A better way to memorise things from your textbook

By: Jimmy Li Tuesday 31 March 2015



Lightbulb in a box


At MyTuition we noticed that when students need to memorise a whole heap of things, many of them just flip aimlessly through the textbook and re-read random parts. We're going to talk about a better method that provides an easy structure to help you memorise anything that you want. 

Step 1: Create flash cards

Make flash cards with information that you want to memorise. Limit each card to a couple of sentences or a single formula. Your cards don't need to be anything fancy, pieces of paper work just fine. Try starting with maybe 10 until you get the hang of things.

Below are some common things that high school students studying NCEA and Cambridge often need to memorise:

  • Maths - Times tables
  • Biology – Definitions and diagrams
  • Chemistry - Reactions and processes
  • Physics – Formulas and definitions
  • English – Quotes from novels and plays
  • History – Details of historical events

For Example

Osmosis is the passive movement of molecules along a concentration gradient, from regions of higher to regions of lower concentration.
7 x 8 = 56
Force = Mass x Acceleration.
Force in N, Mass in Kg, Acceleration in m/s^2


Step 2: Label a couple of boxes

Get four small boxes/containers and label them with the following:  

  1. Every Day
  2. Twice a Week
  3. Every Week
  4. Every Month

Every box corresponds with a certain frequency. Place all your flash cards in Box 1.


Step 3: Get testing!

Every day, test yourself on all cards in Box 1. If you get a card wrong, then you need to relearn it so put it back in Box 1. If you get it right, move the card into Box 2.

Twice a week, test yourself on all items in Boxes 1 and 2. If correct, move the card into the next box, if incorrect move it back into Box 1.

Every week, test Boxes 1, 2, and 3

Every month, test Boxes 1, 2, 3, and 4

Each time you get a card wrong, move it all the way back to Box 1. The goal is to move all your cards through the boxes 1-4. Once you've tested correctly at Box 4, you can remove the card because you've mastered it! Well done, give yourself a pat on the back, show your parents all your progress, and negotiate with them for a reward.

Do remember to keep the card for your own notes.

Leitner Study Method

You can change the frequency to whatever you want, as long as it's consistent. During exam season, you might test Box 1 twice a day and Box 2 every day, etc.

Originally, you might put 10-20 cards into Box 1, and you master the cards and remove them from Box 4, you can continuously add new cards into Box 1.



Step 5: Make more boxes

Why limit yourself to one set of boxes? You might have a few set of boxes, and be learning different sets of cards concurrently. Go crazy. You can work on multiple sets boxes at the same time, there's no need to finish one set before starting another.


Step 6: Work together

Get your friends or your parents to test you. Believe it or not, it is possible for students and parents to work together, and once you get into things you might actually enjoy the feeling of showing off how much you know.

Parents: Try starting off your kids by testing them every day (Box 1) at the same time of the day. This helps them establish a good study habit, and as they get into it you could gradually become more hands off, for example only testing them twice a week (Boxes 1 and 2) or every week (Boxes 1, 2, and 3).

Sometimes, you'll know exactly what you need to memorise, and sometimes you'll be unsure. If you're already getting private tuition with us, you can let your tutor know that you want to create flash cards and they'll be able to help. 

Article by Jimmy Li

Jimmy is the co-founder of MyTuition. MyTuition helps high school students in Auckland succeed by connecting them with the right tutors and guiding them through the year. Contact us at hello@mytuition.nz

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