Memory Test

This can be a great activity for presentation skills or train the trainer classes. Tell participants that you will read them a list of words to test their memory. Participants will need to listen carefully and cannot write any of the words you will say down. Later you will test and see how many words they still remember.


Read each of the following words slowly and pause briefly between each word. Note that one of the words (nigh) is repeated three times.




Once you finish reading the list, try to distract them by talking about anything else for about one minute. Then ask each participant to take out a piece of paper and write down as many words as they can remember.


Debrief by exploring the four basic principles of memory as follows

Primacy and recency – ask participants to raise their hands if they remembered the first and last words (dream and pillow). Explain that people easily remember the first and last things they hear in a series. Link back to the importance of having a high energy start and a final recap and review of your presenation.


Surprise – ask those who remember the word (artichoke) to raise their hands. Make the point that most people tend to remember things that are different, new or unexpected.  People will remember your presentation for much longer if it is novel and untraditional if not shocking.


Repetition – Ask those who remember the word (night) to raise their hands. Most participants must have remembered and wrote this word because you repeated it three times. Explain that people remember things more if they are repeated and how important it is to recap and review the main key points of your presentation more than once to ensure your audience can remember them.


False-memory – Ask participants to raise their hands if they remember the word (bed). Reveal that this word was not in the list but still some of them did write it down and raise their hands. Explain that our brain automatically closes gaps in what it sees and hears or reads, and sometimes assumes things that never took place happened. Most participants would have written the word (bed) because it simply fits and belongs to the list logically even though you never read it. 


Include mnemonics:

(Drop the m; it’s pronounced “ne-MON-ics.”) These are techniques and systems used to support and enhance the memory process by incorporating rhymes, rules, phrases, acro-nyms, and other such devices. It is based on the Greek word mneme (“memory”), with historical records indicating its utilization as early as 477 b.c.


Peg method:

A technique to remember a series of numbers such as phone numbers, account numbers, or password numbers. To use this technique, begin by mentally assigning a word, figure, or icon to each number from 0 to 9. Each image may be a word that rhymes with the number, resembles the shape of the number, or in some way represents the number to you. An example would be to create in your mind the image of a pencil to represent the number 1 (looks like a 1), an image of a swan to represent the number 2 (the neck of a swan looks like the number 2), a tree to represent number 3 (tree rhymes with three), and a fork to represent the number 4


Method of loci (Roman-room method):

Used by ancient orators, this is a technique for remembering significant amounts of information, be it a speech or a list of items. To use this technique, you first think of a familiar route and specific points or objects along the way (your commute to work, a walk from one end of your home to the other, your morning or evening walk, and the like). You then mentally place visual images representing the items on your list or the key points in your speech at landmarks along your route. The number of landmarks you decide on will be determined by the number of items/points you wish to remember. Then simply men-tally retrace the route to recall the information. This is the origin of the expression “in the first place.”

(there are usually four prongs on a fork). Then connect the created images together in a colorful or dramatic story.



Based on the “seven plus or minus two” theory for holding information in our short-term, working memory, chunk-ing is a system of grouping numbers and information into smaller chunks for easier retrieval. For example, to remember the number 03181972 is more difficult than remembering 03 18 1972 (date). This is because it’s easier to hold groups of these 2s, 3s, or 4s rather than a long string of digits.


Rhymes, rhythm, and repetition:

A fun method of remember-ing used since childhood. Remember learning the alphabet or “30 days hath September, April, June, and November?” Useful for rote memory, but not for understanding information.


Nonsense sentences:

In this technique, the first letter of each word in a nonsense sentence represents or is a part of the word you wish to remember. If you’ve ever taken music lessons, you likely memo-rized the treble clef with the sentence “Every good boy does fine.”

Medical students sometimes use this technique to memorize parts of the body’s anatomy. For instance, “The brain’s cerebrum consists of the parietals, occipitals, temporals, and frontal” can be turned into “Crazy pigs often take flight.” Again, this method does not provide an understanding of the information; it is used only for rote memory.