Which app is best for medical mnemonics

Learning strategies Principles and Special Techniques

There are some principles that apply to learning: link, structure, repeat. But also special learning techniques, for example mind mapping or mnemonics, can help to prepare knowledge in a meaningful way and to memorize it permanently.

How do you approach knowledge and how do you acquire it reliably with as little effort as possible? When it comes to the design of the learning, it depends on the material, the time frame, the type and direction of the examination as well as personal strengths and preferences. A variety of learning strategies are available to students. Some of them go back to ancient times.

Learning by linking

That makes sense: the subject matter is memorized through systematic practice and repetition. An important rule is to divide the learning material into small units. After a learning process is over, it is quickly forgotten again - however, the forgetting curve flattens out with each learning process, until finally nothing is forgotten. "Overlearning" is of no use. Regular repetitions at longer intervals, each with a few learning phases, are recommended. If possible, you should not learn similar subject matter in quick succession. Frequent short breaks from studying are often very helpful.

Learning by structuring

Learning material is also easy to memorize by thinking about it, organizing and structuring it. Try to break the material down into main blocks, to which the details are subordinated. If the material does not provide any generic terms, you can try to create some yourself. If you structure the learning material hierarchically, even complex amounts of material become manageable.

Memorizing learning

As a rule, you simply have to have a lot of facts in mind for exams. A useful method of acquiring facts can look like this:

- In a first step you put together the learning material: books, essays, notes, scripts, worksheets.

- In a second step, you create an outline for your learning material. What is the mental structure of the material? What would a table of contents look like?

- Then you rephrase the bullet points in questions. What questions does the learning material raise? How would you ask a fellow student about the subject matter?

- Ask yourself the questions and formulate the answers. Some of your exams will consist of questions that you were able to reconstruct yourself beforehand, if you have structured the learning material sensibly and rephrased the bullet points in questions.

- If you come across gaps in your knowledge when answering the questions asked yourself, you should mark these terms and formulate further questions about them.

- One way of summarizing is index cards. The most important key points are recorded on them. On the front is a question or a term - on the back the answer or the explanation of the term. Index cards have the advantage that you can easily check your own learning status. The cards, the back of which you have ready and no longer have to read, you put aside until gradually fewer and fewer index cards remain.

Special learning techniques: mind mapping

Mind mapping is currently one of the most popular learning strategies. The aim of mind mapping is to classify the knowledge in larger contexts and to visualize how topics and terms are related to each other. This visualized knowledge structure, the representation of a meaning fabric, makes it easier to memorize.

In mind mapping, you use sheets of paper in landscape format. This has the decisive advantage that the landscape format is immediately associated with an image and the view is directed towards the center instead of to the top left. That alone can solve mental blocks - the right hemisphere - according to the theory - is more involved in learning. In the course of reading, the material is checked for its central key words. The central word comes in the middle and you can highlight it in color, for example - this also speaks to the right half of the brain. The key words come on the lines that lead away from the central word. The line should only be as long as the word itself. Further branches with terms can lead away from the respective key word. The coherent representation of the branches and twigs is important. The priority of the keywords decreases from the inside out.

Of course, extensive learning material usually does not fit on a single mind map. Individual keywords then serve as central words for further mind maps, which you mark on the previous mind map. Small pictures and different colors help the brain to make the right connections later. Important to know: Mind maps are very individual and should help you personally. Different people may create very different mind maps for the same text.

Ishikawa diagram

This method also visualizes mental steps and is particularly suitable for the representation of causes and effects. The focus is less on the conceptual construct, but rather on the course of a process. The labeled twigs and branches are not placed in a circle around a term, but along a line with the starting point and destination. Since the resulting graphic looks similar to the bones of a fish, it is also called the herringbone scheme.

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Mneme comes from the Greek and means something like "memory", "memory". The basic functionality of so-called mnemonic techniques is that memories are often called up by other memories or spontaneous events. All the experiences we have are stored in the brain. Associations (e.g. opposites, word fields) are firmly anchored in our brain: If you think of a desert, heat and scorpions may immediately come to mind. You can make use of this ability of the brain when studying. Things are mentally linked in such a way that the memory of one is connected with the memory of the other. Mnemonics are less aimed at understanding knowledge than at memorizing abstract facts. So-called anchors, which are linked to information, are created in the brain.

A well-known mnemonic technique is the loci method. Think of a way that you know very well. The route should have some prominent points. You connect the most important terms that you have to learn with these points - do not just write down the connection, but visualize it. This is the only way to save the information. This method involves both sides of the brain in learning.

The criticism of this learning technique is that it can only really be applied to a few real-world learning materials. Complex facts or discussions can hardly be grasped with mnemonic technology. Mnemonic techniques are well suited, for example, for lists of facts and terms that are not too complex.

The five step method

Every candidate has to roll through books and understand essays. Here, too, one should proceed in a structured manner in order to be able to gradually cope with the mountain of literature. The well-known five-step method (or SQ3R method) can be a useful approach to reading texts efficiently:


The first thing to do is to check a text for relevant content. The title, the introduction, subheadings and the conclusion usually provide information about whether a text contains important information for the examination topic. Viewing is therefore important in order to weight texts according to priority for the learning phase.

ask questions

So if you consider a text to be important, you should formulate a few questions. What do you expect from the text? What information is the text likely to provide and what are you particularly interested in?


Active reading is required. This means that you should look for answers to your questions in the text, carefully grasp keywords and pick up new ideas. Read section by section slowly, repeating paragraphs that you don't understand right away. Take notes on important theses and summarize relevant parts.


If you try to reproduce what you have read a few hours or a day later, it will quickly stick in your mind. Formulate the content in your own words, speak it out loud to you and write it down.


Then you look at the text again as a whole and make sure that you have understood the content and that any ambiguities have been removed. Could your questions be answered by the text? Summarize the most important theses and present what you have read graphically.

There is never just "one" technique that is suitable for every type of learner and for every topic. Just try it out and see which method is the best for learning and is the best way to remember what you have learned. Many roads lead to Rome. Find the one that suits you.

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