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How To Memorize Dates or Names In History

I believe most students would agree that studying history would have been much more enjoyable if you did not have to memorize a long list of dates when important events occurred and the names of prominent historical figures.

While learning what our ancestors got up to centuries ago is undoubtedly interesting memorizing their names and dates when they did something remarkable is what you need to do if you want to be successful in passing the history exam.

The problem is that many students find this quite challenging, and, as a result, some of them go off history altogether. If you are one of those students then I have some good news for you; there are some techniques you can use to memorize the dates and names easier!

Want to know what they are? Well then keep reading!


Top tips and tricks for memorizing history dates and names.

There are many different ways the student can memorize historical dates and names; below we have compiled the techniques we believe to be the best. You don’t have to use all of these techniques; feel free to experiment a bit and choose the ones that work best for you.

1. Simplify the dates by splitting up the numbers.

If you are trying to memorize several dates from the same century you might not even need to memorize the first two digits. For example, if you need to memorize the dates for several events that occurred in the 20th century then you already know that the first two digits will be 19 in all cases; now all you need to do is memorize the last two digits.

Try to create a mental association between the event and the last two numbers of the date. Simply put, recalling two numbers is way easier than recalling four.

2. Use math to your advantage.

Mathematics and history may seem to be two different subjects, but when it comes to memorizing dates, your prowess in addition and subtraction can be of great help.

Hypothetically speaking, if you remember the date when one event occurred instead of memorizing the date for the second event you can pay attention to how many years later or earlier it happened. For example, world war one lasted for four years so if you already know that it started in 1914 the answer to when it ended would be 1914+4.

The Method of Loci : This is a famous technique that you can use to memorize dates easier. All you need to do is imagine please with which you are very familiar i.e. your home or your school. Then try to attach different numbers to parts of that location.

For example, you can visualize your TV with a giant Number 17 on it and the sofa next to the TV with the number 76 painted on the cushion. Associating these numbers with familiar objects will make them easier to remember. And voila! Now you know the year when the American Declaration of Independence was signed.

3. Write it down with a colorful pen or pencil.

Researchers have suggested that our brain has an easier time memorizing numbers and letters if they’re written down in an unusual font or with the use of color. So if you have a bunch of colored pencils stored away in your drawer, now is the time to dust them off. Simply take a piece of paper and use one specific color to write down one date or name several times in a row. You can even use your non-dominant hand to make the experience even more memorable.

4. Incorporate the dates and names into your drawings.

If you like doodling and you have to memorize a bunch of historical dates and names before the test why not combine these two activities?

Draw something that is thematically connected to the date or the name and incorporate them into your drawing. The more unusual and colorful your drawings are, the more memorable they will be.

5. Say it (or sing it) out loud.

When it comes to memorizing dates and names, your sense of hearing is a powerful ally, so you should use it to your advantage. Simply saying the date/name out loud clearly can make a lot of difference.

You will do even better if you sing it out loud to your favorite tune. If you are musically gifted, you can even make up your own song using the narrative of the historical event, the dates, and names as lyrics.

6. Rhyming words.

Alternatively, if you’re good at poetry and rhyming, there is no reason why you can’t use those skills to memorize historical data better.

For example, one of the sentences all American school children are familiar with is "in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue". As you have probably guessed, rhyming "two" and "blue" makes the date easier to remember.

7. Associate the numbers with something or someone you already know well.

You can create associations with real-life people and events. Perhaps one of your favorite football players is wearing a shirt with either number 10 or 7 on the back and those numbers just happen to be the last digits of the date you were trying to memorize. By associating that person with the event you will be able to memorize the date easier.

Need tips for Secondary 4 History? Check out our blog post "7 Useful Tips on How to Score A1 for O level History"


Overall, you are trying to engage as many of your senses as possible to create various relationships with the dates. The more variety and different materials you use to engage with the dates, the easier it will be to commit them to memory and fish them out whenever you need them.

And, of course, just like with every other subject, one of the most important components for success in history is persistence. If you can’t achieve the desired results immediately, do not despair.

Have a break, get a private history tutor to help you, switch to a different method, and try again later.

Read also:
5 myths about learning history debunked!
8 Revision Tips for A-level History
Why Study Art History?

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.