In Russian, we have a couple of verbs that mean “memorize without understanding”. We use them when a student remembers some facts just to pass an exam instead of actually trying to comprehend the subject and learn something.

How can I say the same in English?


3 Answers 3


The word you are looking for is


Rote memory is frowned upon when learning, since it means the student knows how but not why.


Considering you're talking about students studying, the word you're looking for is likely cramming:

[C]ramming (also known as mugging or swotting[...]) is the practice of working intensively to absorb large volumes of informational material in short amounts of time. It is often done by students in preparation for upcoming exams, especially just before they are due. Usually the student's priority is to obtain shallow recall suited to a superficial examination protocol, rather than to internalize the deep structure of the subject matter.

Unlike rote memorization, which can be effective way to study, cramming doesn't create a strong association with what's being memorized, so it's likely to be quickly forgotten after the test.

Note that "mugging" and "swotting" in this sense are not used in the US; they are British English.


A less formal term is parroting - defined by Mirriam-Webster as:

transitive verb

: to repeat by rote

It literally means to repeat something in the manner of a parrot - a bird that "speaks" by mimicking the sounds of human speech, but with no understanding of what the noises mean.

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