Making a memory palace of the exam hall can inspire exam success

1st March 2017 at 18:15
Exam hall succes
Transforming the school exam hall into a memory palace can boost your pupils’ powers of recollection – and their grades

When students sit in the exam hall, they tend to alternate between two things: writing furiously and looking around the hall for inspiration. The latter of these might not seem like a good use of time, but creating a memory palace could prove to be a valuable revision technique.

The objects placed around the exam hall tend to be permanent things like the clock, curtains and the whiteboard where the timings are written. These objects could be used to help students visualise answers and to remember key information; this is what we mean when we refer to a memory palace.

Creating your own memory palace

You can design an effective revision lesson to help students use their surroundings in an exam environment to help them remember things. I tried this with my A-level PE class; together we transformed the exam hall into a memory palace.

We went to the hall where they would sit the exam and each student sat at an exam desk – in alphabetical order as they would be seated in an exam.

As a class, we identified seven objects that were going to be in the room when they sat down to complete their final Year 13 exam paper. Items included the exam clock, the whiteboard, the chair of the person in front, the hall curtains, a set of speakers on the wall and a set of folding doors. 

We then took these seven objects and designated each of them one of the seven main areas of the A-level PE syllabus that we had covered; therefore creating a memory palace for the students. 

Connecting objects with memories

A sheet of A3 white paper was placed next to each item and each student was given a different coloured pen. I asked the students a series of questions related to each topic and when they got the answer, they wrote the information down on the relevant sheet of paper.

Before long, there were seven sheets full of coloured writing up on the walls.

I let the students move around the room, absorbing the information, and then I took the sheets away to see how much they could remember by simply looking at the object. I asked them to fill in some new blank sheets, which I again placed by the objects, purely to help them form the memory.

After the lesson, I made copies of the original sheets and handed them out to the class so that they could use them to revise.

Did it inspire exam success?

Obviously, I cannot prove it was the difference between achieveing an A or a B, but the feedback from the students was positive. They believed that it improved their memory recall..

I have since recreated this type of revision activity with a number of different classes and they have reported the same: it was a useful jog to the memory while in the exam room.

So why not give this effective revision technique a go? Transform the exam room into a mind palace for your students.

This is an edited version of an article in TES by Steve Miles, head of boys’ PE at Chesham Grammar​

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