Make your own mnemonic to help you remember the facts

Forest dawn

1 March 2016

Richard of York gave battle in vain. He may well have done, but the familiar phrase has nothing much to do with English history, instead it’s a device to remember the order of the colours of the rainbow – red, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

In the same way, mnemonics have long been used to memorise rules and facts of accountancy.  For example, if you are studying audit you can use SODIT to help you remember key facts about relying on the work of internal auditors. Here’s how it works:

  • Scope: What was the scope of their work, did it cover the required amount for the auditor’s required comfort?
  • Organisational Status: Are the internal auditors respected, are recommendations actions promptly?
  • Due care and skill: Was sufficient and appropriate evidence gathered, does this support the conclusions reached?
  • Independence: Are measures in place to maintain Internal auditors independence, e.g. not letting them implement controls, keeping them separate from those they audit?
  • Technical competence: If not qualified, are they experienced, have we any previous experience of their work?

While you’ll certainly meet dozens of other helpful mnemonics in the course of your CA studies, don’t hesitate to invent your own if you need to. The memory tricks that you devise for yourself are likely to be far more effective as you can tailor them with personal details.

Code your brain with vivid combinations

As with most things, practising mnemonic creation techniques will make you better at using them. The memory is a muscle that can be trained. Performers who amaze with remarkable feats of memory are almost certainly using the same mnemonic techniques.

The idea behind mnemonics is to encode hard-to-retain information in such a way that it’s easy to bring to mind. Human brains are evolved to code and interpret various stimuli such as images, colours, sounds, smells, emotions and language. We use this information to create models of our worlds in order to make sense of the things we encounter. All of this complex information is stored effectively in our memories.

Be funny or shocking. Amusing or rude things are easier to remember than normal ones

However, in some cases written information – words on a page – does not easily translate into the richly encoded information that we retain effortlessly. Fortunately, with a bit of understanding, we can help encode the information we need to learn.

If we can combine study material with other things to create vivid mental images, they will be easier to remember. So whether it’s creating a new word or sentence as a mnemonic or combining the facts with sounds or images, there are a few rules to follow to make them more effective.

  • Use positive images as your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones
  • Use vivid and bright images, working in elements for other senses if possible, as they are more memorable than drab ones
  • Give your images movement and three dimensions if you can, once again, they’ll be memorable.
  • Make the important parts larger than the rest
  • Be funny or shocking. Amusing or rude things are easier to remember than normal ones
  • Merge the new information in your mnemonic with something you already know well
  • Place the mnemonic in a real location. Creating a mnemonic and then placing it somewhere you know well, a familiar route, for example, will embed it in your memory further

Topics

  • CA Student blog

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