Memorization vs. Understanding

memory understanding


Memorization versus

is a fundamental tool in the process.  We are taught from a young age to develop our memorization skills.  However, there is a significant difference between memorizing something and learning it.  True learning does not occur until we are able to understand information then apply what we believed we have learned to a new situation or experience.

The following chart outlines the major differences between memorizing and understanding.



  • Limits of ideas and concepts to word for word recall.
  • Converts ideas and concepts into own words.
  • Limits ability to generate insight or creative ideas.
  • Creates a basis for generating insights and creative syntheses.
  • Limits to actual words recalled.
  • Advances the depth of learning.
  • Inability to deduce or induce.
  • Develops insights that come from deduction or induction.
  • Has trouble seeing beyond the basic concept or idea.
  • Can see meaning, effects, results, consequences beyond the basic idea or concept.
  • Difficult to explain ideas to someone else other than word for word.
  • Able to use own words to explain something clearly to someone else.
  • Difficult to see how ideas apply in real-life situations.
  • Can apply ideas to real life situations.
  • Relevance of ideas outside the classroom is difficult to see.
  • Ability to seek connections between knowledge learned in classroom and the outside world.
  • Does not see differences, similarities, and implications of ideas.
  • Can identify differences, similarities between ideas and implications of these ideas.
  • Interprets ideas literally.
  • Realizes that there can be figurative as well as literal interpretations of ideas.
  • Strives for rote and has trouble solving problems when numbers or components are changed.
  • Strives for understand and can solve problems even when numbers or components are changed.
  • Believes there is one right answer to every question.
  • Accepts that there may be more than 1 “right” answer to a question depending on circumstances.


Copyright © Dennis H. Congos, Certified Supplemental Instruction Trainer. University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816 – 407-823-3789

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