Several people have said that the key to understanding chemistry is through memorizing the periodic table.

I want to ask if there is a simple technique to learn it, or if I just have to remember every element as it is?

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    $\begingroup$ What would a high school student need to do with Lutetium?! $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Feb 6, 2015 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ Anyone who says that the key to chemistry is memorizing the periodic table is either messing with you very confused. I've never written a chem exam where the periodic table was not given, even if it was not needed (read biochem). Having said that, if you want to take the time to learn the periodic table by all means go ahead, but it's really not necessary to set time aside for it. You'll learn it over time anyways. $\endgroup$
    – wes3449
    Feb 6, 2015 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ I teach high school chemistry, and a number of my students have this idea for some reason; I'm not sure where it comes from, honestly. Learning the name and symbol of common elements (through krypton, let's say, and a few of the better known ones like silver, gold, mercury, lead, and such beyond that) is useful, but it isn't necessary for understanding chemistry. Understanding periodicity and the reason why the periodic table is the way it is is useful. Memorizing The Elements is fun... $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2015 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ That is a terrible advice. Learn how to read it, that is all you need. $\endgroup$
    – Greg
    Aug 28, 2015 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ I was expected to know it at least to plutonium for my University final examination (Oxford, a few decades back). Once you've got to that level it's pretty easy to work it out from knowing the chemistry of the elements and from years of experience except for the Lanthanides which, Ce, Eu, and Yb excepted I had to memorize. At school I can see no point in this exercise. $\endgroup$
    – Ian Bush
    Oct 8, 2016 at 7:15

8 Answers 8


There isn't really much sense in memorizing the periodic table. The elements you often use you will know them by heart after a while. And you can always use a table when you need it for the others.

That being said if you really want to do it, mnemonics are probably the best solution to memorizing the whole table. You can find some here :


or here :


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    $\begingroup$ Tom Lehrer had a pretty catchy song... $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 6, 2015 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @JonCuster Yes, but they aren't in sequence. $\endgroup$
    – badjohn
    Jan 17, 2018 at 8:40

You can memorize the periodic table in one night, simply by emulating best-practice memorization techniques and doing what memory experts do. Common sense, right?

Memory experts and world champion memory ‘athletes’ activate the enormous natural power of their visual memory by using visualization and association mnemonic techniques.

That’s a fancy way of saying they create mental pictures and link them together in their mind. It’s incredibly simple but amazingly fast and effective.

Watch YouTube’s #1 “How to Memorize” video and you’ll probably amaze yourself with how easily you can remember and recall 15 random words in order, using one of these techniques.

The foundation technique most memory experts use is the Method of Loci (or Memory Palace or Journey Method). Think of a particular journey you take every day, and picture certain locations along the way.

For example, imagine leaving home in the morning and travelling to work or school. You might walk out your front door, through the front gate, and get on a bus.

At each location you visualize an object that represents what you’re trying to remember. Because the chemical elements themselves can be difficult to visualize, you substitute them with an object that you will naturally associate or link to the element itself.

For example, ‘hydrogen’ sounds similar to ‘hydrant’, so when you visualize a hydrant sitting at your front door, you’ll be prompted to remember ‘hydrogen’. When you picture a large helium balloon tied to your front gate, you’ll remember helium. And when your bus begins talking with a ‘lithp’ (how people with a lisp pronounce ‘lisp’), you’ll be prompted to recall lithium.

These established memory techniques have been proven by over 50 years of academic research in fields like cognitive psychology. Google ‘memory palace’ or ‘world memory champion’ and you’ll discover they’re the fastest and most effective methods to memorize a deck of playing cards and a lot of other geeky things.

The method used in the video above is called the Link and Story Method, and is based on the same principles of visualization and association. The weakness of this method compared to the Memory Palace is the amount of time it takes to create the (intentionally) bizarre and crazy story to link all the words (or chemical elements) together.

But all the work has already been done for you at How to Memorize the Periodic Table. This animated video course is the fastest way to memorize the periodic table because it uses best-practice visual memory techniques.

All the mental images and association links described above have already been created, and transformed into engaging whiteboard animation videos. You just need to sit back and watch, and let the amazing natural power of your visual memory do its thing.

What about other techniques?

Most other methods people suggest to memorize the periodic table rely on verbal memory, but don’t activate the enormous power of your visual memory.

Flashcards or equivalent apps are convenient but don’t provide an association or link between chemical element names, meaning they rely on rote memorization. Repetition by itself is not meaningful, takes an unnecessarily long time and effective retention is low.

Acronyms and acrostics are ‘first letter mnemonics’. You could use the acronym HHeLiBeBCNOF (pronounced ‘heeliebeb kernoff’) to remember the first nine elements. It's a nonsense word, but it condenses nine names into one mental prompt or cue.

Or the acrostic “Here He Lies Beneath Bed Clothes, Nothing On, Feeling Nervous” would equate to H He Li Be B C N O F Ne.

Acronyms chunk words together, which is good (even if they are nonsense) and acrostics use more meaning, but either way you'll only have the first letter or two to remind you of each element's full name. That's tough for 118 elements!

The first letter cues don’t prompt you enough to recall the complete element name, so acronyms and acrostics can be great for the first 20 elements, but not for all 118.

Songs are also popular, whether you’re a fan of Tom Lehrer or ASAP Science. A catchy tune gives better association and meaning than acronyms and acrostics, but you still have to rely on bucketloads of repetition. They’re a great way to make repetition fun, but songs only tap into your verbal memory, not your powerful visual memory.

Bottom line, you should play to your natural strengths. Your brain loves pictures. And that makes visual memory techniques 10X more powerful than verbal memory techniques (like songs and acronyms) to memorize the periodic table.


Trying to learn chemistry by memorizing the periodic table is pretty superficial. I would recommend learning chemistry by doing chemical reactions. Make plastics, mix acids and bases (correctly please), ask your self why milk curdles, try to light water on fire and then ask yourself why it doesn't work even though it is made of hydrogen and oxygen.

Look at calcite and notice that it splits text on a page into two. Why is ruby red? Why is the sky blue? Can you make blue smoke the same way? Everything that grabs your attention is valid, and pay enough attention to safety so that you don't blow up/poison yourself before you know enough chemistry to do things safely naturally.

Curiosity is the only way to learn chemistry, so enjoy it.

One day you will wake up and realize you know most of the periodic table. Then you will probably memorize the rest, or the useful pieces because you can't resist it, and that is totally fine. As long as it doesn't take you away from melting plastic with acetone (under a fume hood.)


There are a couple of elements you'll want to really get to know, but other than that there's no real reason to memorize the periodic table. To me, memorizing the periodic table sounds like a quick way to hate chemistry.

I recommend getting to know a few things about

  • Hydrogen
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen
  • Fluorine
  • Sulfur
  • Chlorine
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Bromine

Really the best thing to learn about those is how many bonds they make and what they tend to bond with. These are the elements that I most often see on exams and in examples since they're used in a lot of textbook reactions.

For the other elements, just get a feel for where they are on the periodic table so you can quickly look them up. This is especially helpful during exams. As you're taking chemistry courses, you'll notice you'll REALLY learn how to find your way around the periodic table and start memorizing the molar masses of various elements.

I highly recommend just looking up each element (this will take a lot of time) on Wikipedia or checking out the book, "The Elements." That way, you can kind of get to know elements and if you're really wanting to nerd out, you might even find that you have favorites.


Go to this website and click on "Sitemap" in the almost left upper corner, then select "Spiele" (which means "Games") and then "Tetris". Have fun playing Tetris with the periodic table!

The key to understand chemistry is not by memorising the periodic table. It is more like the language of chemists, but not its understanding. The key to understand chemistry is logic and the realisation that chemistry is not black and white but an interplay of many factors.


I think those people meant the important ones. Try to remember the first 20 elements and some useful that you often study in school like iron, silver, bromine, etc...

But since you really want to remember the whole periodic table of elements, try searching for the "asapscience new periodic" song on youtube. I found it useful for remembering the elements in order.


You could print out a blank periodic tables and fill them in one column (group) at a time. You will be surprised at how quickly you can memorize the whole periodic table. By initially filling the periodic table in by group you will learn to associate the elements of each group together. The "periodic" part of the periodic table is the fact that the elements of a given group tend to have similar chemical properties. So the reason it might be helpful to memorize the periodic table is that it helps you quickly associate any element with its group and therefor its chemical behavior.


I read all the answers by experts, but I'm also a student and have the same interest as you.

I would suggest going on YouTube and using it to discover your own rhyme or trick. Be patient, look for patterns in their names, and find a meaningful rhyme that will be easy for you to remember.

Doing this on your own has the benefit of you remembering it. You did all the work in creating your mnemonic. The work you put forth in doing this makes it a much better method than learning a trick from others.


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