World championship standard competition disciplines

Hi everyone - since it’s harder than it should be to find the rules of memory competitions online, I thought I’d share them here, so I can point people in the right direction if they ask.

Memory competitions come in three varieties - national, international and world standard. They each have ten disciplines, following the same format, but the length of memorisation and recall time varies between the three types of event.

Speed cards traditionally has two trials; so does 5-minute numbers. Spoken numbers has two or three trials, with varying numbers of digits. Your best score from the trials is the only one that counts.

Please post any questions below, and I’ll try to answer them!

These are the disciplines of the world championship standard:


Thanks Ben :slight_smile: Have you discussed with the rest of the IAM board about the possibility of including this on the IAM site?

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Can someone explain, why are scoring systems like these used ? Images, dates, names and faces and speedcards are fine, I understand them. But I don’t understand systems for binary numbers and decimal numbers. Why would you not count the row if there are two mistakes in it ? Those two mistakes have nothing to do with the rest of the row. Also this means that there is a difference between getting four numbers incorrect in one row, and getting two pairs of incorrect numbers in two different rows, which to me doesn’t make sense. Why would it make any difference, whether there are 4 numbers incorrect in one row or in two rows. That also means that someone who uses 2 digit system has an advantage over someone who uses three digit system, since one wrong image for him means mistake in only one row, while for someone who uses three digit system one image wrong spreads over two rows (not always, obviously, but it can happen, for the other person it can’t). Spoken numbers, I think, are the worst. Counting up to the first mistake, basically means that if you accidentally get, for example 10th number wrong, the next 300 that are maybe correct don’t count for anything. That would also mean that someone who memorized first 10 numbers and nothing else beats someone who memorized i.e. 300+ numbers correct, but with one mistake in the beginning. Systems like these are why I really like memory league (that doesn’t use them) and why I’m reluctant to participate in any real life competition, especially considering that there are none in the region that I live in. I don’t want to pay a lot of money to travel somewhere to compete and end up getting results, that I think don’t represent my abilities realistically. I assume that there are reasons behind these systems, but I just can’t help but feel that they can be improved a lot.


Thanks for posting Ben. And yes as Sylle suggested we should probably post those images on the IAM website. IvanMiletic I pretty much 100% agree with you. Promoting accuracy is a worthwhile goal and it’s super cool that many of the current world records were obtained with zero or close to zero mistakes. However, I think those rules are way too harsh for most competitors. Even if you’re good, unless you only aim for 60 or 70% of what you’re capable off, you’re always just one centimetre away from disaster. My understanding is that most of those rules were first chosen in the early 90s, everyone just copied them and now changing the rules would be a huge hassle because of the large number of people and events and organizations and websites and apps involved. Doesn’t mean the rules won’t be changed at some point, but it probably won’t happen tomorrow.


Like Francis says, the rules go right back to the dawn of time (the early 1990s), so at least they have tradition behind them.

In binary, for example, it’s necessary to have some kind of rule to discourage guessing - if you simply got a point for each correct digit, you could write 50000 zeroes and confidently expect a new world record of 25000 or so :smile:

An alternative to the ‘two errors in a row’ rule might be to give +1 point for every correct digit and -1 for every incorrect digit. That would prevent guesswork, but stop competitors losing a lot of points just because they can’t remember one two-digit image in a row of 40.

(Of course, there are problems with that idea too - if you skip a location and write everything one or two boxes too early, you’d end up with a huge negative score!)

I have no idea if there was ever a logical reason behind the spoken numbers rule being different…


Yeah, good point about binary. Binary is a bit tricky, since you only have two options. Maybe something like -1 for every mistake, but keeping the lowest possible score at 0, so you can’t get negative score. Missing locations can completely ruin the score, but I don’t anything can be done about that anyway. If you miss a location, most of the following numbers are simply not gonna be where they should. You couldn’t really go, “if we move all the numbers two spaces backwards it would’ve been this score, so lets count that score”.
But like Francis said, since this has been used for quite some time now, it’s not easy to just completely change all scoring systems. But hopefully they do get changed sometime in the future


I for one think that the format is actually hitting a quite ok balance between letting competitors show off the extent of their memorizing powers and keeping them on their toes with the whole strategy aspect.

At the same time it’s becoming clearer and clearer that there’s a need for a standard beginners’ format in order to get more people interested in the decathlon competitions, except maybe in Asia where it looks like these types of competitions are drawing big crowds.

There are a lot of things that urgently need to be done to get more people into competitions - I think the biggest issue is making people aware that they exist! We need a website that’s beginner-friendly and contains everything you need to know about memory competitions at a glance. And after that, a format for beginner competitions is definitely needed. It’s something that’s been vaguely talked about before, but without any definite ideas.

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