Elaborative Rehearsal, But You Already Knew That!

By Kaci Kingman


Are you a new college freshman and are you freaking out because you just cannot seem to remember things like you used to be able to in high school? Well, you are not alone! Most freshman are going to have problems adjusting to how to correctly study the new material in college. You are not going to be able to remember everything you study, even if thats how you rolled in high school. You need to find a balance between a more in depth approach and a more shallow approach(1). You need to figure out if what you are trying to learn needs to be put into your brain for a long time or not. This will help you in determining how you should study the new information. If you need to make information stay in your brain for a long time, boy do I have an answer for you! Have you ever wondered why you can keep repeating the same thing over and over in your head to try and remember it, just to forget it a few minutes later? Yeah, stop doing that! That is not how you are going to succeed in college, but don’t freak out to much, I have your back. I have a way better way for you to memorize things and it’s called elaborative rehearsal!

What is Elaborative Rehearsal?

Elaborative rehearsal allows a person to remember something by relating it to something else that is like what you’re trying to learn, but is already stored in your long-term memory(2). If you can remember similar information that you already have and build a connection between that and the new information, you will be able to remember that new information much easier(3). If you use elaborative rehearsal during your studying, you will be able to put the information you are trying to learn deeper into your brain and this lets you be able to use it for a longer amount of time(4).

How Short Term Memory and Elaborative Rehearsal Can Become Best Friends

Everyone has a short term memory and a long term memory. Short term memory can also be referred to as working memory. This short term/working memory can hold limited amounts of information for a limited time, about 30 seconds(5). Short term memory alone, will not be helpful for being able to remember information for tests because the information is not going to be stored in your brain long enough. This is where elaborative rehearsal can come in to save the day! Elaborative rehearsal can be done in a few different ways. You can think of examples in your head about what you are trying to learn, create an image in your head about the new information, and you can use mnemonic devices(6). Mnemonic devices are special strategies that aid in improving memory by using information already stored in your long term memory(7). If you are able to relate the information you are trying to learn to something you already know, that information will be stuck in your brain like glue.

Applying Elaborative Rehearsal To Real College Scenarios

Lets say that you are trying to remember what words are in the category of o:ue stem changers in Spanish, which is where you change the o into a ue, but you just cannot seem to remember them all! You can create a mnemonic device and use the first letter of each word to create a phrase and this can facilitate elaborative rehearsal(6). By using elaborative rehearsal here, it will help transfer that information into your long term memory, and thus, you will be able to remember it longer and use it on a test! If something is stored in your long term memory, that pretty much means it’s in your brain for a long time and you can use that information for a long time to come. You should also write notes from a lecture slide or study guide into your own words because this will help the information be transferred into your long term memory, which is the ultimate goal(6). If you want to make the information stick even more, you can try teaching the information to someone else(6). It is true that effective learning strategies do make it easier to remember information later, and you are able to remember it quicker(8). These first two pictures are me taking a professors slide and putting it into my own words. The bottom picture is what I came up with on how to better memorize the stem changing words in Spanish using a mnemonic device.


Take a deep breath and stop beating yourself up about not being able to remember stuff like you used to in high school, because you are definitely not the only one. Give yourself time to figure out how to successfully study for college! By trying out different ways to better commit stuff to memory, you will learn what works best for you. Although, I highly recommend using elaborative rehearsal because it is something that can be applied to your studying, no matter what class you are studying for! Also, remembering to relate new information to old information is something that you can take with you for the rest of your life.


1. BouJaoude, S. B., & Giuliano, F. J. (1991, April). The Relationship between Students’ Approaches to Studying, Formal Reasoning Ability, Prior Knowledge, and Gender and Their Achievement in Chemistry. Retrieved November 27, 2018.

2. What Is Elaborative Rehearsal? (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2018, from https://www.reference.com/world-view/elaborative-rehearsal-d7aa5f42f639d6a3

3. Roberts, G., Scammacca, N., Osman, D. J., Hall, C., Mohammed, S. S., & Vaughn, S. (2014). Team-Based Learning: Moderating Effects of Metacognitive Elaborative Rehearsal and Middle School History Content Recall. Educational Psychology Review, 26(3), 451-468. doi:10.1007/s10648-014-9266-2

4. Harris, J. L., & Qualls, C. D. (2000). The association of elaborative or maintenance rehearsal with age, reading comprehension, and verbal working memory performance. Aphasiology, 14(5-6), 515-526. doi:10.1080/026870300401289

5.Psych 256: Cognitive Psychology SU16 – 1. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2018, from https://sites.psu.edu/psych256su16/2016/06/

6. Heerema, E., & Chaves, C. (n.d.). Elaborative Rehearsal: A Better Way to Memorize. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/elaborative-rehearsal-a-better-way-to-memorize-98694


7 .Jurowski, & Kamil. (2015, November). Comprehensive review of mnemonic devices and their … Retrieved November 27, 2018, from http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/111530603/comprehensive-review-mnemonic-devices-their-applications-state-art

8. Benjamin, A. S., & Bjork, R. A. (2000). On the relationship between recognition speed and accuracy for words rehearsed via rote versus elaborative rehearsal. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26(3), 638-648. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.26.3.638

2 Replies to “Elaborative Rehearsal, But You Already Knew That!”

  1. This is a great topic to talk about with college freshmen!! It really is a huge chance between high school and college studying. Whenever I study I ALWAYS use elaborative rehearsal techniques- like mnemonics. I think you did well with explaining what we talked about in class in a more personal understanding way too!

  2. This topic is a one of the biggest things I wish I would’ve known about as a freshman. Once you know about it, it really makes a huge difference! I like how you went into more detail about how to actually apply elaborative rehearsal within your study habits.

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