London Taxi Drivers: Memorizing "The Knowledge"

I found a blog by someone did The Knowledge of London exam. The cab drivers in London have to memorize a huge amount of information – according to the blog, it takes an average of 4.5 years of study before someone can pass the test. Working that job even changes brain structure.

There are 25,000 streets to memorize…

Check out the blog here:

The story is in nine parts:
Part One: A brief history and overview… and my ‘acceptance interview’
Part Two: The Early Stages
Part Three: Learning the Streets by Night…
Part Four: Learning the Streets by Night continued
Part Five: Let the Exams Commence
Part Six: Exams… and a Brain Experiment!
Part Seven: Approaching the End… and a Setback…
Part Eight: Receiving the Coveted Green Badge
Part Nine: Remembering My First Day as a London Cabbie

I haven’t finished reading all of it yet, but it’s very interesting so far…

I do so wish we had those sort of requirements here.

As far as I can tell, the knowledge for a cab driver in Australia is to be able to find where to drop your cab off at the end of shift – and I’m sure many of them bugger that up.

Thanks for the link Josh,
I read it with great pleasure!
I cannot imagine how powerful would be my memory palaces if I had The Knowledge - I’m thinking of replicating it here in Torino (italia) where I live :slight_smile:

Let me know how it goes. :slight_smile:

Nice 3333 posts Josh… Uhh, Mamma Mia!

I found this post as I’ve decided to learn some of “the knowledge”. I’ve ordered the “blue book” of 320 runs which should arrive this week.

For a cabbie, the runs are only a starting point, the aim being to know all the points of interest along each route. These are named buildings, major hotels, hospitals, stations, restaurants, sports venues, museums, theatres, police stations, magistrates/crown courts etc. The candidate should know all the streets and points of interest in quarter of a mile radius of the start and end point of each run. The first part of the knowledge concentrates on the area within a six mile radius of Charring Cross, that’s an area of 113.1 miles! BTW, that blog mentioned in the OP has now changed to be, I mention it in case the redirect fails in the future. This short video shows the incredible street knowledge they have and here’s a student on a typical study run. If you ever get a London black cab you can ask the driver (nicely) to call out the points and he will tell you everything there is to know about the areas you pass through.

The point of this for me is several fold, I want to learn more of London. It’s such a vast city that I haven’t a clue about whole areas. I actually want to use some of the runs as my own memory journeys and here is where I think it will become difficult as I already use various trips as my “palaces”, so to store a journey in a journey could lead to issues, so I need to think of a viable alternative.

I’ll likely tackle it in a number of ways as I think that using different methods to learn the same thing gives me a deeper sense of learning/understanding:

  • I'll pump the routes into Anki - turn by turn for each run. I'll tag the card with the run name.
  • Cloze the runs in Anki.
  • I might look to encode each turn, with an event for left, right, forward, comply and whatever else they use.
  • I will try to use imagery for the real names where appropriate, eg, Crown Street, Copenhagen Street
  • I might want fixed images for:
    • Avenue
    • Crescent
    • Gardens
    • Grove
    • Hill
    • Lane
    • Road
    • Street
    • Terrance
  • I'll probably P.A.O encode the street names where they are difficult to otherwise visualise, using my initials technique that I use to learn lines for recitals.
  • I'll may also encode the entire journey street by street as P.A.O.

I don’t intend to become a cabbie or learn every route and point. I want to end up knowing more of London and eventually use some of the runs as further memory palaces for other stuff I want to remember.

I saw this news item today and thought I’d post it here - seems like there are some calls to get rid of the Knowledge exam, in its current format at least. 25,000 streets, 30,000 landmarks, 320 standard routes. Takes an average of 4 years to prepare for it. Every London back-cab driver has passed the Knowledge test. A remarkable feat of memory.

Here’s a Google map of all 320 runs with points of interest at the beginning and end of each run:

About 30 or 40 years ago, they discovered that the drivers of the famous London black taxis had a specific part of their brain that was much larger than for the rest of us, who drive taxis that are not famous, or not London, or not black, or who don’t drive taxis at all (this doesn’t seem to be coming out the way I intended. I’ll edit it tomorrow - if I remember.)

Anyway I Googled for the info. All I could find was this article, which seems to be all about “posteriors” and “hippopotamuses”.

The annoying feature for me is that if I memorize most of the London routes, I might not be able to memorize many more.

This seems to be because my ability to learn NEW routes will DECREASE with each new route that I learn. If London doesn’t get any bigger, I should be OK.