flare CF-RAY: 3df691bc9dc04eb4-DME Imagination and Association - Memory Tools for Exams

Association and Imagination

Here we will present two memory techniques that you can use to remember key information. These are association and imagination.

These are examples of mnemonics, which are systems used to aid memory.


This is where you link the thing you want to remember to something else in order to form a stronger memory.

For example, to remember the parts of Porter's Five Forces model, you could link each one to a day from Monday to Friday. 'Threat of new entrants' could link to Monday, because Monday is the start of a new week. 'Threat of substitutes' could be linked to Tuesday, because it contains the letter T more than the others, and so on.

These links don't have to make much sense, you just need to form a memorable connection between the thing you need to remember and something you are familiar with.

Some good things to use for associations are:

  • Colours
  • Foods
  • Places
  • People you know
  • Animals
  • Everyday actions or tasks
  • Songs

Anything that seems to work for you is a good association, no matter how strange or vague the connection.

Try sharing your associations with friends to reinforce them in your mind and to get some more ideas.


Imagination can be the key to effective mnemonics. A creative imagination will help to develop associations for the technique above, but can also be used on the things you need to remember themselves.

To use the example of Porter's Five Forces again, you could imagine each of the five as part of a five-person superhero team - creating an identity for each one that includes the name of the force. As an example: Supplierman could be used to represent 'bargaining power of suppliers' and you could imagine him like Superman.

Another way you can use imagination is to create interesting or funny stories that relate to the concepts or people that you are trying to remember.

For example, if you are studying philosophy and need to remember many different philosophers, you could try imagining the philosophers as characters in your favourite film or television series. You could replace parts of well-known quotes or phrases of the characters with keywords from the philosophers' theories.

Some other methods:

  • Turn the concept into a joke
  • Create a song or poem, or alter an existing one
  • Create acronyms that use the first letters of the words in the phrase you want to remember to make a single word.

Engaging the brain in the creative process of making associations or imaginations also helps you to concentrate on the concept and to embed it in your mind.

These techniques work by attaching a rather dull concept onto something more familiar and interesting, improving your ability to recall it.