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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Better Grades. Less Effort

What can be more important to a student than to have good memory skills? The same is true for working professionals in information-dense specialties (like law, medicine, science, engineering, etc.). Memory ability helps workers master their field and become more competent -- and more likely to be successful.

I have just released a short new e-book, Better Grades, Less Effort. The book explains the memory tips and tricks I used to become valedictorian, an Honors student in three universities (including graduating with a D.V.M. degree), and to secure a PhD in two-and-a-half years. I also share what I have learned about student learning over 47 years as a professor.

The ideas in the book are directed to students in high school or college. Parents are urged to explain these ideas to their elementary-school children.  My experience with students leads me to conclude that poor memory is what holds most students back from superior achievement.  I claim that the ideas in this book can change a student’s future, as indeed has been validated in my own life.

The other thing I have learned as a Professor is that most students think they know more about how to learn than they really do. In elementary and secondary schools, the emphasis of teaching is on WHAT to learn, not HOW to learn. By the time students get to college, professors mistakenly assume they already know how to learn.

My relevant experience also includes being a researcher and teacher of neuroscience, an interdisciplinary field focused on how the brain works, including how it learns and remembers. I have actually conducted memory research, on lab rats and college sophomores. The principles are the same. Sometimes, the rats do better than the people. Unlike lab rats, which are really pretty good at learning and remembering, humans have a huge repertoire of behaviors and experiences that interfere with remembering. Many of the tips explain what I mean.

Better Grades explores 20 core  ideas about improving memory in a few pages for each idea. The book’s structure is itself an example of some core ideas. For example, ideas are grouped according to common category: Attitudes and Approach, Classroom and Study Environment, Memory Principles and Processes, plus a General  Tips section with three ideas that don’t fit into the above categories. At the end of each group, there is a “tying it all together” section that uses mental-image mnemonics to help readers remember what they just read in the preceding section. At the end of the book, a similar approach helps the reader remember the whole book.

I claim that If readers do what this book says, they will be able to memorize:

  1. all the key ideas of this book,
  2. any list up to 100 items,
  3. dates and numbers,
  4. the essence of what  is on every page — by page number — of any short book,
  5. a class presentation or speech without notes,
plus, as promised, they will get better grades with less effort.

The book is priced at $2.49 so that every student can afford it. My whole point in creating the book is to help as many people as possible. Access to information and a free chapter can be found at All e-reader formats are supported, including pdf for reading on computers.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Good Evening.

    I read your book and found it very helpful. What is your advice for students who want to memorize the Qur'an verbatim in Classical Arabic? The Saudi Arabian edition is 604 pages long. How are the study methods different for young children vs. adults? What is the best way to study the vocabulary and translations?

    One famous method is the Mauritanian method of memorization:

    Mahdara (traditional Mauritanian Islamic school description)

    Methods of Memorization in Mauritania

    An Applied Linguistics Approach to Improving the Memorization of the Holy Quran: Suggestions for Designing Practice Activities for Learning and Teaching

    and there are other similar methods that rely on less repetitions for new lessons, and rely heavily on daily review after memorizing in 2 - 5 years.

    Thank you.

  3. ANMB:

    I could not check your "Methods" web site because my virus checker said it was dangerous.

    I really don't want to help people memorize Holy books, whether the Qur'an, the Bible, or whatever.

    I consider myself very religious, but regard scripture as something to think about and apply in daily living, not memorize word for word. The purpose of any memorization should be to promote informed thinking, not blind recitation. I apply this principle to textbooks too.

    I have read all of both the Qur'an and the Bible several times and conclude that neither has the intellectual merit to justify word-for-word memorization. It is the positive spiritual themes that we should focus on, not the "letter of the law," whether Sharia or Mosaic. That, I think, was the message of Jesus who chastised the ancient Jews for their unthinking literalism and gave those of us today the challenge of seeking the truths of religious understanding.


Please contribute your ideas. This blog is all about making learning easier for everyone.