Personal Development

How to Memorise an Entire Essay or Speech

Steven Aitchison
Written by Steven Aitchison

How to memorise a complete essay or speech

Christmas and New year is over and for some there looms the prospect of mid term exams. A lot of these exams will be closed book exams. A closed book exam tests your knowledge and memory of a subject. One of the ways in which some students prepare is to actively learn the subject areas and also look at past questions and anticipate a question which might come up. At the moment my wife is studying for exams in which she is actively learning her subjects and also she has written 3 x 500 word essays on the three areas of study.

Together we have come up with a system which means that she can memorise a 500 word essay in 1 day and 3 x 500 word essays in 3 days. Together with actively learning the subject she is confident that she has prepared well.

In this article I will show you the system we came up with to memorise 1500 words verbatim. Sound hard? It is actually quite easy and is a system I used when at university studying for my psychology degree for 2 x 1000 word essays.

This method can also be used for memorising any kind of written work or speech.


Before you begin

Before you begin this it is important to actually believe that you can memorise a complete essay or speech whether it be 500 words or 2000 words. When I first suggested using this method to my wife she said that she would never be able to memorise an essay word for word.

Once she got over this and started telling herself that she could do it we started.

Active learning

First off, this method of memorising an essay should not be substituted for actively learning a subject. Active learning is when you read, not skim, the subject area and take note of the key points. Cross reading is also very good for active learning. This is when you read books on the subjects by different authors. Some authors are not good at getting information across so cross reading is an excellent way learning.

The method for memorising an essay or speech.

You will need to write out the essay or speech first. Treat this part of the process as if you were writing an essay to hand in for marking by your lecturer. In other words make sure it is worthy of memorising.

When you have written the essay make sure it is grammatically correct as you will be memorising every comma and full stop.

When you are sure you have a good essay or speech print it off and mark down the left margin the number of paragraphs e.g. if you have 6 paragraphs write at the side of each paragraph the numbers 1 – 6. In the right hand margin write the number of sentences in each paragraph. This is the first part of the memorisation process.

A quiet place to study

Now, make sure you have quiet space to be able to read, walk and vocalise your essay. When you are sure you will not be interrupted you can start.

With your printed essay start walking and reading out loud the essay or speech. When you have read it out loud a few times go back to the first sentence and read it out loud. Then read it again and again until you have memorised it. When you are confident you have memorised it word for word go on to the next sentence. When you have memorised the second sentence, whilst walking vocalise the first two sentences without looking at your printed essay. If you are okay with this go on to do the same with your 3rd sentence and so on until you have memorised your first full paragraph. This can take anywhere between 15 – 45 depending on motivation, alertness, quietness etc.

The reason I ask you to walk is to keep your blood flowing whilst memorising. If you are sitting down you might nod off, by walking it will prevent you from nodding off. I find walking up and down an excellent way to concentrate on reading.

Keep reading, and vocalising your essay or speech until you have memorised it completely. When you are confident of having memorised it. Vocalise it without looking at your printed sheet. If you get it right, do it again, and if you get it right a second time reward yourself with a cup of tea or coffee or whatever is your want and leave it for a few hours.

When a few hours have passed go back to the essay, read it out loud whilst walking and looking at the printed sheet and then try to memorise it again.

Once you are confident that you have memorised it completely, at the bottom of the page write down the first few words of each sentence of your essay, separated by a comma, and number each line for each paragraph. When you have done that put in the number of sentences at the end of the list and bracket it.

For example if I was writing out the first few words of this article for the first 3 paragraphs it would look like this;

  1. Christmas and New year, A lot of, A closed book, One of the, At the moment
  2. Together we have, Together with actively (2)
  3. In this article, sound hard? (2)

Now what you should do is only look at the list at the bottom of the paper and read out from that whilst walking. This way you are only looking at the first few words and finishing the sentence without looking at it. If you get stuck just go back to the main essay and look at it, until you have got it completely.

Now memorise the bottom of the sheet of paper with the first few words of the essay and how many sentences are in each paragraph. This should only take 10-15 minutes at the most.

This sounds a very convoluted way of memorising an essay but it is a lot easier than it reads here.

Time taken to memorise

You should be able to memorise a full 500 word essay in about 3 hours, for your first time, using the above method. When you are practiced you should be able to memorise a 500 word essay in about 60 – 90 minutes.

Some Amazing Comments


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  • This ALWAYS works for me, been doing it for around 3 years. I always walk around and talk out loud and I can memorise up too 2000 word essays at a time, sometimes two of these in 1-2 days.
    I use this method for all my exams.
    People always ask me how I can remember so much…
    No one thinks what I do is possible…

    it is.

  • This has helped me so much over the past few years and I used it again last night. I had a 600 word essay which took me about 3 hours to memorise and without these techniques I would definitely fail my HSC! (end of year 12 school exams in Australia)
    I’m using it again tonight to learn 3 X 500 word essays :)

  • I hope this method works, I have about 50-60 essays to learn for Psychology A-Level. It works for scripts for me so it should do

  • Help i have to memorize a 10 paragraph essay each paragraph contains exactly 10 sentences and i have only 24 hours to do memorize it :(

  • Dear Steven,

    Thanks for the tips, but i just don’t think i can get this into my head before my speaking exam in 2 days. I am trying to memorize 400 words in German and it took me about 3 hours just to get the first paragraph and a half into my head. That’s about 70 words! I’m not sure how I can learn it any faster, i am following the technique to the letter but it takes too much time to remember each sentence. I’m also allowed 30 words to bring into the exam, not sure how much that could speed up the process? Please help!?


  • I have a 1800 word essay to memorise and i have 3 days to do it … will this work for such a lengthy essay … i am not very good with memorising things and its an important essay.

  • Hi my name is Amanda,
    so i have to memorize my 933 word Speech for a state competition and im freaking out are whole school is expecting me to do well but the problem is at state level i cant use note cards and i get nerviness plus i have noooo clue how im gonna memorize all this i recorded my self saying my speech and its helped a little bit i got almost the first paragraph down but not very fast and i don’t know i guess im scared i wont get it memorized in time and ill disappoint.. help me please!!

  • thank you so much my German test is tomorrow and have almost completely memorized all 250 in less than one hour and a half thank-you

  • Hi,
    I have to memorise an English essay for a controlled assessment but I just can’t seem to get it into my head! HELP!

    • The main thing in the exam is Do not panic, if you have done this recover quickly and go on to the next sentence in your paragraph.

      Similarly, if you forget a sentence, then just go to the next sentence you remember. If this is languages, make sure that the sentences you remember the best are the point scoring ones! Key words or tenses… Whilst you are likely to have many present tense sentences, you are unlikely to have many in the perfect, imperfect, near future, future simple, conditional… Make sure that you remember these other tense sentences best so that these point scorers are used in your test!

  • I have a bit of a problem I need to learn a 400 word french essay except I can’t seem to memorize words I know that I am a visual learner and usally rember by pictures or diagrams but how can I use this for a full essay because me and words don’t really go down well :/

    Plz reply soon I have french on moinday :'(

    From Rachel age 15

    • Hi Rachel

      With this method it’s all about repetition. I know you say you are a visual learner but this is rote learning, you’re not going to learn it for life. Trust me, try this method and you’ll be able to memorize this 400 word essay in a few hours. I taught my son this method for Spanish a few months ago, and he learned it in a few hours (and he didn’t believe it could work :) ).

  • Hi, I am a high school student and I’m supposed to memorize 2 essays, both essays for the same subject. What happens if I accidentally mix up the two and completely forget it?

    • Do not worry, if both essays are for the same subject then it shouldn’t matter if you’ve put a sentence from one into the other. The main thing in the exam is Do not panic, if you have done this recover quickly and go on to the next sentence in your paragraph.

      Similarly, if you forget a sentence, then just go to the next sentence you remember. If this is languages, make sure that the sentences you remember the best are the point scoring ones! Key words or tenses… Whilst you are likely to have many present tense sentences, you are unlikely to have many in the perfect, imperfect, near future, future simple, conditional… Make sure that you remember these other tense sentences best so that these point scorers are used in your test!

  • I’m hoping this works. Memorizing a speech in a wildly different foreign language in my case. I’ll try rewriting the essay five times over before memorizing. Phew!

  • Hope this will make me fully memorize my monologue, it’s 3 pages long!
    Hope I will ace my graded assignment for this.

  • Hello,
    Steven i have an science exam in a 3 days to come,i was wondering if you think it is possible,that i attempt to use your technique for a 24 long revision pages,i will not try to memorize all the pages and paragraphs,because some of the information i don’t need to revise so i will shorten the length of word on the pages,do you think i should attempt to do this,and will it work?,i will be very grateful,for a quick response,
    thank you.

  • Hello,

    I am a part time student, sitting my finals. The only way I have ever learned was through rewritting my work continously, that can be anyting from 50+ times for any essay/paragraph. I am just a slow learner. I have recorded myself but it doesnt work either. As you can imagine the continous writing out of essays give me one very sore arm, and cramps in my fingers! The last two exams I sat I blanked. It has taken me a week to learn not one essay but a part of a question from a past paper. My arm is now so sore I cannot do any more.

    I am going now, to try your method out with the remainder of the question, if it works, I will do for 2 3essays 1500 words each! My exams arent for another 2 weeks, and I really really hope this works. Will keep you posted. Thank you

  • Thank you so much! You are an absolute life saver! I cant believe how much this helped me. I was stressing out like crazy for my exam and now i basically know a 1000 word essay off by heart just in a few hours! Thanks again! :)

  • I have an english controlled assessment tomorrow and mine is 12 pages long. I have been trying to read and memorise it and the only success i have had in 6 hours is 1 and a half pages memorised+ a lot of procastinating. I will give this method a go and see how things go. Hopefully i’ll get that 12 pages done 4 and a half hours time (leaving for college then in that time).

    Thanks in advance for your help :)

  • Great! I’m a law student at Cambridge University and the amount of substance is unreal; this helps a great deal! Thank you!

  • Hello!

    Great tips! Thanks! I memorised a 500 word speech (just under 500) in less than an hour thanks to your great method! All ready for my English exam tomorrow.


  • Hi just give a thanks for posting this, it really helped me memorise my essay quickly, I had a five page essay learnt in 3 hours. I usually just write out paragraphs numerous times which is dull and boring and takes too long but this really helped the process go a lot faster,thanks

  • I am a physics student and i have alot of definitions and formulae to memorise how will technique favour me or any other alternative

  • This has helped an AWFUL lot. I had a spanish oral exam about 2 pages long and memorized it in an hour! This method REALLY helped and will keep on using it, no matter what sort of speech i’m doing. :)

  • I’m memorizing an essay, but not word for word. I was using the same method you were using, except I just try to get down the key facts and chronology. I will later write the essay again out in my own words, using the facts I can recall. Is it possible to memorize a 1800 word essay by Thursday morning? (today is Monday night)

  • Hello there, I was just out browsing the internet and happened to stumble upon your blog. This way to memorize is solid and good, although, maybe a bit slow. I’m not sure if you are aware but there exsist special memory techniques which would make things easier. Check out Harry Lorayne or Dominic O´brien. ^^ I believe you’ll find it to your liking!

  • Great advice, this seems like a nice structured approach to memorising excerpts and short speeches however I don’t think 500 words constitutes and essay!!

  • Hi there

    I’m going to have my exam in 6 days and I have to recite 5 essays .
    Each essay is 2000 words .
    What should I do to recite so much in such less time .
    Why I’m saying 6 days are less because my current way of reciting is writing over and over again and again until I can remember .
    My fingers are in bad shape as I write alot I meant repeatedly writing .
    I can’t sleep due to stress I m so worried .
    As I had a back injury a month ago due to that I can’t sit for long .
    I’m not confident about any other method because my brain tells me if I font write I will forget everything .
    Pls let me know what should I do ?

    I do like your way as it sound simply and useful but I’m just not confident about my self .
    Waiting for your reply .
    Thanks alot

  • Hi steve,
    your technique looks great.
    I wanted to ask you if there is any such thing as brain overload. I have to revise 15 X 1500 word essays. I plan to use ure technique, but is there any chance that at one point my brain may start refusing to accept new information.

  • hi
    i have to admit this is a GREAT way to memorise i found this article extremely helpful. i followed your steps and it actually worked for me perfectly. thank you very much. :)

  • Hi,

    i find this is really good for making speeches as i do in my position in the masons

    PS………. no rest for the w****s son….

    brother Allan

  • hi,
    well i dont have a very long speach but the problem is that it is German and im not very good at german, it is only a 2 minute speach and about myself but i just cant get the words rembered,
    any advice?

  • Thank you Thank you Thank you!!! I have used this to learn 2 essays for my exam and it has worked so well. I have never felt so ready going into an exam before in my life. But for once I actually know exactly what I am going to write. Bring it on!!

  • Brilliant!:D Works really well for me. I managed to remember a whole 1000 word essay in under and hour:) Thanks alot!

  • anyone who writes a 500 essay.. is kinding themselves..

    sorry if i sound bitter
    i have an internal HSC exam 2morrow and my essay 2000 words
    now that’s a real essay with good content :)

    wish me luck! and thanks very much for the article.. hope it’ll help!

  • Hi,
    I am an English teacher. I have used the technique of having my students walk around as they recite or read poetry to help them learn it. It really works! Learning becomes active or kinesthetic. Haven’t tried this method of memorization but it could be very useful for students taking the SATs.

  • Any advise on how to use this technique in order to memorize 100-200 “rules” for a law school exam? (rules can be anywhere from a few words to a couple paragraphs depending on the complexity of the rule) Unfortunately, in law school exams, you have to use these memorized “rules” and apply them to a given fact pattern, usually a couple of pages, written by the professor. Since this fact pattern cannot be known in advance, memorizing an essay in this fashion would not help.


  • Nice article.

    You shouldn,t make it so long, after all it is students who are going to be reading this right?

  • Hi Raymond, I don’t know why this is not working for you. are there any distractions at all? TV, computer, music, family noise all of this would interuppt your learning pattern and the information being processed. This is the method I have used over the years and have taught my family and friends and every single person says they are astonsihed that it works.

  • Hi Steven,

    For some reason, your guide doesn’t work efficiently with respect to time. I can’t memorise 500 words in 3 hours, or even 500 words in 60-90 minutes (this seems incredibly impossible). I do manage to memorise the essay in the end, but it takes hours after hours after hours…(no exaggeration there).

    Also, this method:

    “Now memorise the bottom of the sheet of paper with the first few words of the essay and how many sentences are in each paragraph. This should only take 10-15 minutes at the most.”

    I’m not sure if it works for others, as each sentence doesn’t logically flow from next to next (which is far more easier to memorise).

    I hope you can get back to me asap because I’ve got an exam really soon. Thanks.

  • I absolutely loved this memorising guide! I was looking for memorising techniques and I was glad I found this method. I hope this helps me with my exams next week. =)


  • And now I have to write it at least three times (the whole creative) and recite the parts continously that I keep forgetting. And I’m prepared adequately for tomorrow :). Wish me all the best.

  • Tomorrow is my creative writing exam. I have prepared it, and since I’ve used this guide, I have memorised 700/1000 words so far. If I manage to integrate my response into the question appropriately, then I’d be looking for a A range.

    Thank you for this guide. It has helped me a lot. I’m going to add this page to my favourites

  • Mmmm this will help a lot for my end of school exams.. Only i need to shape my generic essay around an unknown question. Thanks for the post, though, I’ll use it for my creative writing.

  • This is how I’ve done it for a few years and it works really well, only problem is that if it’s a speech the pressure of actually presenting makes me forget a few lines towards the end.

  • In response to downtown’s “it is quite ridiculous to memorise essays in such a way”. I have to say I totaly disagree. I ahve used this method for my exams and find it really works. Although my essays are a lot longer, I find this technique works. It was a self taught technique and I am still trying to master it, but it definately tops mind maps etc. I would say, however, if you use this technique to help with exams etc, then formulate outline essays where you can add in your opinions throughout to suit the question.

  • Good post. You make some great points that most people do not fully understand.

    “When you are sure you have a good essay or speech print it off and mark down the left margin the number of paragraphs e.g. if you have 6 paragraphs write at the side of each paragraph the numbers 1 – 6. In the right hand margin write the number of sentences in each paragraph. This is the first part of the memorisation process.”

    I like how you explained that. Very helpful. Thanks.

  • That is a good plan, but my problem is i dont have the patience to study for 3 hours. Even when i unplug my internet and turn off my phone i just end up sitting there and doing nothing. Do you know how to beat an addiction to procrastination?

    • You could atleast give it a try, to be honest i used to be like that too,but i gave it a try,and honestly it takes time so just follow the steps,it’s so useful,this technique helped me and motivated and inspired me about the way our mind sets are.SO GIVE IT A GO,have some self-confidence!

  • Hi Really I found its very useful for all where we can improve ourselves in memorising the topics or essays. If we utilise this way definitely we can come up in our life.

  • hi louise

    I would suggest studying in different ways for example reading multiple authors, mind mapping, listening to audio. It depends on how you recall. Are you a visual recaller, are you an audio recaller. You have to figure out how you remember things and then you can work on how to improve your memory.

    Hope this helps.

  • hello steve

    im a 43 year old student having difficulty in exams especially recallling from memory….any advice?

  • this is very similar to how i do it, except after i have read it and nearly know whats in each paragraph i do a spider diagram with 1 key word for each paragraph and try and recite it, thenm all i need to remember is the key word for the exam]

    great stuff

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