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Can the “memory champion” help you pass RDR exams?

As 2007 US Memory Champion and a Guinness Book of Records memory record breaker, I’m currently working with New Model Business Academy and LV=to bring my learning system to as many IFAs as possible who are studying over the coming two years.  I will show how I can take a group of IFAs through the JO exam, with a pass rate more than 50 per cent higher than the CII average.

I’ve become one of the world’s leading experts on accelerated learning, and have developed a specialised program that will help IFAs pass exams with less study time and lower levels of stress and pressure.

Advisers are working an average of more than 50 hours a week delivering first class bespoke professional service to clients. Yet now they are being asked to do up to 400 hours of study to pass a diploma that they may not even see a need for.

On average, an IFA will take up to two years to do so, failing at least one exam along the way, while losing at least £10,000 in billable income and suffering seriously in work/life balance.

The biggest issue in all this is that you are being told what to learn, but not how to learn it.

IFAs understand the concept of systemising their businesses. Whether it is the admin, compliance or structuring a presentation, organisation is central to doing it effectively. So it is with studying.

I base my learning system on three key areas:

1)   Converting the syllabus into Mind Maps.

2)   Using a 2,500 year old system called The Journey Technique for memorising lists.

3)   Reviewing and revising at the right times in the right way.

1)  Converting the syllabus into Mind Maps

Mind Mapping is a way of taking information and massively reducing the quantity by taking out the fluff. Below is a Mind Map by an IFA who has taken the first three pages of JO2 – 1334 words in total – and reduced them down to just 220 words, while still being able to understand exactly what was being expressed.

With the average number of pages in a JO being 200+ pages – and the new RO1 has 270 pages of material to learn – reducing the amount is not optional.

Mind Mapping also improves recall because it changes the format of the information into one which is exactly the same as the way in which the reader’s brain ‘sees’ the study material.

This sounds rather spooky but works really well.

We all view the same information completely differently and so we must change it according to the prism through which we view it. Although the information is written in the same way for all exam delegates, if 10,000 IFAs did a Mind Map of it, then there would be 10,000 unique Mind Maps.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

The Mind Map above might look unreadable to you and rather messy but that’s the point. It’s not meant for you to read. The author did it choosing the words that she wanted, placing them in a structure that meant something to her leaving out the information she did not need. It is highly personalized to her specific and unique learning requirements, which is the exact opposite of how the original syllabus is presented.

2)  Using a 2,500 year old system called The Journey Technique for memorising lists.

To use an analogy, imagine going into a library and every book is in a pile on the floor. You might find the book you want straightaway or never at all. That is how most people learn; they pile information in their head then wonder why they cannot find it.

But in reality, libraries have a highly effective filing system for their books that allows the librarian to tell you where every book is and how to find it quickly and efficiently. But here’s the deal. The quickest way to open a library is to build a shell, throw in all the books and open on Day 2. But the only effective way is to design a system, put in all the books one by one and open six months later. This takes more time in the beginning but creates greater efficiency in the long term.

So it is with learning lists.

The Journey Technique is a three stage process:

Stage 1 – take the information and turn it into a memorable image

Stage 2 – create a journey round a well known building (this is the equivalent of the library)

Stage 3 – insert the information into the building

Let’s use a real example using real info from JO2 – Trusts.


There are 16 types of trusts. Here are just a few:

·      Express

·      Implied

·      Bare

·      Constructive

·      Discretionary

·      Purpose

Stage One – create image

Take the different types of trusts and turn them into a fun and silly image that is easy to remember.

·      Express – image is train

·      Implied – image is imp

·      Bare – image is bear

·      Constructive – image is cement mixer (construction)

·      Discretionary – image is CD (disc)

·      Purpose – image is porpoise

Stage Two – create journey

Now that you have the images, it is time to create a journey around a place you know well. The number of stages on the journey has to equal the number of objects to learn. 6 objects, 6 places to put them. Below is an example of a 6 stage journey I would use round a building I know well. This is a real house and these are real stages.

·      Front door

·      Hallway

·      Living room

·      Kitchen

·      Downstairs toilet

·      Stairs

Stage Three – match image and journey

Take the list of images and insert them into the journey. IMPORTANT NOTE – the images must be as silly and ridiculous as possible. The more stupid it is, the more memorable. We forget the ordinary and mundane.

This is how I would memorise the list of trusts using the images and journey I created above:

·      Front door – I imagine a train set running round that I have to step over to go in the house

·      Hallway – there is a cheeky imp in the hall being rude

·      Living room – there is a bear watching the TV while sitting on the sofa and eating crisps

·      Kitchen – a cement mixer throwing cement all over the cupboards making a real mess

·      Downstairs toilet – an animated CD with arms and legs washing his hands

·      Stairs – a porpoise trying to climb the stairs

Does this seem a bit silly? Yes.

Does it take longer than just reading it? Yes.

Does it require a leap of faith to use a new system of learning like this? Yes.

But – and this is the only thing that matters – is the recall improvement massive, sustaining and ingrained? Yes, yes, yes.

At my events, the average score for learning a list without a system is around 45-50%; afterwards, when using this system it is 90%.

Having a solid system for learning lists is important as they constitute a substantial number of marks in all JO exams.

3)  Reviewing and revising at the right times in the right way.

I like my analogies so here is another one 😉

Imagine running through a field of grass that is 6 feet tall. The first time is hard. If you then leave it three weeks before you run through it again, it will have grown back and be just as hard the second time. So it will be the third time and every time that you run through it thereafter.

This is how most IFAs address their study material.

They read the whole of the study syllabus then go back to the beginning and read it all again. But the time lapse is so long that they cannot remember that much more than the first time they read it.

Okay, back to the grass.

Imagine now running through the field of grass 4 or 5 times in quick succession. Very soon, the grass becomes flat and it becomes easy to go through the field. Not only that, but if you leave it a while then come back to it then it will not be so hard to flatten the grass again as it will not have grown back that much.

Okay, enough of the analogies.

The bottom line is that the way to learn is to break it down into bite sized chunks – Mind Mapping helps this occur automatically – and then go through each chunk 4-5 times in quick succession before moving on to the next chunk. This cements it in the brain.

Then go on to the next chink coming back to the first one periodically.

IFAs are highly structured and organised people. They are brilliant at running a tight administrative and logistical ship. My Effective Learning System takes a similar approach to learning. But the best news is that anyone can do it, as the techniques are easy to understand, learn and implement. If they were difficult, I wouldn’t be teaching them.

NMBA and LV= are holding two major launches in London and Huddersfield in July. The 100 places have already gone but there will be a further timetable of events where we will be rolling this out over the whole country from September.


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There are 35 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Dear All

    It is really worth of attending this seminar.Mr David is really good in giving you the technique of organising and passing the exam Technique.
    He is a real star.
    I attended his seminar on 20/07/2010 .It was really good.

  2. Julian Stevens 30th July 2010 at 7:22 pm

    The attitude towards these exams on the part of many advisers may well be:-

    25% of them are completely irrelevant to the areas in which I operate.

    25% are completely above and beyond the scope of what I advise on, e.g. £1m pension pots and phased DrawDown.

    25% of the content will be out of date in six months time, partly due to budget changes and partly due to constantly shifting government policy and

    The other 25% is covered by the technical, research, CPD and compliance support for which I pay a network or other support organisation.

    Advisers with long established healthy businesses, clean complaints records, very low client turnover, green KPI ratings year after year and most new clients acquired as a result of recommendations from existing clients may well reasonably ask: On what basis has the FSA assumed that my business poses any sort of regulatory risk to my clients’ financial wellbeing and decreed that I must pass a load of exams just to reach some arbitrary qualifications benchmark decreed by an unqualified bunch of armchair theorists who’ve never given face to face financial planning advice in their lives? And, of course, what is the FSA doing about addressing the sector of the retail financial services sector which all the data proves year after year really to pose the greatest risk of consumer detriment? If the Barclays/Aviva debacle is anything to go by, the answer to that one is pretty clear cut.

  3. Brilliant! I knew the idea was there but was finding it difficult to implement. Now I understand that if I put the time into it, I will reap the rewards, so easy when you know how!

  4. re Julian Stevens comment –

    Says it all, spot on !

  5. Having been to one of David’s seminars I can tell you that his ‘Journey Technique’ is amazing. Trying to remember just 20 random items is really difficult. Use the Journey Technique and you’ll have no problem. The mind mapping is an incredible way to revise a subject. Having used it for a particularly difficult section of J05 I can tell you that this method really helps you understand and remember specific information. I will definitely be using it for the remaining exams that I need to study for.

  6. Francesca Gandolfi 3rd August 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Having attended David’s seminar on 20/7/10, I will certainly be using these techniques for future study and recommend others to do the same.

    I used the Journey Technique with my son. At first he only remembered 6 words, but after explaining the technique to him, he was stunned to be able to remember all 20!

    Some truly eye-opening, and productive, study methods and techniques.

  7. Making mountains INTO molehills is David’s special gift! If you’re like me and study & exams don’t come easy, David’s simple techniques will make that elusive PASS finally seem achievable. Highly recommended to anyone with even the smallest desire to survive RDR. If you get the chance, get in quick because David’s fame is spreading and you will regret missing out on a very enjoyable and productive training day!

  8. Having failed JO1 and feeling that I would never pass a single JO exam never mind 4 of them, I attended one of David Thomas’s sessions. Everything he says works and makes sence, I passed JO1 at the next attempt 2 months later going into the exam feeling far more confident and am now looking forward to taking JO2 in October. It is now not a matter of if I can pass the exams before 2012 but when I will pass them with the target now being a confident early 2011, I can not thank David enough and would advise any one who is struggling like I was to attend one of his sessions. It is time well spent. Thanks again David

  9. Angela Johnston 4th August 2010 at 8:22 am

    I attended the masterclass on 20th July and found it extremely interesting and motivational. I will be using the techniques explained in my exam preparation
    and I feel more confident already that they will help me pass my exams.

  10. I attendend a course run by David a couple of weeks ago. I found it informative, interesting and above all enjoyable. I will certainly employ the advice given.

  11. I recently attended a presentation by David and not only did I find it extremely informative but the techniques really do work. For anyone struggling to retain all of the exam syllabus and are lacking any confidence going into exams then this presentation is a must.

  12. Bernard F Macken 4th August 2010 at 9:49 am

    Attended David’s presentation in Huddersfield in July. Enthusiastic, humourous, good fun and enlightening. Will use personally and have already recommended the approach to others.

  13. Phil illingworth 4th August 2010 at 9:55 am

    I attended David’s course on 22nd July and found both the content and the presentation of the material/techniques exceptional. I am already finding the skills learned on the day of great value in my study and business.

  14. This system is quite brilliant. The vast majority of the CII text is filler and having used David’s technique of removing this filler and mind mapping the important details has enabled me to learn and remember a greater concentration of important facts. Simply put it works! If you are luck enough to attend one of his sessions, don’t hessitate.

  15. I attended David’s masterclass at Galpharm Stadium and I found it very interesting and helpful. I have been using the techniques David explained and they soon become second nature. I would recommend anyone to attend one of David’s masterclasses.

  16. Attended an event in July. Was very enjoyable and I feel that I’ll definately use the techniques we were taught on the day.

  17. Caroline Keegan 4th August 2010 at 12:18 pm

    WOW David is impressive, he is colourful and funny. I have started to practice the techniques he imparted on the course and they work… Well worth attending and also applying the methodology as soon as you can.
    Don’t procrasinate any longer…this guy dishes out confidence in spades. You will not regret the time spent

  18. David’s techniques are unquestionable and if your priority is learning lots of boring information in the minimum time possible then he is your man.

  19. David Hennessey 4th August 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I attended one of David’s presentations a couple of weeks ago and I must say that I entered with some sceptisism, however, I left totally convinced that it would help me. Since the presentation I have begun mind mapping the J01 and I am finding it a much less mundane way to learn and an excellent way to retain the information.

  20. I attended one of the courses and I must say that initially I was very sceptical. However, as I had paid to attend the course, I decided to give it my best shot. I not only passed the JO5 Exam first time, but my score was the best mark I have had in any of the JO papers! I would not hesitiate to recommend this style of learning!

  21. Like it or not the exams are here to stay, what David does is breakdown the process of revision into bite size chunks with techniques that reduce the boredom associated with technical revision. Having been lucky enough to attend his recent london workshop I can fully recommend taking the time out to listen to david, who is an interesting, humourous and interactive speaker who has the ability to turn a J0 revision day into a fun worthwhile session – a task not easy to achieve.

  22. Yes David is a memory man but I also found him to be a motivational speaker as well as an entusiastic realistic person. He gave out a relaxed but confident approach to the exams and also the concept of mind mapping and colour and wod association.

  23. Memory mapping is fantastic way to learn something. David and the system he taught me helped me to pass an exam I had already failed twice on. Cannot receommend it highly enough, just try it and you won’t regret it.

  24. Paula Whitehead 4th August 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Attending the Memory Masterclass on 20th July has given me renewed focus and vision to get on with my study for R06 (formally J08) exam.

    I am busy mind mapping the information contained in the CII coursebook!

    I found David’s delivery of the concept spot on, in a homorous way! something thats lacking in our industry today!

    I hope to go on the next course approx. two weeks prior to the exam in October, when the fact find paper arrives!

  25. Um, is anyone else getting the feeling this is fast becoming an online evangelical experience?!?

  26. Kevin Grannersby 5th August 2010 at 1:06 pm

    @Paul Harding – I was just thinking the same thing. Maybe we’re just too cynical…

  27. A very interesting and thought provoking course. The mind mapping techniques will be very useful in cutting back the text to a manageable size.

  28. Although I have only recently been on David’s course the Journey Technique has already proved its usefulness in many ways. I have yet to use Mind Mapping fully but am sure that this will be just as helpful. I certainly recommend these techniques and David’s lively method of presentation.

  29. Ivan Hargreaves 9th August 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I attended David’s course in Huddersfield on 22nd July. It was the most worthwhile and interesting session of any kind that I have attended this year, perhaps ever. The techniques I learned are invaluable.

    Not only was the content incredibly useful, but David’s presentation style was relaxed and extremely humorous.

    A fantastic day – highly recommended.

  30. I recently attended David’s seminar and was blown away with the immediate impact that his techniques have. They have had a positive impact on my studies and rather than just learning to pass the exam I am able to recall facts and figures in client meetings. I even found myself using the mind mapping techniques to take client notes! Keep up the good work.

  31. I attended one of David,s courses sponsored by LV. Unlike any other training day. Very motivational and well worth the time. I fully intend to adopt his ideas. if you get the opportunityy to attend, GO!

  32. David is an excellent speaker and his techniques will certainly make it easier to pass the CII exams

  33. I think I better attend….
    It does however prove the point that the JO exams are a memory test more than anything else which is why I have continually said they are flawed.

  34. I attended the masterclass on the 22nd July and want to emphasise all of the above positive comments made above – these are not exaggerations. The session was insightful very practical and most of all fun. Thanks again David

  35. Whether you just want to remember names and birthdays or you want to remember more complex facts like Taxation and Trusts or other JO syllabus. This course is a must.

    David makes the learning interactive and fun. If you are ready to move to the next stage in brain training Just Do It.

    I can now remember my wife’s birthday which will get me out of heaps of trouble.

    Seriously though. If you want to pass your exams this course will undoubtedly help you get there. Good luck.

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