What we know about the global Microsoft outage

A routine software update caused cascading chaos Friday that has engulfed global businesses from airports and banks to retail and law enforcement.

It wasn’t a cyberattack, but was caused by one of the world’s largest cybersecurity companies deploying a flawed update while trying to keep their customers safe from hackers.

CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Texas, that’s widely used by businesses and government agencies that run on Microsoft computers, said that a defect in one of its updates for computers running the Windows operating system had caused the issue. The result was arguably the largest global information technology outage in history. 

Here’s what we know:

What has been affected?

The outage appeared to affect almost every major business sector in one way or another.

Airports and flights across the world were severely delayed or canceled altogether, as the computers on which these services rely were disrupted by the issue. Three of the largest airlines in the United States — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — all issued ground stops, citing communications problems.

Long lines snaked through airports from Berlin to Hong Kong, as electronic systems failed and staff members resorted to checking in passengers manually. One flier in the Indian city of Hyderabad posted a picture of a curiosity usually unseen in the modern digital age: a handwritten boarding pass.

Follow live updates on the global tech outage

Mass IT Outage Affects Travel, Businesses And Individual Users Across The Globe

The issue also affected banks, leaving some customers unable to access their money. People across Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere reported problems logging into their accounts at major retail banks. Meanwhile the London Stock Exchange, the largest of its kind in Europe, said some of its services had been disrupted although trading had not been impeded.

In retail, McDonald’s closed some of its stores in Japan because of what it said in an online statement was a “cash register malfunction.” And the British grocery chain Waitrose was forced to put up handwritten notes informing customers that it was only accepting cash. Some Starbucks locations temporarily closed after the company's mobile ordering system went down, while other locations stayed open and left their baristas scrambling to come up with new workflows.

Baltic Hub, a global shipping terminal in Poland, said in a statement it had been battling issues related to the outage. The Alaska State Troopers agency was among the law enforcement agencies to report issues, warning people that 911 was temporarily not working. And the British broadcaster Sky News, which is owned by NBCUniversal's parent company, Comcast, was briefly knocked off the air.

Global Microsoft Outage

Some computers that were not on during the software update appear to have avoided the issue, according to initial reports.

What caused it?

Cybersecurity programs like CrowdStrike’s frequently and automatically update themselves to account for new tactics that malicious hackers have discovered. And there’s always a slight risk that any software update will be incompatible with other programs.

CrowdStrike’s update should have been routine, but an error in its code conflicted with Windows and proved catastrophic.

The company’s CEO, George Kurtz , said Friday morning on the "TODAY" show that while some customers would see their computers fixed automatically, others would require manual work to fix.

“The system was sent an update, and that update had a software bug in it and caused an issue with the Microsoft operating system,” Kurtz said. “Our systems are always looking for the latest attacks from these adversaries that are out there.”

How long until things go back to normal?

CrowdStrike identified the problem and issued a fix early Friday after the problem began to emerge. On Friday afternoon, Kurtz released a statement apologizing for the outage, adding that CrowdStrike was “operating normally.”

The fix required affected computers to download another software update, which some have been able to do automatically.

Many companies and services affected by the chaos, such as the New Hampshire Department of Safety, which said its 911 system was briefly down, reported that they were back online by Friday morning. 

Others haven’t been able to load the update, which would potentially require IT workers at some companies to reboot and tinker with every single affected computer.

“Many of the customers are rebooting the system, and it’s coming up, and it’ll be operational because we fixed it on our end,” Kurtz said. “Some of the systems that aren’t recovering, we’re working with them. So it could be some time for some systems that just automatically won’t recover.”

how to memorise an essay reddit

Alexander Smith is a senior reporter for NBC News Digital based in London.

Kevin Collier is a reporter covering cybersecurity, privacy and technology policy for NBC News.

How to memorise essays and long responses

how to memorise an essay reddit

Lauren Condon

Marketing Specialist at Atomi

how to memorise an essay reddit

When it comes to memorising essays or long responses for your exams, there are three big things to consider.

  • Should you even try to memorise an essay?
  • Do you know how to adapt your memorised response to the exam question?
  • How on earth are you meant to memorise a 1,200 word essay??

It’s a lot to weigh up but we can help you out here. If you want an answer to the first question, here’s one we prepared earlier. But wait, there’s more! If you’re super keen to read more about question #2, then go ahead and click here .

And for that third point on how to actually memorise a long essay? Well, all you have to do is keep reading...

1. Break it down

Your essay/long response/creative writing piece could be anywhere between 800 and 1,200 words long. Yeah… that’s a lot. So when it comes to memorising the whole thing, it’s a lot easier to break the answer down into logical chunks and work on memorising it bit by bit.

So if you want to memorise your Discovery Essay, you might have something like this:

  • Introduction
  • Theme 1 with the assigned text
  • Theme 1 with the related text
  • Theme 2 with the assigned text
  • Theme 2 with the related text

You’re going to want to memorise the paragraphs and pay attention to the structure then you can piece it all together in the exam. Having a killer structure makes it a lot easier to remember the overall bones of this situation and if you’re finding this effective, you can even break those body paragraphs down further like topic sentence > example > explanation > connection to thesis.

2. Use memory tricks

Now, there are lots of different strategies and approaches when it comes to memorising a long piece of writing. Moving in sections, you can try reading it out loud over again (slowly looking at the paper less and less) or the classic look-cover-write-check approach. If you’re really struggling, make some of your own flashcards that have the first sentence on one side and the next sentence on the back so you can test your progress.

You could also enlist the help of some creative mnemonics (memory tricks) to remind you which sentence or section needs to come next. Pick one keyword from each sentence in the paragraph and turn them into a silly sentence to help you remember the structure of the paragraph and to make sure you don’t forget one of your awesome points.

3. Play to your strengths

Not all of us are super geniuses that can just read an essay and then memorise the entire thing but we’re all going to have our own strengths. There’s going to be something whether it’s art, music, writing, performance or sport that just ‘clicks’ in your brain and this is what you want to capitalise on. So for me, I was really into debating and public speaking (hold back the jokes please) and was used to giving speeches and remembering them. So whenever I wanted to memorise a long response, I would write out the essay onto palm cards and then practice it out loud like a speech. Did it annoy my family? Yes. Was I too embarrassed to tell people my strategy? Yes. Did it work? Absolutely. 💯

Whatever your strengths are, find a way to connect them to your essay and come up with a creative way of learning your long response that will be much easier and more effective for you!

4. Start early

So you know how there’s that whole long-term/short-term memory divide? Yeah well that’s going to be pretty relevant when it comes to memorising. You’re going to have a much better chance of remembering your long response if you start early and practice it often, instead of trying to cram it in the night before… sorry.

The good news is, you still have a couple of months before the HSC so try to get your prepared response written, get good feedback from your teachers and then make it perfect so it’s ready to go for the HSC. Then, the next step is to start memorising the essay now and test yourself on it fairly regularly all the way up to your exams. This way, you have plenty of time to really lock it deep into your memory.

5. Test yourself

The final and maybe even most important step is to test yourself. And not with flashcards or the look-cover-check-repeat anymore. Once you’ve got the essay memorised pretty well, you want to spend the weeks coming up to HSC doing past questions so you can practice

  • Having the essay memorised
  • Being able to recall it under pressure
  • Adapting it to any question so that all your hard work will actually pay off

For this to work, you really need to commit 100% to exam conditions (no cheating!) and it’s definitely worth sending those responses to your teacher to get them marked. That way, you will actually know if you’re doing a good job of remembering the core of your argument but also tailoring it perfectly to the question.

Any subject with essays or long responses can be super daunting so if you want to have a pre-written, adaptable response ready to go then it’s worth making sure you can actually memorise it for your exam. Remember to break down the essay into sections, play to your memory strengths and make sure you consistently test yourself all the way up to HSC. That should do the trick. 👌

Published on

July 28, 2017

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Engaging, curriculum-specific videos and interactive lessons backed by research, so you can study smarter, not harder.

With tens of thousands of practice questions and revision sessions, you won’t just think you’re ready. You’ll know you are!

Study skills strategies and tips, AI-powered revision recommendations and progress insights help you stay on track.

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How To Study: The Essay Memorisation Framework

how to memorise an essay reddit

Join over 275,000 readers enjoying 💌 Sunday Snippets - my free, weekly email newsletter where I share what I’m reading and what I’ve learned in the worlds of productivity, business and life.

As a medical student, I did have to undertake some exams that required writing essays. One of the questions I often get asked is how you can apply techniques such as active recall and spaced repetition – that I frequently discuss as being ‘the best’ revision techniques – to essay-based subjects. During my third year at university, I adopted the following approach to preparing for my own essay-based psychology exams – it proved highly effective in my own exams and I hope that you can make effective use of it too.

The system can be broadly broken down into two stages:

  • The Creation Stage
  • Objective to create first class essay plans for every conceivable essay title that they throw at us in the exam.

2.  The Memorisation Stage

  • Objective of committing all of these essay plans to memory by systematically using active recall, spaced repetition, spider diagrams and flashcards.

The idea is that, by using these two stages, by the time the exams arrive you’ll have memorised so many essay plans that they will either come up in the exam or the essays will be similar enough that you will have the knowledge to draw up and form coherent and well-structured essay that answer the question effectively.

Creation Stage

There are three main questions in the creation stage:

How to decide what essay titles to pick/prepare

The objective here is to ‘scope the subject’ and find essay titles that cover the entire breadth of the syllabus. The easiest way to do this is to both look through the past papers and start by planning the essays that have come up in the past and then examine the syllabus and identify areas that lend themselves to essays. Once you’ve planned out those essays, you’ll have a better idea as to what style of questions are asked and what material is often covered. This should give you a breadth of essays titles that span the course – if you find that there is still an area of the syllabus that hasn’t been address, try to come up a suitable question and add it to your essay plans to compile.

How you plan the essay

Personally, I would give myself one day per essay plan. Although it’s best to try to have this process ongoing throughout the year, I did the bulk of my essay plan preparation in the Easter holidays (perhaps not ideal!).

My process involved starting off with a question then use Google to get as much information as possible about that particular topic. I would start off with Google because it can give you a good broad overview as well as useful links to review papers that would often provide key details or interesting examples.

Once I had created my essay plan I would then look at the lecture notes and the recommended reading. This meant that a lot of my material was more original than everyone else’s because most other people would’ve built their essays based around the lecture notes, whereas I was building my essays from a Google search supplemented by lecture notes.

Once I had got my research document, I would spend a few hours writing out the essay – consolidating all the information into this one essay that I am ultimately going to learn.

How you make sure your essay plan is really good.

But how do we make an essay plan good? There are 3 key ingredients in my opinions:

  • Answering the question
  • Adding a bit of spice.

The introduction is the most important part of the essay because you can address all three of these key ingredients and signal to the examiner how you are going to go about compiling the essay and answer the question.

Here is an example of one of the introductions from an essay that I prepared on whether judgement and decision making is cognitive (logical) or affective (emotional).

The historical view in the social sciences has always been that judgements are based solely on content information, with individuals being assumed to form judgements by systematically evaluating all available content information in an unbiased manner. However, over the past three decades a considerable amount of research has challenged this assumption by showing that judgments may be formed not only on the basis of content information (cognitive judgements) but also on the basis of feelings (affective judgement). It is now well accepted that judgement can be both affective and cognitive. Whether it is one or the other depends on a multitude of factors: (1) the salience of the affective feelings, (2) the representativeness of the affective feelings for the target, (3) the relevance of the feelings for the judgement, (4) the evaluative malleability of the judgement and (5) the level of processing intensity. I will discuss these in turn and ultimately argue that generally speaking in day-to-day life, the circumstances are generally those that result in affective rather than cognitive judgements and decision making.

As you can see, I signpost the essay explicitly using numbered points as well as answering the question and outlining to the examiner the direction that my argument is going to go.

The Memorisation Stage

By this point, you should have a good number of essay plans that you’ve created in documents – now the aim is to ‘upload’ those essay plans to our brain. I approached doing this using three main techniques:

Anki Flashcards

With my essays, I used Anki flashcards to memorise paragraphs and main points whether from an essay or key points from a particularly relevant research paper. The aim was to create blocks of content with every Anki flashcard being its’ own ‘block’ which I could then draw upon either for the essays that I had planned or for unfamiliar essays but ones which I could answer using the material from the flashcards.

However, specific paragraphs or points from research papers aren’t helpful unless you can associate them with particular essays – that’s where spider diagrams come into the equation…

Spider Diagrams

Having memorised content blocks from my essays using Anki flashcards, I made one page diagrams of every single essay. The idea being that you would be able to discern the structure of the essay through the spider diagram as well as notice key words that are relevant for that topic and/or that you find particularly helpful in triggering your memory about the key points that you need to raise in answering that question.

Every day I would draw out various spider diagrams from memory and if there were any books that I didn’t know, I would look them up in the master research document or in Anki and actively work on learning those parts.

Over time, this became a highly effective way to systematically use active recall to ensure that I knew absolutely everything.

Retrospective Revision Timetable

The final part of the system involved systematic spaced repetition. If you’ve seen any of my other content, I am a big proponent of retrospective revision timetables. This approach counters the conventional idea of planning a prospective revision timetable which has a number of issues – namely trying to predict the future and inflexibility, amongst others – and instead involves creating a spreadsheet that starts with a list of subjects, topics or essays that we have compiled through scoping our subject and then inputting the dates on which we study those areas as well as colour code the system to provide a visual representation as to which areas we might need to cover again. You can read more about these sorts of timetables  here , where I explain them in more depth.

This structure which combines active recall, spaced repetition, flashcards and spider diagrams was probably the most effective system that I used whilst at university. In the exam, about two thirds of the essays that we had to write, I had already planned. Although the other four essays that I had to write were ‘new’, I had built up such a systematic and in-depth knowledge of the subject that I could more easily draw upon ‘blocks’ of content from my Anki decks which I could then ‘drop’ into these essays to answer them effectively.

I hope this has provided you with a more logical structure with which to utilise active recall, spaced repetition, spider diagrams and flashcards to ensure that you can approach your essay-based exams with more confidence.

Please see the other blog posts in this ‘How To Study’ series for more hints, tips and guidance on studying and revising.

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What is CrowdStrike, and how did it cripple so many computers?

Screens show a blue error message at a departure floor of LaGuardia Airport in New York.

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Talk about irony: The software that paralyzed Windows computers around the world late Thursday night and early Friday morning was planted by a company that protects Windows computers against malware.

That company is CrowdStrike, a publicly traded cybersecurity firm based in Austin, Texas. It acknowledged the problem around 11 p.m. Thursday and started working on a solution, offering a work-around in the wee hours Friday and a fix a few hours later.

The vast sea of “blue screens of death” triggered by CrowdStrike’s error is a testament to the market-leading status of the company’s software, which detects and defends against malicious code planted by hackers. Its approach is known as “ endpoint security ” because it installs its defenses on devices that connect to the internet, such as computers and smartphones.

According to the website 6sense.com, CrowdStrike has more than 3,500 customers , which represent about 1 out of 4 companies buying endpoint security. Although most of its customers are based in the United States, it has hundreds in India, Europe and Australia, 6sense reports.

Here’s a quick explanation for how things went wrong so quickly for so many Windows users around the world , including airlines, hospitals, banks and government agencies.

Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport sleep in a jetway for a delayed United Airlines flight to Dulles International Airport due to a widespread global outage early Friday, July 19, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)

From LAX to hospitals to Starbucks, global tech outage brings chaos and frustration

The software issue was part of an update from cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, which protects computers for many of the biggest companies in the world.

July 19, 2024

The Falcon Sensor update

One of the selling points of CrowdStrike service is that it can improve its defenses rapidly as new threats are discovered. As part of that service, it continuously and automatically updates the Falcon Sensor software on its customers’ machines.

Automatic updates are, under normal circumstances, a good cybersecurity practice because they prevent clients from having machines with outdated defenses on their networks. But the latest incident reveals the flip side of the coin.

According to CrowdStrike , the problem was triggered by a “single content update” for its customers with Windows PCs. The buggy code wasn’t detected until after it had been downloaded and installed on many of CrowdStrike’s clients’ machines.

Once loaded, the bad update interfered with core functions of the PC, causing Microsoft’s infamous blue error screen to pop up and convey a message along the lines of, “Your PC ran into a problem and needs to restart.” And as long as the update remained in place, restarting the machine led to the same errant result.

The fix offered by CrowdStrike

CrowdStrike stopped sending out the faulty update early Friday morning, so machines that had not loaded it yet were spared the turmoil.

For machines caught in the cycle of blue-screen hell, the company initially offered step-by-step instructions for how to reboot Windows in a mode that would allow them to find and delete the buggy update. The drawback, as many commenters online noted, is that this machine-by-machine approach isn’t much help for organizations with hundreds or thousands of bricked PCs.

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Global IT collapse puts cyber firm CrowdStrike in spotlight

Behind a massive IT failure that grounded flights, upended markets and disrupted corporations around the world is one cybersecurity company: CrowdStrike Holdings Inc.

According to the tech website 404, Microsoft also suggested that rebooting a crashed machine multiple times — as many as 15 — could solve the problem.

Within a few hours, CrowdStrike was distributing a piece of software that removed the buggy code. This worked only for customers whose machines were able to connect to the internet and download the fix, though; everyone else would be left with the PC-by-PC work-around.

Scammers jump in

CrowdStrike Chief Executive George Kurtz issued an apology late Friday morning, promising that the company would “provide full transparency on how this occurred and steps we’re taking to prevent anything like this from happening again.” He also warned that bad actors online would try to take advantage of the incident, urging customers to be on the lookout and “ensure that you’re engaging with official CrowdStrike representatives.”

Sure enough, the company announced two hours later that it had found numerous instances of scammers trying to lure victims by posing as CrowdStrike technical support in emails or phone calls. Others were “posing as independent researchers, claiming to have evidence the technical issue is linked to a cyberattack and offering remediation insights.” And yet more were making bogus offers to sell software to fix the problem, the company said.

CrowdStrike identified at least 30 malicious websites that were involved in these cons.

Researchers at the internet security company Norton also warned about the emergence of fake domains and impersonation scams tied to the incident.

“Scammers can leverage social ads, emails and text messages to drive people to the bogus sites,” Norton warned. “These sites look legitimate and aim to extort personal or financial information, preying on the fear and doubt people may have related to the incident. Moreso, many times, fake domains have high search rankings, which can make them appear more credible.”

In an impersonation scam, con artists may send messages mimicking CrowdStrike’s branding to potential victims, claiming that they have been affected by the incident. The messages direct people to a fraudulent customer support line or web page, with a goal of stealing money or sensitive personal information, Norton said.

“This should serve as a cautionary tale, reminding people worldwide to remain extra vigilant as scammers use every angle and method to exploit them,” Luis Corrons, a Norton security evangelist, said in a statement.

The lessons from the CrowdStrike debacle

Some Macintosh and Linux users, who were immune to the CrowdStrike-induced upheaval, devoted a portion of their morning Friday to spiking the football on Windows, even though the problem wasn’t caused by Microsoft.

Other observers argued that the incident demonstrated the risk of having one potential point of failure affecting millions of computers — a problem that has been demonstrated repeatedly during the broadband era.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made a similar point at a news conference Friday in East Los Angeles. “A lot of people around the country and around the world are shocked to discover that a single issue with a single piece of software can have that many knock-on implications. So ... that’ll be a question that really goes to the design of our systems for the long term,” Buttigieg said.

“As a recovering computer science major,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) said on X , “I’m not surprised a faulty update by CrowdStrike took down Microsoft Windows. Always risks in giving another software program full or near full access to an operating system.”

For the record:

12:26 p.m. July 19, 2024 An earlier version of this story reported that Steve Garrison was founder of Stellar Cyber in San Francisco. He is one of the founders, and the company is based in San Jose.

Steve Garrison, one of the founders of Stellar Cyber in San Jose, said it’s more important to figure out how to make improvements than to play the blame game. This incident, he said, underscores the need for companies to spend plenty of time checking the quality of their products in a controlled environment before releasing them to customers.

Another lesson, he said, is the need for companies, their competitors and their customers to work together as a community to spot problems. “What do we need to do to check the checkers of our supply chain?” he asked.

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Dan O’Dowd, a developer of security software for the military, said the fiasco demonstrates that we need better software in critical systems.

“The immense body of software developed using Silicon Valley’s ‘move fast and break things’ culture means that the software our lives depend on is riddled with defects and vulnerabilities,” O’Dowd said in a statement. “Defects in this software can result in a mass failure event even more serious than the one we have seen today.”

He added, “We must convince the CEOs and Boards of Directors of the companies that build the systems our lives depend on to rewrite their software so that it never fails and can’t be hacked. ... These companies will not take cybersecurity seriously until the public demands it. And we must demand it now, before a major disaster strikes.”

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A faulty software update causes havoc worldwide for airlines, hospitals and governments

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Jon Healey writes and edits stories for the Los Angeles Times’ Fast Break Desk, the team that dives into the biggest news of the moment. In his previous stints, he wrote and edited for the Utility Journalism team and The Times editorial board. He covered technology news for The Times from 2000 to mid-2005.

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Exam Study Expert

BEST Memorisation Techniques For Exams: The Secret Science Of How To Remember What You Study

by William Wadsworth | Last updated Aug 14, 2023 | First published on Feb 28, 2019 | 20 comments

William Wadsworth

by William Wadsworth

The Cambridge-educated memory psychologist & study coach on a mission to help YOU ace your exams . Helping half a million students in 175+ countries every year to study smarter, not harder. Supercharge your studies today with our time-saving, grade-boosting “genius” study tips sheet .

Pretty recently – the last decade or so – scientists have reached broad agreement that there is one memorisation technique for exams and tests that, above all others, will solve the age-old question of how to remember what you study.

Before I tell you what the technique is, I was shocked to learn that as few as 7% of college-level students (and possibly even fewer students at high school) say they are using this technique as their main revision strategy.

So what’s the technique?

It’s called “ retrieval practice ”, and it’s based on the act of trying to pull information out of your memory.

It seems counter-intuitive at first that trying to remember something helps you to learn it, but you’ll be astonished at how powerful this strategy can be for getting information locked away in memory, ready for when you need it.

Read on to discover:

  • how retrieval practice works
  • why it’s so useful
  • and precisely how you should be using retrieval practice memorisation techniques to prepare for exams – including some common mistakes people often make when applying it.

how to memorise an essay reddit

What is “retrieval practice” and how can it help you to remember what you study?

When psychologists talk about “retrieving” something from memory, they mean recalling it, or remembering it. So “retrieval practice” just means practising remembering a piece of information you previously read, heard or saw.

A common misunderstanding – one I held myself for many years when studying for exams in high school – is that testing yourself on what you know only serves to “check” how much you know at that point, i.e. it won’t help you actually learn information.

We now know that’s not true.

A gigantic review of hundreds of studies testing how well various memorisation techniques prepared students for exams or tests concluded that, above all other techniques, retrieval practice (or “practice testing” as the review called it) was the most powerful.

The results from many of these studies were astonishing: students often improved by a whole grade (or more!) when learning using retrieval practice.

Part of the problem is that our own intuitions as students about what learning techniques are working for us are often flawed.

I highly recommend you take a look at a guest post I’ve written for my friends at Titanium Tutors, where I explain a fascinating experiment that beautifully demonstrates how our intuitions often lead to us making bad decisions about how to revise – and what we can do about it.

Benefits of using retrieval practice to learn for exams, and how it helps you to learn information

Retrieval practice works in a number of ways:

  • Helps you lock information into memory: the very act of pulling a piece of information out of your memory means you can remember it more easily later on.
  • Helps you find the gaps in your knowledge: by testing yourself, you’ll have a better idea of what you know and where you need to do more work.
  • Helps you apply information to new contexts: it’s not just about learning the facts, studying using retrieval practice makes it more likely that you will be able to figure out unfamiliar problems based on what you know, make leaps of intuition, and apply knowledge in new ways. These are all skills often demanded by the questions that unlock top marks in exams.

The first of these is probably the most important of these effects, but also the most surprising: it can seem strange at first that simply trying to remember something will strengthen your memory of that information, making it easier to remember it later.

But think of it like this: a big chunk of success in most exams comes down to simply being able to remember the information from your course. In other words, the exam tests your memory of what you learned.

Let me give you an analogy. If you’re training for the Olympics, you’ll train for your chosen sport first and foremost by practising that sport .

For example:

If you’re a long jumper, your most important training will be practising jumping.

But if you’re a weightlifter, your most important training will be practising lifting weights.

And if you’re a 100m runner, your most important training will be practising sprinting.

how to memorise an essay reddit

So given that, if you’re a student preparing for exams that are largely tests of memory, your most important training should be practising remembering information .

Sure, you’ll need to do other things too – the runner will need to spend time in the gym doing leg exercises, and the student will need to spend time (re-)reading unfamiliar material, or working on their exam technique, or how they structure their essays. But the focus for getting knowledge under your belt and into your memory should be retrieval practice.

I often say to my more sporty students that the moment in which you’re trying to remember a fact is the “rep” (a “rep” is a single component of an exercise that makes you stronger – a single press-up, a single bicep curl, or a single pull-up in a set).

Fascinatingly, whether you succeed in pulling the fact you’re searching for out of your memory or not, you’ll still have done some good !

How to memorise for exams with retrieval practice strategies

So how to apply all of this when studying?

Here are some of my favourite retrieval practice based memorisation techniques for exams and tests you can start using today:

  • Write what you know from memory on a blank sheet: a plain sheet of paper is a very under-rated study tool! Put your books away, then scribble down everything you can remember about a topic. After you’ve squeezed out as much as you can from memory, you might like to go back and add in any missing details in a different coloured pen. Next time you train yourself on this topic, aim to have fewer missing details – until you have none at all come the week before the exam!
  • Draw concept maps from memory: a slightly more sophisticated variant on the “blank sheet” method is drawing concept maps based on what you know of a topic. A concept map links ideas together visually, putting ideas in boxes, and linking them together with arrows to show how they relate. Unlike mind maps, they are quick to draw, placing more importance on getting the right information down on the page, with a sensible structure around it, rather than spending too long making the final result sumptuously beautiful (I know it’s fun… but you’re not going to be graded on your artwork at the end of the day! Unless you’re studying Art, of course…) Here’s an example of a concept map summarising what you might need to know about rates of reaction in chemistry:
Got stuck sequencing my GCSE rates lessons until I made a concept map inspired by @Mr_Raichura ’s #CogSciSci talk. It works! pic.twitter.com/a7oRW1IueW — Elizabeth Mountstevens (@DrMountstevens) August 18, 2018
  • Practice questions: Work through exercises from your text book or revision guide. Answer real exam questions. Or even make up your own quiz questions – I know some students who like to revise by first reading through their notes, making a list of their own “quiz questions” they know they will need to be able to answer to prove they know that topic properly. Then they put their notes away, and take the quiz.
  • Train with flash cards: start by making them, and then use them! Flash cards are my favourite way to learn large amounts of information quickly, and through long experience (both my own, and coaching students), there are some very specific steps you need to take to get the most out of studying with flash cards.

Psst… why not grab a free copy of my “science of learning cheat sheet”, which includes a deep-dive “DOs and DONTs” to get the most out of retrieval practice techniques like flash cards:

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My Top 6 Strategies To Study Smarter and Ace Your Exams

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Whichever of these techniques you’re using, keep your notes away until you’ve had a good try at remembering. Then you can check your notes (or the mark scheme, if you’re doing past exam questions) and give yourself feedback on where you went wrong.

This feedback step, understanding where you missed things or slipped up, is a very important part of the overall learning process, so don’t skimp on it.

If you find you can’t reliably remember a particular aspect of a topic, you’ll know to prioritise giving that issue some extra time until you have it nailed.

Don’t make these mistakes when using retrieval practice

Even the best memory techniques in the world won’t work properly if not applied correctly. Some traps to avoid when you’re using retrieval practice techniques in your studies:

1. Some difficulty is good, but if it’s too hard, make it easier…

If you can barely remember anything in a topic, no matter how hard you try, you probably need to back up a step.

Going back and re-reading your notes at this point is OK, and if you’re struggling to go from re-reading to remembering at least a good chunk of what you’ve just read, you need to break it up into smaller chunks.

Take what you’re trying to learn one segment at a time, get comfortable retrieving each segment on its own, then start to string them together.

Or for tricky memory jobs, try using intermediate prompts as “stepping stones” to jog your memory while also giving it space to do at least some retrieval practice. 

Here are a few fun and creative ideas for how you could use “stepping stones” in practice, to build up gradually to remembering the whole thing from scratch. The video is about remembering English literature quotes (hard!), but some of the ideas here could easily be applied to other subjects, from recalling maths formulas to learning anatomical terms:

2. But if it’s too easy, you need to make it harder

On the other hand, if you break something up so small that it becomes trivial to remember, you’re not giving yourself enough of a memory workout and the benefits will be limited.

Say you’re trying to learn the formula for a chemical compound – you could learn it one atom at a time, and test yourself on each atom in the seconds after looking at it. With such small amounts of information and no delay before trying to remember it, you won’t even break a sweat as you recall each atom perfectly – but what you’ve learned won’t stick in memory for long.

So if it feels too easy, try going for larger chunks of knowledge, or leaving more of a gap between re-reading information and doing retrieval practice on it.

3. Don’t let yourself get away with not fully knowing something!

Let’s say you’re working with flashcards. You might feel like you almost knew it, flip the card, find something familiar, and say “ah yes, I did know that”.

But beware! You didn’t, did you?

Train with discipline: give yourself a good moment to rummage through your brain for the information, and if it’s not there, note it down as a missed effort and come back to it again.

Remember, even failing to remember something is useful memory training as long as you gave it a good try!

Though obviously your goal is to succeed in remembering things, so pay special attention to the things you couldn’t remember at the end of the session, and in your review at the end of the day.

4. Remembering something once doesn’t prove you’ll know it forever

Just because you know it today, doesn’t mean you’ll remember it tomorrow, or next week. Some scientists recommend aiming for at least 3 successful retrieval attempts before deciding you “know” something – though you might need more, depending on how long you’ve got before your exam, and how complex the information is.

5. If you’re trying to remember something complex, write it down

If you’re trying to remember a long formula, big number, quote, list, or diagram, you won’t be able to hold it all in your brain at once.

Say you need to remember a list of 7 factors.

By the time you’re trying to remember the sixth item, you can’t be sure whether you’re remembering a sixth that you hadn’t already thought of, or whether you’re actually just re-listing one of the items you’d already come up with!

So get the component parts out of your head and down on a sheet of paper as you think of them, so your memory is freed up to focus on remembering the missing information, and you can be certain you’ve got it all.

At first, retrieval practice won’t feel like the easiest way to memorise for exams, but stick with it!

You’re in elite study territory now: any student that decides to apply all of this properly will have a massive head-start on their peers when it comes to learning information for their exams.

Retrieval practice is incredibly powerful, but, let’s be honest, trying to pull information out of your brain is going to feel like harder work than just sitting back and re-reading your notes again!

A lot of students feel they prefer other ways to study for your exams: re-reading, highlighting, making notes or summarising are all very popular choices.

But here’s the thing:

Our own intuitions about what study techniques work best are really bad! Studies have repeatedly shown that “feel good” study methods that students like best (probably because they don’t take quite so much effort!) are having relatively small benefits, comparing to slightly more effortful but much more effective memorisation techniques for exams like retrieval practice.

Trust the science, and give it a go: you will be astonished at the results!

Ooooh, and just before you go… don’t leave without your copy of my “Science of Learning Cheat Sheet”: my four all-time fave strategies for studying smarter. Retrieval practice is absolutely on the list – but make sure you check out the other techniques too!

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thank you . this very useful for to study for my exam

Thanks for stopping by, so glad to help! Wishing you every success in the exam, you’ve got this 😀

– William

This is an interesting and informative post on memorization techniques that can help students remember what they study during exams. It’s great to know about the science behind effective memory retention, and I look forward to learning more from this article.

How do you do the method on a day before your exam?

How can I remember what I read on the day of exam

1. Re. how to do the methods the day before an exam – it’s exactly the same. You might also like to check out my guide to exam-week / test-taking technique https://geni.us/exams .

2. Re. how to remember what you read on the day of the exam: “READ” is the key word that jumped out at me here! If all you’re doing is reading, it’s really hard to remember. Check out more effective study methods at https://examstudyexpert.com/how-to-study-effectively/

Am definitely trying out the retrieval practice cos am about to write an exam

Brilliant – good luck with it! It will probably feel hard at first – that feeling is the feeling of your memory building, keep going 🙂

Thanks for this enlightening . It really open my understanding to some things that u have been doing that are actually mKingm my brain weaker

Okay, this is seriously the first time I actually really enjoyed what I was reading and continued it till the end (considering English is not my mother language and I normally get tired and bored pretty fast). I also listened to one of your podcasts. Your content is really fascinating and helpful. Thank you.

That’s lovely feedback – thank you so much for sharing, Florentina. I hope you’re finding some useful ideas – anything else we can do to support, just let me know!

This was one of the first articles I read from this website – and I’m so glad I did! Tried and tested these tips myself and they work wonders – smart studying is the way to go 🙂

This is one of the most incredible blogs I’ve read in a very long time. The amount of information here is stunning. Great stuff; please keep it up!

I’ve been using retrieval practice for several years, after reading about it in a book by researchers in the field. Some other things that are necessary: 1. Retrieval practice is great for improving factual information for factual exams, but is less helpful for exams that require applying remembered knowledge to new situations. The main issue here is that students need to do more than just remember things, they need to apply that knowledge. So: 2. Practice applying remembered information to new situations. 3. When doing “brain dumps” or “mind maps” filling in the missing information is important, but students should also _correct_ their mistakes. 4. A related method that I use: write questions in the margins of lecture notes and Powerpoint slides related to the information in the slide. 5. After reading the slide, and writing and reading back the question, ask yourself to answer the question. And, ask your, “What did I just learn in this slide (or paragraph or abstract or paper or movie or video or flash card)?

I should add, 6. All of this takes time, so don’t cram or study at the last minute. 7. Check out the “Method of Inquiry” (related to my point #4) from researchers at Ryerson University in Canada.

Thanks for such a quality comment, Beccles. Are you a current student? Would love to do a mini-interview (5-10 mins) with you for the Exam Study Expert podcast about your experiences with retrieval practice, and your tips for success. Would you be up for that? ( https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/exam-study-expert-study-tips-psychology-hacks-to-learn/id1456034719 )

Great tips for students!

I am preparing for my exam that I failed once. I was into feel good study mode, and now I discover this retrieval process. I will use this from now on and will try to stick with it. Better to stick with a scientific proven methods than repeating my feel good technique which didnt give me results.

Wishing you every success in your re-take! If you come up against any questions on using the techniques, I’m always happy to try and answer them – put them here or drop me an email ( https://examstudyexpert.com/about/contact/ ).

Good luck 🙂

Thank you for sharing this excellent article. I used this article to show my assignment in college. Excellent job.


  • Five minutes a day to exam success: with retrieval journaling - OC Tuition - […] “Retrieval practice” means learning by practising remembering (or “retrieving”) what you know. Flashcards, self-testing and past paper questions all…
  • Introducing: the greatest back-to-school study tip of all time - - […] journaling is based on the two most powerful principles of effective learning known to science: retrieval practice and spaced…

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The Gunman and the Would-Be Dictator

Violence stalks the president who has rejoiced in violence to others.

A photomontage illustration of Donald Trump.

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When a madman hammered nearly to death the husband of then–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump jeered and mocked . One of Trump’s sons and other close Trump supporters avidly promoted false claims that Paul Pelosi had somehow brought the onslaught upon himself through a sexual misadventure.

After authorities apprehended a right-wing-extremist plot to abduct Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Trump belittled the threat at a rally. He disparaged Whitmer as a political enemy. His supporters chanted “Lock her up.” Trump laughed and replied , “Lock them all up.”

Fascism feasts on violence. In the years since his own supporters attacked the Capitol to overturn the 2020 election—many of them threatening harm to Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence—Trump has championed the invaders, would-be kidnappers, and would-be murderers as martyrs and hostages. He has vowed to pardon them if returned to office. His own staffers have testified to the glee with which Trump watched the mayhem on television.

Now the bloodshed that Trump has done so much to incite against others has touched him as well. The attempted murder of Trump—and the killing of a person nearby—is a horror and an outrage. More will be learned about the man who committed this appalling act, and who was killed by the Secret Service. Whatever his mania or motive, the only important thing about him is the law-enforcement mistake that allowed him to bring a deadly weapon so close to a campaign event and gain a sight line of the presidential candidate. His name should otherwise be erased and forgotten.

It is sadly incorrect to say, as so many have, that political violence “has no place” in American society. Assassinations, lynchings, riots, and pogroms have stained every page of American political history. That has remained true to the present day. In 2016 , and even more in 2020, Trump supporters brought weapons to intimidate opponents and vote-counters. Trump and his supporters envision a new place for violence as their defining political message in the 2024 election. Fascist movements are secular religions. Like all religions, they offer martyrs as their proof of truth. The Mussolini movement in Italy built imposing monuments to its fallen comrades. The Trump movement now improves on that: The leader himself will be the martyr in chief, his own blood the basis for his bid for power and vengeance.

Christopher R. Browning: A new kind of fascism

The 2024 election was already shaping up as a symbolic contest between an elderly and weakening liberalism too frail and uncertain to protect itself and an authoritarian, reactionary movement ready to burst every barrier and trash every institution. To date, Trump has led only a minority of U.S. voters, but that minority’s passion and audacity have offset what it lacks in numbers. After the shooting, Trump and his backers hope to use the iconography of a bloody ear and face, raised fist, and call to “Fight!” to summon waverers to their cause of installing Trump as an anti-constitutional ruler, exempted from ordinary law by his allies on the Supreme Court.

Other societies have backslid to authoritarianism because of some extraordinary crisis: economic depression, hyperinflation, military defeat, civil strife. In 2024, U.S. troops are nowhere at war. The American economy is booming, providing spectacular and widely shared prosperity. A brief spasm of mild post-pandemic inflation has been overcome. Indicators of social health have abruptly turned positive since Trump left office after years of deterioration during his term. Crime and fatal drug overdoses are declining in 2024; marriages and births are rising. Even the country’s problems indirectly confirm the country’s success: Migrants are crossing the border in the hundreds of thousands, because they know, even if Americans don’t, that the U.S. job market is among the hottest on Earth.

Yet despite all of this success, Americans are considering a form of self-harm that in other countries has typically followed the darkest national failures: letting the author of a failed coup d’état return to office to try again.

One reason this self-harm is nearing consummation is that American society is poorly prepared to understand and respond to radical challenges, once those challenges gain a certain mass. For nearly a century, “radical” in U.S. politics has usually meant “fringe”: Communists, Ku Kluxers, Black Panthers, Branch Davidians, Islamist jihadists. Radicals could be marginalized by the weight of the great American consensus that stretches from social democrats to business conservatives. Sometimes, a Joe McCarthy or a George Wallace would throw a scare into that mighty consensus, but in the past such challengers rarely formed stable coalitions with accepted stakeholders in society. Never gaining an enduring grip on the institutions of state, they flared up and burned out.

Trump is different. His abuses have been ratified by powerful constituencies. He has conquered and colonized one of the two major parties. He has defeated—or is on the way to defeating—every impeachment and prosecution to hold him to account for his frauds and crimes. He has assembled a mass following that is larger, more permanent, and more national in reach than any previous American demagogue. He has dominated the scene for nine years already, and he and his supporters hope they can use yesterday’s appalling event to extend the Trump era to the end of his life and beyond.

The American political and social system cannot treat such a person as an alien. It inevitably accommodates and naturalizes him. His counselors, even the thugs and felons, join the point-counterpoint dialogue at the summit of the American elite. President Joe Biden nearly wrecked his campaign because he felt obliged to meet Trump in debate. How could Biden have done otherwise? Trump is the three-time nominee of the Republican Party; it’s awkward and strange to treat him as an insurrectionist against the American state—though that’s what Trump was and is.

David Frum: Biden’s heartbreaking press conference

The despicable shooting at Trump, which also caused death and injury to others, now secures his undeserved position as a partner in the protective rituals of the democracy he despises. The appropriate expressions of dismay and condemnation from every prominent voice in American life have the additional effect of habituating Americans to Trump’s legitimacy. In the face of such an outrage, the familiar and proper practice is to stress unity, to proclaim that Americans have more things in common than that divide them. Those soothing words, true in the past, are less true now.

Nobody seems to have language to say: We abhor, reject, repudiate, and punish all political violence, even as we maintain that Trump remains himself a promoter of such violence, a subverter of American institutions, and the very opposite of everything decent and patriotic in American life.

The Republican National Convention, which opens this week, will welcome to its stage apologists for Vladimir Putin’s Russia and its aggression against U.S. allies. Trump’s own infatuation with Russia and other dictatorships has not dimmed even slightly with age or experience. Yet all of these urgent and necessary truths must now be subordinated to the ritual invocation of “thoughts and prayers” for someone who never gave a thought or uttered a prayer for any of the victims of his own many incitements to bloodshed. The president who used his office to champion the rights of dangerous people to own military-type weapons says he was grazed by a bullet from one such assault rifle.

Conventional phrases and polite hypocrisy fill a useful function in social life. We say “Thank you for your service” both to the decorated hero and to the veteran who barely escaped dishonorable discharge. It’s easier than deciphering which was which. We wish “Happy New Year!” even when we dread the months ahead.

Adrienne LaFrance: Thoughts, prayers, and Facebook rants aren’t enough

But conventional phrases don’t go unheard. They carry meanings, meanings no less powerful for being rote and reflexive. In rightly denouncing violence, we are extending an implicit pardon to the most violent person in contemporary U.S. politics. In asserting unity, we are absolving a man who seeks power through the humiliation and subordination of disdained others.

Those conventional phrases are inscribing Trump into a place in American life that he should have forfeited beyond redemption on January 6, 2021. All decent people welcome the sparing of his life. Trump’s reckoning should be with the orderly process of law, not with the bloodshed he rejoiced in when it befell others. He and his allies will exploit a gunman’s vicious criminality as their path to exonerate past crimes and empower new ones. Those who stand against Trump and his allies must find the will and the language to explain why these crimes, past and planned, are all wrong, all intolerable—and how the gunman and Trump, at their opposite ends of a bullet’s trajectory, are nonetheless joined together as common enemies of law and democracy.

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Biden’s Heartbreaking Press Conference

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As President Joe Biden steps aside, is America ready for President Kamala Harris?

Kamala Harris has been on a yo-yo string with Democratic Party bigwigs since that cataclysmic debate performance catapulted her boss out of a sure 2024 nomination.

Weeks before President Joe Biden stepped aside – and swiftly endorsed Harris to be the 2024 nominee – the vice president had emerged as the most logical replacement to top the ticket after Biden wore his frailty on national TV.

Allies disseminated a logic about why Harris would be the natural successor: She could seamlessly inherit the campaign's massive warchest; her law enforcement background is best suited to prosecute the political case against Republican Donald Trump; polling shows she can win ; and having been the nation's first multiracial and woman VP could galvanize a new generation of younger progressives.

But from the start, there has been a hesitancy to fully embrace the country’s second-in-command, with some Democrats openly overlooking her. When a group of 24 former House Democrats sent Biden a letter last week lobbying for an open convention in August, it made no mention of Harris.

The day after Biden found himself fighting for his future in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Harris was asked to assure Black women, the party’s backbone , that the U.S. wouldn’t take a step backward in this election on issues they care about, including economic and reproductive freedom. Her message was far from reassuring.

“Here’s the thing about elections,” Harris told a moderator at Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans on July 6, during a discussion entitled “Chief to Chief.” “The people who make decisions at that level often will pay attention to either who’s writing the checks or who votes. That’s a cold, hard reality.”

Recent history: Kamala Harris on standby as Democrats plunge into panic mode

The 59-year-old Harris may seem the obvious strategic page turn for the party as well as a generational shift. Her life has been an acrobatic twist and turn, filled with personal challenges and accomplishments, including political tests in her home state of California similar to what she and the country face now.

But some wonder whether a country bitterly divided by cultural issues around race, gender and family – already seemingly poised to return Donald Trump to power – is ready for a woman of color to sit in the Oval Office.

“Black women are judged more harshly by the right, by the left – by everyone,” said Aimy Steele, founder and CEO of The New North Carolina Project, which is dedicated to expanding voter engagement and access in the Tar Heel State.

Steele said beyond race and gender, there are other parts of Harris’ life that she believes liberal allies will fail to accept or defend, including that she is a professional woman who went unmarried most of her life and put her career first without having biological children.

“I think we’re kidding ourselves to really believe that we are, even on the progressive side, in a post-racial democracy or a place where these types of things don’t matter,” said Steele, who unsuccessfully ran for the North Carolina legislature in 2020.

Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, told USA TODAY that’s “all the more reason to make sure that we stand with her. We need to stand for something.”

“Misogyny, racism and other forms of bigotry are going to exist in this country, and yes, they may even be exacerbated by having a woman of color at the top of the ticket,” said Soifer, who served as a national security adviser to Harris in the Senate.

“But that is absolutely not a reason to cower or to allow the fear of that hate to impede progress in this country, and that’s actually been driving Kamala Harris her whole career.”

Other progressives still bruised by the political backlashes from the Barack Obama years emphasize that they concur: Harris is the face of the country’s future. The U.S. is projected to be majority people of color by 2045.

Trump and other Republicans have long been aware of the possible ticket switch, and have derided Harris as incompetent , socially awkward and responsible for chief failures in the Biden administration. GOP officials suggest that’s only the beginning.

“We’ve not really gone into depths with the record of Kamala Harris,” Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., said in a Fox News Sunday appearance this month.

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At the Republican National Convention last week, former Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley reminded delegates she had predicted Democrats would look to pass the baton to Harris in the middle of the 2024 contest.

“For more than a year, I said a vote for Joe Biden is a vote for President Kamala Harris,” she said. "After seeing the debate, everyone knows it’s true. If we have four more years of Biden or a single day of Harris, our country will be badly worse off."

Dems not fully sold on Harris either

Harris’ opposition is not only coming from the other side of the aisle, as Democratic skeptics worry about her viability.

A former Harris staffer wrote in The Atlantic this month “an automatic coronation of Harris would be a grave mistake.” She argued for a process to battle-test her against others vs. Trump; and said supporters are too quick to write off viability concerns as “racist and sexist.”

A new AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey released this past week found 58% of Democrats believe Harris would make a good president. But the poll shows 22% of Democrats don't think she would versus 20% who said they don’t know enough about her.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., warned in a Instagram live Thursday it would be incorrect to think there is a consensus among Democrats that Harris will get the support of people who wanted Biden to leave.

Those individuals, she said, “are interested in removing the whole ticket.”

Other progressives, however, warn that backing away from Harris could be disastrous for the party. Democratic strategist Bakari Sellers summed it up in a post on X: “ Skip over Kamala Harris at your own peril.”

A child of immigrants with a fierce, ‘extraordinary’ mother

Harris was born in Oakland, Calif. in 1964 amid the Civil Rights Movement to immigrant parents – her father Donald Harris, was an economist born in Jamaica and Shyamala Gopalan, was a cancer researcher from India.

In her 2019 memoir, she briefly describes her parents’ marriage falling apart when she was five, leading to divorce. She only saw her father during summers in Palo Alto when he taught at Stanford, and acknowledges she was shaped by her 5’1” mother, whom she calls “extraordinary.”

Her mother took a teaching job at McGill University when Harris was 12, moving her and her sister to Montreal from 1976 until she graduated from high school in 1981.

It was in Canada where Harris first developed an affinity for lawyers who broke barriers such as Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, Constance Baker Motley – giants of the civil rights movement, she wrote.

Harris returned to the states to attend Howard University where she flourished in the environment where “everyone was young, gifted and Black.” She pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the second founded of the historic “divine nine” Greek-lettered organizations among African Americans. She interned at the Federal Trade Commission; researched at the National Archives and was a tour guide at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

She first entered politics as a staffer for Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston, of California, and then returned home to Oakland to U.C. Hastings College of Law and graduated in 1989.

Harris revealed in her book she took the California bar exam that July and “to my utter devastation, I had failed,” an acknowledged setback for a self-described perfectionist. She passed in February 1990 and began work at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Her political star began to rise in 1994 with her relationship with Willie Brown, the legendary California politician who at the time was the statehouse speaker, married – although long separated – and 30 years older than Harris.

California entrepreneur Trevor Traina, a longtime Harris friend and former U.S. ambassador to Austria, said that relationship was a politically formative one.

"Kamala’s a warm person who has a lot of charm and charisma. And she is the protégé of Willie Brown, who is the king of charm,” Traina said in an interview with USA TODAY. “And I think she learned well from him.”

Influential San Francisco Chronicle gossip columnist Herb Caen first put her name in print that March as Brown and Harris were spotted around town.

Their romance continued to raise eyebrows that November when Brown named Harris to a state medical board, along with a hefty salary. The affair ended in 1996, but the pair would be linked for decades and the subject of character assaults into the 2020 campaign.

Kristin Powell, principal of Black to the Future Action Fund, a national political advocacy group, said women in politics typically have their dating and sex lives dragged out in public as disqualifiers for higher office.

“The threats against her, in my opinion, will be astronomically higher than the ones against Obama because she’s a woman, not just a Black person, but a Black woman,” she said.

Powell said that same standard isn’t applied to men, noting that for years Trump has been accused of having extra-martial affairs and of sexual assault (which the former president vehemently denies).

By 2000, Harris moved to City Hall and quickly set her eyes on the city’s top prosecutor job, challenging incumbent Terence Hallinan in 2003. An archived radio debate from that election previewed the sharp-elbowed Harris in her first political battle focused on a backlog of 40 homicide cases.

“We are seeing an erosion of the criminal justice system, an absolute neglect of cases and they’re prioritizing politics over professionalism,” Harris said in the testy segment.

Harris’ campaign sent out mailers featuring the ten faces of previous San Francisco DAs stretching back to 1900. All male, all white. “It’s time for a change,” it read in block red letters.

She has continued to underscore the importance of U.S. leadership looking like the increasingly diverse country, including earlier this month at the Essence Festival of Culture, an annual mecca for Black women.

“Let us always celebrate the diversity, the depth and the beauty of our culture,” she said.

If the vice president were to become the first name on a Democratic ticket, political activists such as Powell believe it would be a game-changer in 2024.

“There would be a lot of excitement, not just for her, but when a Black woman gets to the White House, her or someone else, it will be a lot of excitement for women in this country because we deserve to have female leadership,” she said.

Yet, recent polling shows Harris doesn’t necessarily outpace Biden in terms of Black voter enthusiasm, which may indicate she is in a weaker position than some supporters assume.

More: Biden's support among Black women leaders still strong even as others jump ship

Quentin James, founder and president of Collective PAC, which is aimed at building Black political power, said the vice president’s identity is a chief engine of her popularity with racially diverse constituents, but that more sophisticated minority voters have a sharper grading curve.

“I definitely think that representation alone is not enough,” he said. “People are looking for the meat and substance, and not solely the identity.”

Powell concurs that excitement over a non-white, non-male candidate comes second to certain policy commitments, especially among those who’ve lived through the Obama era.

“We would applaud having a Black woman in the White House,” Powell said. “But before we get excited about whether that's Kamala Harris, we need to understand what she’s going to give us.”

Harris was California’s top cop

A decade before being elevated to the vice presidency, Harris demonstrated an uncanny ability to beat the political odds in a political landscape that, much like today’s national terrain, was dominated by aging white men.

Traina said more than any other time period, he believes Harris’ time as San Francisco’s district attorney is an instructive window into her leadership. He said the city is cosmopolitan and international, but also notoriously left-leaning ranging from mainstream Democrats to socialists.

“There's a tension between the center left and the far left, which I think mirrors the national scene right now for the Democratic Party,” Traina said. “And you have politicians who need to be elected and who need to be able to speak to the center, who understand how to navigate that environment, and Kamala is one of those people.”

She took aim at the California Attorney General’s office in 2010 after the incumbent, Democrat Jerry Brown, ran for governor to replace term-limited Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was up to Harris to retain the seat for the Democrats, and that election season was an extraordinary one as well. It would become the nationwide sweep known as the “red wave.”

Political attacks on Harris included her decision as San Francisco DA to not seek the death penalty for a gang member who shot and killed a police officer.

On Election Day in 2010, the red wave broke. Republicans regained control of the U.S. House and reclaimed governor’s seats and statehouses nationwide. In the Harris-Cooley race, however, the vote turned out to be one of the closest in California history. Ballot counting took more than three weeks.

Ace Smith, Harris’ political consultant at the time, recalls how the San Francisco Chronicle initially declared Cooley the victor.

It was a “Dewey defeats Truman” moment. In the end, Cooley had to concede.

Author Dan Morain, a Harris biographer, points to the win as a formative episode, where national politicians took notice of the upstart from California. The red wave, he said, “stopped at the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada.”

Smith called Harris a “supremely talented, charismatic person” who attracted voters despite being outspent. In an oral history with Capitol Weekly last year, he suggested the race turned on a debate stage where Cooley defended taking both a pension and a salary after retiring.

Harris’ tenure as California attorney general drew accolades from Obama, who cast her as a “brilliant” and “dedicated” campaigner.

“(S)he is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake," Obama said at a 2013 fundraiser that is best remembered for the president’s commentary on her attractiveness. (He quickly apologized.)

After becoming attorney general, it was clear to many observers Harris was aiming for even higher office, taking cautious positions on hot-button issues – or no position at all.

That would become the basis of Morain’s book, “ Kamala’s Way ,” about her ascent to the U.S. Senate and ultimately the vice presidency.

“It’s about her way of operating, and it’s her path to getting to where she is,” Morain said. “She can be very tough, she can be empathetic, she can be cautious, she can be unsure of herself, but she’s very smart and quick on her feet.”

It’s in this period that a friend introduced Harris to an entertainment lawyer in L.A. who would become her husband. Doug Emhoff would become the first second gentleman and first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president. After they wed in 2014, Emhoff’s children Cole and Ella didn’t want to call Harris a stepmom and coined the phrase: “Momala.”

By January 2015 a new lane had opened. Longtime Sen. Barbara Boxer announced she would not seek reelection in 2016. That left two of Smith’s clients, Harris and then-California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, to hash out their political futures – which Smith has said was less dramatic than some have reported.

“That’s stuff of legends and myths, but not true,” Smith said in 2023 . “And at the end of the day, (Newsom) wanted to be governor more than he wanted to be senator. She wanted to be senator… The good news was it was folks who knew each other well.”

In California’s primary system, where the top two vote-getters advance, Harris emerged as the winner to run against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, an almost 10-year veteran of the House of Representatives. She sailed to a more than 20-point victory over Sanchez in the general election in 2016, with the support of Obama and his vice president – Joe Biden.

A combative prosecutor on Capitol Hill

Harris became only the second Black woman to serve in the Senate in history following Illinois’s Carol Moseley Braun, a victory that came amid a new kind of red wave: That same night, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

Harris arrived at the Senate primed for the conflict. Her maiden speech on the Senate floor laced into Trump’s nominee for education secretary and future Cabinet member Betsy DeVos.

She landed initial appointments to the Homeland Security and Intelligence committees, in addition to the Environment and Budget panels. A year into office , Harris’ legal background helped her secure a spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which gave her a platform to grill Trump’s judicial nominees.

She leaned into questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and pressed future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on abortion rights.

“Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?” she asked Kavanaugh during the exchange.

Kavanaugh replied, “I’m not thinking of any right now, senator.”

The clip went viral.

Soifer, the former national security adviser, said those examples in the Senate underscore how Harris is uniquely positioned to be the Democratic nominee. Harris would be the most stark contrast with Trump at a time when women’s rights, particularly reproductive healthcare, is at the forefront.

“She’s a force to be reckoned with, and I would love to see her debate Donald Trump,” Soifer said. “She would eviscerate him.”

Several months after the Kavanaugh hearings, Harris announced she’d run for president. She had served in the Senate just two years. She had not yet written a single piece of legislation that became law.

But she also had never lost an election.

Sizzling debate performance, then presidential hopes implode

Naysayers are quick to point at Harris’ failed 2020 presidential bid, which closed up shop before the first ballots were even cast.

Harris declared in her birthplace of Oakland, near the hospital where she was born; the University of California, Berkeley, where her parents met; and a stone’s throw from where she had worked as a young district attorney.

She was running to protect America’s democratic institutions and healthcare access for all, she said, to check the white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville and to keep children out of cages at the southern border.

“People in power are trying to convince us that the villain in our American story is each other. But that is not our story. That is not who we are. That’s not our America,” she said as she stood in front of Oakland City Hall.

Harris caught the country’s attention when she went after Biden at the first Democratic debate that summer. She criticized the former vice president for comments he’d made about pro-segregationists he served with and shared with him what it was like to be bused to an all-white school.

“You also worked with them to oppose busing,” she said. “And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”

Harris shot up in the rankings: she was in a tight race for second place.

But the momentum did not hold. Less than three months after the breakout moment, Harris’ campaign was sinking. She was down in the polls, and running out of cash. She’d burned through a $35 million war chest and her campaign was rife with infighting .

Harris made one of the most difficult decisions of her political career. With two months to go until the Iowa Caucus, she quit the race.

Smith, the political consultant who engineered Harris’ 2010 win in the face of the red wave, said bowing out of the presidential race in 2020 was the right call and led to her vice presidential nod, contrasted with Elizabeth Warren’s bid that dragged on.

“Sometimes,” Smith said in 2023, “the wisest political decision you can make is actually to realize when you're not being successful and get out.”

The calculus paid off: When Biden secured the nomination, thanks largely to African American voters, he chose her as his running mate.

Harris’ sharp debate skills served her well on Biden’s ticket. As then-Vice President Mike Pence tried to interrupt her, Harris delivered one of the most memorable lines of her political career that turned into an online sensation.

“Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” she told Pence.

“She’s a remarkable leader who inspires certainly all of those who have worked with her closely, but also now the American people, especially women and young women who look to her as someone who gives them a sense of empowerment,” Soifer said. “She’s a fighter.”

Some wonder: What has Kamala Harris done as vice president?

Harris' election to vice president as the first woman, Black person and Asian American to serve in the role was met with celebration.

That enthusiasm waned over the years as Harris fumbled early assignments, which supporters claim she was unfairly saddled with in the early days of the Biden administration.

The president tasked her with addressing the “root causes” of mass migration to the southern border – an area she had little to no expertise on as a senator or attorney general. Harris’ team had to bring in outside experts from nonprofit organizations that do work in the region to brief her.

On a trip to Guatemala that June, Harris came under heavy scrutiny for telling NBC’s Lester Holt she’d been to the U.S.-Mexico border. Neither she nor Biden had at that point. The White House stressed that was not her assignment – it was to work with Northern Triangle countries. Harris soon caved to political pressure. Within weeks, she visited El Paso, Texas , where she scolded Congress to “stop the rhetoric and the finger pointing” and pass immigration legislation.

The pandemic and the efforts the White House took to protect the president and vice president from getting COVID left Harris isolated and unable to travel frequently her first year in office. The problem was compounded as Biden and his advisers struggled with how to utilize her.

Those episodes were brought up regularly during the GOP convention in Milwaukee last week as Republicans prepared for a scenario in which Harris could be the Democratic candidate.

“When Joe Biden and Kamala Harris refused to even come to Texas and see the border crisis that they created, I took the border crisis to them,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said on the convention stage.

Other Republicans, such as Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., accused the VP of enabling “criminals and rioters” during the protests following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Biden had served in the Senate for more than three decades before he became vice president. There was no existing schema for someone like Harris. She was a trained lawyer, who did a short stint as a senator.

“Most of that stuff is not transferable to the job of the vice president,” said Harris’ first communications director as vice president, Ashley Etienne. “So she figured out what are her strengths. And she’s over indexed on them.”

Harris finds her footing on reproductive rights, other liberal causes

It took the leak of a Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade for Harris to cut her own path . She’d worked closely with abortion rights advocates in California. She was in her element.

In a fiery speech the next day at an abortion rights gala , Harris reminded activists of her exchange with Kavanaugh.

“Those who attack Roe have been clear. They want to ban abortion in every state. They want to bully anyone who seeks or provides reproductive healthcare. And they want to criminalize and punish women for making these decisions,” she said.

Jason Williams, a professor of justice studies at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said Harris’ stepped-up presence in the wake of the Dobbs decision changed the perception of her role.

“That’s when we’ve seen in a very public way the power that she brings to this team,’’ Williams said. “Obviously when she's talking about anything in the judicial system that’s her own thing. That’s what she went to school for. That’s what she has worked (for) as… a prosecutor for so many years.”

Harris traveled the country, sounding the alarm. Democrats lost the House in the midterm elections but kept the Senate with her assistance.

The election-year victories finally offered Harris an issue area she could own. She reoriented her agenda around cultural issues such as gun rights and book bans. Her team launched a tightly controlled national college tour that was designed to amplify her message. Celebrity moderators appeared on stage with Harris as the VP fielded pre-approved questions.

Biden tapped her for bigger and better opportunities to represent the U.S. at overseas summits.

After Hamas launched a brutal, surprise attack against Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, Harris sat in on Biden’s calls with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden then sent Harris to Dubai to discuss the governance of Gaza after the war with Middle Eastern leaders.

There she delivered a searing statement about how Israel was conducting itself in the war.

“The United States is unequivocal: International humanitarian law must be respected,” Harris said. “Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating.”

In March, she called for an immediate cease fire – remarks that were among the most pointed at that time from a member of the Biden administration.

'Already on the job:' VP role gives Harris an edge

The balance Harris would have to achieve as a presidential candidate is differentiating herself on these issues, while also taking credit for some of the administration’s accomplishments, such as student debt forgiveness and job creation.

She will have to sell herself – quickly.

“This would be the challenge: Can she communicate how much of a role she played in those kinds of outcomes?’’ said Ange-Marie Hancock, executive director of the Kirwan Institute at The Ohio State University and curator of the Kamala Harris Project, a consortium of scholars from the country studying the vice president.

Elaine Kamarck, a longtime Democratic National Committee member and expert on the party’s rules, told a group of Democratic activists during a Friday call that Harris has two major advantages: she’s already been vetted and she’s already on the job.

“We’re not going to, likely, have some surprise,” Kamarck said on the call organized by the group Delegates are Democracy . “None of the other candidates, great as they are – and some of them, I like very much, I might even like them more than the vice president – none of them have been vetted on a national stage.”

As a former prosecutor, many believe Harris also would not be intimidated by Trump, which could come with its own backlash.

“As a woman and as a woman of color, how aggressive can she be before people start having the reaction that she’s too aggressive,’’ said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. “Is that trope of the angry Black woman going to be thrown at her?”

While racist and sexist attacks aren’t new, Walsh is among those who expect them to ratchet up if Harris runs for president, alongside persistent questioning about ability and qualifications.

“It’s not going to be a walk in the park,’’ Walsh said. “We are not post-racism. We are not post-sexism. We’re still there.”

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A Beginner's Guide to Reddit

Reddit logo displayed on a smartphone device

In 2005, Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian launched a simple link-sharing site. Since then, Reddit has grown from a small community mainly made up of coders to a mega-hive with somewhere around half a billion active users across the world. If you’re not one of the half billion, don’t worry; it’s never too late to hop in, poke around, and see if Reddit is something you like. 

Reddit can be daunting at first—it is massive and its norms and expectations aren't like other social networks. This guide breaks down the basics of starting a Reddit account, finding and joining relevant communities, posting content, and earning Reddit karma; you’ll be upvoting, posting content, and making unfunny jokes in comment sections like a seasoned Redditor in no time. 

What is Reddit?

At a basic level, Reddit is a community-driven platform made up of user-created message boards (called subreddits or communities) that cover any subject you can think of, from the broadest interest to the most niche concerns. Users can post pictures, text, videos, and links for other users to engage with and judge. That’s the bare bones explanation, but it’s a little like saying New York City is “a bunch of streets and buildings." At a deeper level, Reddit is the collective mind of the internet having a running conversation about everything, all the time.

Internet forums have been around since the 1970s, but Reddit improved on the model with a voting system that any allows user to up-vote or down-vote content based on whatever criteria they choose. In theory, this leads to the most relevant, useful, engaging, and interesting content being highlighted, and low-effort, off-topic, less-useful content being hidden—all without the need of a central authority to choose what people see. (In theory.)

How to make an account on Reddit

With the basics out of the way, here's how to make a Reddit account:

Navigate to Reddit.com

Click the “…” on the upper right of your browser window

Reddit sign-up screenshot

Choose “Login/Sign Up”

Click “New to Reddit”

Choose whether to make an account with an email address, a phone number, Google, or other service.

Choose a username and password.

Reddit account sign-up

Reddit will autogenerate a username for you, but you might want to choose your own name instead of being stuck with a random word and some numbers. Don’t sweat the first account too much either way. Reddit accounts can be created with any email address, so you can have a bunch of them.

Once you've picked a name, you'll be guided through a series of questions about your interests. This is so Reddit can populate a homepage with forums/communities/subreddits you might be interested in. Don't worry about these choices too much—you can change all of it at any time.

Once that's complete, you'll be greeted with a customized, scrollable page populated with posts from subreddits related to the interests you've chosen.

Browsing Reddit anonymously

Reddit has become way more mainstream as its popularity has grown over the years, but the site still allows you to set up an account with only a burner email address. This is useful if you are an adult who wants to participate in Reddit's gargantuan collection of "NSFW" subreddits, but you don't want them showing up in your main feed. It's also useful if you want to try on a different online identity or you want to post ideas or thoughts that run counter to Reddit's conventional wisdom, and you don't want the downvotes to affect your karma. (More on karma below.)

Navigating Reddit's homepage

If you scroll down on Reddit's homepage, you'll see the center is made up of content from subreddits devoted to your interests and content from subreddits that are similar to your interests.

Reddit screenshot

I said I liked Baldur's Gate 3 , so Reddit suggested r/DnD, a Dungeons and Dragons subreddit. Note the "Join" button. Hit it and you're a member of that subreddit. If you’re no longer interested in a subreddit you joined, no worries. You can unsubscribe from any subreddit from the homepage by going to "Communities" on the left pane, clicking on the subreddit you want to leave, then clicking on the "joined" button on the top right of the screen.

How you curate your communities determines how you'll experience Reddit, but it's really easy to join and leave communities as you hone in on what's useful or enjoyable for you.

As a general rule, larger, more broad communities like r/pics tend to have lower-brow content and users, where communities devoted to specific, smaller interests often provide the best Reddit experience.

All subreddit URLs begin with a lowercase “r” followed by a slash, then the name of the subreddit. Each subreddit was created by a Reddit user and is moderated by Reddit users. Creators and mods of subreddits set up their own rules.

Finding interesting communities on Reddit

If you want a look at the general vibe of Reddit as a whole, at the top-left of the homepage, you can choose "Home" (a feed of only the subreddits you're subscribed to and Reddit's suggestions), "Popular," and "All."

"Popular" and "All" are very similar. Both are designed for new users or people who aren't logged in. "Popular" consists of the most upvoted content across Reddit, but filters out some things, like political content or anything not safe for work. "All" filters out most NSFW content, but leaves most everything else. You can use these to choose more communities to follow.

Another important landmark when you're looking for relevant subreddits is the search bar at the top of the page. Search for anything you might be interested in, and there's probably at least one subreddit already there for you.

Reddit search function screenshot

All about upvotes and downvotes

On the bottom left corner of each piece of content on Reddit, whether it's something posted to the site or a comment on a post, you'll see an up arrow and a down arrow. This is where users indicate how they feel, or what they think about this content, and it determines the content's placement on subreddits and affects the posters karma.

There has always been debate on Reddit about the meaning of votes. The original idea was that users should upvote content that they feel adds to the site or to the discussion, but not vote based on their opinion of the content. But users tend to use the up arrow as an "I agree" button instead. This means that interesting, informative content that doesn't fit in with the hive-mind's opinion will generally be down-voted and hidden in larger subreddits.

Reddit's comment sections

If you click on the rectangle/text bubble that's second from the left on a piece of content, you'll be taken to a comment section devoted to that content, where you can express your thoughts, feelings, reactions, or whatever.

Like posted content, your comment can be voted up or voted down (or ignored). It varies from subreddit to subreddit, but generally highly up-voted comments are pushed to the top of the comment section.

Posting content to Reddit

Only using Reddit to find and enjoy things other people post is totally acceptable, but if you want to engage further in the site, you're welcome to post your own content to a subreddit, whether it's a link to a website, a photo, a video, or a text-post. Here's how:

Read the rules of the subreddit you want to post to. This is Reddiquette 101 (more on that below) and will save you time, as most subreddits have specific rules about the kinds of content they allow.

Click the "create" button at the top right of reddit's homepage.

Creating a post on Reddit

Click "select a community." This list is populated by the subreddits you've joined.

Choose the content type.

Add relevant tags (if the sub you're posting to has them).

Fill in the description or commentary on the content you're posting.

Now that you've entered the Reddit gladiator pit, it's time for your content to be judged, which brings us to karma.

How does Reddit karma work?

Reddit's karma is a number attached to a Reddit account that represents the account's reputation on the site. There are two kinds of karma: Content karma from upvotes and downvotes on content you post, and comment karma, based on the votes on your comments.

There are various tricks and strategies for boosting karma, like subreddits devoted to just handing it out, but as a general rule, If you participate on Reddit in a way people enjoy, your karma will rise organically. It's not a perfect system, but it's generally okay at determining which kinds of accounts Reddit likes.

What is reddit karma used for?

More than just an internet-person high score, karma is often used as a way to keep the riff-raff from stinking up the joint with useless posts and comments. Many subreddits only allow posts from Redditors with karma scores above a certain level.

What is "Reddiquette?"

Reddiquette is the catch-all description of the Reddit community's ever-shifting values. You can get fairly granular about expectations from users, but it's put simply: Reddit is made up of people, and people generally don't like jerks (unless they're very amusing) so treat other people well, don't troll, don't post identifying information, etc.

In terms of posting content, make sure you read a community's rules before posting, check to make sure your content hasn't already been posted, post relevant content from primary sources, label content that NSFW as such, etc. It's pretty common sense, but if you want to dig in deeper, here's a link to Reddit's official word on Reddiquette .

The deeper levels of Reddit

The above information (and a little trial-and-error) are enough to get almost anyone going on Reddit, but the site goes way deeper than that. Reddit lets users start and moderate their own subreddits, claim "dead" subreddits as their own, follow other users, chat privately and send messages, become moderators in existing communities, access Reddit content outside of the website or app, and way, way too much more to get into, but I'll be posting a series of Reddit guides in the future that cover these and other topics, so watch this space.

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Essay: The Hidden History of China’s Post Office

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The Hidden History of China’s Post Office

What the making of a national mail system reveals about the country’s push for modernization..

When a young Robert Hart arrived in Shanghai in 1854 as a translator for the British consulate, he could hardly have anticipated that his life would be so closely intertwined with China’s evolution into a modern state. Few people have heard of Hart today, but in a career spanning nearly 60 years, this official from the rural market town of Portadown in what is now Northern Ireland played a transformative role in Chinese history.

This article is adapted from The Making of China’s Post Office: Sovereignty, Modernization, and the Connection of a Nation by Weipin Tsai (Harvard University Asia Center, 450 pp., $75, February 2024).

As the inspector general of China’s Imperial Maritime Customs Service from 1861 to 1911, Hart initiated major infrastructure projects, from port facilities and lighthouses to meteorology and mapmaking services. But his most important program had to do with postal services.

From his very first meeting at the newly established Zongli Yamen, China’s foreign affairs ministry, Hart arrived with a comprehensive vision for Chinese modernization—one that included plans for a modern, state-run national post office based on the model recently adopted by countries such as Britain, Germany, and the United States.

Yet for all his successes, and despite dogged persistence, it took Hart 35 years to materialize a post office. This delay is one of the most intriguing historical questions of the period, and it takes us into the heart of Qing political dynamics and the struggle to direct the course of Chinese modernization. Whether to adopt foreign models of reform remains a tense issue in China today—as do the struggles of reformers to change entrenched institutions.

By 1861, the Qing court was finally prepared to accept that Western foreigners were in China to stay—along with their innovative weapons, an international treaty-based order, and new types of trade. Western powers had recently defeated China in the Second Opium War, and China was forced to ratify new treaties with Britain, France, Russia, and the United States. Though these treaties were different, they all included the opening of new ports, provisions for foreign legations to be stationed in Beijing, and permission for foreigners to travel in China.

In response to this new reality, China established the Zongli Yamen and launched a reform program called the Self-Strengthening Movement. Empress Dowager Cixi authorized many of these reforms. In the summer of 1861, after her husband’s death, Cixi staged a successful coup d’état against other imperial regents. The empress dowager—who liked to compare herself to her contemporary, Britain’s Queen Victoria—effectively ruled China from behind the curtain for most of the next 50 years.

The modernization projects of the Self-Strengthening Movement included agricultural reform; naval procurement and training; the creation of schools and military colleges with new curricula; and the establishment of railroads, telegraph, steamship routes, modern mining, and textile operations. Many of these projects relied on foreign capital, and foreigners helped deliver them.

Hart was one of these foreigners. In the years following the outbreak of the 1850 Taiping Rebellion, the largest civil war in China in centuries, many foreigners were employed by the Qing government in support of its military campaigns. They were also recruited to work in various modernization programs. The fledgling Customs Service that Hart inherited and shaped to his vision was a hybrid institution: Its highest-ranking officials were foreigners, while the organization collected tariffs for the government and represented the Qing Empire’s sovereignty.

Hart established a high degree of confidence and trust among the Manchu royal family, which ruled the Qing Empire, and high officials in Beijing who oversaw the Zongli Yamen. By the 1880s, the Customs Service had become one of the largest and most reliable sources of government revenue. China used the service’s tariff collections to service its foreign loans and pay its treaty indemnity obligations, but also as collateral to finance new projects. This brought Hart respect, but also suspicion, particularly as nationalist sentiment rose. This wariness was one factor that made it difficult for Hart to realize his plans for a post office.

Before the national post office was established, China had two main postal systems: military courier and private letter hongs. By the mid-19th century, the centuries-old military relay courier system, used only for important official communications, was moving toward collapse, as corruption was endemic and maintenance costs extremely high.

Meanwhile, private letter hongs—family-owned courier firms—had long proved their usefulness for merchants and ordinary people. The hongs operated with a storefront and would collect and deliver mail and small packages across a specified area. They also handled remittances, in conjunction with traditional Chinese banks. While firms were local or regional, they also participated in cooperative networks enabling deliveries over long distances. They often had their own dedicated transportation methods, such as on foot, by animal, or by boat. Networks of private letter hongs covered the whole of China, and indeed operated beyond its borders and at many locations overseas to service the Chinese diaspora. The hongs continued to exist after the establishment of the post office and were its most important rival.

Left: The exterior of the Fuzhou Post Office, circa 1905-06. Two wooden boards behind the group read: “The Postmaster orders – Important official bureau” (right) and “The postmaster orders – Noise prohibited.” Right: The postal agency as a local information hub in Yongchun, Fujian province, circa 1904-07. Harvard University, Edward Bangs Drew Collection, Harvard-Yenching Library; John Preston Maxwell, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham

Hart clashed with provincial governors, who repeatedly prevented his postal plans from being approved, in some cases in response to lobbying from private letter hongs. Li Hongzhang, the powerful governor-general of Zhili province and long-term ally of Cixi, commented in 1876 that some Chinese officials feared that if Hart were to succeed in launching and controlling a national post office, it might leave him with too much power, and it would become too difficult to ever remove him from his post. Li was also concerned about the extent of British power in China, and he was instrumental in shifting his country’s military procurement away from Britain to its rising European rival, Germany.

After several attempts to win approval from the central government for the establishment of an Imperial Post Office, Hart’s moment finally arrived when China suffered a humiliating defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895. China had to cede Taiwan to British-equipped Japan, and the Qing court was swamped by petitions arriving from officials and intellectuals in all corners of China to remove Li and to implement further reforms. These roundly criticized China’s tactical failures, and many of the petitions blamed them on Li, who had led naval affairs in northern China and signed the Shimonoseki Treaty that ended the war.

As Li became the scapegoat for the wider military failures, Hart found a powerful ally in Weng Tonghe, a member of the Grand Council and teacher of Cixi’s nephew, the young Emperor Guangxu. Weng supported reform and was willing to give backing to Hart. Despite Cixi’s reluctance, Li was not only removed from his governor-general position, but also sent to Russia to attend the coronation of Czar Nicholas II, an intentional move to take him out of the capital. On March 20, 1896, not long after Li left Beijing for Shanghai to catch a French ship to Europe, the Zongli Yamen presented the long-awaited proposal to establish the Imperial Post Office to the emperor, who approved it the same day.

A drawing of a letter pillar box, circa 1906. On the front of the pillar box there is a note, deliberately made in the design of a traditional Chinese letter cover. On a letter cover, the red central area was the customary place for the recipient’s name, the white area on the right was for the recipient’s address, and the sender’s name was placed on the left. Postal Circular/Tianjin Municipal Archives

Hart’s success in establishing a post office with a national presence mainly came down to the fact that it was left to develop without much direct interference from either central or local government. With only a modest budget to start with, provided by the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, the post office was placed under the care of a core group of the agency’s foreign and Chinese staff. They had little or no prior experience running postal services, but they were given space to learn from mistakes and proceed at their own pace.

Hart also kept the post office away from the Universal Postal Union (UPU) because he thought full membership too early would be costly and interfere with the institution’s development. He complained that both France and Germany wanted to bully China into joining the UPU before it was ready for all incoming mail from abroad; China would also have to accommodate postal rates decided by other countries and pay UPU fees. There was a political dimension, too: Hart was concerned that joining the UPU might give the French greater leverage in how China’s post office was developed and run.

Hart and his team needed to make the post office acceptable to the Chinese public and win the collaboration of local governments. To achieve this, they introduced measures that would project the postal service’s “Chinese” elements, including placing Chinese employees in positions of authority in local branches, designing postage stamps and pillar boxes that featured Chinese characters and symbolism (such as Qing dragons), and establishing post offices in busy market locations or the precincts of larger temples. Hart’s team also co-opted local shops to double as postal agencies, which helped the post office expand outside major cities. This proved to be mutually beneficial: The locations became information hubs for communities, bringing with them greater social status for their owners.

The post office’s arrival had a striking visual impact on city, town, and even village landscapes, with new signboards, letterboxes, and grand post office buildings. Collectively, these helped project a new image for the Qing empire of a rising modern state.

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On a practical level, the communication networks that Hart’s team developed intentionally moved away from the old military relay courier approach, which focused on finding the most direct routes between regional centers and the imperial capital of Beijing. Postal route design now had different priorities: Hart’s team emphasized the creation of more contact points on routes to maximize the speed and usability of services for the greatest number of people. Based on this logic, the team set up post offices in hinterland towns on borders between provinces. It also established express delivery points in non-treaty port cities and smaller towns that may have ranked poorly in the traditional administrative hierarchy but that had developed important commercial neighborhoods with significant mail traffic.

When the Qing government reassessed its central administration in 1906, it set up a new Ministry of Posts and Communications to bring together railway, steam transportation, telegraph, and postal services under one banner. This marked a significant shift in the government’s approach to managing transportations and communications to suit the need of a modern state. Prior to this time, these areas were considered foreign affairs and placed under the supervision of the Zongli Yamen; this change saw them formally re-designated as domestic matters.

For the government, the Imperial Post Office materialized at the right time, and not only because it showcased the country’s reform program. Efficient, cost-effective communications across the empire’s vast territory had been a problem for many decades, particularly at its periphery where its sovereignty was increasingly under challenge. For the frail Qing empire, the post office presented itself as a solution.

Consequently, along with its visible but seemingly mundane role of collecting and delivering mail, the post office carried the flag for two important missions: the construction of a unified communications network across China’s enormous land mass for use by the general public for the first time in Chinese history, and the projection of national sovereignty. The final reaches of postal routes were the end points of sovereign power over a vast territory.

The final years of the Qing empire, which met its end in the revolution of 1911, were a trying time as it struggled to reform amid widespread calls for change in the streets. While prestige projects struggled, the post office—quietly and humbly rolled out at ground level without a grand plan—provides a rare example of a reform initiative that was an unequivocal success.

Books are independently selected by FP editors. FP earns an affiliate commission on anything purchased through links to Amazon.com on this page.

Weipin Tsai is a historian of modern China at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research interests include knowledge exchange and global material culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and she works closely with materials related to the Chinese Maritime Customs Service.

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how to memorise an essay reddit

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How to memorise your Essays (1 Viewer)

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Firstly you need to have a clear mind, - you can meditate or pray Its going to take some time to memorise a 1000 word essay, in my case 1200. So be ready to not go out and procrastinate but stay in a unfamiliar room(in my case in my older sister's room when she went overseas) and on a chair and your back straight up and put your essay hard copy and slant in on an angle so you can read without holding it or just hold it with your hands if you become ceebs. Ok first of all read out loud, don't memorise the essay fully in one go but by paragraph by paragraph and sentence by sentence until you memorised all of your essay Then finalise it by reading out loud 2 paragraphs together 3, 4... so on Then its basically memories, read it out LOUD , helps you memorise better, scientifically proven. Took me atleast 3-4 hours for 1 essay sometimes 2 BTW don't try memorising in the library, too many distractions, be by yourself, study by yourself, be a loner... don't get a girl friend, don't think of a girl that you had a crush on for 2 years lol ok well thats what i did 2011 HSC'er 90/100 for english adv  

This works btw  


Different methods work for different people  

slyhunter said: Different methods work for different people Click to expand...

True but I found out that this is the most effective way, for me and some others.  

Active Member

I just rewrite my essays a few times...I find writing something out and recitation works best for me.  


What I did was: 1. Write the first line. 2. Go back and write it again, then write the second line. 3. Go back and start from the start til you finish your third line. 4. Repeat this until you finish your first paragrapgh. 5. Go to the next paragraph and repeat steps 1-4 My tutor told me to do this and it works. I still remember my essay even when I did the English exam 2-3 months ago. I ended up getting 85 (but 88 HSC mark) despite the fact that I was 35/64 in ranking (which is basically band 4 level)...  


Basically - coloured highlighters. (If you're lucky enough to have a visual memory.) Also, make sure you're actually writing your own essays... if you're casually plagiarising bits and pieces from everywhere, it'll be a lot harder to recall in the exam.  


Well-Known Member

Basically for me: 1. Highlight key words, ideas and evidence from the essay. 2. Say the introduction to self. 3. Recall and repeat what you stated before. 4. Do this for body paragraphs, repeat step 2 and 3. 5. Try writing the intro down until you memorized it all, and then paragraph 1, 2, 3 etc.  


hey guuys, what essays did you actually write? could someone please give me a break down on the esays they wrote for each module please? thanx  

I feel that memorizing essays is a bad way to approach any exam. You never know what the question is going to ask, so route learning is a really bad habit to get into. You can save a lot of time and effort by just memorizing concepts and ideas and applying them to the examination question. The time you spend learning to memorize can easily be applied to learning how to communicate your ideas in an efficient manner.  

For those who don't like the idea of memorizing ideas, think about it this way. Many people are simply not capable of producing a response that is 800 words with very good quality and speed. Besides, those who are able to think on their feet properly and write with speed are the ones who can win, which is unfair for those who don't possess those abilities. For many people, if they want to do well, they have to memorize their essay (not word for word), tailor it to the question and keep linking to the question wherever they can do so. I'm not talented at English at all, but I was smart on what I memorized. I memorized my module C and belonging essays, got me 15/20 and 14/15 respectively. The ones I wrote up on scratch were module A and module B, got me 15 and 11.5/20 respectively (module B was shitty this year, and I had to write off scratch anyway). So what I'm saying is that for many people, memorizing essays is perhaps the only way to go if they want to reach at least 17/20. The bare minimum into doing well in English is memorizing: quotes, techniques. Understanding the analysis is important too, and shaping it to the question is the main factor.  

4025808 said: For those who don't like the idea of memorizing ideas, think about it this way. Many people are simply not capable of producing a response that is 800 words with very good quality and speed. Besides, those who are able to think on their feet properly and write with speed are the ones who can win, which is unfair for those who don't possess those abilities. For many people, if they want to do well, they have to memorize their essay (not word for word), tailor it to the question and keep linking to the question wherever they can do so. I'm not talented at English at all, but I was smart on what I memorized. I memorized my module C and belonging essays, got me 15/20 and 14/15 respectively. The ones I wrote up on scratch were module A and module B, got me 15 and 11.5/20 respectively (module B was shitty this year, and I had to write off scratch anyway). So what I'm saying is that for many people, memorizing essays is perhaps the only way to go if they want to reach at least 17/20. The bare minimum into doing well in English is memorizing: quotes, techniques. Understanding the analysis is important too, and shaping it to the question is the main factor. Click to expand...


SanjoyM said: For example, Module B this year!! There was an unexpected twist in the question. Click to expand...
aphorae said: +1. I find it hard to think up amazingly worded phrases on the spot (I tend to ramble if I'm making it up) and since I'm a perfectionist, I'd waste time mulling over the best adjective to use or something P: Instead I tend to prepare longer essays so I can cut out whatever would be completely irrelevant, and make sure the ideas are general enough to actually change them to suit the question... + memorise quotes in case I did need to make it up. Just for the record, I got 98 in the HSC for English Adv. P: Click to expand...

Urgent help required! How would you memorise a ~1100 word essay in an hour? Thanks  


Mrmellow said: Urgent help required! How would you memorise a ~1100 word essay in an hour? Thanks Click to expand...


Retired '16

seventhroot said: say gg Click to expand...


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How to Study So You Can Remember Everything

Last Updated: June 24, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Megaera Lorenz, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 22 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,047,168 times.

Whether you’re studying for a test, trying to learn a language, or just hoping to retain what you learned in your college classes, remembering what you study can be a challenge. While your brain is surprisingly good at holding onto things you’ve learned for long periods of time, that information is not always easy to get at when you need it. Use a few memory tricks to boost your recall. Make your brain more receptive to absorbing new information by taking care of your mind and body and working in a good environment.

Using Memory Techniques

Step 1 Break the material down into small pieces.

  • For example, if you’re trying to remember vocabulary for a language class, don’t try to memorize more than 7-8 words at a time.
  • If you’re studying from a textbook, it can be helpful to work with the structure of the book. Textbook chapters are usually divided into shorter sections that each provide a manageable amount of information. Focus on understanding and remembering one section before moving on to the next.

Step 2 Switch between different topics.

  • For example, memorize a poem , then move on to studying some algebra rules.
  • Try spending about 50 minutes on each topic, then take a break for about 15 minutes before going on to the next one. Taking breaks will boost your productivity and help you concentrate. [3] X Research source

Step 3 Take notes...

  • If you can, take notes with a pen and paper. Writing notes by hand engages your brain in a different way than typing on a keyboard, and makes you take a little more time to think about what you are writing down.
  • If you like to doodle while you take notes, that’s great! Doodling can help you pay attention and retain information. [5] X Trustworthy Source Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School's Educational Site for the Public Go to source

Step 4 Test yourself.

  • Quizlet can be a great help for quizzing yourself, either alone or with a friend. You can create your own digital flashcards based on your course material, or you can use flashcards prepared by other members.
  • One way to test yourself is to ask yourself basic questions about the material as you go. For example, “What is the main point of this section of the text?” [7] X Trustworthy Source American Psychological Association Leading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologists Go to source
  • Self-quizzing not only helps you get a better idea of how well you understand the material, but it also forces your brain to work a little bit harder to remember.

Joseph Meyer

Joseph Meyer

Become an active learner. Learn from your mistakes in order to confidently tackle new lessons. Before jumping into advanced topics, make sure your skills in basic concepts are up to scratch. Utilize online resources and interactive exercises that provide instant feedback to solidify your understanding.

Step 5 Space out your review sessions.

  • When you’re spacing out your review sessions, keep the intervals short at first, then gradually increase them. For example, if you studied something one day, sleep on it and do a little review the next day. Test yourself a couple days later, and then again a week after that.
  • Try a study timer app like SuperMemo or Ultimate Study Timer to help you schedule your study intervals.

Step 6 Create memory cues, called mnemonic devices.

  • The most common mnemonic devices are creating acronyms that represent the words you're trying to remember, making an acrostic sentence where the first letter of each word represents what you're trying to remember, and using rhymes to remember. However, you can also use image association, especially if you're a visual person.
  • Music is also a powerful memory trigger, so putting the information to a melody can be very helpful. There’s a reason countless generations of kids have been taught the alphabet in song form!
  • Your memory cue doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. In fact, the weirder and more specific it is, the better. For example, if you’re trying to remember the ancient Greek word hepomai (“to follow”), you might picture a cool cartoon cat singing “I’m hep! Oh my! Everybody follow me!”

Step 7 Explain the material to someone else.

Establishing Good Habits

Step 1 Give yourself plenty of time.

  • Don’t nap for more than 20-30 minutes during the day.
  • Avoid using stimulants, such as caffeine or nicotine, 6-8 hours before bedtime. [14] X Research source Having more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks in the evening can also disrupt your sleep. [15] X Research source
  • Exercise at least 10 minutes a day to improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Avoid eating evening meals that might cause heartburn or indigestion, such as spicy, acidic, or fatty foods.
  • Develop a regular, relaxing bedtime routine . Put away your computer or smartphone, do some meditation or light stretching, and take a warm shower or bath. You might also try reading to help you fall asleep. Set aside about 30 minutes before bedtime each night to unwind. [16] X Research source

Step 3 Eat well.

  • Some healthy fats, like DHA, may actually improve your memory. Eat plenty of fish, or take fish oil supplements to get more DHA in your diet. [18] X Trustworthy Source EatRight.org Organization associated with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics providing advice about food, health, and fitness Go to source

Step 4 Take breaks.

Finding a Good Study Environment

Step 1 Find a comfortable study space.

  • Good study spaces could include a desk in your room, a study carrel or cubicle in your school library, or a table in a quiet coffee shop.

Step 2 Study in a quiet place to concentrate well.

  • If you have to study around other people, such as family or roommates, let them know in advance that you need to be left alone for a certain period of time while you study.

Step 3 Make sure there’s plenty of light.

  • If you come to associate being in bed with studying, this can also make it harder for you to fall asleep there at night.

Supercharge Your Studying with this Expert Series

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Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

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Tips from our Readers

  • If there's a topic you find particularly confusing, make a note of it so you know what you may want to spend a little more time reviewing.
  • Before you study, you might want to try taking a walk or spending time outside; this may help prepare your mind for studying.
  • Try reading the material you're studying aloud, since this may help you remember the information.

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  • ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/studentsuccess/chapter/memory-techniques/
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5673147/
  • ↑ https://www.educationcorner.com/effective-time-management.html
  • ↑ https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/effective-note-taking-in-class/
  • ↑ https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-thinking-benefits-of-doodling-2016121510844
  • ↑ https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/studying-101-study-smarter-not-harder/
  • ↑ https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2013/09/learning-secrets
  • ↑ https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/11/study-smart
  • ↑ https://psychcentral.com/lib/memory-and-mnemonic-devices
  • ↑ https://www.usa.edu/blog/study-techniques/
  • ↑ https://education.seattlepi.com/disadvantages-cramming-tests-2665.html
  • ↑ https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sleep-helps-learning-memory-201202154265
  • ↑ https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-hygiene
  • ↑ https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/caffeine-and-sleep
  • ↑ http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/08/sleeping-it-off-how-alcohol-affects-sleep-quality/
  • ↑ https://psychcentral.com/lib/12-ways-to-shut-off-your-brain-before-bedtime/
  • ↑ https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2013/11/06/healthy-eating-ten-nutrition-tips-for-eating-right/
  • ↑ https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/healthy-aging/4-types-of-foods-to-support-memory#:~:text=Get%20adequate%20omega%2D3%20fatty,%2D3%20fatty%20acid%2C%20DHA .
  • ↑ https://www.educationcorner.com/study-location.html
  • ↑ https://www.wgu.edu/blogpost/improve-online-study-environment
  • ↑ https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/blog/2020/08/11/when-is-the-best-time-to-study-and-why/
  • ↑ https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/decreasing-digital-distractions/

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

While there's no real way to study so that you remember everything, it is possible to improve your memory with techniques like breaking up the material into smaller chunks. For example, if you're trying to memorize a long list of vocabulary words, work on memorizing 7 to 8 words at a time. If you're studying from a textbook, test yourself by doing the exercises or practice tests that are built into your textbook. To memorize facts, try using a mnemonic device such as "ROY G. BIV" to remember the colors of the rainbow. For tips from our Education reviewer on how to take notes to help you retain information more effectively, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Memorise HSC English Essays Using Only Key Points

Memorise HSC Essays

When it comes to the HSC, trying to memorise HSC essays can seem almost impossible. With so many to draft, write and memorise, it can feel like you’re staring down an impossible task and asking yourself, ‘How do I memorise an essay?’

We’re here to tell you that you don’t have to memorise HSC essays — and shouldn’t!

What you should be focusing on is using key points , and we’ll guide you through this with our advice on how to smash out awesome essays based on memorised key points when it comes to the HSC.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

Why You Shouldn’t Just Memorise HSC Essays The Benefits of Memorising Key Points How to Memorise Key Points

Why Shouldn’t You Just Memorise HSC Essays?

We’re not going to lie, there’s definitely some solid logic behind both sides of the debate on whether or not you should memorise HSC essays.

While we think attempting to memorise an essay is a great way to build up confidence and prepare for your exams, we know it’s not a technique that works for everyone.

With that in mind, let’s check out some of the benefits and drawbacks.

  • Confidence – knowing your essay before you even walk into the exam room reduces any anxiety about not knowing what to write.
  • Preparation – in order to memorise HSC essays you have to study and prepare, so you’ll be setting up good study patterns.
  • Time saver – once you get into the exam you won’t end up spending any of your writing time trying to think up an idea or draft a plan for an essay.
  • Quotes – it’s pretty much a given that you’ll only learn a certain amount of quotes for one essay, so having an essay pre-planned around those quotes avoids any chance of them not suiting what you’re trying to write.
  • Answering the question – many people forget that they have to adapt their planned essay to the actual question, leading to essays that don’t actually suit or answer the question being asked.
  • Memory – learning a whole essay is tough! Taking the time and effort to memorise HSC essays which can be 1000 words just isn’t reasonable for many people.
  • Adapting – if the question asked is even a little different to what you prepared for you’ll be forced to adapt your essay, meaning you have to think fast and change things you’ve already drilled into your head.  

As you can see the pros are pretty awesome, but the cons definitely present some major drawbacks when you try to memorise an essay. So how do you get the best of both worlds?

It’s simple! You don’t memorise HSC essays – just the key points of an essay!

Why Memorise Key Points?

You’re probably wondering why memorising key points is going to be any better than trying to memorise an entire essay – and I get it, I do! I mean, where’s the logic in only learning pieces of a whole, right?

Wrong. Here’s why.

#1: It makes memorising easier

There’s no questioning that it’s easier to remember 16 dot points over a full, 1000 word essay.

The fact that there’s less content to learn will not only make it easier to get the info stuck in your head, it’ll also cut down on the time it takes to do it. Plus it’s way less daunting than trying to remember 3-4 pages of essay.

#2: It makes adapting easier

As mentioned before adapting is important and can be tricky when you’ve memorised a full essay, but if it’s only your key points you have stuck in your brain it’s pretty simple to adapt how you write about them.

It’s just a case of building the essay around the question, using your key points as the bricks and filling in the rest as you go.

#3: You can answer any question

This kinda goes with the last point, but being able to adapt your response easily means you can also make it suit any question.

Again, you’re avoiding the possibility of getting in there and writing something you know back to front, but doesn’t answer the question.

#4: It prevents rote learning

This is less about the essay itself and more about how you learn, but when you get into the habit of memorising an entire  response and just rewriting it in the exam, it creates rote learning.

Rote learning is basically just learning from memory recall and it can be useful, but it’s not the best way to learn to adapt your knowledge (and essay!) to different questions and situations. Just learning key points helps prevent that.

#5: It gives you confidence

Even though you’re not going in there with a full essay planned and memorised you’ll still be entering your exam knowing exactly what you need to know to formulate a strong response.

This will naturally make you feel way more prepared and help avoid any extra panic or anxiety on exam day.

How Do You Memorise Key Points?

Memorising key points is actually pretty simple, much more so than trying to memorise HSC essays!

It’s really just a case of figuring out what the most important elements of your essay, essay plan or analysis are and then studying them.

Follow our simple 5-step formula and you’ll have your key points memorised in no time at all without having to memorise an essay.

Step 1: Write an Essay

Okay, before you come with the pitchforks yelling about how this was supposed to be about key points, hear me out.

In order to know what your key points are, you actually have to have an idea of what you could write for an essay response. And what’s the best way to do that? You got it; write an essay.

The purpose of this section is for you to figure out what themes you want to work with, how you’re going to analyse your texts, what techniques and quotes you’ll use, etc.

The essay you write doesn’t have to be a perfect Band 6, but you want it to have all the features and functions of something you’d hand in to be marked.

Unsure how to write a strong essay? Check out this step by step guide to writing a Band 6 worthy essay here!

You can even use an essay you’ve already written if you don’t feel like writing a new one!

In that situation it’s super important that you go through the essay and edit it. Maybe you got some feedback from your teacher you need to address, or you’ve found some better quotes to use, just make sure it’s up to date and of awesome quality.

Step 2: Pull out TTEA

This is where we start breaking down and figuring out our key points so that we can learn them.

The best and quickest way to do them is by actually printing out your essay (or just grabbing it if it’s hand written) and highlighting anything that fits the TTEA structure.

What is TTEA, you ask?

Theme –  What theme are you talking about and in what way? Technique – What technique are you analysing? Example – What is your quote/textual reference? Analysis – Why does it all matter?

Basically these are the key points you’re pulling out of your essay to start memorising.

You’ll have to go through and highlight these in each body paragraph of your essay in order to figure out just what your key points will be.

If you feel like there are other things you need to include in your key points (e.g. context, comparisons, etc.) feel free to highlight them too.

That said, remember to highlight only the most important elements of your essay – we don’t want to end up with the whole thing coloured in with fluorescent marker.

In the end it will look a little like this (as an example, this paragraph is on Frankenstein ):

Memorise HSC Essays - Frankenstein Para

You’ll notice that in this case there’s also a lot of context in the paragraph, so I’ve gone ahead and highlighted the key parts of that too.

Other paragraph structures that may be useful to know include PEEL , TEEL and STEEL ! You’ll also want to know how to write effective linking sentences for your paragraphs.

Step 3: Study Your Key Points

So now that you’ve gone and highlighted all this stuff what are you going to do with it? Study it!

In order to get your key points into a study-ready format you’ll need to turn the TTEA things you highlighted into a set of super succinct notes.

Dot points are usually the best way to go, and I always found it good to break them up paragraph by paragraph.

This means you should end up with 4-5 dot points* per paragraph , making 16-20 dot points overall – way less than what you’d need to memorise HSC essays in full.

Disclaimer: If you have more than one quote per paragraph (which you definitely should) you can also choose to turn each quote into an individual dot point. I did this for the sake of organisation, making each quote and the techniques it included a single dot point, so this did mean I ended up with a fair few more than 4 dot points per paragraph.

My dot point format often ended up a little something like this:

  • Theme statement
  • Quotes (repeat for each quote, usually 4-5)
  • Analysis point

Yours may follow this same pattern or be totally different, it’s up to your personal preference and what you want your notes to look like.

That all said, each set of notes will end up looking something like this.

Memorise HSC Essays - Petal Frankenstein

These are now your key points!

That means it’s time to start studying them and trying to memorise them for your essay. Most people like to start by just reading over these notes a few times, but that’s definitely not the only or even the most effective way to learn them.

Some of the best techniques for learning your key points include:

  • Flashcards – write your text and theme on the front and the context, quotes, techniques and analysis points on the back. Then only look at the front and try to remember what the back says. If you can remember them all you’re good to go, if not flip the card over and try again!
  • Quizzing – you can quiz yourself just by not looking at the notes and trying to recall them, but giving them to a friend or family member to quiz you is way more fun. Just hand over your key points and have someone else ask you questions about them to see how well you remember them.
  • Re-write them – getting some practical study in is always an awesome way to start memorising things, but it’s especially useful when learning how best to use key points. That means you’re going to want to start writing practice responses!

Step 4: Write a Practice Response

I can hear the indignant screams already; “You said this wasn’t about essays!” “This is the second essay you’ve made me write!”.

I get it, I do, but here’s the thing – if you want to be able to use your key points to effectively write an essay in your exam, you’re going to have to practice it at least once first.

Even though you’re not trying memorise HSC essays, the only way to test how well you can actually utilise your key points for an essay in an exam situation is by doing it. That means grabbing a past paper question and your key point notes, sitting down and getting stuck into it. This way you’re putting your knowledge to practical use as well as teaching yourself how to actually use your key points to develop an essay.

The best way to do it is by giving yourself 5 minutes to create a quick essay plan first. It’s as simple as reading over the question and then jotting down how you’ll fit each of your key themes/texts to the question – the rest should just flow naturally.

Let’s try an example!

Question: Understanding context is essential to understanding a text.

Memorise HSC Essays - Practice Response

Looking at our notes from before we can pretty much just jot down how we might link it to the question. In this case it’s really important that we had that dot point on context, so by drawing on that we’ll be able to build up a really strong essay around it!

how to memorise an essay reddit

Pro Tip: If you feel like the question isn’t really suiting your key points you can always twist it by playing devil’s advocate!

I always recommend keeping your notes on hand the first time you try to write your essay based on your key points, just to give that sense of security, but if you feel super confident with your knowledge then give it a try without them!

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

You know what they say – memory comes through repetition. That means you have to keep doing these things over and over to really get those key ideas stuck in your brain.

While I recommend doing at least a few practice essays (even some timed to make sure you’ll get everything down in the exam time limit) how you choose to study is up to you.

If you’re the read and re-read type or the kind who loves to be quizzed every other night then go with that – it’s all about what works for you!

Just keep practising and before long you’ll know every key point and quote at the drop of a hat. You’ll be ready to write those Band 6 essay responses in no time!

Preparing for the Common Module? Check out our step-by-step guide to HSC English Paper 1 with study tips and tricks!

Now you give it a try!

Remember that the big takeaway from this is that by knowing your key points you’ll be memorising enough information to get you ready for an essay, but the amount of effort you put in is always going to influence your final outcome.

That means that if you write 5 practice essays and study your key points every day for a week you’ll probably get a different end result than if you write your notes out once and then let them collect dust on your desk.

The effort that you put in is the results that you’ll get out, so get out there and start studying those awesome key points instead of trying to memorise an entire essay!

Not sure whether or not to memorise your essay? Check out our article on Memorising vs Improvising Essays !

Looking for some extra help with HSC English?

We have an incredible team of hsc english tutors and mentors.

We can help you master HSC English essay writing and ace your upcoming HSC English assessments with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at one of our state of the art campuses in Hornsby or the Hills!

If you live in other areas of Sydney, we have tutors that can come to you! Get in touch with our Hoxton Park tutoring team or our  Wollongong HSC English tutors !

We’ve supported over 8,000 students over the last 11 years , and on average our students score mark improvements of over 20%!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational HSC English tutor and mentor, get in touch today or give us a ring on 1300 267 888!

Maddison Leach  completed her HSC in 2014, achieving an ATAR of 98.00 and Band 6 in all her subjects. Having tutored privately for two years before joining Art of Smart, she enjoys helping students through the academic and other aspects of school life, even though it sometimes makes her feel old. Maddison has had a passion for writing since her early teens, having had several short stories published before joining the world of blogging. She’s currently deferring her studies until she starts her Bachelor of Communication at UTS in the spring.

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  • how to memorise essays in less than a day

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Re: how to memorise essays in less than a day


What I do to memorise essays is to read it out first, then look away from the paper and recall what you just read. Do this a few times until you’ve remembered most of it. If you want do it paragraph by paragraph and then rewrite the paragraph without looking at your paper. Then read the 2nd paragraph, recite it and write the 1st and 2nd paragraph from memory and so on. This is just something that works for me!
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Hi there, i have an essay to write in class this thursday (8th March) and i've just finished writing it. II have the memory of a goldfish, so I find it really hard to memorise essays. I need some tips as to how to memorise an essay in less than 2 days.. Any tips are appreciated, Thanks
  • Rewriting the text. This helps (especially handwriting) as you have to go over words repeatedly. Consciously make an attempt to read each word, like you're talking to yourself in your head.
  • Recording your own voice reading it back to you and listening to this, or getting a friend to do a favour and read it to you. Even if you find your voice annoying, you get used to it after a while. It's a really good way to memorise because you can be doing other things while phrases are being dumped into your brain.


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Okay, maybe this is just specific to me, but it seriously helped especially during prelims. I was having tests every day and for my English Extension I had 1 night to remember both my narrative and essay and I did word-by-word. All i would do is print out a copy, get and empty notebook and write. I would start with my bodies as they were most vital, then I would copy it down while reading it. This really helps. Then i would flip it over and see how much i could write before forgot what I needed, so would flip it over, read it, and cover it until I needed it again. Then do the same with you other paragraphs. After that I would go back to the first and try to do the whole essay still doing the read and cover thing I had going on, I think I did that twice and at this point you can see a massive improvement in how much you remember. Keep writing it and writing it.  I would really try and stick the first sentence of every paragraph as this will jog your memory, I always found if I couldn't remember the first sentence I couldn't remember anything. Its very tedious but it seriously sticks.

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Advice on Memorizing an Essay?

Hello (Is this a good place to post this?),

I have been trying to memorize an essay for MONTHS. It is for a scholarship contest. I can't memorize more than two pages of text.

For the competition I have to memorize nearly nine pages of information to perform. No matter how hard I try I can't do it. I am running out of time. It is a 10 minute performance by the way with three other essays along with it.

Any ideas for me? Or is this a lost cause?

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Al Sharpton: Joe Biden Has a Legacy in Black America. Kamala Harris Can Keep It Going.

A photo of someone holding a phone up to take a picture of Joe Biden on stage in front of an American flag.

By Al Sharpton

Mr. Sharpton is a civil rights leader and the founder of the National Action Network.

Joe Biden is more than this moment.

The crisis the president has struggled with for the past month should not erase his some 50 years of near-continuous service to the American people. Among other things, he has delivered time and again for Black America. That will be Mr. Biden’s legacy.

It’s for that reason that Democrats must now support the woman who has stood alongside him throughout his presidency. In the 2020 election, more than 81 million Americans voted for her to lead in the event that the president could not. We should give her the support she deserves in this moment. The attacks on her, as the highest elected Black woman in American history, will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

I have been thinking in recent days about a conversation I had with Mr. Biden when he was running four years ago. He told me in private he decided to come out of a well-deserved retirement because of what he saw in Charlottesville in 2017. A violent parade of neo-Nazis and Klansmen taking over the streets, and a spineless president who could not muster the courage to denounce racism, disgusted him enough that in his late 70s, he decided to put himself and his family through the ringer to save the soul of our nation.

His fierce commitment to delivering on promises has made him an incredibly effective president in just one term. He made a pledge during the campaign to select the first female vice president. He did. He vowed to Representative Jim Clyburn that he would put a Black woman on the Supreme Court. He delivered us Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. He promised me executive action on police accountability. I stood alongside him and the family of George Floyd as he signed an executive order to strengthen accountability in federal law enforcement agencies.

History will remember what this former lion of the Senate accomplished from the West Wing to improve Black communities across the nation. Just look at the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. These are giant accomplishments for any president, all packed into less than a full term. America will feel the impact of these legislative actions for generations to come.

At the National Action Network’s M.L.K. Day Legislative Breakfast last year, President Biden translated what this means for Black America. Our children and grandchildren will no longer drink water from pipes riddled with lead. Many will not have to struggle with student loan payments thanks to the billions of dollars in debt canceled by the administration. Medicare recipients won’t have to sacrifice food over insulin payments, thanks to a cap on medicine costs. Black unemployment is very low because the White House created 2.6 million jobs for Black workers in President Biden’s first three years in office. Black wealth is on the rise as a result of these efforts, which will set us up to finally close the financial and employment equity gaps and control our own future.

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