The Catholic University of America

Oct. 24, 2008

New Center Offers Students Tools to Improve Their Memories

Emily Rocque, assistant director of the Center for Academic Success, leads a workshop for students on memory.
Can you describe what is engraved on the front side of a penny? (No peeking.) Do you have trouble remembering historical dates but recall all too vividly that time you tripped in front of the entire cafeteria?

"Memory Improvement: Maximize Remembering, Minimize Forgetting," a brown-bag workshop for students on Oct. 23 sought to help students understand why they remember certain things and not others - and use that knowledge to their advantage.

The presentation at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center was sponsored by CUA's Center for Academic Success and is one in a series of workshops designed to help undergraduates, especially freshmen, get the most out of their academic experience.

It also offered plenty of fun memory factoids.

The "power nap" is not just a gimmick conceived by sleepy students, for instance. Studies show that taking a 20-minute nap the day before a test can improve a student's score, Emily Rocque, assistant director of the center, told the audience. Smells and music have also been linked to improved memory.

And when it comes to being active or passive - it doesn't pay to be a lazy learner, Rocque says. People remember only about 20 percent of what they hear, compared to 75 percent of what they say and 90 percent of what they do.

Which means that when trying to remember material, students should write it, use hand gestures, say it out loud, draw a picture or do some type of activity, according to Rocque.

Rocque showed students columns of unrelated letters and asked them to recall the columns a few seconds later. Most students could quickly recall the first group of letters and the last, but those in the middle proved elusive. Rocque said this is typical of brute memorization, especially in instances like memorizing foreign language vocabulary: It is usually easier to remember the first and the last in a series, rather than the items in the middle.

She also offered students tools to file away information into their long-term memory: Place items into logical groups, limit numbers to groups of seven and use "memonics," or memory tricks, such as the "HOMES" acronym for the Great Lakes.

A list of upcoming workshops is included below. For more information on the center, or to find out times and locations of future workshops, please visit

Oct. 29 and 30
"Learning Style: Adapt Your Studying According to Your Preferences"

Nov. 5 and 6
"Effective Listening: Improve Your Auditory Input and Storage"

Nov. 12 and 13
"Stress and Test Anxiety: Reduce Stress and Cope with Anxiety."

Nov. 19 and 20
"Scheduling and Procrastination: Plan for the Final Three Weeks."

Dec. 3 and 4
"Exam Preparation: Strategize for Final Exams."