Your final exams are looming and along with it comes a million study tasks you really don’t want to face. Practice papers, drafts and essay scaffolds, most of which are mildly bearable at best. But how do you make it through the one soul wrenching, mind numbing task no one likes? I’m talking about memorising essays; a seemingly impossible feat that only a few students will master.

It’s true, memorising hundreds sometimes thousands of words is not easy. But it really doesn’t have to be as tough as you think! There’s a bunch of different methods out there, some work and some don’t. So check out these five tried and tested methods to find which ones work for you

1. Try something different

When you’re knee deep in study and feel like you’re just not making progress, try taking a break and come back with a different approach. Remember that sometimes the weirder ideas work best. Try recording your essay and playing it back to yourself. This is a pretty easy one that doesn’t take all your effort and you can listen to your essay on the bus, while running and when going to sleep. Sure, you might cringe at the sound of your own voice but once you get over the initial disgust it’s not all that bad and it’ll make the words stick in your mind.

2. Read before you sleep

This one is super useful when you’ve left the essay until the night before. Avoid wasting time on memorising it word for word. Instead, read over it a few times and pick up on the key ideas of each paragraph then hit the hay. Studies have shown that when we sleep for as little as 15 minutes after studying, our brains review and relearn the information while sleeping.

Additionally, our neural connections of the topic solidify 50% quicker than without sleeping. The catch is that the work you do before sleeping has to be legit, you have to be focused and alert, not falling asleep. When you wake up you’ll remember these key ideas and ready to pick up the rest a whole lot easier.

3. Read, cover, write, check

Again, this is more of a last minute tactic and rote learning like this doesn’t really work in the long run. If you want to be able remember your essay in three months time then jump down to no. 5.

But the read, cover, write, check method is pretty self explanatory and one you probably used in primary school. Read one sentence, cover it, write it or say it aloud and then check if you were right. Repeat for the following sentences until you’re able to regurgitate your entire essay in order.

4. Use key words

This one is good for cramming a lot of work into a little amount of time. Start by numbering each paragraph, then count how many sentences each paragraph contains. After that, take a look at each sentence and pull out a few trigger words eg. ‘Shakespeare displays this idea by overturning Othello’s loyalty.’ Pull out ‘displays overturning loyalty’. Then work on memorising just these trigger words, that way you can memorise 20 words per paragraph rather than 200.

5. Start early-ish

I know, I know, starting early is super unrealistic and you’ll probably only kick into gear with less than a week till the exam. Just keep in mind that effectively memorising actually takes a fair while. By giving the essay time to stew in your mind, you’ll later be able to recall it without spending hours at a time tediously forcing yourself to pick it up. Try to pump out that essay a few weeks prior to the exam date and give yourself as much time as possible to keep going over it.

by Matilda Reid