Chemistry mnemonics

Hello, my name is Andrey Yavkin, I’m in the 10th grade, I have a question about memorization in chemistry (organic and inorganic).
I have already effectively used mnemonics in almost the entire school subjects, but some things are given to me with great difficulty. I think this is a very important question for all schoolchildren who learn chemistry. My question is:
How to memorize in chemistry the properties of elements (what reacts with what and what substances are formed as a result), the properties of compounds (there are even more of them than there are elements). And most importantly, how to remember the reactions (because many of them are intuitively unpredictable and you just need to remember them), namely, what reacts with what and what substances are formed?
I want to be a doctor, but for this you need to know a lot of chemistry:) Biology is easy for me.

In chemistry, there are many individual properties of elements. For example, what reacts with what and what comes out of it. But there are so many of them that I need a special approach to memorize reactions and other properties, for example, as for numbers there is a system * PAO 00-99, I need the same system for chemistry. For example, I can easily remember (and understand) the reaction:
2Na + F2 = 2NaF, since I have an association for each of the elements and the Naf connection has its own association, but sometimes I come across examples that, when memorized by the same method, require a huge chain of mnemonics, where each sequence of associations is important, and which cannot be forgotten otherwise the reaction will be wrong.
For example:
3SnCl2 + 2Bi (NO3) 3 + 18 NaOH = 3Na2 [Sn (OH) 6] + 2Bi + 6NaCl + 6NaNO3
Let’s just try to memorize the reaction, for this we need to create about 25 images, but for a normal reaction, of which there are a lot in chemistry, this is inappropriate to do.
I want to concretize my question by giving one analogy. There is a special method in memorizing cards “shadow system”, where instead of 2700 pairs of cards, we create images for only 1350 pairs and place them in a special way so that the location method also tells us about the sequence of cards. I thought: "what if we create a technique approximately with the same memorization system, where instead of 17 images with correct encoding, we will need, for example, 3-5 images. And when I saw any C2H3NaO2, I didn’t have to create 4 images for elements and 3 images for numbers, and I I translated the compound immediately into my special PAO system in chemistry and enjoyed my life as a docktor :slight_smile:
Do you have such a system for chemistry?
How would you memorize such equations?
In organic chemistry, there are long and very branched compounds. How can I remember where the chain is turning (left or right)? How many, for example, CH2 groups and in what order do they stand?
And the last question
How to memorize organic reactions, because there are many repetitive elements in them. Here’s an example:
Cl-CH2-COOH + 2NH3 = NH2-CH2-COOH + NH4Cl

I have an idea how to create such a system PAO, but it is not fully thought out. I am ready to listen to your ideas and additions. In my technique, I don’t know how to deal with the coefficients before compounds. And what to do with inorganic compounds.
Let’s take any element. S - sulfur. Now let’s take the numbers that most often will stand at the index of this element - 2,3,4. Number 2 is coded with the letter T, number 3 with the letter P. Thus, the connection of ST and SP, we will come up with a new word: STAR - S2 and SOAP- S3. Then we can create action and something else for this technique. And then we can do other things of the same kind.


Hi @Melfstin, I’m sympathetic with science students because of the scope of information to be learned. But it’s not what I studied and tend to stay more general topic oriented for mnemonic work.

But I can point you to the best document I’ve found for the sciences, with chapters on chemistry and biochemistry that will hopefully give you tips on how to build your memory skills.

This 143-page PDF, Mnemonics Devices in Science, by Małgorazata Krzeczkowska has additionally collected mnemonic examples from biology, physics, astronomy, geography, and mathematics and is free to download.

Enjoy your studies and your future life as a medical doctor!


wow. cool resource! @thinkaboutthebible

@Melfstin I will chime in with advice tomorrow (Monday). I am a chemist (of sorts) and used to tutor. I’ll have some ideas you can use.

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Organizing Palaces by Reagents

I suggest keeping similar classes of reactions in either the same room or the same palace. Sort of like the “memory-town” idea of Dominic O’Brien. (In which he puts foreign words of one gender in one town, and the other gender in another town). For example, put all the ketone reaction in one zone, and all the halide reaction in another room, and so on. This will make organize synthesis easy, because you just look in the appropriate room for what you need.

For inorganic and general chemistry

  • You can create a palace with ~ 100 rooms for the periodic table.
  • Select the most important element and store the reaction in that element’s room. If you need to break ties between two seemingly equally important elements use IUPAC naming rules to help.

Reusing PAO

If you have a PAO you can reuse it for elements. Just add a symbolic visual tag to indicate that the PAO is an element. You can further simplify by using just the person. For example, you could say that any PAO character that’s partially wrapped up in aluminum foil represents an element. So
to recall 2H2 + 1O2 → H2O, I would first drop the quantities, since that’s easy to calculate. That leaves: H2 + O2 → H2O. Let’s say plus is a Punch to the face and Yields is a lightening bolt zap.

Which in PAO would be

01 person holding 02 object PUNCHES THE FACE OF ( 06 person holding O2 object ALL OF WHOM are OBLITERATED BY A LIGHTENING BOLT to reveal 01 Person holding 02 object standing next to 06 person who is empty handed. I hope that gives an idea.

Ad Renum

Try as much as possible to limit your self what you’re attempting to memorize using these methods. Try to use lists instead of “inner writing” with all the verbose details.

To save effort:

  • First, memorize the keywords you need
  • When doing your homework, mentally visit the memory station with the relevant keyword once you’ve answered a question
  • Mentally form a link between your homework answer and the space. (This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to create more crazy mnemonic imagery. You could just think, “this answer belongs in this room”)
  • You probably rarely need to memorize specific balanced reactions. It’s more likely
    that you need to learn the skill of balancing any reaction. Do a lot of practice problems. It’s related to solving a system of linear equations. So review that algebra. If you know linear algebra you can do it all in one go.)


  • You can walk through your palaces, and quiz yourself
  • You can walk through your palaces and ask questions about how the different keywords relate (elaboration-interrogation). For example, why exactly does a ketone react differently than a aldehyde? Or perhaps, why does Iodine work better for halide exchange than Chlorine?

I hope that helps. If you get stuck, start smaller and get practicing. Like what can you do with the skills you have now?

I am a high school student, and while I am new to this forum I think the following tips would be quite useful for any chemistry beginner:

3SnCl2 + 2Bi (NO3) 3 + 18 NaOH = 3Na2 [Sn (OH) 6] + 2Bi + 6NaCl + 6NaNO3

Chemical reactions are much easier to memorise once you get rid of all those stoichiometric constants (the number that tell how many of the molecules are reacting) like @moo said. Balancing reactions is easy once you practice it on sufficiently many examples.
Also, in inorganic reactions noticing which elements are getting reduced and which ones are getting oxidised is a good habit and helps remember the reactions easily. You’ll begin to notice that certain molecules are very stubborn and tend to behave in a similar manner in almost all reactions.

Have you studied the IUPAC nomenclature rules of organic compounds? You can draw the structure easily if you remember the name of the compound - you need not learn where the chain “turns”, the order, etc., all that information is given in the name itself.

You don’t memorize organic reactions, you UNDERSTAND them. Taking a very basic example that I assume you would already have studied, consider the hydrogenation of alkenes using H2 in the presence of Nickel or a similar metal at a high temperature. You do not need to remember
CH2CH2 + H2 in the presence of Nickel + Heat → CH3CH3
CH3CH2CH2 + H2 in the presence of Nickel + Heat → CH3CH2CH3
as separate reactions if you understand what is actually going on (i.e. the reaction mechanism).

I guess you have not been taught a lot of reaction mechanisms and reagents yet which is why you had to ask this question. Once I understand WHY what each reactant and reagent behaves in a particular way, I find it easy to remember reactions. You may consider using something basic like spaced repetition (e.g. an Anki deck) to learn reagents and named reactions, but focus on the functional groups involved in reactions instead of the whole molecules as molecules may change but as long as the functional group remains unaffected, reactions will be similar.
masterorganicchemistry[dot]com is a very good website and probably has free articles on whatever reactions you need to study. Use it to understand the reaction mechanisms. Also practising a lot of organic syntheses from a good textbook is also extremely helpful.

How long do you think it would take an absolute beginner to make and fill up a memory palace of about 25 rooms?

Well, a card deck has 52 items. The first time I tried to memorize a deck of cards took me 1 hour. So it’ll probably take you something like 30 minutes.

Uh, 30 minutes per room or for the whole palace?
I see that my previous question was rather vague. To elaborate, in each room, I intend to store 20-30 reactions grouped by elements or families of the periodic table. How long would it take for me to store such information there reliably?

Here is how to know approximately for yourself. Memorize just 5 things, in one sitting. Say that is time t in minutes.

5 things / t = things per minute. Now this is your rate (r). Take number of things you have to memorize and multiply by r. That’ll give you an approximation.

As you use these skills you’ll get faster and faster. People can memorize a deck of cards (after lots of practice) in just minutes. You will get faster with effort.

The key is to get started. Start with the skills you have, where you are. It’ll only get better.

That’s my advice.

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I see, thanks!

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