4 reasons why memorization doesn’t help you learn

For some reason, memorization has become a pillar of our education. We have somehow created a system that defines success based on how good we are at memorizing facts for exams. Still we have those friends that didn’t stress for exams and just managed to do stuff without memorizing anything. How come?

In this post, I’ll give you 4 reasons why shouldn’t memorize:

#1 Everything you memorize, you will forget!

The main reason for memorization is usually to pass an exam to show that you’ve understood a course. For some reason, exams are structured around our ability to remember facts and exercises and not understanding what we do. Considering that the primary goal is to learn, exams are truly useless if they depend on memorization.

If you have memorized stuff to pass the exam, have you ever noticed that once you’ve passed that exam, almost everything you memorized just seem to disappear?

When we truly learn, we connect previous knowledge to current knowledge, and we build a sort of network of knowledge through our neural network in our brains. It is as if you drew a line between to points on a blank paper to connect the dots.

When you memorize, you usually do not connect these dots and the things you should have learned just vanish once you’ve passed the exam.

If your purpose is truly to learn and remember, memorization has the opposite effect: you’ll forget most of the things you should know…

#2 Ask yourself, why don’t I just use my computer?

Honestly, why do we memorize when we have computers? A very common argument is that if we don’t memorize, we stop using our brain. The beauty of our brain lies in its ability to understand, think and learn. Technology allows us to develop tools to make life easier for us, and it cannot yet replace our primary function as a human being that is to think.

And the beauty about understanding everything you do is that you will always remember and understand it. It is very much like bicycling. Once you’ve learned it, you just know why it works. Don’t become a computer by trying to blindly fill your brain with facts.

#3 If you don’t understand, you’ll fail miserably

In our educational system, most teachers give us tests and exams where we only need to memorize facts in order to get top grades. And the majority of tests are like that. But suddenly comes one of these exams where professors give exams so difficult that the entire class just fails. We tend to hate the teacher when this happens.

Normally, what has just happened is that we memorize facts and exercises to the point where we hope that we’ll get something similar for the final exam. The exams are not more difficult than those exercises we previously got, it is just that we never understood what we were really doing.

Much of this wrong behavior comes from an educational system that has taught us the wrong approach from the start. But I believe we have a certain personal responsibility to change this behavior in order not to turn ourselves into none thinking species.

#3 You become less happy and more stressed!

Ok,  this one is is purely based on my observation and common sense. I believe there is a clear correlation between memorization and creativity, as well as between memorization and unhappiness. When you stop thinking, you become a computer (thinking is not the same as having thoughts). The things that make us human are our ability to think, create and imagine. Take that away, and you’ll become very unhappy…

Also, memorization makes you stressed. You stress because you don’t understand. And we always fear what we don’t understand. Memorization creates borders and walls in your mind; you don’t explore and expand your thoughts, but allow yourself to build barriers for your imagination because you only memorize the stuff that you get for exams!

We always fear what we don’t understand


Michel Thomas taught languages to his students in 3 days. He was maybe the greatest teacher of the 20th century, maybe of the 2nd millennium…

Memorization was mentioned as one of his sacred rules to learn a language in 3 days.

His rule:

Never memorize and never try to remember! What you memorize, you’ll forget. What you understand, you’ll always remember!

How to jump the memorization barrier

Of course, my recommendation is first to understand whatever you do. But if you have to memorize, I recommend you making it simple for yourself. Try out one of these methods:

  • Learn a memorization technique (kinda like cheating, but it’s fun). I’ll cover one soon!
  • You could also learn to get a photographic memory (I don’t know how yet, but I’m very sure it’s possible). People with photographic memory never memorize; they just do it. Having a photographic memory allows you to learn faster because you make sense of the information you subconsciously acquired.
  • Cheating is also an option (it can make you pretty creative)



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Note: I’m not saying that it is not important to have a good memory. I saying the opposite: Having a great memory is very important to succeed in life.Those who remember, remember not of their ability to remember, but to understand! The best doctors and lawyers remember not because they memorize, but because they can make sense of the information!

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