Students in the MD Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health will be expected to retain large volumes of information. These strategies can help improve a student's memory.

The memory curve is an imaginary line illustrating the process of remembering and forgetting. It climbs with study exposure, drops with neglect, and moves up again with relearning. This line can be a constant upward curve or as erratic as a rollercoaster ride, depending on timing and frequency of memory reinforcement.

Achieving an optimal memory curve takes practice. Immediacy, frequency and variety of reinforcers (hearing, doing, seeing, moving) make a difference between short-term learning or forgetting.

Exposure to a concept item at least three times is the minimum you will need to commit material to short-term memory. In order to memorize successfully you must create activities that involve all your senses. Creating charts and flashcards may be helpful for some students. A word of caution: Do not spend more time making the memory apparatus than needed.

To achieve long-term memory, reinforce the material every day during the first week. Remember to vary the methods (using different senses). More time spent early in the learning process equals less time for memory brush-up and integration before exams.

Continue intermittent reinforcing throughout coursework. You will retain information longer if you learn and reinforce the material over a longer period of time. Get into a routine before, during and after each class. Do not get over-involved with outside interests. You can study as hard as you want, but you won't be successful if outside/psychological concerns get in the way.

Fit new material into old — consider various relationships and changes to systems. How does biochemistry impact the physiologic aspects of the material you are studying?

Memorization tactics include the following:

  • Acrostics: Short phrases or poems where the first letter of each word serves as a cue to what information you are trying to remember (Every Good Boy Does Fine is a way to learn musical notes)
  • Flashcards: Using index cards, write statements, questions or vocabulary on one side, answers on the other
  • Seven is the magic number: Repeat difficult information seven times a day for seven days
  • Relate and associate: Form associations between the new ideas and information that your already know
  • Acronyms: Create words formed out of the first letters of a series of words
  • Imagery: Draw images to represent certain concepts, or use materials to create a model