How I ranked 1st at Cambridge University – The Essay Memorisation Framework

How I ranked 1st at Cambridge University – The Essay Memorisation Framework

Hey guys, welcome back to the channel. If you are new here, my name is Ali I’m a junior doctor working in Cambridge and in this video I’m going to share with you the essay memorization framework
that I used when I was in my third year at Cambridge University. That was the year, in which I was studying psychology and I actually ended up
winning the prize for best exam performance in the year (yay) group and I’ve pretty
much exclusively attributed that to this essay memorization framework This method should work for most essay based subjects, but even if your subject is an essay based I hope you might still find this video useful and pick up a few tips and techniques along the way and of course, everything I’m going to mention is going to be linked in timestamps in the video description and in a pinned comment so you can skip around the video if you feel like it, let’s just jump into it So there are basically two stages to this method. The first stage is the creation stage and the second stage is the memorization stage. So in the creation stage, the objective is to create first-class essay plans for every conceivable essay title that they could throw at us in the exam. And in the memorization stage, we’re going to be committing all of these essay plans to memory by systematically using active recall, spaced repetition, spider diagrams, and flashcards. The idea is that by the time the exam rolls around, you’ll have memorized so many essay plans that a lot of them will just come up in the exam anyway because you’ve predicted the titles and you’ll just be able to regurgitate stuff from your brain onto the paper, but even if stuff comes up that you haven’t memorized You’ll know so much about the subject and you’ll have so many content blocks in your head that you’ll be able to generate a first-class Essay from scratch. So that was a general overview. Let’s now talk about the two components: the creation state and the memorization stage in turn. So the broad objective of the creation stage is to create a large number of really really good essay plans that you can then memorize In the memorization stage and regurgitate onto paper during your exam. Now, it’s probably beyond the scope of this video for me to teach you how to write a good essay and probably also beyond the scope of my own expertise. But I will share some tips on three main questions and that’s firstly how you decide what essay titles to pick. Secondly, how you plan the essay and thirdly how you make sure your essay plan is really really good. So let’s deal with those in turn so firstly how do we decide what I say is we’re going to prepare the objective here is to scope the subject and find essay titles that cover the entire breadth of the syllabus. Now the easiest way to do this is to look at past papers and look at whatever pause papers you have available and see what essays have come up in the past and you start off with those and then once you’ve planned out those essays, you’ll know enough about that subject in particular that you’ll be able to put yourself in the shoes of examiner’s and start thinking, “okay what’s a good essay titled that I’ve not yet asked about?” If you haven’t got past papers available that I’m very sorry to hear that. You’re just gonna have to put yourself into the examiners shoes from the get-go or you can actually go to your teacher, your professor, your lecturer, or whatever and say, “hey, what’s the sort of essays that might come up in the exam? What are some things other things I should be thinking about? So, having made a list of what essays we’re going to plan, we then need to actually plan those essays and this is the fun part. This is the part that actually requires doing some doing some cognitive labor So the way I would do this is that I’d give myself one day per essay plan. So in, in the first time of uni I was a slacker only made like five essay plans. In the second term I made about ten, and then, in the Easter holidays i’ve really ramped it up and made about 35 different ones. And the way I do it is that i’d start off with a question. So, for example, do animals have a theory of mind and then I would use Google To get as much information as I can about that particular question I would ignore the lecture notes initially and I would ignore the recommended reading I’d start off with Google because Google was, it was like a really good way to find the answer to any question that you want. And often I’d be linked to review articles and review papers, and I’d be reading through those review papers Oftentimes, the review paper would directly answer the question, in which case I’ve pretty much got my essay. I just need to turn it into my own words, but a lot of the time, I’d be following references from the route from the review paper. And then, once I’d created my essay plan I would then look at the lecture notes and the recommended reading and this meant that a lot of my material was hopefully more original than everyone else’s because most of the students would have built their essays based around the lecture notes. Whereas I was building my essays on a random Google search. So, I would start off by creating a research document on that particular topic and pretty much copy and paste every relevant bit of every paper I could find. So, this is my 10 page document about theory of mind. I’ve copied and pasted various bits and rephrased various bits. And you know, very random. I don’t even know any of this anymore. This is, and you, know included links at the bottom to where I got the information from so if I need to return to it, I’ll be able to find it again. And then once I’ve got my research document, I spent the
next few hours planning out the essay and actually writing it out properly. So, here is my plan, “Is theory of mind a useful concept for understanding social cognition and animals?” And yeah, I’ve got an intro, I’ve got a preamble, I’ve got subheadings, I’ve got evidence And I’ve basically taken all of this from these various different resources from books, from the review papers, from the lecture notes, from Google. And I’ve consolidated them into this one essay that I’m ultimately going to memorize. And as you can see over here, I’ve pretty much done this for everything within my subject. So this is Section B, “Comparative Cognition,” which is all about the thinking of animals, can an animal’s plan for the future? Causality, Cognitive Maps, the Convergent Evolution Theory of Intelligence. “Do animals have a theory of mind?” “Is a theorem an useful concept.” And you can see here, I’ve written an key beside them, which is a foreshadowing as to what’s gonna come later in this video. So now we’ve done a research document. We’ve planned this essay. We’ve pretty much written it out based on a research document and we’ve only given ourselves one day to do this because of Parkinson’s law. That work expands to fill the time we allocate to it. But how do we make the essay plan actually good. A lot of things go into good essay plan but in my opinion, there are three things that count . Number one, structure Number two, actually answering the question. And number three, having a bit of flair, a bit of a spice that you’re sprinkling in your essay plan. And I think the introduction is the most important part of the essay. because in the introduction, you can signal to the examiner that you’re doing all three of these things and when the examiner is marking your paper. They’re probably really bored, they’ve read hundreds of these scripts already. You want to hit them with like a really legit introduction. So here’s an example of an introduction from one of my essays about, “Weather judgment and decision making is cognitive, ideological, or affective ie. emotional.” So, I written that, “The historical view in social sciences has always been that judgments are based solely on content information, with individuals being assumed to form judgments by systematically evaluating all available content information in an unbiased manner.” Oh my god. 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 judgments) but also on the basis of feelings (affective judgment). It is now well accepted that judgment can be both effective
and cognitive.” And here’s where the good stuff comes “Whether it is one of 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 to the judgment, (4) the evaluative malleability of the judgment, and (5) the level of processing intensity. And here is the ultimate clincher for this. “I will discuss these in turn and ultimately argue that generally speaking in day-to-day life, the circumstances are generally those that result an effective rather than cognitive and decision-making.” So, if we can disentangle all the verbosity from that paragraph, what I’ve done is I’ve laid out the five main bits of the essay, in terms of structure and I’ve used numbered points for that rather than just a list because numbered makes it really really obvious to the examiner that I’ve got a good structure. I’ve also said exactly what the answer to the question is. The question is asking whether our judgments are cognitive, (biological?), or affective emotional and instead of wishingwatching around it, I have said in this essay, “I will argue that they are emotional rather than cognitive in most elements of day-to-day life.” So I’m telling the examiner, “Look, I’m answering the question, this is what you’re gonna get from me.” And finally I’ve added a little bit of flair. Hopefully with this stuff about the historical context I probably got that from a textbook or from a review paper somewhere and I’ve probably phrased into my own notes and obviously this is just my plan. So in the exam, I won’t quite be using it word-for-word. So, it’s absolutely not plagiarism. It’s using, you know, useful resources to create a bit of flair by adding a bit of historical context. So hopefully this introduction covers all three points: structure, answering question, and a bit of flair. Now, I’m gonna leave it at that for this section of the video. Obviously, you know, there are entire university courses andentire books and stuff, devoted to the art of writing a good essay. I don’t personally think I’m very good at writing an essay, but I think I’m pretty good at using Google effectively and copying and pasting stuff into a research word document and then turning it
into fairly legit sounding prose and then, I think I’m pretty good at systematically memorizing all that information. So, if you want to know more about how to write an essay, how I write an essay, then let me know in the comments and I’ll maybe try and do a video on it if I can kind of break down the process a bit further. But now let’s talk about stage two of the process: The memorization stage. Okay, so by this point, we’ve got a load of really good essay plans that we have created in Word documents. Now the objective in the memorization stage is to upload, all of those essay plans to our brain so that we canthen regurgitate them in the exam and we’re gonna do this using three main techniques: Number one, ANKI flashcards. Number two, spider diagrams And number three, a retrospective revision timetable. So again, Let’s talk about these in turn. So firstly, ANKI, and I’ve basically used Anki flashcards to memorize every paragraph, in every essay plan and this might seem a bit overkill, but it worked for me. So what I’ve done is as you can see, I’ve got keywords on the front of the card like “Bauer in
1984” or “Damisch et al 2006” or “Ellis et al 1997,” or short-term versus long-term memory
introduction. I’ve even put the introduction into an ANKI flashcard and
then over time I’ll memorize these, because pretty much anything that goes into my ANKI flashcards because during the exam term, I’m going through my
flashcards every single day and I’m doing and keep spaced repetition algorithm. I just know that anything that that’s in my ANKI is just going to get uploaded to my brain with a small amount of effort put in, by me, to actually actually
memorize this stuff. So yeah, I’ve got I’ve got the keywords and I’ve got the
content. So basically if I put you know a paper, Russell & Fehr in
1987.” I’m describing in the ANKI flashcard what that paper shows, which means that overall I’ve create these blocks of content that every ANKI flashcard is his own little block and that block can slot into my essay that I’ve planned. But also, if a weird essay comes up that I haven’t
explicitly planned, I still have all these blocks of knowledge in my head, and that means if there is a paper that’s relevant I’ll know what it is. I’ll know what the reference is. I’ll
know what the content is. I’ll know how to describe the experiment and I’ll just be
able to put it into even new essays that I’m writing on the spot in the exam. So that’s all well and good, but obviously knowing Tversky and Kahneman experiment from 1974 or Mussweiler & Strack from 2000, those things aren’t that helpful, unless you can also associate them with their own essays andthat’s where the spider diagrams is coming. All right, so the second prong of the memorization stage of the essay memorization framework involves spider diagrams and this is the book that I have made almost five diagrams in. So, having memorized a ton of content blocks from my essays
using ANKI flashcards. What I’ve now done is from the 20th of April onwards, I made spider diagrams, one-page diagrams of every single essay. So, here’s the first one about implicit versus explicit
memory. We’ve done, you know, various topics of the memory,
cognitive maps, metacognition. And the idea is that we’ve pretty much got the whole
structure of the essay along with the keywords in the spider diagram. So, this is the essay about short-term memory bus a
long-term memory, it starts off with an introduction. Then, something about single system memory. Then, something about the two components and if we zoom in over here, we see I’ve written G Plus C 1966 and that actually refers to the flashcard over here
where I talk about, “Glanzer and Cunitz 1966.” And in my flashcard, I’ve got the con and blog where I’m describing the experiment and actually, this is just like a whole paragraph. Another G n’ C experiment. This G 1972 is a Glanzer. Craik 1970 B and H is Baddeley and someone else, I think I’ve Bob Baddeley and Hitch. Yeah in 1977. So, I have all these content blocks in ANKI and I’ve just put the keywords onto the spider diagram so that when I’m
creating the spider diagram and I write G Plus C 1966, I know exactly what that refers to obviously I’ve never
forgotten before years laters. But, I used to know exactly what that referred to back in
the day and I’ve done this for every single one of the 40 50 essays that I’ve memorized and the way this would work is that every day, I would just draw out the various spider diagrams from memory. So, on the 20th of April, as we can see over here, I did implicit vs explicit, recollection vs familiarity,
semantics vs episodic, short-term vs long-term memory. Then on the 21st, I did
future planning, I did theory of mind, I did theory of mind useful –
usefulness, meta cognition, cognitive Maps. Gosh, personality genes, black-and-white differences in IQ intelligence, controversial subject The Flynn effect explanation, multiple intelligent. Well, I was plenty very productive on the 21st of April,
2015. But the point is, that every single day I’d be drawing out
these spider diagrams from memory and if there were any bits that I didn’t know or that was shaky on, I would look up on my master spider diagram or in my master essay plan or in ANKI and I’d actively work on those. So over time this ended up being like a really effective way to systematically use active recall to ensure that I knew
absolutely everything and like in the time before the exam I was just bashing through these so, you know, 8th of May we’ve done this one. We’ve done this one. We’ve done that one, another one, another one, another one, another one. I think that’s all on the 8th of May, another
one. Oh, wow. Yeah. This was like about a week before our exams. And on the 8th of May. I’ve just absolutely bashed through and planned about you know, I’m just like drawing out my plans for about 15 different essays. So we’ve got our content blocks and ANKI we’ve memorized them using ANKI. We’ve got our, kind of essay structures using spider
diagrams. We’ve memorized them using active recall. The final piece of the puzzle involves systemic spaced
repetition. So how do I decide what I was going to do each day if you’ve seen any of my revision videos you might have come across the idea of the retrospective revision timetable and that was what I used. I’ve made a whole video on this I’m not gonna talk about it in depth. Basically, actually, I’m just gonna show you here. Where
are we? No, here we go This was my retrospective revision timetables. So, its split up into section A, section B, and Section C. So, let’s see, implicit versus explicit memory. Ah, here we go. This actually works So on the 20th of April, I studied implicit versus explicit
memory. So I’ve marked down the date as the 20th of April and then I’ve marked down all the various things that are than 20th of April and then I think on the 21st, I did some of B and C. Yep, so you can see on the 21st of April, when I active recalled these essay plans over here. Wherever they are. I have marked them in the retrospective sheet. And then the idea, is that the next time I do them, I am marking the date for that and then I’m color coding it in red, yellow, green, whatever, depending on how well I knew at the time. So I’ve been doing, I’ve done this for all the essays that I
memorized and and I’ve done it for all of my subjects within psychology. So there’s much more detail in the video specifically by the retrospective revision timetable where I explain exactly how it works, how I’d recommend using it and why I think it’s better than a standard prospector version time table. But yeah, that is the third prong of the memorization stage of the essay memorization
framework. So, that was an overview of the essay memorization framework that I used to systematically memorize about 45 to 50 different essay
plans using a mixture of active recall, spaced repetitions,
flashcards and spider diagrams and that ended up going quite well for me. spider diagrams and that ended up going quite well for me. In the actual exam, I think about two-thirds of the essay titles out of the, I
think, 12 essays we had to write, I think eight of them, what essays that
were part of my block of 50 are like I’d, I’d already planned them. So it was pretty, pretty easy enough to just regurgitate what I already knew onto the page, which was awesome. But then, about a third of them, about four of the essays
were new, they’d never been asked before, I hadn’t predicted them.
But, because I knew so much about these subjects like, you know, at the time, if you’d ask me any question at all
about, you know, the animal – animal psychology or if you’d ask me
any question at all about IQ or intelligence or personality or short-term memory, long-term memory or I don’t know judgment decision-making. I knew so much about those subjects based on memorizing all these essays, that it was pretty straightforward to build an essay from scratch in about ten minutes in the exam. So I would just plan it out using my spider diagram and then regurgitate. U-using my own content blocks from my ANKI flashcards But also just being able to write whatever I wanted because I knew the subject so well. So the method ended up working reasonably well for me. Me and another student. We won the joint award for best exam performance. I later emailed my supervisor and he actually said that she beat me by a few like, you know, decimals of a percentage point. But because the two of us were so far ahead of everyone else, they decided very kindly to jointly awarded us the prize for best exam performance. So technically, I didn’t come first, actually came second,
but that would make for a less clickbaity title. So apologies for that. If I’ve misled you thus far. Anyway, I hope you found this video useful and took
something away from it. This method worked really really well for me and I kind of wish I’d been more systematic about my revision in this way in subsequent years, but after peaking in third year, I decided that I wanted to
other things. Ended up kind of reverting to inefficient habits like rereading and highlighting and
stuff. in my fourth, fifth, and sixth year, but still you know having this stuff in the back of my mind meant that I was able to use my retrospective revision timetable to efficiently get pretty reasonable marks in the exams while
also sustaining a side career of running a business and running a YouTube channel which I don’t think I’d have been able to do if I hadn’t
been efficient with my studying and which is why, you know, all these tips, you know, i-it’s useful to use efficient study tips because, A, if you want you can put in loads of time and get really
really good marks but if you want to do all the stuff on the side, it means you have the time to do all the stuff on the site. So that worked really well for me. So, thank you so much for watching. I really hope you got something useful out of this video. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a
comment down below and I will reply to the comments, but I’ll also put a link in the description to a page about
this thing on my website, where I will put all of the commonly asked questions and answers that I’ll be able to expand more in depth. So if you do have specific questions about this method have a look at the comments, have a look at my website because it’s probably easier to read the answers there
directly rather than trawling through YouTube comments. And I don’t know people are going to troll me for using a
clickbait title. But yeah. Anyway, I hope you found this video useful. If you liked it, please give it a thumbs up. If you like, you can follow me on Instagram, I post photos and videos and stuff behind the scenes of how I make these videos and what life as a doctor in the UK is like. My brother and I have also recently started a new podcast. It’s called, “NotOverThinking,” and that’s where we
overthink about topics in daily life like happiness, creativity and the
human condition. That’s the timeline, you can find that NOTOVERTHINKING.COM And, if you haven’t subscribed to the channel then could you consider doing so. I make videos about life as a doctor but also
about studying videos like this and also about tech reviews and productivity and a bit music here and there. So thanks so much for watching. Have a good night, and I’ll see you in the next video.


  1. Hey folks, hope you enjoy this video. Sorry for the clickbait title lol, had to be done. Here are some more resources and timestamps

    1. My most popular video introducing Active Recall –
    2. My 2nd most popular video about Spaced Repetition –
    3. How to learn new content –
    4. The Retrospective Revision Timetable –
    5. A playlist of my study tips videos –

    00:34 – General Overview
    01:21 – The Creation Stage
    — 01:50 – Deciding what essays to plan
    — 02:30 – How to plan the essays
    — 04:57 – How to make the essay plan really good
    08:10 – The Memorisation Stage
    — 08:36 – Anki flashcards to memorise content blocks
    — 09:50 – Spider diagrams to memorise entire essays
    — 12:49 – The Retrospective Revision Timetable to systematically use active recall and spaced repetition (more info here:
    14:10 – Wrapping Up

  2. hello everyone in this video i spend about 20 mins admitting that i memorised a few texts and bam, i won an award for being clever. i am now studying to be a doctor because i can brute force my way to good marks.

  3. Hi sir i have completed my 12th in india with 60% and 36 marks in english and i am willing to study in cambridge so i there a chance for me to study in cambridge and recently I am also preparing for ukvi ielts so is there a scope for me to study in cambridge plz give a reply sir,.

  4. How I hope someday you'll be an entrepreneur to offer your service for a larger market and at the same time inspired people to continue living for everything is possible just have a growth mindset ?

  5. I wish I had watched this video while I was in university. Regardless of how much I wrote, how well I tried to write I would always get a D. It got so bad I thought my writing isn't legible. I am planning to go back to university in a couple of years. I found this content extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I just had to do an essay for Art college, the subject was "How to write a picture?" Which made my logical brain go haywire. Maybie its me but the topic essays I get makes no sense….

  7. Thanks for the video. Great advice but man, you are wicked smart. There is no way that someone with average intelligence can memorize all these facts let alone have all that time. You might find time but I bet it’ll take most people much longer than you.

  8. The only word I understood other than "the, and, a, etc." Was "exam" lol

    I'm too stupid to understand you fast-talking geniuses lol

  9. Im so glad i found your video in my recommended ones! A new subbie! You really inspired me to become a good student…more like SUPER HARDWORKING student ? but im gonna try it and see!

  10. Hi Ali, I might be wrong,but I saw that you have a fixed structue to make those spider diagrams,could you talk a bit more about :how to organize the knowlodge briefelly to make this system more efficientt?
    Thanks for all.

  11. Jesus loves ok? You might not belive it but its true ok cu maybe
    Kisses <3 i just want morre souls to Christ before he comes to take us

  12. Wish I knew this before uni 🙁
    But! Good thing I found you now! I still got my last year (in my 3rd year doing Biology undergrad) so I still got hope. I can smash the Jan exams! I actually feel more confident now that I got a proper studying system, whereas earlier I'd just underline and read the slides 10x or sth. Thank you so much, you're saving lives! 😀

  13. i believe this productivity searching and maintaining how to make it work, what tools to use took alot of time and effort. Thank you for sharing your efforts with us

  14. I don't care what strategy you throw at me, if it involves short term flash memory it ain't happenin' I gots da memory of a rock…

    and the willpower of a small pebble.

  15. How to prepare for exams.
    Him : Genius
    Me : Oh god please save me! Long live meeeeeee. Please god save me!

  16. Hey Ali, it seems you're uploading everything to your brain through Anki. I've used Anki extensively for language learning but have just started implementing it for my actual field of study. How long a day do you spend on average to review your cards ?

  17. Simple……you have a high IQ. there we solved it. You were born blessed. Wish I was. I mean I would a lot more then what my brother is doing with his high IQ. It disgusts me. I mean he drinks smokes and vapes. And he still gets A++. I studied like every test even a month before exams and I still get C-. My brother never studies. I hope one day he loses intelligence because of the amount wrong he's done and is still doing. If you wonder if I'm jealous. You're God damn right I'm jealous. Hard work only seems to pay off when you don't at all. I even cheated once to see if I get caught and I got caught. He even cried he was going to harvard instead of UCLA. My parent's say he's the golden child. That must mean I'm the baron child. That's life.

  18. Hi, i don't understand the purpose of doing the anki flashcard together with the spider diagram cuz isn't repeated? why not just choose to do one since it repetitive?

  19. This is my first time watching one of your video and let me tell you. Your insane, the amount of work and dedication you have pursing your career goals and even make time for youtube motivates me to do better. I'm currently doing Computer Science Bootcamp, it's hard but I know it will be worth it. I enjoy the challenge, and it's somewhat exciting. Honestly, most people would just keep a lot of these things (that helped them ranked first, win prizes or even achieve great success to themselves and they're afraid that if they share with anyone, there will be more competitions in the future, all in all most people are selfish in one way or another), but you instead share and educated people ways they can achieve success in life. I want to sincerely thank you for sharing your knowledge with the world and literally making a difference in life even if it's just a little. Stay awesome my dude.

  20. Wooow… what an amazing method.. thanks for sharing with us. I might try to apply this trick to my grad school life…

  21. So, you search Google for other peoples' essays, commit their ideas to memory, and then regurgitate them in your own words? Isn't that considered plagiarism?

  22. Im sorry, but what's the point of all the memorization if you're literally just gonna forget it later anyway. There is no point in you learning any of that if you're not gonna use it, especially to the point where u memorize so much. Impressiveness is more about quality then quantity in most cases.

  23. Good job! I had this one teacher who wrote critiques after every sentence I wrote and filled pages with other comments. He would write twice as much as I had to. I asked him nicely if he had an essay example, and he said it would hamper my creativity for him to do so. It's like, I think you have that covered.

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