When Does Rote Memorization Work? 

In this article, we will define what rote memorization is and why its effectiveness is debatable. Lastly, we will unveil five methods to memorize faster and more.

What Is Rote Memorization?

Rote learning is one method to memorize new information quickly through repetition. Repeating a number over and over again and hope that the brain can find out a way to memorize it on its own.

When Does Rote Memorization Work?

How many times would you have to repeat the number until you know it by heart?

Rote memorization has fallen into disrepute in recent years. But why and for what reason? Rote learning can work, but it is not always the right method for everyone. If a student is asked to learn the capitals of all Asian countries by heart, then this is a reasonable task if the student has any idea what Asia is. If the student is approached to an entirely new topic, other methods are more appropriate.

According to a study by Dr. Yury Shtyrov, you need about 160 repetitions per unknown word until you have hammered it into your long-term memory. Suddenly, rote memorization does not sound so simple anymore.

Rote learning does have sound side effects. The rote memorization method is useful to create a background knowledge which can help you to memorize new content more manageable.

Our brain needs as many points of reference as possible to seed new information to make it easier to remember and to save content permanently. If you try to make as many associations as possible and involve several senses, you are likely to put the new content into your long term memory. Building bridges to apply abstract information to your environment is the key.

Five Methods to Memorize Faster and More

Before you start learning new content, you will have to find out the learning method that works for YOU. Whether you remember information or not depends mainly on how you learn and whether you apply the knowledge. Do you sometimes wonder why your parents can not remember how to convert PDF to word, although you have shown them many times, but they do remember the day when you did your first steps? Maybe some types of learning and memorizing don’t require rote learning when a new piece of information has a high intensity.

When a new piece of information enters the brain with a high entry intensity, there are most likely; feelings are involved. But, how can we force high intensity, when we need to learn new vocabulary for the German test tomorrow, or my new phone number? Almost impossible.

So here are five methods on how to memorize faster and more for the long term.

1. Break down the information into smaller pieces

Our brains are not good at remembering more than seven digits at once.

This may be the reason why it is difficult for us to memorize more extended numbers or formulas. We need to break down new information into smaller pieces.

Try to remember this number 7464241234521.

Even with the rote memorization method by repeating over and over, you will probably not remember it in a hurry.

It will be much easier for you, if you try to remember individual parts of the number such as:

  • 74 for my mother ́s birthday
  • 64 for your uncle’s house number
  • 2412 as the date for Christmas
  • 345 you can remember as they are following numbers
  • 21 could be the biggest birthday party you have had or will have

If you have no personal reference to a number, you can make one up. It will still work.

2. The Loci-Method

Have you seen memory athletes, who remember a ridiculously long number within minutes? Most likely, they used the Loci-Method, where you use a city route with various prominent points or locations and walk along the streets. You place the information you want to remember to point on the map and walk the way in your mind. You can then collect the corresponding information at each place again.

This method is beneficial when you need to remember a long number or formula, but needs practice over time.

3. Senses: Learning by hearing, feeling, listening and feeling

This is the method that many school teachers use for their students. Many students can not sit in silence in front of their computers or documents and force the new information into their heads.

It helps to visualize, hear, or even feel what they want to remember. To combine different senses to learn by heart can help.

Learning a new phone number with the help of senses may sound weird, but if you use your creativity, it can work. Think of songs or make your song with your number, maybe a rhyme can help too.

4. Distribute the information everywhere

I recently started learning Indonesian, which everyone who comes into my apartment, can see, since I have notes with vocabulary and phrases everywhere in the bedroom, in the bathroom, on the mirror and the shower glass or the couch. If I plan to learn new content by heart, I need to be confronted with it everywhere.

It would help if you were busy with it everywhere. Write down what you want to learn on many little papers and distribute them all over your home. This way, you will always be confronted with them, no matter what you are doing. Sometimes different colors or pens can help to memorize them.

It sounds simple, but this type of rote memorization is still a very effective way to learn by heart. If you deal with the same information over and over again, it will eventually be internalized automatically. Therefore, take the opportunity to surround yourself with the learning material.

5. Have breaks and sleep

And last but not least, have breaks! Your brain needs breaks and time to work with all the new information. After pushing all this new content into your brain, rote memorization can only really work when you give your brain rest to deal with the new information.

Sleep! Don ́t worry. Your brain will not forget anything while you sleep. It is the opposite. Your brain is very active and transfers the new knowledge into long-term memory. Repeating everything just before you go to sleep can help to increase the chance that this knowledge will be stored for the long term.


Learning new content is particularly easy if the learner can make connections to knowledge, and if the new content makes sense. If you have a new hobby, you learn a lot of new things in a short time because you enjoy it. Try a few different methods and memory games and work out what learning type you are. Once you understand how you memorize new information fast and for long term, practice as much and often as you can. Learning is working, and no one can do that for you.

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