Every student goes through this: having to memorize seemingly random dates that could make or break his grade. If you’re currently encountering this problem, here are some tips to help you remember dates for a test:
- Use funny rhymes. Remember, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue"? Well that rhyme certainly helped many students remember the year that Columbus "discovered" America. You might research on other useful rhymes, or even make your own! For example: 1558 makes Elizabeth great; this could help you commit to memory the year Elizabeth I became Queen of England, and so on. Remember, your rhymes don’t have to make sense; the very act of trying to make up a rhyme would enable the date to stick to your memory.
- Make a time line. Connect important events to each other. Construct a time line of all the important dates you’ll need to remember and find some ways on how you could associate them with each other. Also this would enable you to find a context (or a "peg") for the specific event that you need to remember. For example, if you are studying Napoleon then instead of just randomly trying to remember various dates about him think about those years in terms of his age. Try to make it personal, too. Your review could be like this: He was born in 1769; when he was just 24 years old (1793) he defeats the British and becomes a Brigadier General. He was that young! Four years later when he was 28 (1797) he comes to be regarded by France as a hero because of his victorious conquests of Italy, and that was 300 years before I was born.
By doing this, not only will you be able to remember the dates of important occurrences, but you’ll also be able to attain a higher level of learning by seeing possible relationships between important events.
You could opt to write this time line on a big sheet of construction paper and display it on your wall so you can refer to it until it becomes ingrained in your memory.
- Relate dates from different lessons. It would be good to connect dates from previously learned lessons to your current lessons. For example, if you’re learning about Indian civilization and you found out that Buddhism was founded in 550 BC, you could recall (say, from a previous lesson about Chinese history) that Confucius was born in 551 BC. If you keep this information at hand and you make an effort to connect lessons with each other, this could help you, especially for major tests, which integrate all the lessons you learned throughout the semester.
- Make silly mental pictures. Try to make the date you need to remember as memorable as possible. For example, you need to remember the year 1823 as the year the Monroe Doctrine (wherein the USA separates the spheres of influence between Europe and America) was put into effect. If you’re a basketball fan you might know that Michael Jordan wears the number 23 jersey; imagine him, a young lad of 18 (making 1823), passing the ball from America to a man in Europe named Monroe. This might seem silly, but if it would help you remember, then it served its purpose.
There are many other ways to help you memorize dates, but the key is to put these dates into context (any context) so that they aren’t just random numbers you could easily forget. Good luck!