delievering lecture i cantt concentrate and i cant focus . can u help me

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your note. Many medical students struggle with the vast amounts of information they need to remember, so you’re not alone.

      I’d love for you to watch the Joe Riffe video on the Magnetic Memory Method testimonials page.

      Then, start with the free video course. (Just register for it up at the top of this page).

      It’s the best way to learn the fundamentals.

      Then use and practice the fundamentals with the information you need to study.

      If you enjoy them, you’ll get very good with these techniques very fast. 🙂

  20. rahul says:

    Hi,
    ive been using memory palace but one query.. how to put time(day/ni, dates) as loci.

  21. Sarah says:

    Hi sir I have a biology exam in a month and I’m finding it really hard to take in information from the book

  22. Courtney Lo says:

    Are there any tips that you yourself have used in memorizing a government textbook?

    • Thanks for this, Courtney.

      I do not believe that anything in particular about a government textbook would require additional features, except perhaps the Major Method for number memorization.

      If you need specific help by way of mnemonic examples, I suggest that you join the Masterclass and register for the next Implementation Bootcamp. That way you can join us and get some help with memorizing your examples live. You can also apply to have some of your material featured in a tailor-made FAQ video if the answer isn’t already in the Masterclass.

      Hope to see you inside someday soon!

  23. Animesh says:

    Thanks alot man…..??

  24. dheeraj says:

    I want to break a national record by memory.

    Do you have more suggestions for me?

  25. Peggy Darling says:

    Was reminded of Oral exams for my Master’s Degree at University of Vermont, about 40 years ago. I was a nontypical student, being married with 2 children already. The exams took place less than a week before Christmas. I was so nervous, because really, the main thing on my mind was my kids’ wish list fulfillment and the grocery list to host a 16 person turkey feast. I arrived to see the Faculty engaged in a holiday party. The 5 professors on my assessment panel were in a really good mood, and I was worried for nothing!

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Peggy. Exams just before Christmas must be extra nerve-wracking indeed.

      But very good that your professors were feeling good. It’s always nice when they are supportive. Mine were like that for my first and second MA as well as my first field exam. It was only when I hit the second field exam and the dissertation defense that some people piled on the heat.

      Thanks to the Magnetic Memory Method and ample meditation, none of them rocked the boat.

      Thanks again for the comment and look forward to the next one!

  26. Zaid says:

    Sir how can i memorize mindmaps by MMM

  27. Great question, Zaid.

    I have a full post on that. Please look up my review on Tony Buzan’s Mind Map Mastery where I share a way of linking Mind Maps with Memory Palaces via the Major System.

  28. Maricela G. says:

    Hi Anthony Metivier! I like the example is very understandable for everyone. Thanks!

  29. Andy says:

    Is it okay to switch subjects in the same memory palaces? Like let’s say I use a memory palace for a language can I use the same one for a textbook or course or lecture etc?

    • Thanks for your question, Andy.

      To step back and look at your question globally, here’s a tip:

      Any question in memory training that starts with “okay” has only one answer: Yes, try your idea. If it doesn’t work, come back to the fundamentals.

      To answer your question about using a Memory Palace again, I’ve added a video to the supplemental video section on this page. I believe it will help you.

      Thanks again for your question. I look forward to your next post!

  30. Andy says:

    Is there a method to remember every detail about the book? Like page number and all of the words? I seen someone on YouTube testing out his memorization he didn’t said he used the loci method but I have a feeling he did. Like someone would pick a random word from the Oxford dictionary and he would give the definition, the row number and the page number. I found resources to memorize numbers but how can I incorporate that to my memory palace for the textbook I’m using

    • “Everything” is not specific enough, Andy, and there are arguably few if any circumstances where this would be necessary.

      It sounds like you’re referring to Dr. Yip. He is probably using a combination of a Memory Palace and the Major System.

      In every day life, such “location targeting” inside of books is likely not necessary. However, I do this periodically using the Major to memorize page numbers when it might be useful. In some of these cases, I use the page itself as the Memory Palace, supported by the Major.

      I generally suggest you focus on the core message in this podcast episode: Identify the core percentage that matters and use these powerful skills to memorize that material. Your mind will fill in many of the blanks and make deep neuronal connections by allowing less to be more. As ever, it depends on exactly the nature of the text and your goals, but in my experience with thousands of students, this suggestion holds true across the board for everything that isn’t scripture.

      And even then, it only makes sense to focus on the percentage of material most likely to get the memorizer closer to their source. It doesn’t have to be everything, and everything is less likely to work due to the redundant nature of most communication.

  31. Andy says:

    I see, I mean I’m gonna start off with the basics but then I want to learn more and test myself. Are there any other memorization systems out there that I can learn?

    • There are many systems, Andy, and arguably, every mnemonist winds up creating their own system. Thus, it’s more important to understand the methods and principles that underly these systems and then match the right ones to your goals.

      If it’s just a matter of collecting the systems of others, the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast is a good place to start combining through some of the major players, but do keep in mind it’s rare that anyone reproduces another person’s system. Focus on the underlying principles.

      In terms of techniques, I recommend you have:

      * A solid Memory Palace Network and the capacity to create more

      * Magnetic Imagery abilities that include Word Division and Bridging Figures

      * The Major System

      * A 00-99 PAO

      * An alphabet list and potentially a secondary 2-letter alphabet list

      Some of these will be unnecessary if you don’t have learning goals into which they will come into play. But you could wind up finding uses for them.

      At the risk of repetition, note that none of these are systems. They are methods and principles by which you create your own system.

      Trust this helps and look forward to hearing more about your journey into memory!

  32. Andy says:

    Thanks a lot! Yea I will continue to research more on my own time and also listen to more of your podcasts! Over time I’ll try to incorporate the other systems to the Magnetic Memory Method if I can.

  33. Andy says:

    Hey Anthony how are you? I was wondering if and how can I use sports games as memory palaces? Like use the players, people, chairs, dressing rooms, trophy rooms, etc how can I map out a memory palaces like that? Like if there are over 20,000 seats I can presumably do 40,000 items in my memory since I can use the people and the seats and the buildings as well. Also can I use the clothing on people a location as well?

    • Things are great here. We just had a wonderful live stream – are you hooked up to my channel on YouTube for these?

      The best answer to your question is this:

      I encourage you to try all of your ideas.

      If they don’t work, come back to the fundamentals.

      It’s not for me to judge whether this idea will work or not. I can only say that it connects to a number of techniques that people have already tried with varying levels of success.

      Please keep us posted on how it goes for you, and remember: Every “can I?” question in memory has just one answer: “Go for it!”

      Again, the only caveat is that if it doesn’t pan out, come back to the fundamentals. They might help you improve your ideas if they don’t work out.

  34. John says:

    Hi Anthony,
    Thanks for the direction to this post (which I have seen). Let me try to be more specific regarding my Ph.D. studies. I have five fields, and have reading lists of 20-25 books per field. I know you did separate memory palaces for each philosopher. That won’t work for me, but what are your thoughts on this: one memory palace per field (or list), since I only need to remember say, five key arguments per book. So each microstation in the memory palace would be for a book, where I would peg or link the five key ideas. Based on your experience, does that make more sense than using a whole memory palace per book? I suspect your answer might be, see what works best for you! Which I totally appreciate 🙂 Just trying to be as efficient as possible.

    • Thanks for this, John.

      How do you know that this form of alphabetical organization won’t work for you with such certainty?

      I’m not going to say the obvious thing you’ve already anticipated, because it’s not always that useful to say “whatever works best for you.”

      But from one scholar to another, it seems that there are gaps in your understanding of the MMM and general mnemonics related to large learning projects based on an assumption that could be blinding you to the raw memory power you seek.

      One certainly can organize information based on one Memory Palace per book, but it’s an unlikely strategy if you’re looking for efficiency, and if you go that route and encounter difficulties, here’s another tip from one scholar to another:

      Efficiency quickly falls into the “Golden Hammer Fallacy.” Seek it with caution.

      My suggestion for all who come to the art, craft and science of the great memory tradition is to seek effectiveness instead.

      In this case, effectiveness means mastering the fundamentals of memory, even if it is inefficient to do so in the beginning (as most skills will be).

      As for “where” you would “peg” ideas, these terms are not really part of the Magnetic Memory Method. Memory Palaces do not exist, so there is no place and there are no pegs. We remove the invention of memory tools completely, but a clue for you to pursue is in a book I believe you already own and this question:

      What possible difference is there between a Memory Palace and a “peg”?

      If you really get into these techniques, I think you’ll find that the words fall away as you craft your own mnemonic style. The training, of course, must come with many words and all who are serious will devote themselves to them.

      But it is in practice that one finally finds the skill, and so rather than “see what works,” may we use Genchi Genbutsu instead? (Real place, real thing.)

      As the MMM works very hard to encourage people to do, it is to never say “that won’t work for me” until after 90 days of practice with an approach. You could be right, but I predict that, provided you have an image of the author to work with, or some other tool you can derive from the “real,” based on the exercises, you’ll go further and faster.

      True, it may be inefficient to spend a few moments to find a picture of an author and learn something about that person, but I venture that such inefficiencies are the core of authentic scholarship.

      Otherwise, you could use book titles and risk building on abstractions. It could work for you, and only a solid test will see.

      The best possible process would be a split-test, and rest assured, I have done them. I am aware of no one that would prefer to build on abstractions after tasting the majesty of the concrete.

      One of these days, I’m going to get Adolfo Artigas on the MMM Podcast to talk about the joy and effectiveness he has found from the (seemingly inefficient) ways of the MMM. He not only has been crushing it on his university his exams, but his son just got a major position in a very good Florida university.

      We’re very proud, and by building the foundations well, this young man and his father have incredible intellectual futures ahead of them.

      I hope these notes supplement this page for you and the book you have and hope you’ll continue to study this tradition as you use the techniques. None of us know what we don’t know, which is why my current research project into the connection between hermeticism and memory techniques is so rewarding.

      Many more revelations to come, even if many of them are of the “cryptomnesia” variety when I have to scratch my head and wonder if I haven’t read some of these things before. Of course, some of these folk also used constellations as Memory Palaces, and that opens up extraordinary possibilities when you think through the alphabetical potential therein.

      Onward and please keep us updated as you proceed! 🙂

  35. John says:

    Thanks Anthony! My comment about “that won’t work for me” was specifically in reference to using one palace per philosopher – I took that to mean you were reading multiple books per philosopher (and these books are stored “in” palaces with other books by that philosopher).

    With few exceptions, all of the books on my lists are by different authors. Perhaps I misunderstood you. Did you, in fact, use one palace per book? If so, then I’m game.

    I wouldn’t say I’m not familiar with mnemonics… unfortunately I think I’m “too familiar”… I’ve spent so much time trying to find the best techniques that the terminology is all jumbled in my head. I used “microstation” specifically because that is your terminology.

    I have several of your products. I wish that I had just found you first so the rest of this crap wasn’t in my head. I’ll do my best to start from the beginning and follow your lead. You have, after all, done what I am struggling to do.

    Best wishes and much appreciation,
    John

    • Thanks for the update, John.

      There never was nor ever will be one Memory Palace per philosopher. I’m not sure where you got that impression, but I apologize if it’s coming from me.

      One of the problems we face is that people try to “piece” the training together without actually completing the full course from beginning to end. That is something I discourage, but cannot prevent. Heck, I even have to monitor myself to make sure I complete the courses I take thoroughly.

      I do not believe it is possible to be “too” familiar with these techniques.

      But I do agree that people waste a lot of time trying to find the “best.”

      With respect to the “crap” you mentioned, it sounds like you’re prisoner to the Primacy Effect, which is not a death sentence. You can escape it.

      What are the other techniques you’ve looked at?

      I would suggest thinking it all through thoroughly and finding ways to release yourself from the tyranny of Primacy Effect, and then reviewing the MMM thoroughly so you can blend in the Recency Effect with better tools.

      Not the “best” tools, but the ones that release you from the struggle and make the entire process bliss.

  36. John says:

    Hi Anthony,
    Re: the “per philosopher” discussion, I suspect it came from a podcast interview… I found this one (which was not the one I was thinking of):
    “Anthony: Well it depends what is going on. When I was studying for my dissertation defense for example, I made Memory Palaces per philosopher.” from https://www.magneticmemorymethod.com/how-to-develop-superhuman-memoryskills/
    In another, you mentioned that each philosopher had one palace, but some as many as five.
    At any rate, after reading those separate references, I think I now understand that it WOULD be possible for me to do 125 separate palaces, one for each book.

    As for piecing together, I fully admit that. Guilty as charged.

    “Too familiar”… simply trying to convey that I have read/done multiple programs in addition to yours: Dominic O’Brien, Dave Farrow, Phenomenal Memory, Superlearner 2.0…plus I’ve seen/listened to everything by Nelson Dellis and Alex Mullen. So that’s me wasting WAY too much time trying to find the best.

    What I love most about you and Alex is that neither of you are hyperfocused on memory competition… I’m solely in this for academic reasons, specifically comprehensive exams.

    “Primacy effect” no, I just meant I know too many techniques for things I don’t really need or expect to use – and secondarily, that many mnemonists use different terminology for the same technique. But I take you to mean that I should practice a wide variety anyway – even if I don’t need them for my purpose.

    My problem is simply that I’ve been using too much of my time researching “the best” techniques, and too little time putting them to use.

    I do appreciate the conversation. You are a tremendous help.
    Best,
    John

    • You have great insight into the core issue, John.

      Mind you, it’s not that one shouldn’t study multiple memory teachers.

      It’s that many hazards come from skipping around and trying to piece things together.

      If you look at the common thread amongst your choices, you’ll find that there isn’t one. It’s a mixture of competitors and non-competitors.

      I would pick the one person who you think is most likely to be of use and then go through their training diligently from beginning to end.

      Of all the people you’ve listed, only one I’m aware of has created training based out of experiences with comprehensives. I’m not sure if Alex will produce something in the future, but he is good on his blog and videos about dividing what he would do for competition from what he would do for scholastic matters.

      And that’s the point so many people miss when they learn from competitors. They techniques are deeply related, but they are not the same. Competitors remember information they will instantly forget. We, as lifelong learners, cannot afford the costs of training our brains to operate in that way.

      If you continue spending time on seeking instead of studying and using, then you may will be caught in Primacy Effect. It’s one of the only plausible explanations for why so many people keep spinning their wheels year after year.

      Not that you should play psychoanalysis with yourself, but the habit of seeking and piecing things together rather than going through certain kinds of developmental trainings with scholastic diligence probably has a history. And what is lodged in procedural memory and suffering from primacy can be dislodged – providing one of the most exciting adventures life can provide.

      Otherwise, as the memory tradition itself teaches us many times, the price of living an unrealized life is unusually hard to bare.

  37. Andy says:

    Hey so I don’t think I can use video game palaces that much because or else I’d have to buy them. And I can’t go to places since I don’t drive, I heard about doing memory palaces using manga or comic books and there are thousands of them! Is this a good starting point? I’m thinking of using the characters, items, or unique stuff and weapons about them and locations as micro palaces you think it’s a good idea?

    And also, I’d love to incorporate the vocabulary or alphabet with the dialogue of the manga or comic relating to that sentence so I can also kill two birds with one stone. Is there a way to do it? I was thinking of creating a mnemonic with some relation to the dialogue that’s connected to that micro station.

    • Thanks for this question, Andy.

      Some people are able to use comics, movies and even the frames of paintings, including elements inside them.

      Please experiment. There is a way this technique can work for you. Even if it takes some time to find it, the effort will be VERY worth it.

      About your idea, I’d have to hear more about exactly what you’re thinking. If the approach you have in mind doesn’t prove efficient, come back to the Magnetic Memory Method to learn some more and refine your practice.

      Thanks again and look forward to your next post!

  38. Andy says:

    Ok thanks! So I was thinking of when creating the mnemonic and if a person is doing some type of action or certain a certain feeling is being portrayed I can use that action in creating the mnemonic. And use the dialogue also as a micro station. Like if there’s a couple things I can use in one part of the square I can use the action that they’re doing for the mnemonic and if I want to remember a certain part of a manga the mnemonic will also help bring up some part of the dialogue if that makes any sense.

    • It doesn’t need to make sense to myself or anyone else. The key metrics are:

      * Does it work?

      * Does it work effectively enough to motivate you to keep going?

      * Does it work in a way that reveals interesting options for improving your practice with the techniques?

      Treat everything like an experiment and the path will reveal itself, even if it can be hard to explain to others.

  39. Shorna says:

    Do I have to write down the index card in a paper first? Index card is quite confusing to me.
    Thanks.

    • Thank you for your question, Shorna.

      First, can you please say more about what specifically is confusing to you? One thing we find is that if people write 250-500 words explaining their confusion, one of two things happen:

      1) The person is able to answer their own question.

      2) The answer they get is much clearer because the point of confusion is better understood.

      In this case, I’ll try my best to understand your main question.

      You don’t “have” to do anything but experiment.

      In my case, I usually write things down directly on index cards, though sometimes I will use a notebook. It depends on the nature of the project.

      As I hope to have covered here, this strategy is for when you are combining your notes with a Memory Palace. In this case, I think it’s makes most sense to take all notes directly to index cards. However, it is possible to “extract” notes from the linear pages of a notebook if one wishes. I just don’t find that approach nearly flexible enough.

      Does this help answer the core of your question?

  40. Francis says:

    Im trying to learn Macroeconomics and i have a foolproof way of memorizing it although im running into a few problems. The way i memorize it is like this: A = 1 B = 2 C = 4 etc etc and then the key information becomes a number for example the word Autonomous Spending becomes the number 0070201006 63023025 and then i have a way of tracking down the number so that i can interpret it into a word and recall the key term. The problem i have is using mindmaps to go with it. How can i use a mindmap to mindmap every page in the textbook and track it down using mathematics?

    • This is an interesting memory system for numbers, Francis. However, it’s much more difficult than it needs to be. I suggest learning the Major System.

      Here are examples of using mind maps in combination with the Memory Palace technique.

      • Francis says:

        No, it’s really simple to use. For example, to memorize a deck of cards I just remember the equation 2x + 10 and then plug in the set (1 to 52) and I can easily recall the cards. For example, the first card is the number 1 and so plugging it into the equation 2(1) + 10 = 12 which gives the ace of hearts and lets take another card a card in the 15th place, you just plug it into the equation 2 (15) + 10 = 40 which gives the king of diamonds card.

        And as you can see I’ve memorized a deck of cards using the equation 2x + 10. I’m looking for an equation to memorize a complete textbook and to somehow turn a mindmap into a numbers variation map. But I’m not sure how to find more locations for a method of loci mindmap. What do you do when you run out of locations in your memory? How do you generate the geometry of more locations?

        • It’s not at all clear to me how the system you described works for cards when you started off talking about a numbered alphabet. But if it works for you, power to you.

          The “equation” for “generating the geometry” of more locations is given in the free course on this site. Have you completed it in full?

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