Post updated 12/30/19
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:
- Examine the book
- Make an equation
- Get index cards
- Find the big points and jot them down
- Make use of your Memory Palace
- Create crazy imagery to help you recall the info
- Stick each crazy image onto a Memory Palace station for recall
- Test yourself before the teacher does
- Let the info grow into knowledge
- Bonus! Save your knowledge for later
Want this post in infographic form?
You can download this infographic, just like Aldolfo:
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?
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.)
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.
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.”
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.