How to Remember Purines and Pyrimidines: Proven Memory Tips

how to remember purines and pyrimidines feature imageWhen it comes to MCAT preparation, few things terrify students more than learning the purines and the pyrimidines.

One reason remembering this information is such a struggle isn’t because you have to recognize diagrams. 

It’s not because you have to know what letters, numbers and symbols represent.

The barrier that so many learners face is an abundance of horrible mnemonic examples.

You see, using memory techniques is by far the best way to help yourself learn complex information.

But if your purine pyrimidine mnemonic is not well-formed, it’s unlikely to help you.

That’s why on this page we’re going beyond the standard advice.

You’re going to learn how to rapidly create the mnemonics you need to succeed.

And it won’t take long to do it.


Let’s dive in.

How to Remember Purines and Pyrimidines Fast: The Purine Pyrimidine Mnemonic

One of the biggest ways to help yourself remember facts about purines and pyrimidines, is to know what’s coming on your exam.

Some of the information involves identifying chemical structures, Lewis dots and other information. You might also need to be able to identify functional groups.

Other parts involve being able to define words such as guanine and uracil.

Some people suggest using acronyms like “Pure As Gold” to help you remember:

  • Purines
  • Adenine
  • Guanine

But what if this approach doesn’t work for you?

Give the following steps a try instead.

Step One: Use A Memory Palace

Since you need to know that purines have two rings, it’s useful to arrange this information spatially.

Let me take you into the deep end of the technique first, then I’ll break it down.

purine vs pyrimidine mnemonic

Imagine you walk into your living room. You see an angel shooting an arrow through one of two golden rings at a magician wearing an Adidas sweater. He’s producing a number nine between his hands as an iguana tries to eat the second ring.

This scene encodes everything you need to remember about purines: they have two rings, one is called adenine and the other guanine. 

Can you puzzle through how the Adidas magician producing nines helps trigger back the word “adenine?”

When you use associations like this with little stories that create memorable links, you make it easier to learn faster.

Although the phrase, “Pure As Gold” is helpful, it doesn’t encode the actual words you need. But with this Memory Palace technique, you have the specific words embedded in a story that has a location.

That way, you can think back to the location and ask yourself, “What did I imagine was happening there?” You can do this for each and every piece of information you need to pass the MCAT, making learning everything much more enjoyable and accurate.

Step Two: Amplify Your Associations

When you learn the pyrimidines, you’ll also have a lot of different kinds of information to cover.

Let’s look at the words first:


A lot of people will suggest that you use an acronym like “CUT.”

That’s fine, but it again doesn’t tell you how each individual word in the acronym sounds or looks as a chemical structure.

But what if your living room has an imaginary poster that helps you remember both the word and the structure at the same time?

remember both the word and the structure at the same time

Take the word “cytosine.”

Instead of embedding it in an acronym, imagine a person who has a similar sounding name doing something with a similar sounding object.

Simon Cowell using a sight to look at a constellation shaped like cytosine on your wall would be a great start.

Then, for NH, you can pick someone like Neil Patrick Harris to trigger that knowledge because his initials are NH.

All you have to do next is exaggerate the images and revisit the associations. Make Simon angry and Harris annoyed. Maybe have Simon throwing his site at a “sign” Harris is holding to make the sound stronger in your mind.

Next, use the principles of active recall. This means deliberately asking yourself to revisit what you encoded so that your brain can create neural connections that lead to durable memories.

Step Three: Practice

Learning these mnemonic strategies takes most people about two afternoons.

And you can practice using them with all kinds of information. If you want more examples, check out how you can apply them to learning all about:

If you need more help, feel free to register for this FREE Memory Improvement Kit:

Magnetic Memory Method Free Memory Improvement Course

It will guide you through everything step-by-step and comes with four videos and detailed worksheets with even more examples.

The best part?

It’s all easy and fun as you make your way towards MCAT preparation.

The Best Purine Pyrimidine Mnemonic?

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with any mnemonic example you find on the Internet.

What matters is that the process works for you.

I hope what you’ve discovered on this page helps you out if you’ve found that other solutions don’t work.

Yes, the Magnetic Memory Method approach is a bit more robust.

But if you’re interested in the same technique Sherlock Holmes uses based on how people have learned for thousands of years and memory athletes continue to crush world records, this is the skill to have.


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Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary, names, music, poetry and more in ways that are easy, elegant, effective and fun.

Dr. Metivier holds a Ph.D. in Humanities from York University and has been featured in Forbes, Viva Magazine, Fluent in 3 Months, Daily Stoic, Learning How to Learn and he has delivered one of the most popular TEDx Talks on memory improvement.

His most popular books include, The Victorious Mind and… Read More

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