Understanding The Difference Between Memorisation And Comprehension

Understanding The Difference Between Memorisation And Comprehension

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?

Image: Steven S. / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

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]


  • Do people really hold their pen/pencil like that in the stock photo? It looks so unwieldy.

    • I have several students who I have seen hold it like this and much worse. It occurs for lefties and righties alike. One student had a purple finger from where the pen rested too tightly on the back of one finger but that was how they had learnt and continued on. These are all adults by the way so well ingrained pen handling skills.

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