How to Memorize the Names of the US Presidents

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Our brains will only retain information if we "feed it in" in a certain way. Most people cannot remember things if they try to soak in too much at one time. In 1956, a psychologist named George A. Miller came up with the concept that our brains can’t handle memorizing things in chunks bigger than seven to nine items.

This didn’t mean we humans couldn’t remember lists longer than seven items long; it meant that to remember lists, we should break them down into chunks. Once we’ve memorized items in shortlists, our brains can put the chunks of lists together for one big long list. The method of memorizing is called chunking.

For this reason, it is necessary to break down the list of presidents and memorize the names in chunks of up to nine.

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The First 8 Presidents

Begin memorizing by remembering this list of the first eight presidents. To remember any group of presidents, you might want to employ a mnemonic device, such as a silly little statement that helps you remember the first letters of each name. For this exercise, we’re going to use a silly story made of silly sentences.

  1. George Washington
  2. John Adams
  3. Thomas Jefferson
  4. James Madison
  5. James Monroe
  6. John Quincy Adams
  7. Andrew Jackson
  8. Martin Van Buren

The letters that represent the last names of these presidents are W, A, J, M, M, A, J, V. One silly sentence to help you remember this sequence is:

  • Wilma and John made merry and just vanished.

Keep repeating the list in your head and write it down a few times. Repeat this until you can write the entire list easily by memory.

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Group 2

Have you memorized those eight? Time to move on. Our next presidents are:

  1. William Henry Harrison
  2. John Tyler
  3. James K. Polk
  4. Zachary Taylor
  5. Millard Fillmore
  6. Franklin Pierce
  7. James Buchanan

Try memorizing on your own and then, if it is helpful, use another silly sentence as a mnemonic device. The saga of Wilma and John continues with H, T, P, T, F, P, B:

  • He told people they’d found perfect bliss.
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Group 3

The next presidents’ names start with L, J, G, H, G, A, C, H.

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. Andrew Johnson
  3. Ulysses S. Grant
  4. Rutherford B. Hayes
  5. James A. Garfield
  6. Chester A. Arthur
  7. Grover Cleveland
  8. Benjamin Harrison

Try this if you're into the silly saga of John and Wilma:

  • Love just got him good and consumed him.

Try to memorize the list first, without using a mnemonic sentence. Then use your sentence to check your memory. Otherwise, you're just going to end up with a fuzzy, scandalous notion about John and Wilma stuck in your head, and that won't do you much good in class!

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Group 4

The next chunk of presidential names begins with C, M, R, T, W, H, C, H, R.

  1. Grover Cleveland
  2. William McKinley
  3. Theodore Roosevelt
  4. William Howard Taft
  5. Woodrow Wilson
  6. Warren G. Harding
  7. Calvin Coolidge
  8. Herbert Hoover
  9. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Crazy man, really. That Wilma had captured him romantically!
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Group 5

The next group of presidents contains seven names and letters: T, E, K, J, N, F, C.

  1. Harry S. Truman
  2. Dwight D. Eisenhower
  3. John F. Kennedy
  4. Lyndon Johnson
  5. Richard Nixon
  6. Gerald Ford
  7. James Earl Carter
  • Today, everyone knows John never found comfort.
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Group 6

Rounding out our American Presidents are R, B, C, B, O, T, and B.

  1. Ronald Wilson Reagan
  2. George H. W. Bush
  3. William J. Clinton
  4. George W. Bush
  5. Barack Obama
  6. Donald Trump
  7. Joe Biden
  • Really, bliss can be overrated, tiring, boring.

To help you glue all the shortlists together, remember the number of names in each list by remembering that there are six lists.

The number of names in each list are 8, 7, 8, 9, 7, 5. Keep practicing these small "chunks" of information and, like magic, they'll all come together as one list!

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "How to Memorize the Names of the US Presidents." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Fleming, Grace. (2021, February 16). How to Memorize the Names of the US Presidents. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "How to Memorize the Names of the US Presidents." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).