Learning by heart: memorising requirements, methods & tips

Written by Kerstin Lakits, May 26, 2022

The next exam period is coming up and the pile of exam-relevant documents makes you want to cry. Don’t worry, we will show you how you can quickly and easily memorise and retain your study material. We have different memorisation techniques for each learning style and the best tips to ensure that you retain all the information!

Perfect conditions

  • Location: You need to create the perfect study environment according to your own preferences. In the library, at university or rather in your own (STUWO) apartment? Just try which location works for you, so that you can study with concentration and without interruptions.
  • Movement: Not only your brain but also your body needs training. Therefore, you should balance out intense study sessions with a little bit of movement, ideally outside. Here are the best at-home exercises!
  • Healthy diet: Did you know that you can improve your brain’s performance with the right diet? So-called “brain foods” increase your concentration and retention power.
  • Distractions: Every distraction pulls your brain out of working mode, which is not ideal for memorising. So, turn off all distracting devices and notifications and remove everything that might be distracting form your study environment.
Student arbeitet am Laptop


  • Method of Loci/Mind Palace: Thanks to its easy application, this method is very popular. Just imagine a real or fictional place that you know very well. For example, your room in your student accommodation or your way to university. Then you connect a piece of information with an “object” and place it somewhere in your mind palace. When you walk through this mental place, you will remember the connected information.
  • Flash cards: These are a classic and perfect for learning vocabulary. On one side you write a question or word and the answer on the other side. Then you repeatedly go through your flash cards until you know all the words or can answer all the questions.
  • Alphabet method: With this method you take the first letters of key words and create an acronym. An acronym is a word comprised of the first letters of other words. This works as a kick-start for your memory and prevents you from forgetting an element. This works really well with enumerations.
  • Mnemonic trick: Everybody knows some mnemonic tricks. A short sentence, ideally containing a rhyme, serves as memory support for your brain. Let your creative spirit run free!
Student arbeitet am Laptop

Elisabeth from STUWO Krems: When I need to learn facts or equations by heart, I make up a funny stories. This way I can memorise the information much better. For example, I made up the following story for the percentage formula: My penguin (p) is very (v) old (o), he’s a hundred times older than I am. percentage = value divided by original value times 100. This way I’ll never forget it.

10 tips: How to memorise more and quicker

  • 1. Summarise: By summarising your study material you get a good overview and structure your documents. At the same time, your brain will retain the written information.
  • 2. Structured material: If you have no clue what’s going on in your notes, then you won’t retain anything. Therefore, you should definitely put your documents into a structured and logical order.
  • 3. Set priorities: Not everything in your notes is also relevant for your exam. Go through your notes and identify the most important passages. You can get some guidance on what’s important from past exams and obligatory literature.
  • 4. All senses: Research has shown that the brain can retain information better and quicker when more than one sense is involved. Therefore, you shouldn’t only read your notes. Read them aloud, listen to a recording on that topic and write down the most important parts.
  • 5. Repetition: The more repetitions, the more information your brain can retain. We recommend using the so-called “dead” time for going through your notes again. For example, while waiting for the tram, doing the laundry or sitting in your doctor’s waiting room.
Studentin liest in Bibliothek
  • 6. Learning styles: Are you a visual, auditory or experiential learner? Do you study better in the morning or in the evening? Your personal learning style is important for your ideal study schedule.
  • 7. Visualisations: Especially with abstract topics, it can be hard to create a mental map of information and connections. Therefore, visualisations of the information are helpful for your brain. Create some posters, charts, mind maps, illustrations, etc.
  • 8. Explain it to someone: Try to explain your study material to a third person, for example your STUWO flatmate. This helps you with memorising information and understanding connections.
  • 9. Apps for learning: There are countless apps that support you during your studies: digital flash cards (e.g. Quizlet), platforms with numerous notes, scripts and example questions (e.g. StudySmarter) and classic vocabulary trainers (e.g. pons).
  • 10. Study before going to bed: Research suggests that our long-term memory develops primarily during sleep. Use this fact to your advantage and go through important passages right before going to bed.


How much can you learn by heart in a day?

This depends on many factors. As a rule of thumb: max. 6 hours of studying per day. How much you can memorise in these hours, depends on the right technique and ideal conditions. Maybe our articles on effective studying, helpful study breaks and pomodoro technique can help you with that!

How can you memorise extremely quickly?

In addition to the above-mentioned methods and tips, you can try to improve your speed-reading, create a study timetable, start studying during the semester and work with a to-do-list.

How often do I have to read something until I’ve memorised it?

There is no general answer to this question. An estimation is that you need to repeat your study material six times before the brain can successfully store the information in the long-term memory. So, take enough time to study.

Find out which method works best for you and try to apply the tips. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn by heart and memorise! Your retention power is strong!

We wish you the best of luck!


We are happy to help!