Memorizing Complex Images and Charts


No matter what you are memorizing, mnemonic strategies will make the process easier and less time consuming. It may take more time to memorize the info initially, but you will more than make up for it by having to do less review later on!

The mnemonic process may not be so obvious when you are trying to memorize visuals, so let’s try it with a very complex chart that someone in anatomy or pre-med might have to memorize.

Click for full-size image. Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons
Click for full-size image. Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons

For highly visual material, I find it helpful to actual redraw the image. The drawing doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to accurately capture the information.

Don’t trace! The act of looking at the image and then redrawing it–correcting, erasing, redoing–will contribute to the stickiness of the . You aren’t wasting time! As I redraw I would also add in color, not to promote realism, but to bring out features.

Redrawing the image also forces you to pay attention to every detail. Notice my note in brackets on this picture; “Ask prof.” As I was drawing I noticed that the image was missing a label.

Next, I imagine myself, ant-sized, walking along the bone, up the tendon (I didn’t label those because I already knew them) and onto the epimysium. At my feet are lots of little mice running around going “eep, eep,” (EEP – MICE = epimysium). I’m trying to avoid stepping on them.

I come to the edge and look over onto the cut away section. Between the outer layer and inner layer I see little periscopes peering up at me. I pull one of the periscopes out and there is a mouse holding on to it, looking at me (PERISCOPE – MICE = perimysium). Over to the side of each one of those muscle-fiber bundles, I notice a blood vessel with blood slowly dripping out. I take care to look at each blood vessel, clearly seeing it in my mind’s eye.

That long bundle sticking out of the center has human faces frozen onto it’s sides (FROZEN – FACES = fascicle).

And that thin piece sticking out of the end of the fascicle? I can see it flex and contract so it’s a muscle, but it has a bowl of sticks-n-twigs fiber cereal balanced on top of it, threatening to fall with every flex. (MUSCLE – FIBER CEREAL = muscle fiber).

I would then do each part of the chart in the same manner. As I zoom in to the details of the muscle fiber, I’ll shrink myself even smaller so I can easily see the details.

How would you quickly review this information? How can it be made easily portable? How do you make sure you still recall it accurately in several weeks? [hidepost]

Flash cards are really key, because they are an easy way to carry around what you need to study and refresh your memory on a regular basis. See the next post on flash cards.

Really, you only need to write “skeletal muscle” on one side of your flash card. When that flash card pops up, imagine yourself walking through the image again and see each part of the mnemonic–epimysium, perimysium, blood vessels, fascicle, muscle fiber. Do this several times the first day you learn this, until you can recall it perfectly. Next day, just do it once or twice to make sure it’s still there. After that, every few days, studying that flash card less and less often as the memory makes its way into your long term recall.

IMPORTANT: You will also need a flash card for each part of the skeletal muscle. I would have a separate flash card that says, “epimysium” on one side and says nothing (or “epimysium” again) on the other side. I’d have one for “fascicle,” for “perimysium,” etc. When the “perimysium” flash card pops up, I recall seeing those periscope-toting mice as I leaned off the edge of that skeletal muscle.[/hidepost]

Please let me know in the comments if you have your own specialized information you are trying to memorize and can’t quite figure out how to do it. There is always a way to make a quick, easy, reliable, memory with .

2 thoughts on “Memorizing Complex Images and Charts”

  1. This word-picture-story combo reinforced by a drawing is tantamount to cutting rote memory time by 75+%

    This is definitely a boon for the average-good student.

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