How to improve your memory

Listen to the radio interview about improving your memory and do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills.


Do the preparation exercise before you listen. Then do the other exercises to check your understanding.

Remote audio URL


Mary: I’d like to welcome Charles Long to the studio today. Charles has just published an article in New Science journal about memorisation. It’s all about how to make our memory function better.

Charles, exam time is looming and there’ll be lots of teenagers tuning in today. Can you give us some advice about improving our ability to memorise?

Charles: Hello! Yes, of course. I’d like to start by talking about the process of memorisation. It’s vital that we understand the process if we want to make adjustments to the way we function. We all use memory in the same way. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a student revising for your finals or an adult standing in the aisle of a supermarket, trying to recall a particular item from a grocery list.

Mary: Ha ha! That’s me. I always forget to take my list.

Charles: You and thousands of other people too, Mary. We learn to use our memory when we are still at nursery school. Young children are naturally very good at working out how to remember things. The tips I’m going to share today are based on the things we used to do to help us remember when we were children. The process of memorisation occurs in two distinct forms. Do you know what they are?

Mary:  Are they ‘long-term memory’ and ‘short-term memory’?

Charles: That’s right! But these aren’t completely separate concepts. We use a combination of both types of memory when we want to formulate our thoughts and recall information, whether we’re trying to remember something from a decade ago or just an hour earlier.

Mary: So what tips have you got for improving the quality of our memory?

Charles: Right. Let’s start with ‘association’.

Mary: Association?

Charles: Yes. We can use word association to remember an idea or a concept. This means choosing a word or phrase you associate with what you are trying to remember. The word needs to be something familiar, that you come into contact with on a daily basis. So, for example, you can use the name of your pet dog to remember a scientific equation. Try it! Read the equation a few times and then say your dog’s name again and again. Later, in your science exam, just recall the name and the whole equation should come back to you.

Mary: It sounds too good to be true! What else, Charles?

Charles: Visualisation is another trick we can use. So you have to visualise an image that is connected to the thing you need to remember. For example, if you want to remember the date that the Berlin Wall came down, you might visualise a picture of a wall with the date written on it in graffiti. The image of the wall becomes an important part of what you will remember. You can use several images in a row to remember things like information in a text or a list of ingredients for a recipe.

Mary: Yes, that makes sense.

Charles: Singing can help with memorisation too.

Mary: Singing?

Charles: Yeah. So instead of reading a text aloud, you sing it. Singing is one of most effective and earliest memory tricks that are used for learning new concepts. I used to ‘sing’ lists of historical facts and dates. It works.

Mary: And did you have to sing aloud in your history exams?

Charles: Not aloud! But I did used to sing in my head. And I always got good marks for history.

Mary: Any more tips, Charles?

Charles: Yes! I’ve saved the best one till last. It’s particularly relevant for any students who have tuned in. ‘Teach it’.

Mary: Teach it? Teach ‘what’?

Charles: Teach whatever it is that you want to remember. So, if you’re studying for an English exam, teach the concepts to someone else. It can be a real person - a friend in a study group is ideal - or it can be a ‘pretend’ person. You can just imagine someone is listening to you as you teach. Better still, record yourself ‘teaching’ and then play back the video to revise the material further.

Mary: That sounds like a great tip … or ‘trick’.

Charles: Yes, it really works because in order to teach something you need to understand it. Teaching reinforces the understanding. And although these sound like ‘tricks’, they aren’t really.

Mary: No?

Charles: No. They are just simple ways that we can train our brains to be more effective. By getting into the habit of using word association, visualisation, singing and teaching, our brains develop and work better for us. And of course that has a knock-on effect on our memory and our abilities to recall all kinds of data.

Mary: Thank you, Charles. Now, I think we’ve got time for a couple of questions from our listeners.


Have you got a good memory? What do you do to help you remember things when you're studying?

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Submitted by disneyFAN13 on Sat, 11/05/2022 - 12:22

Well, I am lucky I have a good memory, especially for studying. My favourite subjects are Biology and History and I’ve found some great study techniques to memorise all the study material in each chapter. Some of them are flash cards, mind-maps and taking notes or rewriting. Flash cards are very useful to check on myself if I remember everything and if not, I revise it as much as I need. Rewriting a chapter I’ve read on my text book makes my mind process more the information. I also use coloured pens and small drawings when I take these notes. Last but not least are mind-maps which help to categorise various information of a certain topic more easily. That’s because mind-maps organise the information with a similar way as the brain works. I’d definitely recommend these methods as they make studying and memorising much easier and with having the right time management I am sure they’ll have great results on remembering everything for the next exam!

Submitted by GBGBGBGB on Thu, 08/25/2022 - 14:18

I’m very lucky because I have a great memory and when I want to remember something for a school test or for my job I can stay sure that I remember everything. I don’t have a real method to remember numbers or words but every time I have to remember something I stay concentrated and I repeat that single thing more than one time.

Submitted by strawberry123_ on Fri, 07/22/2022 - 09:00

My memory is good. Associations help me to remember information quicker and better. Also, it`s very difficult to remember information(e.g. historical dates, abstracts) when I`m just sitting, I need to move, to go, to do something(cleaning, cooking and etc), and in this way I`ll remember information better and quicker too.

Submitted by erumpiwe on Thu, 07/14/2022 - 09:39

It was really interesting to listen to this audio. Moreover, I have learned some new words and nice tips which probably will help me in learning languages and other spheres of my life. All in all, I loved this lesson and tasks.

Submitted by mdproduction on Sun, 05/15/2022 - 11:14

Very interesting method for memorisation is singing. I can't say that I use it before, but I have never analyzed and combained the signing as a method. That's whe we alsways remember our favourite songs
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Submitted by Capixt on Thu, 05/12/2022 - 16:34

I have a good memory for things that are not important... but when I have an exam or an important test my brain doesn't work, I will try this tips, maybe it can help me .
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Submitted by I_Love_English on Mon, 05/02/2022 - 11:35

i knew this tips, but my memory works amazing even without it

Submitted by Naqy on Wed, 04/20/2022 - 01:19

I dont think I have a good memory. Whenever i study for an exam, i always use variety of method to improve my memory skills such as singing, teaching and repeating the word in my head a lot of time. I also love to use the association technique too.

Submitted by atolit0123 on Wed, 04/06/2022 - 02:00

I do not consider having a good memory so in exams i need to make a big effort to remember specific things of the topics (like formulas or dates) so i can have good grades. One of the things i do to understand topics is to write the main ideas in a board and then to explain them to my phone.
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Submitted by 120213197 on Sat, 04/02/2022 - 21:13

I like to think that I do have a good memory, even if it sometimes fails me when I get too nervous. I have various ways of memorizing things, like repeating many times the words I need to memorize, it also helps me to remember what music I was listening to when I was studying.
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Submitted by Valeria_ on Thu, 10/07/2021 - 14:51

I don't have a very good memory, what I do to remember things when I'm studying is to repeat several times or I also explain to my cat or my sister, even if they ignore me, to be able to remember and understand faster, also sometimes I use images to remember, sometimes I make some cards with the image and the text and I practice it.
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Submitted by Chio on Thu, 09/09/2021 - 05:44

I do not have a good memory, unfortunately. But I know that can change. I have tried some tricks like visualizing an image when you want to remember something later and you think about it when you need to. This audio was hopeful. Definitely a great website to improve your english skills.

Submitted by Rabano on Wed, 09/08/2021 - 03:08

I sometimes have a good memory. I can memorize practice things or some sentences from a book, but i can do it with teory, Association of words also helps sometimes but not all the time, my memory dont is the best.

Submitted by jessimg on Tue, 09/07/2021 - 19:10

This audio is very interesting, they give more ideas on how to improve your memory and I think is a very good way to practice your listening skills.
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Submitted by Elpro202 on Tue, 08/03/2021 - 01:32

Yes, I've a good memory in some cases. Anyway, I don't like using memorise because a week later you'll forget everything. To avoid that, I always try to comprend the content, without memorising concepts. Obviously there're stuff like maths formulas that require memorising, but that are exceptions.

Submitted by strawberry123_ on Mon, 07/26/2021 - 09:04

I think, I have a good memory. When I`m studying, I usually try to assotiate things, I need to study, with something. For me it is the best way to remember things.

Submitted by Gymnastics100 on Mon, 05/31/2021 - 18:19

I guess, the best way to memorize and that always helps me is association!
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Submitted by zehirli_cicek on Sun, 03/28/2021 - 17:32

In my opinion the best way for remembering the information when you're studying 1) is to highlight the topics and the most important things with a yellow pen and so when you revise again before the exam it'll attract your attention 2) repeat the information you want to save in your mind many times loudly 3) do sport to feel more active and full of energy 4) take care of your health
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Submitted by Kostantinus on Thu, 02/25/2021 - 07:35

In my point of view, the main thing in remembering some information is to use it practically. It works for any kind of knowledge. Whether you learn foreign language or IT you have to apply your theoretical knowledges in practical work. And as more you do it as better you remember new things. Just do it and you will notice great changes in your studying.

Submitted by leonardomarin852 on Tue, 10/13/2020 - 20:25

to memorize easily I use mind maps and graphs
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Submitted by Kalenkhoe on Tue, 08/25/2020 - 18:07

I don't have a good memory. To memorize theory, I always walk while learning and recites it loudly. Also, I keep on changing by place of study, this helps immensely. Association of words also helps sometimes.

Submitted by gladyglady on Thu, 08/13/2020 - 03:00

In order to remember things when I am studying, I often use mind - maps as organizing and memorizing the lessons in my class. Not only does it work effectively but it also helps me remember the large amount of significant information for my exams. I highly recommend this method since it is apparently popular with students and is a good way to improve your memory.

Submitted by Gaetan1604 on Fri, 04/24/2020 - 08:30

These are some great tips that I will put to the test! This was a very useful listening exercise.

Submitted by Sofa on Mon, 03/23/2020 - 14:31

I've got a really bed memory, but not all of the tips work good in my case. As for association method, I'm sure association words should be phonetically or lexically related with a thing we need to remember. For example a word caterpillar seems hard to learn until you can listen it's Russian "phonetical brother" "катер пилит" so you imagine a caterpillar that saws (cuts) a boat. Singing and teaching methods work in their best way for me. I use them more often.

Submitted by giusy_r on Sat, 03/07/2020 - 11:34

I haven't a good memory but when I'm studying I have some tips to remember things, for example I write the main things while I repeat a subject that I am studying and this help me to remember.

Submitted by daonguyen on Mon, 02/10/2020 - 12:26

Have you got a good memory? What do you do to help you remember things when you're studying? No, actually I have not got a good memory, I think. So in order to improve it, I have to take certain steps such as writing down the primary content of my lessons, singing or teaching whatever it is that I want to remember. These ways really work for me so you also should try.

Submitted by Spectrum317 on Fri, 03/06/2020 - 09:59

Thanks british council for such a nice content on how to enhance memory skills.

In reply to by daonguyen

Submitted by Tatyana__ on Wed, 10/23/2019 - 18:22

I don't have good memory. But I always use associations to remember new information.

Submitted by Mihael on Sun, 05/12/2019 - 09:42

I think... I don't have good memory enough. I usually memorized all the world or associate something to particular subject

Submitted by PurpleandPink on Tue, 04/30/2019 - 03:34

I really don't have a good memory but association technique works best for me.

Submitted by Askar100 on Fri, 02/15/2019 - 16:01

This audio material was not easy to understand it. Upper intermediate is not easy for me! But audio material is interesting and useful for application!
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Submitted by professor on Wed, 07/04/2018 - 17:56

I improve my memory with memorisation. if you memory something every day regularly you'll be able to memorise everything.
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