How can I memorize words for a major test?

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Honestly, the old-fashioned methods are the best. Write each word on a flash card. Most people don't study flash cards correctly. This is how you do it.

  1. Mix up the cards in one stack. Make sure the cards have only the word on one side, and the definition and pertinent information, such as chapter or page numbers, on the other side. 
  2. Look at the word, and say the definition out loud or in your head.
  3. Turn the card over and check the definition on the back.  Make sure you got it exactly right.  Don’t lie to yourself and say you were close!
  4. Put the cards into two piles: words you know, and words you don’t.
  5. Start with the Don’t Know pile.  Go through each card again, following steps 2 and 3 (starting new piles). 
  6. Review the Know pile, to make sure you still know them.
  7. Repeat each day until the test.


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The best way to memorize words is to use index cards. Write down only one term at the front and the definition at the back. Carry the index cards wherever you go and look at the index cards when there is a time. Repeat memorizing as much as you can. When you are done, mix the index cards and start again. Eliminate the words that you have already memorized and make the files smaller. Index card is the best because you can focuse on the terms more clearly. If you are memorizing lists of words written in a notebook or one sheet of paper, then you may end up memorizing the order of the words. For example, you may memorize that "abyss" comes after "abject" instead of meaning of each vocabulary.

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Memorization can be an important part of studying for tests. I tend to use flashcards, especially during the early stages of a massive information upload. I have recently begun using the website for my studies and it can be a time saver, since the lists are often already built for you. I recommend trying to absorb these pieces of information in chunks. In other words, avoid lists that contain dozens of words because it will likely be too much for you to handle.

I also tend to type and summarize my notes. This process ensures that I have reviewed everything, though it's arguably a time eater. What it allows me to do, however, is to easily condense through copy and paste. I usually work my way down to small lists like "causes of the First World War." I find these lists are easier to memorize and they are inherently tied to arguments, which means that I'm well prepared to convert facts and information into analysis and essays.

Finally, whenever I can, I try to organize my lists in alphabetical order or else into acronyms.

Good luck.

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Sheer repetition works well, it's the same way you learned your birthdate, Social Security number or your phone number, it was simply repeated enough until you could recite it from memory.  This is tedious and boring, but it works.

Flashcards also identify what you already know. The ones you get right every time, just set those off to the side and concentrate on the others you don't have memorized yet.

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I really think you need to interact with the words in as many ways as you can.  You need to make flash cards, like people have been saying.

But then you really need to write sentences of your own with the words.  Try to make them sentences that would actually have meaning to you rather than ones that are just sort of generic.  So you could write something like "Mom, taking away my car would just exacerbate my behavior problems" or something like that.  Using something that has meaning for you will make the words more memorable.

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Another really great strategy for memorizing words is creating flash cards with the word on one side and the definition on the other.  What is great about flash cards is you can test yourself and know EXACTLY what you know and what you don't.  If you can't state whatever information is on that back of the card then you clearly don't know that word.  You can create two piles of cards -- the ones you know and the ones you don't and then focus your energy on the set you still need help with.  With enough repetition, you should eventually have all the cards in the "know" pile.

Flash cards work great for all kinds of memorizing tasks.  You could put artists on one side and best known works on the other.  You could put historical figures on one side and what they are known for on the other.  The possibilities are endless.  I even used flash cards when studying for Master's Degree in Educational Supervision -- everything from school laws, financial policies, and educational theorists where on those cards!

Below is another link to a site that suggests other strategies to aid with memorization tasks.

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As a student I remember having to memorize the meanings of lots of words for different tests, and there is one strategy that I used over and over: I wrote out the words and their definitions. Simply reading something is studying, but actually writing that same thing out can be even more effective studying. Writing out the test items will help you memorize them and, of course, make it a simpler matter when it comes time for you to write out the items again on the actual exam.

It's important, I want to add, that you don't just go through the motions of copying things out from a book to a notepad. Maybe look at the book as you write out the word, then close the book and try to write out your own definition first before checking the book again to make sure that you have the definition right.

A final item to keep in mind is that pieces of information are easier to remember if you learn them in context. Maybe practice sample sentences that include the words that you'll have to know for the exam.

Below are two links to enotes resources on the topics of memorization and vocabulary. I hope they're helpful to you. Good luck!

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