Elaborative Rehearsal: A Better Way to Memorize

Elaborative Rehearsal. yang wenshuang E+/Getty Images

What Is Rehearsal?

Rehearsal is a strategy of repeating information multiple times in your mind or out loud with the goal of encoding it in your memory.

What Is Verbal Rehearsal?

Verbal rehearsal is repeating information over out loud with the goal of being able to remember it later.

What Is Mental Rehearsal?

Mental rehearsal is repeating information in your mind repeatedly so that you can remember it later.

Does Rehearsal Work as a Memory Aid?

Multiple research studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of rehearsing information in order to be able to later recall it.

For example, one study compared mental rehearsal to note-taking and found mental rehearsal to be significantly superior in memorizing information.

However, other studies suggest that it may depend on what type of rehearsal is being used. Some evidence suggests that maintenance rehearsal is mostly effective at placing information in your short-term memory, while elaborative rehearsal may be more effective at encoding it into your long-term memory.

Elaborative Rehearsal vs. Maintenance Rehearsal

Maintenance rehearsal is what we might typically think of as rehearsal- that is, the straight repeating of information. This may also be referred to as rote rehearsal. An example of maintenance rehearsal is repeating the digits of a phone number until we dial them.

Elaborative rehearsal is a way to more effectively encode information into your long-term memory by requiring the brain to process it in a more in-depth way. Elaborative rehearsal consists of making association between what you already know and the new information. This includes organizing it, thinking of examples, creating an image in your head of the information or developing a way to remember the information through a mnemonic device like using the first letter of a list of words to make a new word.

5 Strategies for Elaborative Rehearsal

Let's imagine you need to learn the names and locations of all the bones of the body. Here are some examples of ways to use elaborative rehearsal in this task.

1) Translate information into your own words. Rather than simply reading what your study guide says about which bone is connected to the next bone, try phrasing the information differently and then explaining it to someone else.

2) Compose study questions and answer them. Come up with 10 questions about where specific bones are located in the body and which other bones they're connected to, and then answer your questions.

3) Use images to assist you. Use paper and online images of the skeleton as well as identify on your own body where each bone is located and what its name is.

4) Group things. Outline different characteristics or categories of the bones and check off which ones fit into each group. For example, you could identify all of the bones that are located in the foot and list them in that category.

5) Use a mnemonic strategy. For example, take the first letter of the list of bones in the arm and hand and create a new word where each letter stands for one of the bones you need to remember.

One More Reminder

Don't try to learn all of the bones in the body in one sitting. Your efficiency is likely to decrease if you spend too long cramming for a test. Research suggests that using the same amount of time (or less) spread out over the course of a few days can be more effective at placing the information you need to know in your memory.


The Center for Development and Learning. What Strategies Can Be Used To Increase Memory? January 1, 2003. http://www.cdl.org/articles/what-strategies-can-be-used-to-increase-memory/

Journal of Undergraduate Psychological Research. 2007, vol. 2. The effects of notetaking and mental rehearsal on memory. http://library.wcsu.edu/dspace/bitstream/0/65/1/dewitt.pdf

Ricker, Jeffry. Using Elaborative Rehearsal to Study for Tests. November 5, 2011. http://sccpsy101.com/2011/11/05/using-elaborative-rehearsal-to-study-for-tests/  

The State University of New York. Study Skills/Memory Paper. http://faculty.clintoncc.suny.edu/faculty/june.foley/groupstudy.htm

University of Alberta. Elaborative Rehearsal. April 2010. http://www.bcp.psych.ualberta.ca/~mike/Pearl_Street/Dictionary/contents/E/elabreh.html

University of Northern Iowa. Memory. Accessed June 6, 2015. http://www.uni.edu/walsh/memory.pdf

University of Texas. Memory. Accessed June 26, 2015.http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Class/Psy301/Delville/Classes/October27Memory/Index.html

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