Six Advanced Memory Techniques to Remember Long Sequences, Spellings, Vocabulary, and Difficult Things

Chapter 9

We learned the Systematic Revision technique in Chapter 4. That was a general technique. In this chapter, you will learn advanced memory techniques. These are special techniques.

You can greatly improve your memory for remembering lists or names of things, spellings, etc. using memory techniques in this chapter.

Remember two important things about these techniques. These techniques can make remembering lists or names almost automatic. And it takes some effort and some practice in using these techniques.

You will learn more than one technique in this chapter. You should learn one technique at a time and use it. Do not try to learn all the techniques in one day. Your goal is not to read this book like a novel or a film magazine for entertainment. Your goal is to develop your memory, see a big improvement in your abilities, and achieve success.

So, you need to practice these techniques. My recommendation is that you learn one memory technique in a day and practice using that technique the whole day. Use it when the teacher is teaching in the class. Use it when you are at home. Use it to remember the names of all the players in any game (for example, cricket). Use it for any list of names.

You may be thinking why do memory techniques work so well? Actually different techniques have been known throughout history. But only recently, with discoveries about the brain, these techniques have gained the respect of experts on the brain, mind, and memory all over the world. It is now well known that the brain works most efficiently when you combine the left brain and the right brain for any mental activity. The traditional techniques like repeating a list many, many, many times use only the left brain. That is the reason why these techniques work so well.

The detailed information on the left brain and right brain is given in Chapter 2.


Mnemonics use associations to remember specific things. They associate what you want to remember with something easier to remember.

For example, you can take the first letter of each item or name and make an interesting word or sentence. Here are some examples.

The seven colors of a rainbow

Take the first letter of each of the seven colors in the rainbow and arrange them as VIBGYOR. Now you need to remember only the word “VIBGYOR” and you can easily recall the seven colors:

  • V – violet
  • I – indigo
  • B – blue
  • G – green
  • Y – yellow
  • O – orange
  • R – red

Planets of the solar system

We can remember the names of all the planets in the solar system by remembering the following sentence.

Men Very Easily Make Jugs Serve Useful Night Purposes.

Here the first letter of each word in the sentence represents the first letter of the planet. In addition, notice that the first word “Men” represents “Mercury” and it is the closest to the Sun. The second is “Venus” remembered by the word “Very” in the above sentence.

  • Me – Mercury
  • V – Venus
  • E – Earth
  • Ma – Mars
  • J – Jupiter
  • S – Saturn
  • U – Uranus
  • N – Neptune
  • P – Pluto

Here is another sentence that you can use to remember just the 9 planets in order of increasing size.

Men Plan Many VENUS Jumps.

As in the above example, the first letter of each word represents a planet, except for the word “VENUS” for which each letter represents a planet.

  • Me – Mercury
  • P – Pluto
  • Ma – Mars
  • V – Venus
  • E – Earth
  • N – Neptune
  • U – Uranus
  • S – Saturn
  • J – Jupiter

Some trigonometric functions

This example is only for those students who need to remember the formulas to calculate sin (sine), cos (cosine), and tan (tangent) which are trigonometric functions.

  • Tall Owls Are Scared Of Huge Crocodiles And Hippos
  • Consider the first three words: Tall Owls Are. Here the beginning letter of each word (T, O, A) in order gives this formula:
  • Tangent = Opposite / Adjacent
  • Similarly, the remaining six words give the following two formulas:
  • Sine = Opposite / Hypotenuse
  • Cosine = Adjacent / Hypotenuse

Remembering the value of “PI”

The value of PI to 5 decimal places is 3.14159. Consider the following sentence to remember this value:

Formula for the value of PI

Notice that a number is given below each word in the above sentence. This number is the number of letters in that word. For example the first word “How” has 3 letters (H, o, w). The second word “I” has 1 letter. The third has 4 and so on.

Put all these numbers and you get the value of pi = 3.14159.

Remembering the square root of 2 to 10 decimal places

Like the above example, the value of the square root of 2 is given by the following sentence.

Formula for square root of 2

The first word “I” has just 1 letter, the second word “have” has 4 letters, and so on. So the value of the square root of 2 is = 1.4142135623

Remembering spellings

Mnemonics for remembering some spellings are given later in this chapter.

The Number-Rhyme Technique for Remembering up to Ten Items

To remember up to ten items this technique is usually the best. In this technique, you use a word that rhymes with the numbers from one to ten. It means that the words you use should sound similar to the sound of “1”, “2”, “3”, etc. In the list below, notice that “1” is with “bun”. These two words end in similar sounds.

  1. bun
  2. shoe
  3. tree
  4. door
  5. hive (beehive)
  6. sticks
  7. heaven
  8. gate
  9. vine
  10. pen

In this technique, you memorize these ten rhyming words. It is relatively easy to remember this list because the chosen words end in a sound similar to the sound of words “1”, “2”, “3”, etc.

You can then use the same list of rhyming words to memorize different lists.

You must choose these rhyming words so that you can easily make a picture of what the word represents. For example, the word corresponding to the number “8” is a gate. You can see or imagine in your mind a gate, some unique, unusual, or big gate.

Suppose you want to remember the following ten items in sequence.

  1. table
  2. feather
  3. cat
  4. leaf
  5. student
  6. orange
  7. car
  8. pencil
  9. shirt
  10. write

The next step is to associate the rhyming words with the items you want to remember.

1 bun table

Bun means a piece of bread. Imagine a big bun on a table. Imagine that the bun is so big that the table has broken under the weight of the bun.

2 shoe feather

Imagine your shoe with a big feather. The feather is so big, that you cannot put the shoe on your foot.

3 tree cat

Imagine a cat jumping from a tree near your house, school, or park.

4 door leaf

Imagine a giant leaf hanging on the door of your house. The big leaf has covered the lock. The leaf is so big and heavy that you cannot even move it and open the door.

5 hive (beehive) student

Imagine a student in your classroom being attacked by bees from a beehive.

6 sticks orange

Imagine an orange hanging from a stick. The stick is so thin that it has bent and that it may break any moment.

7 heaven car

Imagine your God sitting in a car and coming to you from heaven. God stops near you, gives you the car as a gift, and disappears.

8 gate pencil

Imagine a little child who has made a small gate out of many pencils. This gate looks beautifully colorful.

9 vine shirt

Vine is a plant that needs the support of a tree or a pole to grow. An example of a vine is a grape vine. Imagine a huge grapevine. There are huge grapes on the vine. And instead of leaves, colorful shirts are hanging on them.

10 pen write

Imagine that you have a pen made of gold and you use it to write million Rupee cheques only.

Some other rhyming words are listed below. You may not know the meaning of some or many of these words. That is okay. Do not memorize these words. The goal is to show you that the choice of words in the above example is just one possibility. I will even suggest that you use words from your language.

  1. bun sun gun
  2. shoe crew
  3. tree sea knee me
  4. door
  5. hive (beehive) jive drive dive
  6. sticks bricks pricks wicks
  7. heaven
  8. gate weight date fate bait
  9. vine wine line dine
  10. pen den men hen

The Number-Shape Technique

In this technique, you select an object or thing that has a shape similar to the shape of numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. You remember this list and then use it to memorize any list of up to ten items. Here is one such list:

1 Pen  2 Swan   3 Eye glasses

4 Sailboat

5 Hook

6 Hockey stick

7 Mountain cliff

8 Hourglass

9 Pipe

10 Cricket bat and a ball

Let us again consider the previous list of ten items to be memorized in sequence. The list is repeated here for your convenience.

  1. table
  2. feather
  3. cat
  4. leaf
  5. student
  6. orange
  7. car
  8. pencil
  9. shirt
  10. write

Now, let us see how you can associate the list to be remembered with the keywords.

1 Pen – table

Imagine a big pen lying on the table. The pen is so big that the table is about to break.

2 Swan – feather

Imagine a swan having a big colorful feather. The swan is white but there is a big colorful feather.

3 Eyeglasses – cat

Imagine a baby cat wearing big eyeglasses.

4 Sailboat – leaf

Imagine a boat, in which there is a big leaf in place of the sail.

5 Hook – student

Imagine a student hanging from a big hook and the student is still holding books.

6 Hockey stick – orange

Imagine a player hitting a big orange with a hockey stick. As a result, the orange juice falls on the floor.

7 Mountain cliff – car

Imagine a car hanging from a mountain cliff. The car may fall at any moment from the cliff.

8 Hourglass – pencil

Imagine taking a big pencil and hitting an hourglass. The hourglass breaks and all the sand falls.

9 Pipe – shirt

Imagine a shirt that has a big Pipe painted on it. Further, imagine that your favorite film actor is wearing that shirt.

10 Cricket bat and ball – write

Imagine Sachin Tendulkar or any of your favorite cricketers with a cricket bat. He is writing his signature on the bat to gift it to you.

The Secrets of Memory Techniques

Before discussing some more specific memory techniques, let us learn simple and interesting ways to increase the effectiveness of the memory techniques you have already learned in this chapter.

You can do the following:

  • Imagination.
    Your imagination enhances your memory. The more clearly you can imagine something, the easier you can remember it. In your imagination, make something bigger or smaller or absurd or meaningless and you will remember it better.
  • Color.
    Use more colors and more details in your imagination.
  • Movement.
    Make your images move. Like a car moving or hitting another car, rather than just standing.
  • The Five Senses.
    Use all of your senses in imagination. Include tasting, smelling, seeing, touching, and hearing.
  • Numbers.
    Use number system-related techniques so that you can remember sequences of information.
  • Dimension.
    Use three dimensions in your images.

You can combine these aspects. For example, you imagine a colorful image of objects in an ice cube. And then as the ice cube blasts open, the object/images show up even more clearly.

How to Remember Spellings

In this section, you will learn different ways to learn and memorize English spellings.

Every person repeats his or her spelling mistakes

Every person misspells some words. He or she misspells those words again and again. So most of your spelling mistakes come from a relatively small number of words that you do not know well. One good way to reduce spelling mistakes for exams and writing is to write essays or write answers for previous question papers and then have some teacher check your answers. This way you can find your mistakes. Then master those words.

Using mnemonics for spelling

Here are mnemonics for remembering some spellings.

principle, principal – A principle is a rule. Notice that both the words “principle” and the word “rule” have the letter “e”. The principal of a college is the main person there.

stationary, stationery – You write on stationery. Or,    stationery uses envelopes. Notice the letter “e”.

arithmetic – Use this sentence: A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream. The first letter of each word in this sentence makes the spelling ARITHMETIC.

believe – Believe has a “lie” in it.

committee – MM, TT, and EE met in a committee.

conscience – Does science have a conscience.

desert – One “s” because it is so dry.

dessert – Two “s” because it is so sweet.

separate – To spell separate, just remember that it contains “a rat“.

cheque – Cheque comes in a “Q”.

entrance – There is no “enter” in entrance. That is, the word “enter” is not within the word “entrance“.

You can memorize only some words using this technique.

Spelling strategy: a new powerful technique for remembering spellings

I learned this technique from Dr. Richard Bandler in the USA. He is the genius who co-developed NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Before we can learn the spelling strategy, we need to learn about eye-accessing cues.

Eye-accessing cues

You do not have to memorize eye-accessing cues. This is for your understanding so that you understand that eye movement in a specific direction is very important in spelling strategy.

NLP developers found that it is very useful to divide “thinking” into different sensory modes. When we process information internally, we can do it by sight, hearing, feeling, smell or taste. When you see the word “circus” now, you may imagine the image of a circus, hear the circus music or voices, feel the seats, etc.

The meaning of any word is perceived in a combination of the five senses.

NLP developers found that people move their eyes in systematic directions depending on the type of thinking they are doing. These are called eye-accessing cues. The diagram below shows the type of mental processing most people do when they move their eyes in a particular direction. For about 5%, the direction is reversed: they see in the left direction rather than the right direction and they see in the right direction rather than the left direction.

Eye accessing cues

This diagram is easiest to use if you simply put it over someone’s face so that as you see him looking in a particular direction, you can imagine the label for the eye-accessing cue.

  • Vr – Visually remembered: seeing images of things seen before.
  • Vc – Visually constructed: seeing images of things never seen before.
  • Ar – Auditory remembered: remembering sounds heard before.
  • Ac – Auditory constructed: hearing sounds never heard before.
  • Ad – Auditory dialogue: talking to oneself.
  • K – Kinaesthetic: Feeling emotions, sense of touch, feelings of muscle movement.

Looking straight ahead in a de-focused way indicates daydreaming or a combination of different modes.

Spelling strategy

In one research project, this technique was taught to 1800 students in a school in the USA. The director reported the results like this “The spelling scores gained 15 percentile, moving from the 62nd to the 77th percentile! Before your workshops, we had been unable to influence this score favorably with any other methods.”

Another school teacher reported about the use of NLP for spelling “It’s turned out non-spellers into spellers and they like it. It’s fascinating that now they enjoy something they hated so much before. It made such a difference in spelling test scores for our school that the state department noticed and became interested in our spelling program.”

NLP provides different recipes for specific tasks. These recipes (also called strategies) were developed by studying how an expert does a specific task so well.

You will learn spelling strategies in this section.

Good spellers almost always go through the same strategy. You can test it on yourself if you are a good speller or with some other good speller. Good spellers look up or straight ahead to imagine the word-image as they spell and then they look down to check with their feelings that they are correct.

People who spell poorly usually try to spell by sound or speaking aloud.

Copy editors are people who check the spellings in a book or newspaper before it is printed. Good copy editors say that they have to just look at a page and the wrong spellings just jump out at them. It shows that they know word spellings by “seeing” them.

Here are the steps for spelling strategy or the secret of remembering spellings. This will work for most people. For about 5%, the left and right are reversed (details are given above in the section on “eye-accessing cues”).

Step 1 Think of something that feels good and familiar. It could be a flower, a tree, a car, a bicycle, or anything else. When you have good and familiar feelings, look for a few seconds at the word you want to spell correctly. For this, keep the word (or the notebook) up and to your left (in Vr direction).

Step 2 Look away. Now look up and to your left again and imagine the image of the word. If the image is not clear, repeat the previous step.

Step 3 Look up and left, imagine the word image, and write down the spelling on paper. If the spelling is correct, look at the word again as in step 1. If the spelling is not correct, repeat this whole process.

Step 4 Look up and left, imagine the word image, and spell the word backward on paper. This will make sure that the word image is clear in your mind.

You can use the following helpful ideas with the basic strategy discussed above.

Make the word-image in your mind in some color that you like.

When imagining the word-image, put some background.

If a word is a long one, break it into parts of three or four letters and remember those parts.

If some part of the spelling of a word is difficult, make those letters bigger or in different colors.

Make the word-image clearest in your mind. To find out how to make an image clear in your mind, think of something you remember very well. Do you imagine a picture in your mind? Make the word-image like that picture in size, shape, distance, color, etc.

Ten Ways to Enrich Your Vocabulary

I will discuss many ways to help you remember more English words and to help you learn more about the words you already know. You can first use those techniques which appeal to you and which look easy to you. Then you can learn the other techniques.

You will not develop a big vocabulary just by reading these vocabulary techniques. You need to use them to benefit from them.

You understand and know words at two levels. First, you know and understand words when you see them, but you do not normally use them in your speech or writing. This vocabulary is called passive vocabulary.

Second, you know and understand the words and you also use them in your speech and your writing. This vocabulary is called active vocabulary.

Everyone has a much bigger passive vocabulary as compared to an active vocabulary. Any vocabulary improvement plan should include techniques to increase both types of vocabulary.

Use any online free dictionary on your mobile phone

There are many and all are pretty good.

Just search on Google.

Learn roots of words

Many English words have roots, prefixes, and suffixes. For example, the word “ego” is a root. It means “I”. Many words have “ego” as part of them.

“Egoist” has “I” as the main concern. “Egotist” talks about himself all the time. “Egocentric” considers himself as the center of the universe. “Egomaniac” carries “egoism” to such an extreme that he has an obsession (a mania).

Learn prefixes and suffixes

Prefixes are like “ab” (abnormal), “at” (attain), “di” (divert, divorce), “in” (inactive). Suffixes are like “able” (digestible), “al” (natural), “or” (actor), “ive” (executive). Knowing prefixes and suffixes helps you to remember the meanings of words.

Use the new words you learn

You should use new words to become confident with them.

Read a lot.

Reading a lot increases your passive vocabulary. You become familiar and start to understand more words.

I will recommend that you get a copy of the following book if you want to learn many words with their roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

This book is Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis, published in India. This book is good and inexpensive.

Use spelling strategy

Use the spelling strategy discussed above to remember spellings.

Use memory techniques

Use the memory techniques given in this chapter to remember difficult spellings.

Use Mind Machine

Use Mind Machine because it has vocab for CAT (MBA), GMAT, GRE, and SAT.

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