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Part of Western Governors University

November 30, 2010

Create mnemonics to retain information.

Pile of books with an apple

Attending an online university means learning a lot of information in an accelerated amount of time. It can be difficult to keep concepts and details straight, but using mnemonic devices is a quick way to jog your memory. What is a mnemonic device? It is a memory technique that allows you to condense information by using a rhyme or phrase to help you remember it.

For example, in music, the mnemonic "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge" represents the treble clef notes from left to right on the piano: E, G, B, D, F.

In algebra, finding the sum of (4 -2) x 7 + 4³ is accomplished by using the mnemonic, "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally," with the first letter of each word corresponding to the Order of Operations:

  • Parenthesis
  • Exponents
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Addition
  • Subtraction

(By using the mnemonic device, the answer is 78)

As you can see, mnemonic devices can be a huge help to earning your online degree. By creating your own personal phrases, you will enhance your ability to remember information. Consider the following scenario:

You are learning about electron energy levels and sublevels in your chemistry class. You need to remember the number of electrons present in each sublevel, as listed in the table below:

Electrons at each sublevel

Sublevel         # of electrons

s                               2


p                                6


d                               10


f                                14


g                                18

An effective mnemonic device could be something like, "Of the pie slices, Sally had 2 and Peter had 6, Dustin had 10 and Frank had 14. The fullest was Greg with a whopping 18." By assigning names to each sublevel, your memory will be more receptive to the information.

Try implementing mnemonic devices into your study sessions and expect results right away. Creating shortcuts for your memory will help you retain information you may need later.

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