Rules and events for the 2019 British Columbia Memory Championship

We’re happy to invite you to the 2019 British Columbia Memory Championship, Saturday July 13 2019, starting at 1pm, in the Auditorium of the New Westminster Public Library.

  • You can register by clicking here.
  • You can learn some basic strategies for competing by clicking here. Strategies for the memorization of historical dates will be added to this page soon.
  • You can see some sample disciplines and training tools by clicking here.

This provincial competition is built on a different format than our national memory championship. If you’d like to see the rules and events that will be in place at our next national memory championship, click here instead.

Competitors at the 2019 British Columbia Memory Championship are described below will be tested in 5 different disciplines:

  • 5 minutes Images
  • 5 minutes Names and faces
  • 5 minutes Random words
  • 5 minutes Historical Dates
  • 5 minutes Speed Cards (2 attempts)

Only your 4 best results will be counted. That means that you could if you want choose to avoid practicing one particular event like Speed Cards and still possibly do quite well.

Images, names and faces and random words are all disciplines where, as long as you’re using the right techniques, it’s possible to become quite good in a short amount of time. Historical dates and speed cards are trickier. Here you will need to build a system to quickly convert numbers and cards into images. You can learn about how to build such a system by checking out the “how to remember numbers” and “how to remember cards” sections of this page.

To facilitate the participation of newcomers with little or no previous experience, we’ve decided to allow you to print your number and card system, if you have one, on an 8.5 by 11 inches sheet (front side of the sheet only). You obviously won’t be allowed to write on that sheet, but you’ll be able to look at it as much and use that sheet during both the memorization and recall periods.  A sample pre-made and complete system will also be added to this page during the next few days. You’ll be allowed to print and use this sample system if you don’t want to build and use your own.

The events will happen in the order they are written down below. Whether or not you’ve competed in memory competitions before, we suggest that you take the time to read all the rules because in many cases we’ve changed them in subtle but important ways. Only the images and dates challenges are exactly the same as anywhere else.

1st challenge – 5 minutes IAM Images

You will be shown rows of 5 pictures and you’ll have 5 minutes to memorize as many rows as you can. You will then be shown those same pictures in a different order and you will have 15 minutes to correctly recall as many rows as you can. You get 5 points for each correctly recalled row and you lose 1 point for each incorrectly recalled row. You will indicate the correct order by writing the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 next to each image. There are no penalties for not answering any given row. The same 5 images will always appear on the same row they were in originally, just not in the same order. The images will be the same as those used at the International Association of Memory (IAM) competitions. Images will be printed in color. If you’ve never practiced this challenge before, we suggest you follow some of the methods suggested here.

Warning: Competitors who fail to sign up at least 72 hours in advance might have to use the black and white question and recall sheets.

  • For an example of this challenge, go to, click on “5 min Random Images” and study the sheet for 5 minutes using something else as a timer. Then click on “Recall online” to enter your answers and see your results.
  • You can also open a free account on by following those instructions.
  • Other examples of this challenge can be found here.

2nd challenge – 5 minutes Names and Faces

You will be shown pictures of faces along with their names. You have 5 minutes to memorize as many first and last names as you can. All the faces will then be shown to you again in a different order and you will have 15 minutes to recall what you can. There will be many international names and it will be almost impossible to remember them all, therefore it’s usually a better strategy to focus only on those names you think you will be able to recall. 1 point for each correct first name and 1 point for each correct last name. You can’t earn a point for a name if you wrote it more than once. Important note: On average the names will be more realistic and not quite as difficult as the names presented in most memory competitions. A few photos of non-human faces with goofy names will also be shown. Those should be particularly memorable, but don’t let the absurdity make you lose focus! Click here for an example of what the challenge might look like. Photos will be printed in color.

Warning: Competitors who fail to sign up at least 72 hours in advance might have to use the black and white question and recall sheets.

  • Go to this page for examples of this challenge.
  • You can also go to, click on “5 min Names & Faces” and study the sheet for 5 minutes. Then click on “Recall online” to answer and see your results. You should know however that the names shown on that site are more difficult on average than those you will see at our competitions.
  • For much shorter attempts and a completely different format, an alternative way to train would be to use the website Memory League.

3rd challenge – 5 minutes Random Words

You have 5 minutes (not 10, unlike at our national event) to remember in order as many random words as you can and a maximum of 15 minutes to correctly recall them in order. Words will be presented by rows of 10. To get all your points, you will have to recall everything in the same order.

Corrections rules:

  • 10 points for a row where all 10 words were correctly written down at the right place.
  • Only 5 points if there’s one error or one missing word in an otherwise all correct row.
  • 0 point for rows where there are 2 or more errors or missing words in one row.
  • However, only 1 point is subtracted for what we call “minor mistakes”, a spelling mistake for example. What differentiates a “minor mistake” from an error is explained below.
  • For the very last row that you tried to memorize, you will have one point for each correctly written down word up to the point where you stopped writing. All the penalties explained above will still be applied (minus 5 points for an error or a missing word, minus 1 point for a “minor mistake”), but you won’t be penalized for any missing word after the point where you stopped writing. So if, for example, you wrote the first 7 words of that last row and made one spelling mistake, you will get 6 points for that row.  
  • If a competitor realizes that, for example, he or she wrote all the words from the third row in the second row or vice-versa, he or she can simply correct that mistake with a simple note or an arrow. If the correction is clearly indicated, no penalty will be applied.

Here’s what differentiates an error from a “minor mistake”.

Types of errors (minus 5 points for the row):

  • Any missing word.
  • You wrote a different word than the correct one, even if they mean the same thing. Writing “bicycle” instead of “bike” is an error.
  • You wrote the right word, but not at the right place. However, in cases where two correct words were inverted next to each other, we will count this as just one error instead of two. So if you wrote “chair” and then “angry” instead of “angry” and then “chair”, you will lose 5 points instead of 10.

Types of “minor mistakes” (minus 1 point for the row):

  • Spelling mistakes.
  • The word you wrote is a variation of the same word and it appears in the same entry in the dictionary. “Walk” versus “walking”, “sleep” versus “slept”, “easy” versus “easily” or “memory” versus “memories” for example. The two words need to appear in the same entry in the dictionary. “Improvise” versus “improvisation” may be very similar, but one is a noun and the other is a verb.
  • The word you wrote sounds exactly the same as the correct one, even if its meaning is completely different. “Sea” versus “see” or “canon” versus “cannon” for example.

As you can see correction rules for this event can be harsh. Therefore it might be a better strategy to attempt to memorize 25 or 30 words perfectly than to attempt 40 while making many mistakes here and there.

  • Go to this page for examples of this challenge.
  • You can also go to, click on “5 min Random Words” or “15 min Random Words” and study the sheet for 5 minutes.
  • For much shorter attempts and a completely different format, an alternative way to train would be to use the website Memory League.

4th challenge – 5 minutes Historical Dates

Contestants will be given a list of fictitious historic/future dates with a brief fictional event beside each date. The historic/future dates will range anywhere from 1000-2099. Only years will be used, no days or months.

Those fictitious events may be completely silly like for example:

  • 1759: Cotton candy planet discovered
  • 1098: Monkey learns Shakespeare
  • 2033: Zombie runs for Prime Minister

No events or years will be used more than once but some may be similar to others so pay close attention!

During recall, contestants will be presented with a list of all the fictional events in a completely different order than what was presented during the memorization phase. Contestants will have to write the correct date beside the corresponding fictional event to gain 1 point. ½ a point will be deducted for each incorrect answer. Blank answers are worth 0 points, so it’s better to avoid guessing what you haven’t been able to recall.

5th challenge – 5 minutes Speed Cards

You will have 2 attempts for this discipline, the best of your 2 results is the only one that will count. For each attempt you will have 5 minutes (or less if you are fast) to remember as many cards in order as you can from a shuffled deck of 52 cards. You will then have to take another unshuffled deck (placed in the same order as a brand new deck) and place the cards in the same order as the deck you just memorized. Competitors from the Regular section and kids 13 years old or younger will have 7 minutes to place the cards in the right order, while those from the Advanced section will have only 5 minutes. Depending on your current skill level, your goal will either be to memorize as many cards as you can in 5 minutes or, for the most experienced competitors, to memorize all 52 cards as quickly as possible. If you attempted to memorize the whole deck in less than 5 minutes but you made one or more mistake, for information purposes your attempted time will be noted in the scoreboard, but you will get the same amount of championship points as if you had used all 5 minutes. For everyone who got less than a full deck of cards, we instead use a correction system inspired by Memory League where every correct data counts. So if you memorized 40 cards but made a swapping mistake with the third and the fourth cards, your final score will be 38. But unlike Memory League, we stop counting after 8 consecutive mistakes. And for those cases where the cards end up mostly in the correct order, but not at the correct place (for example because something was forgotten in the beginning and all the rest was displaced), we call this a “displacement mistake” and the competitor can tell us that this accident happened and we will start counting again at any point of his or her choice. A 4 cards penalty to the final result will be applied every time this happened. Everything you needed to know was just explained, but you can check this page if it doesn’t seem clear and you would like to see some examples.

  • You should practice with real cards at least some of the time, but the website Memory League can also be fun to use.

Final overall championship scores calculations

  • Your overall championship score will be calculated by counting solely your best 4 results. 
  • For each challenge, your raw score will be converted into what we call Championship Points (CP). The number of CP for each event will be calculated with a formula where your score is compared to what we call the “national standard”. The “national standard” is based on the best scores that have been obtained in a Canadian competition by local competitors. If you can get close to that, it means you rock. A score superior to the current national standard will be worth more than 1000 CP. If your raw score is half the current national standard, you will receive 500 CP (still a very impressive and honourable result) for this challenge. The national standard will evolve year after year as results keep getting better. You can read all the details related to CP calculations by clicking here.
  • If you manage to obtain the best overall results but you aren’t a resident of British Columbia, we will publicly and clearly applaud your accomplishments, but unfortunately you won’t be allowed to receive the title of British Columbia Memory Champion.