Whether you're studying for an exam or trying to teach yourself something new, there is a stark difference between memorising what you're reading and actually comprehending the subject matter. Both are useful tools, given the right circumstances, but when is it best to use one method over the other, or a combination of the two?
In an article on HackCollege, Geoffrey Koester covers not only the benefits of memorisation and comprehension, but defines exactly what is involved in each process. In fact, at the end of the article he states that memorisation is a vital step in reaching comprehension -- one must have knowledge of a topic before they can be in a position to explain it to someone else.
If you're just trying to pass a test, you might be able to get away with memorisation, however, if you're faced with an essay question, just knowing the right words or numbers won't get you very far.
Drawing from my own experience as a programmer, it's all well and good to copy and paste code snippets and massage them into what you need, but if you're going to be spending a lot of time with a particular library or piece of software, you're going to want to dig in and learn what that code does (and potential the underlying methods) if you want to extend or improve it.
The Best Ways to Learn: Memorization vs. Comprehension [HackCollege]