Most exams do not just test how well you understand a topic. Often, they also assess your recollection of key facts. This unfortunately means that, as part of your preparation, you need to memorise these important bits of information. Many people struggle with this part of revision, finding it repetitive and frustrating.
This article has plenty of tips to help you effectively learn quotes – and other important facts – for your exam.
How do you memorise quotes?
There are many different techniques you can use to help you efficiently memorise quotes. From getting started to recapping what you have learned, there are plenty of ideas below. For the best revision, try out a variety of techniques, then stick with just a few methods that work best for you.
1. Choose short, relevant quotes to memorise
The first step to memorising quotes has to be choosing which ones to learn. This process will depend on the exam; A-Levels generally require more in-depth knowledge than GCSEs, for instance. Although it can feel like learning more is better, this is not always the case. Having lots of quotes to memorise can make it more difficult to remember all of them accurately, as well as using up valuable revision time.
Instead, pick out a few quotes that are relevant to your topic, and that you know you can analyse well, making them more useful in an exam. You do still need to make sure you cover the major themes likely to come up, but this doesn’t mean memorising a whole book! Quotes that are a sentence long, or even less, will typically be more than sufficient for you to write about in an essay. Overall, learning one or two key quotes from the main characters in a play, as well as for three important themes, may be enough.
2. Use the ‘look, say, cover, write, check’ method
This is a method most often used in primary school to help learn words for spelling tests. However, it is still a useful technique for memorising short bits of information, including quotes. With a list of the quotes, you need to learn, work your way through the actions in the title.
First, ‘look’ – in other words, read the quote. Then say it out loud and cover it up (or look away). From memory, write down the quote, then look at your list and check whether you got it right. You can repeat this for each quote, for as many times as you need to get it in your memory. This method is fully explained in this article from howtospell.co.uk. Although it focuses on learning spellings, the skills are easily transferred to memorising quotes.
3. Write the quotes on flashcards or sticky notes
Flashcards are a familiar tool used by many students for revision – and they can also be useful for memorising quotes. Once you have started learning quotes so they are more familiar, flashcards can be particularly effective for going over them again. This ensures the quotes are in your long-term memory and can be good for a final check before the exam.
There are many ways to use flashcards. One side could be a prompt, such as a character in the text you are revising, with one or two related quotes on the other side to try and remember. Alternatively, the first half of a quote could be on one side of the card, so you have to remember the second half, which would be on the other side.
Another thing to consider is that free, online platforms such as Quizlet are an easy, quick way to make flashcards. They offer lots of ways to practise your flashcards, as well as recording statistics to help you see the progress you are making. For more ideas, this article by Think Student has some creative ways to make flashcards enjoyable.
A similar method involves writing your quotes on sticky notes rather than flashcards. Instead of sitting down and working your way through a set of flashcards, sticky notes can be put in places where you will often see them. If the quotes are in clear view, perhaps around your mirror, you will naturally read them as you go about your day. This helps you to revise the quotes almost without realising you are doing it, so they stay in your long-term memory.
4. Play memory games with friends
Getting friends involved to revise as a group is a great way of making tasks like memorising quotes more interesting. You can help each other out with bits you find more difficult, and it can be really motivating to be surrounded with people also working towards exams. For more ideas on getting motivated to study, have a look at this article from Think Student.
Memory games are a great way of revising quotes, as well as being a break away from studying alone at a desk. For example, you could try charades, but acting out quotes instead of TV shows or film titles. If the rest of the group can’t guess the right quote word for word, you lose! Remembering the actions, you or a friend did for a certain quote can help to recall the quote itself.
Even if you are finding it hard to organise a group revision session, working with other people can make sure your studying doesn’t get too monotonous. See if you can find someone at home to test you – or even try to get them involved in a game!
5. Make sure you understand the context of the quotes you learn
Even if you have a good range of quotes memorised, they will not be any help if you cannot confidently use them in an exam situation. When you are choosing and learning the quotes, ensure you understand what they mean, as well as having an idea of how to analyse or use them in an essay.
There are many ways to practice this. Particularly for English quotes, try to annotate your chosen quotes with key language features, and how they relate to the story or theme. Often, online resources such as Sparknotes have useful annotations of common texts and themes used in national exams. An activity you can try with friends is to talk for one minute about a certain quote, without repeating information or hesitating. If you get through the minute you win – and it’s harder than you think!
Many quotes are from longer texts you have studied, in which case it is important to know where they fit into the story. Is the quote from the start or the end of the text? What key events have happened? If it is a piece of dialogue, who is speaking, and who are they talking to?
Finally, try to use quotes you have memorised in practice essays or past papers. This is the best way of getting used to what the exam will be like. It also allows you to see if you can confidently write about quotes, as well as remembering them accurately.
6. Regularly spend a little bit of time going over quotes you have learned
A useful rule for all revision is to study for small chunks of time, but often, rather than cramming the night before the test. The same is true for memorising quotes. Once you have learned them, it is important to recap them, so you know them thoroughly, ready for your exam. Some of the methods mentioned are really good for going over what you have learned, such as flashcards and memory games. Recapping quotes means they stick in your long-term memory, so you are less likely to forget them when the exam day comes.
Which subjects require you to remember important quotes and facts?
Memorising quotes is an activity most people associate with English. Having studied a play, book or other text in school, you are asked about it in your exam, and are expected to back up your answer with evidence from the text. However, there are many other subjects where similar skills are useful.
Learning quotes may also be useful in Religious Studies exams, to demonstrate certain religious beliefs or points of view in an essay. For History exams, you are often expected to know the dates when significant events happened, and in foreign language subjects, revision often involves learning vocabulary. Both of these involve similar processes of memorisation as learning quotes does. Ultimately, remember that you can use the tips above not only for memorising English quotes, but for a wide range of subjects, hopefully making revision more manageable.