Civil service exam - memory portion

Hi everyone! I am currently taking practice tests for an upcoming civil service exam. One portion of the exam contains a story (approx one page in lenght). The objective is to read the story (you have 5 minutes to do so), then after a 10 minute waiting period, you are asked approx. 10 questions regarding the details of the story. There are names, dates, locations, and other random details to recall, and no clues as to what one should focus on. One problem I am having is that I’m not a fast reader, so I can only get through the material twice at best. I am hoping to hone some skills of memorizing the details of the passage upon the first read. I know there are many memory techniques, but am completely unsure on which one would best apply to this situation. Thank you in advance for your help! Jen

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Hi Jen, welcome to the forum.
It may be tricky if you are a slow reader, and if you are new to memorising.
it will also depend on the word count in the page.

On average I find that a page can hold about 300 words with about 20 keywords.
If you can read 200 words a minute, it would take you 1.5 to 2 minutes to read the page. This still gives you 3 more minutes to memorise 20 keywords.
So I think 5 minutes would be enough to memorise 20 keywords.
If there are more and you struggle, then you’d need a trained memory at a higher level.

How I would do it is to create a memory palace with at least 30 stops. This is where you’d place the keywords. Hopefully you’d only need no more than 20 or so.

Practice all the stops in your imagination by walking from the first to the last spot in your memory palace until you know them by heart and can very quickly see one to the next without much thinking.

You would have to use a lot of imagination as all of this information will be going on in your brain, or the mind’s eye. The brain records and remembers what it sees as images much easier than the words in text format, and or number digit format. So the keywords has to be converted into an image.

You would have to do this while reading the material. Pick the keyword in the sentence that would remind you of the message, and then convert it into an image.

Once you have an image, you then place that image at your first spot in your memory palace. Goto the next sentence, pick the keyword, or maybe 2 keywords, convert each of them into an image and place them in the next spots in your memory palace. And so on until all images that represents the keywords are all placed at your palace.

If you can do this within 2.5 to 3 minutes. This would give you another 2 to 2.5 minutes to go over the sentences quickly again and imagining your images/keywords at your palace while doing so. And then you can travel your memory palace in your mind to see those images one after another within those 10 minutes, trying to remember how they were connected within the story while doing so also.

I would suggest you practice this a few times and see how you do.

The skills you’d have to develop to increase your chances for better results would be some free time in your hands to learn & practice;

  • Reading a little faster than you do now.
  • Words to images
  • Number to images
  • Name to images
  • Pictures/background/locations memorising
  • Memory palace
  • Imagination

Applying these methods would certainly help.

However, if you are new to memorising, and don’t have enough time to build the skills to have a trained memory, then the one thing I would suggest is to really force yourself to focus on what you are reading (as if nothing else in the world exists) and use your imagination to make yourself see the story as a movie. As long as you are creating some moving images (movie) in your mind while focusing on the story, you’d increase your chances of remembering and recalling the key facts. Do some test trials to see how this works for you.

Hope this helps.

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This is immensely helpful, Erol. The test is given between April and June, therefore, I do have time to develope some memory skills. I just didn’t know which techniques I should be working on for this particular situation. I truly appreciate the time you took to give me such a detailed and thoughtful reply!

Side note… My interest in memory was piqued by this test, but I want to go much deeper into this. About 18 years ago I memorized the periodic table (for fun). I tested myself recently and still remembered 50 of the elements and I’m now working on that again as well. I am really excited to be here and to take this all much further. Thanks again, so much! Jen

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