How to Improve Memory Effectively

11 Research-Backed Ways to Increase Memory Power

If you've ever found yourself forgetting where you left your keys or blanking out information on important tests, you've probably wondered how to improve memory. Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to increase memory power.

Obviously, utilizing some sort of reminder system can help. Setting up an online calendar that sends reminders to your phone helps you keep track of all those appointments and meetings. Creating daily to-do lists can ensure that you don't forget important tasks that need to be completed.

But what about all the important information that you need to actually cement into your long-term memory? It will take some effort and even involve tweaking or dramatically changing your normal study routine, but there are a number of strategies you can utilize to get more out of your memory.

Before your next big exam, be sure to check out some of these tried and tested techniques for improving memory naturally. These 11 research-proven strategies can effectively improve memory, enhance recall, and increase retention of information.


Focus Your Attention

Focusing can help improve memory
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Attention is one of the major components of memory. In order for information to move from your short-term memory into your long-term memory, you need to actively attend to this information. Try to study in a place free of distractions such as television, music, and other diversions.

Getting rid of distractions might be a challenge, especially if you are surrounded by boisterous roommates or noisy children.

Set aside a short period of time to be alone.

Ask your roommates to give you some space or ask your partner to take the kids for an hour so you can focus on your work.


Avoid Cramming

Study regularly to improve memory
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Studying materials over a number of sessions gives you the time you need to adequately process information. Research has continuously shown that students who study regularly remember the material far better than those who do all of their studying in one marathon session.


Structure and Organize

Organize information to improve memory
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Researchers have found that information is organized in memory in related clusters. You can take advantage of this by structuring and organizing the materials you're studying. Try grouping similar concepts and terms together, or make an outline of your notes and textbook readings to help group related concepts.


Utilize Mnemonic Devices

Use mneumonics to improve memory
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Mnemonic devices are a technique often used by students to aid in recall. A mnemonic is simply a way to remember information. For example, you might associate a term you need to remember with a common item that you are very familiar with. The best mnemonics are those that utilize positive imagery, humor, or novelty.

Come up with a rhyme, song, or joke to help remember a specific segment of information.


Elaborate and Rehearse

Rehearse information to improve memory
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In order to recall information, you need to encode what you are studying into long-term memory. One of the most effective encoding techniques is known as elaborative rehearsal.

An example of this technique would be to read the definition of a key term, study the definition of that term, and then read a more detailed description of what that term means. After repeating this process a few times, you'll probably notice that recalling the information is much easier.


Visualize Concepts

Use visualization to improve memory
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Many people benefit greatly from visualizing the information they study. Pay attention to the photographs, charts, and other graphics in your textbooks. If you don't have visual cues to help, try creating your own. Draw charts or figures in the margins of your notes or use highlighters or pens in different colors to group related ideas in your written study materials.

Sometimes even just making flashcards of various terms you need to remember can help cement the information in your mind.


Relate New Information to Things You Already Know

Relating information can improve memory
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When you're studying unfamiliar material, take the time to think about how this information relates to what you already know. By establishing relationships between new ideas and previously existing memories, you can dramatically increase the likelihood of recalling the recently learned information.


Read Out Loud

Teach others to improve your memory
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Research published in 2017 suggests that reading materials out loud significantly improves​ your memory of the material. Educators and psychologists have also discovered that having students actually teach new concepts to others enhances understanding and recall.

Use this approach in your own studies by teaching new concepts and information to a friend or study partner.


Pay Extra Attention to Difficult Information

Focus on difficult information first to improve memory
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Have you ever noticed how it's sometimes easier to remember the information at the beginning or end of a chapter? Researchers have found that the order of information can play a role in recall, which is known as the serial position effect.

While recalling middle information can be difficult, you can overcome this problem by spending extra time rehearsing this information. Another strategy is to try restructuring what you have learned so it will be easier to remember. When you come across an especially difficult concept, devote some extra time to memorizing the information.


Vary Your Study Routine

Change your routine to improve memory
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Another great way to increase your recall is to occasionally change your study routine. If you're accustomed to studying in one specific location, try moving to a different spot during your next study session. If you study in the evening, try spending a few minutes each morning reviewing the information you studied the previous night.

By adding an element of novelty to your study sessions, you can increase the effectiveness of your efforts and significantly improve your long-term recall.


Get Some Sleep

Sleep can help improve your memory
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Researchers have long known that sleep is important for memory and learning. Research has shown that taking a nap after you learn something new can actually help you learn faster and remember better.

In fact, one study published in 2014 found that sleeping after learning something new actually leads to physical changes in the brain. Sleep-deprived mice experienced less dendritic growth following a learning task than well-rested mice.

So the next time you're struggling to learn new information, consider getting a good night's sleep after you study.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the three foods that fight memory loss?

    Research suggests that both the Mediterranean and MIND diets may help prevent memory loss issues, and each of these dietary eating plans is rich in veggies, whole grains, and fish.

  • What causes weak memory?

    Many factors can contribute to memory issues, some of which include certain medical conditions, medication side effects, diet, head injury, and more.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Forrin ND, Macleod CM. This time it's personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself. Memory. 2018;26(4):574-579. doi:10.1080/09658211.2017.1383434

  4. Cortis Mack C, Cinel C, Davies N, Harding M, Ward G. Serial position, output order, and list length effects for words presented on smartphones over very long intervalsJ Mem Lang. 2017;97:61-80. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2017.07.009

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  6. National Institute on Aging. What do we know about diet and prevention of Alzheimer's disease?

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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."