Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 28 Feb 2008

My daughter doesn't have a good memory, which is a real handicap for her in exams. Can we do anything to help her?

Hillary's Advice

A poor memory can be the result of stress, illness or disability -- or just be one of those things, like having ginger hair or a good sense of rhythm. I have two daughters. One remembers almost everything, and the other almost nothing. No prizes for guessing which one sailed through exams, but the other one has learned all kind of tricks to get by, including writing on the back of her hand, and creating visual pictures to link things together in her mind.

Get your daughter to try out different kinds of revision writing out prompt cards, making up jingles, or imagining pictures in her head. A classic memory technique might be to get her to imagine her bedroom, then have her mentally pin key facts to different items lamp, desk, curtains as she tours around it. When she needs to retrieve those items, she takes the mental tour again and there they are waiting.

And get her to look at i before e (except after c): old school ways to remember stuff by Judy Parkinson (published by Michael O Mara Books limited), which is stuffed with exactly what it says, from ways to remember tricky spellings miniature has two tiny words in the middle, I and a to using the acronym PEN to recall the three main parts of the atom.
Also reassure her she is not alone. Judging by the huge number of replies to this quandary, the world is full of memory-challenged people muttering jingles under their breath, stuffing lists into their bras and mentally sticking items to their fingertips.