Friday, May 2, 2008

Memorization tips

Posted by Almost Famous
How did you guys go about learning the 3-letter words? Or, if you're still in the process, how are you doing it?

For the 2's, I just made flashcards, one card per letter. It took about a month to really get them committed, especially the vowels. But now they are second nature.

There are so many 3's, however, that I've kind of hit a wall. Tips...ideas?


  1. Hi there, i like your blog - i'm enjoying hearing about your club's activities. For the threes, I broke it down into categories. It's pretty easy to remember those with a X-J-Q-Z in them. After that, I studied those that are hook words. Then, those that were pattern-like e.g. ABA, AGA, AHA, ALA, AMA, ANA, AVA, AWA.

    After that, those that I really struggled with I just had to keep looking at until they sank in. I still forget the odd weird one - SEI for instance.

    best wishes, James

  2. I learn better with computer programs, so I use Zyzzyva, which can be downloaded from a link on the blog's main page. You use Quiz Mode. It's also the program used in tournaments for judging words and can be used to generate word lists based on specific characteristics (7-letter words ending in "GH" or whatever).

  3. The threes I know, I learned through actual play. It seems that's the only way my brain can retain words. I've tried to study, but I'm not very good at it.

    Deadpan = not helpful this time.

  4. Ah, the 3s... what fun they are, all 1015 of them! Brute force would probably do it, but it will take a large chunk of time just to go through all of them initially, at which point your brain will hurt, you'll get frustrated, and you'll give up on the whole thing. Not good.

    So here's what I did.

    First, I figured up how many 3s started with A, how many started with B, and so on. This is done easily with Zyzzyva. I put all that information into a spreadsheet.

    Once that was done, I split them up into four groups of roughly 250 words each. They won't split evenly, so I just tried to make them as equal as I could.

    Then, over a four-day period, I'd tackle each group of 250 - one per day. After the fourth day, I'd start at the beginning again.

    Here's where it gets interesting. If I got all the words right starting with a given letter in two consecutive sessions, that letter got pulled out of the 4-day rotation and would get reviewed again after 7 days. Getting it right a third time meant it would next get reviewed in 12 days. Then 20 days, then 30 days, then 60 days. The more often I got it right, the less often I needed to look at it.

    If I ever missed a word, that letter got dropped back into the 4-day rotation again to start over.

    The net effect of all this is you end up focusing most of your time on the words you haven't learned yet, and quite a bit less time on the words you already know.

    Using this method, I learned all the 3s in a little over a month - and with only half an hour of studying each day.

    The technique is called spaced repetition, and it's used in most of the memorization and quiz software I've seen, including Zyzzyva. In fact, you can set this whole thing up in Zyzzyva and track it there too.

    I personally chose not to use Zyzzyva because that way I'm not tied to any particular machine to do my study program. In fact, I do the actual work in a spiral-bound notebook so I can study anywhere I go and find myself with a few minutes to spare. I still track it with a spreadsheet, though, and I don't see any way to get around that. (I guess in theory I could put it all onto a PDA or something, but I'm not as big a fan of PDAs as I once was.)

    The actual method you end up using should be something you're comfortable with, but the general technique remains the same. I've used it to plow through the 3s and 4s, a lot of vowel dumps, and the first 15-20 bingo stems - and now I'm starting to use it on the 5s.

    Hope this gives you some ideas. It works really well for me.

  5. Oh yes... as you work your way through the 3s, you'll discover the patterns and hooks as James described above. The A?A sequence is one of my favorites, along with VAV and WAW. You'll also find yourself making your own "rules" and mnemonics as you go along. Most likely they won't make sense to anyone but you, but as long as they stick in your head, that's all that matters.

  6. I have ZYZZYVA and have used it to try to unscramble bingos and as a word judge when I play my husband, but I honestly would have no idea how to use it as a study tool for 3's. Could you enlighten me, Tina? :)

  7. Sure! I think there's a couple of ways to get from "here to there" but here's the direction I go:



    Quiz Type: Word List Recall

    Quiz Method: Standard (it's already set to this)

    Question Order: Random (it's already set to this)

    Search Specification: Here you can use either "Pattern Match" or "In Word List" For "Pattern Match" you can input a search term like "Z??" for all 3-letter words beginning with Z, for instance. For "In Word List" you can choose an ASCII-formatted word list you have saved on your computer (separated by different lines). This is helpful if you want to divide your letter groups up into sub-groups (like with "K" which, to me, was too long to memorize in one list).

    Choose "OK" to start your quiz.

    From the quiz window that pops up, you enter the words that you remember until you either get them all in there or give up.

    Choose "Check Quiz" and the window will show incorrect words you entered and ones you missed.

    Phew. I know it seems like a lot but... I had to print off the instructions the first time and mark them off as I went.

    Feel enlightened? ;-)


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