To memorize an essay or prepare for an essay exam, avoid trying to memorize your practice essay word for word. Instead, memorize key points and put trust in your ability to put together an essay based on those key ideas. Try not to get attached to pretty or well-put sentences written beforehand. This will only occupy valuable mental space needed for the exam. Remember, for an essay test you are graded mostly on content, not eloquence. Papers are the proper outlet for eloquence.


Just because you're not going to memorize and regurgitate your practice essay verbatim for the test doesn't mean you shouldn't write it many times. But do try to write from memory. Don't mindlessly copy words from a page. Keep your notes nearby, but use them less and less each time you sit down to write. Again, don't try to memorize exact sentences, just get all the important information down on paper.

Write by Hand

If you're going to have to write the essay by hand, practice by hand, at least some of the time. But don't start out the test with your hand already cramped and sore.


After you've written the practice essay you hope to memorize, write a simple outline for it. Use mnemonics to help memorize the outline. Mnemonics are simple memory tricks such as PEMDAS (or Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally), a common memorization technique used by math teachers to help students learn the order of operations (Parentheses, exponents, multiplication and division, addition and subtraction). Other mnemonic devices involve songs, rhymes and silly, simple stories used to string together the basic information you need to remember.

Memorize this outline and write it down as soon as you sit down to take the exam. Then use it as you used your notes during your earlier practice and study sessions.

Use Your Own Words

You may wish to memorize a key quote or two, but most of the information should be expressed in your own words. Remember you will most likely be graded on content and by the pieces of information included (or excluded) from your essay. Take the time to really understand concepts that are tricky for you. Come up with illustrative analogies to explain a concept simply and to show that you really understand it.

Know Your Learning Style

If you're more of a talker than a writer, use this skill to your advantage. Instead of writing over and over again, simply explain out loud the answer to each question to prove you really understand it. But don't do this exclusively. For every two to four times you explain your answer in speech, write your answer down on paper. Written words are very different from spoken explanation. You will most likely need the written practice to succeed on an essay exam. Don't make the mistake of thinking you will know how to write an essay because you can explain it out loud. You might find yourself stumped or running out of time when you sit down and put pen to paper.