Tips on Remembering Strong Acids & Bases

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If you have to remember the names of strong acids and bases for a chemistry exam, don't panic. If simple repetition doesn't work, try writing lists or using a mnemonic to memorize them. A mnemonic is simply a technique to help you remember something, such as a pattern of letters or images.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Writing lists and creating mnemonics are effective ways to remember strong acids and bases.

Strong Acids and Bases

Before you use your memory tools, make sure you know the strong acids and bases. The seven strong acids are hydrochloric acid (HCI), hydrobromic acid (HBr), nitric acid (HNO3), sulfuric acid (H2SO4), hydroiodic acid (HI), chloric acid (HCIO3) and perchloric acid (HCIO4). The eight strong bases are lithium hydroxide (LiOH), sodium hydroxide (NaOH), potassium hydroxide (KOH), calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2), rubidium hydroxide (RbOH), strontium hydroxide (Sr(OH)2), cesium hydroxide (CsOH) and barium hydroxide (Ba(OH)2).

Write Lots of Lists

One of the most basic memory techniques involves writing lists of the items you need to remember, again and again. You might need to do this several times to remember strong acids and bases, but the information should sink in. Throughout the process, you'll realize what acids and bases you forget most often, which indicates you need to give them extra attention. Concentrate when you write each name and say it out loud to yourself to help improve your recall.

Create an Acrostic

An acrostic is an invented sentence where the first letter of each word provides a clue to something you need to remember. To create an acrostic for the strong acids, write a sentence using the first or several letters from the name of each acid to begin each word. For example, take "h" from hydrochloric, "h" from hydrobromic acid, "n" from nitric acid, "s" from sulfuric acid, "h" from hydroiodic acid,"c" from chloric acid and "p" from perchloric acid to create the sentence "Her Highbrow Nits Surfed Home Completely Perfectly." It doesn't have to make sense, but it should be memorable. Sometimes, the silliest phrases are the ones that stick in your mind.

Create a Visual Mnemonic

If you find sequences of words difficult to remember, a visual tool might be more effective. Create a visual mnemonic based on the starting letters of the names of the acids and bases. For example, give each of the strong bases an animal, such as lion for lithium, snake for sodium, polar bear for potassium, cat for calcium, rabbit for rubidium, scorpion for strontium, chinchilla for cesium and bat for barium. Picture the animals arranged in a line in a field and visualize yourself walking past them. Each time you do, remind yourself of the base each animal represents.


About the Author

Claire is a writer and editor with 18 years' experience. She writes about science and health for a range of digital publications, including Reader's Digest, HealthCentral, Vice and Zocdoc.