LEARNING HACK #9: Improve your memory, by drawing?

This post is part of a series challenging our assumptions about learning techniques. We’re giving you up to date information from current research into learning to help you learn more effectively. Check out the previous post in this series and read the most recent one below.

Doodling and drawing pictures to help link ideas is a waste of time. You are better off making and going over structured notes.


When learning we often want to get to the end goal as quickly as possible, so we re-read and highlight as a means of making us feel confident in a topic. It takes time to visceralise material (to link material to a sensory, emotional or autobiographical moment) and so we avoid doing it.

Taking the time to link a topic to a rich sensory, emotional or autobiographical input acts to deepen the memory and will, therefore, make you more likely to remember the information in an exam.

By coming up with your own visceral analogies, you embed that topic deep into your memory. For example, my Physics teacher tells me that the refraction of light is the change in speed and direction of light as it passes from one medium into a medium of higher or lower density. Those words may go in one ear and out the other. However, if I then think of the ray of light as me on a quad bike a few summers ago, I can make the definition personally relatable. As I’m riding my quad bike on smooth tarmac road I suddenly drive off into thick, dense mud. Hitting the mud makes my quad bike “refract” inwards. Now I will permanently remember what refraction is.

(Image Credit)

Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

  1. How to Study Effectively with Flash Cards
  2. The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall
  3. How to study using.. elaboration

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