Question: how to remember the periodic table?

Keywords: , ,

  1. Hmm, I have to admit that I don’t remember the periodic table. I just look it up when I need to use it.

    It’s been a long time since I needed to remember the periodic table for a test. But when I did need to learn it for tests, I remember making up a song which said all the elements in order. I can’t remember what song I copied though – you could use any song you like!


  2. Well I’m a chemist and I don’t remember it. You don’t need to – you can always look it up.

    The important thing is to study why it has the structure it does, and what the different areas mean. Why are metals like metals, why is helium a gas, why is uranium radioactive, why is all life made from carbon? These are the deep and meaningful questions that are interesting.

    Just this VERY AFTERNOON I was talking with someone I work with about copper and zinc. We have made a molecule that shines brightly when it comes into contact with zinc, and goes dark when it comes into contact with copper. I knew that copper and zinc were similar, but we had to check the P Table to be sure that they were right next to each other. The chemistry is different, but they only differ by a single electron. The cool thing is working out what’s going on with the molecule, not remembering the table.

    To be honest my wife can recite more of the periodic table than I can, and she’s not a scientist. 🙂


  3. I used to remember about the first 50 elements when I was studying Chemistry in my final year at school, but now I can only recite about the first 8!

    There’s not much need for you to remember the periodic table as you should be able to look it up anytime you need it. It’s a bit like your times tables, helpful to know if you’re using them a lot.


  4. As Matt wrote: I’m a chemist and I don’t remember it. I probably remember about 40 or 50 elements, because those are the ones that are relevant to what I teach. It is a bit like sporting teams. A real sports fan or someone involved in the sport might remember all the players in a few teams. A rugby team has 15 players (or 16 or 17 if you include the substitutes). So a keen fan who remembers 7 or 8 teams, knows about 100 players, which is equivalent to knowing the whole periodic table.

    So yes it is very possible to remember the whole table but most scientists do not. I use silly rhymes and songs to help me. For example group 18 has the pattern e, e, r, r, n (He, Ne, Ar, Kr, Xn). For some reason that pattern of sounds worked for me. In years 10 -12, I had a really good English teacher who tauht us to appreciate Shakespeare’s poems and plays. So I used the non-sense Hamlet Be Nasty, Mighty King of Cawdor (to remember H, Li, Be, Na, Mg, K, Ca). You will need your own pattern or rhyme or song. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else, only to you.



  1. As the resident chemist, let me chip in. You DON’T need to remember it. That’s why we write it down. What’s really important is that when you study chemistry you understand WHY it has the shape it does. That’s the important thing. It’s like a pack of cards. Who cares what the order is, so long as you know how to play a game of cards.


  2. Hey, I’m a chemist too!! You do not need to remember the periodic table. Not ever. There is A LOT of information crammed into that table like groups of metals, non-metals, things that are kind of like metals and non-metals as well at things that go bang.

    The important thing is to know how the Periodic Table is arranged and know where groups of elements are, like the non-metals are on the right side. The long bit in the middle are a group of transition metals that have really neat chemistry and do all sorts of things that break some of the “rules” just because they can.

    Once you know why and how the Periodic Table is arranged, you can get all sorts of information from it like what two things can react and what won’t. To be honest, right now, I would struggle to fill in the first 20 elements of the Periodic Table and I’m okay with that. Some people might see that as a failure in a chemist but recalling the exact locations of elements on the Periodic Table isn’t a good measure of knowing how to use chemistry.