Guide to memorizing PAO/PA system for beginners (like me)

Hi all,

Thought I’d write a little guide to help beginners memorize their PAO/PA systems because after taking the time to build my PAO I got a little overwhelmed with the task of learning it as I found it difficult to make in the first place and time consuming. I thought it would take ages to memorize and put it into action, so I sat down and thought about it and ended up learning it and putting it into action in just 5 hours (2 hours a day for 2 days and 1 hour on the 3rd day for review) and thought this may help some people who are facing the same difficulties.

A big THANK YOU to Dai Griffiths with his support and help since I started out and giving me the idea on how to do this.

Ok, before you start you need to have your PAO/PA system built and know your system pretty well for converting the numbers into letters, weather it be Major System or Dominic or whatever so make sure you have that done.

To start with your going to make a 100 loci journey to place your PAO/PA in and number them from 1-100 for easy recall (this will not affect your system as its just an easy way to recall your journey). You must NOT use this journey for anything else but the system so don’t go recycling it.

The way did this was break the journey into groups of 5 loci so it was easy to make and make every 5th point stand out in my mind for easy recall and to help me jump to stops on my journey easier. I used Rhodes new town and old town as my journey for a few reasons. Firstly, Greece in the home of Mnemonics, and secondly I like the idea of all the shops, bars ect being open fronted so I could walk along the streets in my head and look into my loci along the way with plenty of space to place them.

Once you have your journey made take a little time during the day recalling points at random (thats where numbering them comes in), backwards, forwards, number groups, anyway you feel like until you feel you know the journey well. I was working very long night shifts when I did this so while I was at work I just took a few spare minutes to walk parts of my journey and flip from point to point. made my night go faster too ;O)

the next day make sure you have about 2 hours free and, if like me a few of the people on your PAO/PA are not that strong an image, make sure your next to your computer, tablet.

Now your going to place your Images for your person, action and object along your journey, but your only going to do the first 50. The way I did this was do 10 at a time (doing it in groups of 10 also helped me come across any actions that where the same and correct them along the way), so first stop on my journey I place Steven Seagal - Goosing-Panda ( I use the major system for the names and arbitrary actions and objects related to that person in some way). Place that person at the first loci, picture them doing the action and picture the object. once you have 10 do a review in your head then mess about with it a little (backwards, forward ect). On your last review of the 10 go through them again, but make the letters that correspond with your system stand out clearly when you review it. repeat this process till you have your first 50 Loci filled and do a full review then bugger off and make a coffee, you deserve it!

During the day/night just mess around with this in your head, again jumping at random to different loci and recalling the person-action-(object) that is related to them. Before you go to bed go through your whole journey and make the letters stand out in your head again that relate to your system.

next day do a quick review before you do the next 50. If you have any problems recalling certain people at a loci, don’t worry, you just haven’t made the link to that Loci strong enough so get your list and place them again and maybe make them interact with the Loci and object a little better in your head.

Do the same as you did for your first 50 and don’t forget to mess around with it through the day, its fun and helps and before you go to bed, recall the 50 you just learned before you go to bed, again making each letter of your system stand out.

OK, last bit. When your up and about next day recall the whole journey again and make the letters of the system stand out again. do it a few times if you like. take a break, print of some random numbers and get using your newly memorized PAO/PA ;O)

Hope this helps.


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Quizlet dot com, make flash cards, they have flash card games with your cards that are more effective than the cards themselves.

thanks for the post.

This was not meant to sound like a Definitive guide to do this by the way. It just posted this because I thought it may help someone if they are stuck like I was. It worked a treat for me and it helped me get strong images for my PAO without any real strain. I could have done it a lot faster but I took my time over a few days because I’m going to be using this for a long time so I wanted it planted firmly in my mind.


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I used Anki for mine. I didn’t use MS or DS for my 00-99 PAOs, so instead I organized my numbers more or less in sets of 10, then used Anki from there. So:
00-09 are people I like: family, friends, etc
10-29 are miscelaneous semi-famous people and a few movie characters (Steve Jobs, Peter Pan, Einstein, Newton, Michael Jordan, etc)
30-39 are Lord of the Rings characters (Gandalf, Pippin, Witch King, Sam, etc)
40-49 are movie characters (ET, Captain Hook, Katniss, Spiderman)
50-59 are actors, movie characters, general characters, and so on (Lewis and Clark, Santa, Thumper, etc)
60-67 are movie characters (Tin Man, Charlie Chaplin, Maximus, Donkey)
68-89 are Star Wars characters - yes, I’m a big SW fan (Han, Leia, Jabba, Boba, C3PO, Yoda, etc)
90-99 are Harry Potter characters (Harry, Ron, Voldemort, etc)

So 5 of my sets of 10 are specific groups, which made it a lot easier to remember. I did use the Major system some when I was grouping things within the sets of 10 so it would be easier. Like 76. I know that that’s a SW character and 6 represents the J/CH sound, so I can know that it is Chewbacca. Anki helped a ton though.

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Hi Ickathu,

I’m new to this forum, but am really enjoying reading about peoples methods and experiences with mnemonics.

I like your system, you have broken down a pretty sizeable task into nice simple pieces. I have 1-100 using the major system and am using PO for cards but have not tried the dominic system yet for numbers. I might try it now using a breakdown similar to yours.

Best regards,


Ickathu, I also have Anki, it’s a great program and another similar program that is also a great flashcard program is Mnemosyne, referred to as the mnemosyne project. Mnemosyne is the Greek Goddess of memory however, for anyone that is new, I would recommend not using such programs when they start out. but, only where the goal is to improve memory.

The reason I say this is because of the fact that they are flashcard programs. Flashcards are great for learning and I have ever respect for them so, I do recommend you use them but, in the same breath, when it comes to memory, a flashcard system will not ‘teach’ you. This is particularly important for Seamagu that commented last, being new.

Seamagu, these flashcards are great for assisting you as a newcomer as well as memory experts in identifying the things that do not work so well. They make things you can’t remember recur. They eliminate the things that are familiar so, you’re concentration and time is on the things you can’t remember. You don’t need them to start out.

If you were to go on a medical website, you will find some of them have built in flash card programs for doctors in training. This is good and it does work. It works really well and helps them remember complicated sounding medical terminology.

I love flashcard programs and I don’t want you to think I am saying anything bad about them. I think they are fantastic. However, they are intended for someone that already knows about the subject or want to learn a subject that has an interest and some existing knowledge.

But ! If you are new to the subject, especially the subject of memory then, it is not the best place to start. In this case, they are a tool to help you advance from where you already are.

A flashcard program is based on conditioning based upon repetition and familiarity. Over a time, you will learn because the program will recognize what you understand and what you don’t understand so, it will help you when you are stuck but, the way such programs do it is by ‘repetition’ of the things you can’t remember.

The things you can’t remember are always the least familiar. This happens regardless of the subject matter. Repetition will take place only for the things you are not so good at.

This will become the same as learning something ‘parrot fashion’ and it kind of defeats the object of perfecting your memory if you use them s a beginner since, the subject to a beginner is new. By definition, new information is unfamiliar and even expert memory people memorize things that are always familiar.

The important thing here is knowing the difference. Learning how to memorize is about knowing how to make things familiar. Not by parrot fashion but by learning how to do it once. At memory competitions, there is no parrot fashion involved. Something is either ‘known’ and therefore familiar or, it is unknown, therefore it is unfamiliar.

Knowing how to make something familiar is the key. The most efficient way to do this is, as strange as it may sound, is to do it in your head. Computer programs are not in your head. It is the computer.

Writing things down is useful as are computers but, to remember something, the most important factor is knowing how to make the information stick in you memory.

There are some factors than are more important than others in doing this.

World Memory Champion Dominic O’Brien frequently refers to the word ASSOCIATION.

Association in this sense is using what you already remember to help you remember more. When I say familiar, the word familiar means the same thing. All your memories are familiar to you. All my thoughts are familiar to me. I can make an association with something familiar.

Location: Every memory you have ever had, has taken place somewhere. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a false memory and you only imagined something. You were somewhere and your mind was somewhere, even if it was an imaginary place. Not necessarily the same place but, there was at least one location.

Movement: Our natural defences make movements grab our attention. It’s instinct. We need to take a glance at things to check if we are safe. It’s been so ingrained since we were cavemen that, even in the safest of places, movement will make you concentrate.

There are plenty of other things, like colours of dangerous animals, out of tune sounds, like distress, that we are also conditioned to pay attention to over thousands of years and they all add up to memory improvement.

The reason they all add up to memory improvement is survival. If you can’t remember something that is important to memory, there’s a good chance it will cost you your life. You, me and other animals.

You are alive so, chances are, you have a good memory but, haven’t fine tuned it yet.

By far the most important of these is the location. If a caveman went to a place and there was a tiger, he would certainly remember it. The brain is constantly assessing our location. It even reviews them when we sleep in an attempt to check if we need to make it a permanent memory and scan for things we may have overlooked under duress. The location may still be a good source of food but, we need to remember how to find the food and also how to avoid the tiger.

If something is important to survival then, it’s probably good for memory. Most people have never memorized the layout of the food shop but, when asked, the same people that will tell you how bad their memory is, will be able to take you directly to the item of food that you suggest to them at the market.

Things in nature that represent threats are memorable. They are colour coded as well, just like the tiger. You certainly wouldn’t forget a snake in your kitchen if it were a red and black striped snake.

Walk to the edge of a cliff and get sudden vertigo because you didn’t expect the sudden drop, you will remember it.

Expressions on people’s faces are also extremely memorable. It’s the first thing we learn. To trust the face of our mother when we are born. We are good at faces then and learn it fast, then, as our mother is family therefore her face is familiar, we compare that trustworthy face, on which our life depends, to other faces. The wrong expression is a warning. We remember the person and we remember the location.

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