How to Memorize Lists

Memorize lists to be better organizedLearning how to memorize lists is a great way to improve your learning skills (and one of the best ways to remember things), and a great memory exercise at the same time. When you think about it, much of what we know (or study) is in list format, or can easily be made into a list. And just by breaking something down in such as way as to make a list of it, you’re splitting the information up into more easily memorised chunks. In fact, this splitting of information into chunks is itself a great aid to memorization.

How ‘chunking’ can help you memorize lists

I remember, at school, if we were given a sheet crammed full of closely-typed facts about a specific subject it was much more difficult to learn much from it that if we were given a sheet of carefully prepared, ‘bite-sized’ facts, presented in the form of a list. It wasn’t always fun, trying to memorize lists, but it was far better than trying to memorize huge blocks of ‘raw data’.

Teachers (some teachers!) must have known instinctively
that presenting facts in list format was one of the best ways
to remember things. As soon as a block of text is split into chunks,
you can easily apply memory techniques to the facts.

It’s a bit like phone numbers – if you see a phone number just written down as a string of numbers (often 7, sometimes 11 or more), then it’s not easy to remember, whereas if the same number is written with hyphens splitting the number into groups of 3 or 4 then it’s a lot easier.

You can only remember so many ‘chunks’ of information at one time (generally thought to be about 7) without a lot of effort , but the same short-term memory restriction actually becomes a strong point if you make each chunk bigger. In other words, splitting a very long number into 7 groups of 4 makes it relatively easy to handle – there’s a lot of information there, but it’s still all packed into seven chunks!

Like this: 0756-5517-3051-9087-2270-3516-2086

Which I think you’ll agree, even at a glance, would be much easier to memorise than:


Immediately, each chunk of four numbers seems to acquire a bit of a personality, or individuality. You can see right away, that the first chunk starts with a zero, the second starts with a double number (55), the third starts with thirty, the fourth starts with 90 and the next two digits are close behind (87), the fifth starts with another double (22), the sixth … nothing special really, and the seventh starts with 20. Already you’re on your way to memorising it, and that’s just with a quick glance.

This was a totally random number, by the way, but as you can see there are recognisable characteristics within it that might very well make it easier to memorise. Can you say the same about the same number when it’s presented without any breaks? No! It just seems to be a whole mess of numbers, and you’d have trouble committing it to memory, presented in that way. Each little bit of information in the ‘chunked’ version adds something – a double-number, a chunk starting with a zero, whatever. It all adds a little complexion to the whole thing.

Lots of lists, lots of scope for memory practice

This whole section contains lists for you to use as memory exercises. You can practise how to memorize lists just by studying them and learning them. You might not particularly want to know which Prime Minister followed Churchill into office after the end of World War II, or in exactly which year, or which U.S. president succeeded Lincoln, but the lists are here for you to study anyway. As you memorize lists, you’ll automatically be learning something about the subject. And some of the bits of information that you acquire will become ‘hooks’ onto which you can hang more and more facts as you expand you knowledge.

There are lists here (or there will be!) on Prime Minsters, Presidents, U.S. states, British monarchs, famous film stars, scientists, artists, inventions, discoveries, and all sorts of other things. And you can use any method you like to memorise them. You might want to use the Major System or the 100 List to add a bit of character to any people or dates you come across. You might want to make use of whatever strikes you. For example, some lists will have visuals embedded in them ready for your use, such as a list of Olympic venues, each city having visual connotations already for you (or most of them anyway, and any you’re not familiar with, just look them up in Wikipedia and learn a little about them).

Memory … how to improve … memorize lists … be creative!

Spiderman - vivid images like this help you memorize lists

Spiderman can do anything a spider can, and look colourful too!

Whatever methods you choose to use, always remember to indulge in lots of creativity and let your imagination run wild when you memorize lists. The more animated and the more outlandish your mental images, the more likely they are to remain in your memory, and for longer. So don’t be a bashful artist when you’re trying to memorize lists, falteringly applying colour and detail to your mental images – be the Stan Lee of mental imagery, wildly creative and producing stunning and engaging images that light up your mind with their brilliance.

Did you ever see a boring Marvel Comic? They were always fascinating, they drew you in, the characters were larger than life and more colourful, but their storylines were realistic enough to grab your attention and hold it. Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, these were all incredibly well-drawn characters (in both senses), and if you read their stories years ago I bet you can still see them in vivid detail. The action was always brash and extreme, the facial expressions and gestures over-the-top, and their entire imaginary universe colourful and spell-bindingly entertaining.

bookmarkWhy would you want to create anything boring in your mind when you can create something entertaining and fun? Get in the habit of coming up with and creating engaging and fascinating images and scenes. The more you do it, the easier it becomes!

Keep this in mind when you’re memorizing lists, and you can’t go wrong. Make it a priority when you’re memorizing lists to introduce plenty of colour and action and vivid detail and your lists will come alive and be so striking that you’ll have trouble forgetting them!


<< Memory Techniques

U.S. Presidents

Wedding Anniversaries

Countries and Capitals

State Capitals

The Olympic Games

Oscar Winning Movies

Fifty Fascinating Facts about the Olympics

Celebrity Names

Titanic Facts

Fifty commonly confused words

Fifty more commonly confused words


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