What Memory Champions Can Teach Us about Studying

In a single conference room, competitors at the World Memory Championship sit in rows, a deck of cards in front of each person. A Competition Official signals it’s time to begin, and competitors get to work, memorising entire decks of cards in under two minutes. They recall the order of the decks perfectly. In 2016, medical student Alex Mullen set the world record, memorising 52 cards in 18.65 seconds. Alex Mullen was not born with an amazing memory – his talent was learned.

In 2017, scientists studied 23 of the world's 50 most successful memory athletes to find out whether high-level memory can be learned. Over six weeks, they taught ordinary people a memory technique used by Memory Champions and studied whether their brain networks changed to resemble those of the champions. The memory technique used was Memory Palace (we will teach you Memory Palace in this article). Sure enough, at the end of the six weeks, the brains of the ordinary people had significantly changed. The researchers concluded that through mnemonic training (using systems to remember things), superior memory can be achieved.


Why is this relevant to you and your child? Well, memory is essential for study, so if you want to take your child's learning to the next level, read on for a step by step explanation of some of the most effective memory techniques available. And keep in mind: it’s important to correctly learn each technique the first time so that you have a good foundation to build on.

Technique 1: Memory Palace

Memory Palace, also known as the ‘Method of Loci’, has been used since the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Humans are great at memorising places they know, and Memory Palace makes use of this principle.

1. Pick a place:

Choose a place you know very well to be your Memory Palace. You need to know this location so well that you can visualise yourself walking around the space. Visualise a specific route through this location.


Your house is a good place to start. Imagine yourself walking through the door, looking around your front room as you put your bag down by the door. You continue down the hallway and arrive at the kitchen. Here you grab a banana to snack on, sit down in your lounge room, then stand up and walk outside into your backyard.

2. Notice your surroundings:

As you are walking through your chosen place, a.k.a. your Memory Palace, notice what is around you. Again, using the example of a house, what was in the front room when you put your bag down? What was on the ground; did someone leave their shoes outs? These objects and details you notice around you will be ‘memory spaces’, where you can later insert materials you need to remember.

3. Imprint this on your mind:

The Memory Palace technique will only work if the details of your route through your palace are imprinted on your mind. You can achieve this by walking through the physical route in real life, looking at the details of your palace from the same point of view each time, and describing features out loud.

E.g. Walk around your actual house, again and again, pausing each time you reach a feature that you have selected as a ‘memory space’, describing it out loud.

4. Visual Associations:

Remember in step 2, when we spoke of ‘memory spaces’? Now, you will be using these ‘memory spaces’ to hold the information you wish to remember. You will achieve this through visual associations, by taking a known image and merging this with the information you want to memorise. This information could be words, numbers, sentences, processes, names and even concepts. The more outlandish the association, the better. 

Say you need to memorise the code 24322. To do this, you will be taking your Memory Palace, and filling the memory spaces with information, for example:

You walk into your home and dump your bag on the floor, but it bounces off a dinosaur-shaped squeaky toy. The squeaky toy squeaks twice (2). 

You continue through the hallway, your family members have left their shoes out, and in each shoe sits a bottle of chilli sauce. There are four bottles of chilli sauce in total (4).

You continue to the kitchen and go to grab a banana from the fruit bowl, but three furry creatures (3) with giant teeth try and attack you. 

You fight off two of these (2), but the last furry creature sinks its two fangs deep into your arm (2).

Yes, it is strange – but memorable. 

  1. Test your palace: 

Now that you have come up with a narrative, you will likely have remembered all the pieces of information. However, as a beginner, you may have a few slip-ups. Revisit your memory palace and see if you can recall all pieces of information you placed in ‘memory spaces’.

How to Apply These Techniques to Study

Much of studying involves memorising pieces of information, meaning Memory Palace is a highly valuable technique. In terms of the selective test, you may use Memory Palace to remember examples of questions that you usually make mistakes with, what mistakes you typically make, and tips on how to avoid these mistakes. Alternatively, you may be remembering how to do certain maths questions or scientific concepts that come up in tests that you often struggle with.

Words and sentences can also be remembered via Memory Palace. To do this, take key information from each sentence and attach it to a storyline within your ‘memory spaces’. Take the phrase “I’ before ‘E’ except after ‘C’’ – you could easily insert this into a memory palace, by positioning ‘I’ at the front door, ‘E’ in the next memory slot, and then inserting a conflict between ‘E’ and the following ‘C’. 

Memory Palace is a broad memory technique that can be applied in many areas. A Memory Champion can memorise 52 cards in 18.65 seconds using this technique. Now, imagine how much more your child can study and retain in a small amount of time by using Memory Palace. Master this memory technique, and it will be easier for your child to succeed in tests and study efficiently.

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