How Do I Memorize?

Opening a Scripture Portion and seeing hundreds of verses that you must memorize can seem quite terrifying to a beginning quizzer. As with anything you do in life, if you break it up into little pieces, you’ll be stunned at how much you have done by the end of the quiz year. Fortunately, the Bible is already divided into chapters, sections and verses. We’ll start by looking at 1 Corinthians Chapter 1, but first I should discuss where you should memorize. There is no good answer to this question. Some quizzers can memorize while sitting completely still. Personally, I always needed to pace. The need to pace and the fact that there were too many distractions at home, led me to do much of my memorizing work at my church. You could also walk around your neighborhood and do it. What a better opportunity to run into someone and tell them what you’re doing!

Chapter 1 starts with the standard “Greetings and Salutations” that are common to Paul’s epistles. Keep in mind that in the introductory remarks for questions, this will typically be referred to as “The Untitled Section of First Corinthians”. The best way to memorize is by section, so typically you should divide the section into manageable chunks. Start with verse one. Read it, then try to recite it without looking. Check the portion to make sure you are saying it right. Remember, you want to be as accurate as possible, so don’t ignore “little” mistakes. If you hit a quotation question on that verse, you don’t want to lose the points because you didn’t spend the extra time to get it right at the beginning. If you memorize the first verse with a mistake, then don’t notice the mistake until several months later, it becomes much harder to fix, so take the time at the beginning. Now, repeat the verse five times (the exact number of times you repeat it is irrelevant). You want to have it down so well that if you were to play a video game for 30 minutes, at the end, you could immediately recall exactly how the verse goes (of course, I’m not recommending playing video games while you memorize). Go to the second verse and repeat. Once you have it down, recite verses 1 and 2 together three times (again, the exact number is irrelevant). Since many questions provide you a reference, you also want to learn the references while you’re doing this. The way most quizzers do this is to say “1” just before quoting verse 1, then “2” just before quoting verse 2. Don’t worry about getting yourself into the habit of saying these, because even if you give the verse reference when you answer a quotation question, provided it’s accurate, you cannot be counted wrong. Repeat the whole process with verse 3, then say the entire section until you have it down well. I’ll discuss this more later, but you should also take note of “analysis” items. By “analysis”, I mean people, places, questions, exclamations, parenthetical statements and Old Testament Scriptures. Some might also put “statements” in here. By that, I mean “Do not” commands, “I tell you the truth” statements and the like. Keep in mind that the rules do not acknowledge these as analysis items, nor does the chapter analysis. This section has two individuals and one geographical location. A question writer could ask for either of these by verse or by section. On top of learning analysis for a verse or section, you will also have to learn it by chapter and eventually by book.

Now that you have one section down, move to the second section. First take note of the section title. When you quote this chapter, on top of saying the verse references, you should also say the section titles. For instance, you start this section by saying: “Thanksgiving. 1:4 to 1:9”. Question writers almost always put a locator in the introductory remarks and knowing your section titles is vital to being able to answer (and interrupt) questions. This section is six verses long. While you could do all six verses in one batch, try breaking it up into two batches. Learn verses 4, 5 and 6 using the above methods, then say them together until you have them down. Then do verses 7, 8 and 9 in the same way. Then say the entire section enough times to have it down well. Then say everything you’ve memorized so far in the chapter a few times. The next section is eight verses long. It is not recommended that you ever try to memorize in chunks that big. Six verses was about the upper limit of what I would try. Here, you can either do 10 to 12, 13 to 15 and 16 to 17, or 10 to 13 and 14 to 17. Again, once you have it down, say the first three sections a few times. The point of this is to solidify the early material. The idea is that you want to make sure that you know the first few sections in spite of adding more sections to your memory. The final section is 19 verses long, but I would recommend starting by memorizing the first 14, which are contained in chapter 1. Try for yourself to figure out how to break this up into manageable chunks. Remember, if you pick five verse chunks, it doesn’t go into 14 evenly, but you can do two chunks of five and one chunk of four. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to break these long sections up just yet. You’ll develop a system, eventually. Now that you have one chapter down, quote that chapter multiple times.

Now we move to chapter 2. Five verses are still in the previous section, so memorize those first. Then quote the entire previous section a few times. If you want, you could also group these five verses with what you memorize for chapter 1. The second section is 11 verses. I would divide this into groups of four, four and three. Once you finish this section, you might want to quote chapters 1 and 2 together. This becomes a little impractical once you add more and more chapters. To start off with, you should make sure that you quote everything you know to someone else at least once a week. The frequency of this should increase as the season progresses, but use this as a bare miniumum. If you do not keep this up, you will almost certainly have to spend time re-memorizing a chapter you used to be able to quote.

While you were memorizing, you might have also noticed that some verses have bold dots next to them. If you are quizzing novice, this means that any quotation question must be asked from one of these verses. You might notice that these could be labelled as “key” verses in terms of the topics being discussed. Other than noticing the dots, you should not memorize these verses any differently than you memorize the others.

This looks like a lot to start off with, but keep in mind that this is not meant to be done in one sitting. If you start August 15, and memorize five verses a day, you’ll be done around the New Year. Your coach should give you a rough schedule of what is expected of you, so you can work around that. For a beginning quizzer, there is such a thing as “burn out”. This typically refers to when a quizzers starts memorizing the material as soon as district finals (or regionals or nationals) is over. They have about six months to memorize the material for the first league meet, but by the time the second league meet comes around, their lack of experience comes into play. Many quizzers who memorize large chunks of the material early, end up getting far behind and not finishing out the season. Don’t let that be you. I would say the earliest that you should start is mid-July and you should pace yourself to be done around late January. It’s not the end of the world if you finish later than that, but keep in mind that that’s when most of the top quizzers will be finishing. If you push yourself to finish earlier, you run the risk of being “sick” of having to quote it all every week by the time official competition rolls around. My senior year, I was very motivated to win nationals and had the material done by early December. The only reason I didn’t burn out was because I wanted to win so badly and I had the experience to know how to approach it.

By the time you finish the last verse, you’ll look back and be astonished at how much you have done. This material will never leave you. Not only have you learned valuable techniques for memorizing things (the bones in the human body, the periodic table of elements, etc) but you’ve also hidden God’s word in your heart and that never returns void. Sure, you may forget the exact wording of a verse, but the general ideas make it into your subconscious. As an adult, you’ll be shocked at how quickly you can recall verses that you memorized ten years ago.