Exam preparation

Most science students, and especially in our early years, learn great chunks of information by rote. Rote learning is the process of memorizing specific new items as they are encountered. This can be useful for lists, items in a particular order, some formula and equations, vocabulary, and structural models. For rote learning, using mnemonics, melodies, the method of loci, multiplication repetition, peg words – and any other method that works for you. According to Rhoden and Starkey (1998, pp. 117 – 118), visual memory is the strongest, especially a 3-D image and that rote learning needs constant revision.

Whenever you are preparing for an examination, the bulk of it requires understanding concepts. This is necessary for systems, for some tabulated material, for argumentative or controversial issues, and for explaning theoretical models. To remember for understanding:

  • We remember what we want to remember
  • We remember what we are familiar with
  • We remember what we agree with
  • We remember what we can explain to others
  • We remember more when we have more associations
  • We remember material we can fit into patterns
  • We remember better when we have been active with

Stay motivated; look for the meaning; organise the material; visualise the material; make associations; become very familiar with the information and the best advice of all, start early with your exam preparation!


Rhoden, S & Starkey, R 1998, Studying Science at University: Everything you Need to Know, Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards, NSW, Australia.