Some days, you might find it hard to remember even your own phone number. However, that doesn't happen to Evan (Yifan) Xie, a Grade 10 student at King's-Edgehill School in Windsor, N.S.

The 15-year-old has a remarkable memory, so much so that he's received an International Master of Memory designation, an honour that only 151 people in the world hold.

Xie is from China's Shandong province. Friends of his parents had recommended King's-Edgehill, a private school, saying it would be a good place for him to learn English, so he began studying there 1½ years ago.

Yifan (Evan) Xie

Evan (Yifan) Xie is 15 years old. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Last month, Xie returned to China and competed in something called the World Memory Championships in Chengdu.

Over three days, he competed in a series of 10 tests. The tests included how many numbers he could memorize in an hour (1180) and how long it takes to memorize the sequence of a 52-card deck (just over 32 seconds).

To achieve the International Master of Memory designation, competitors have to be able to do these three things:

  • Memorize at least 1,000 randomly-sequenced digits in an hour.
  • Memorize the sequence of 10 randomly shuffled decks of cards in one hour.
  • Memorize the order of a randomly shuffled deck of cards in two minutes or less.

Xie says when he's memorizing in a competition, he can retain the information for up to three days.

Xie's talent was evident at age of 3

He says his mother first discovered his incredible memory when she read a book to him when he was three. Although Xie didn't understand the words, he was able to recite the whole story back to her — word for word.

Xie says having a superior memory helps a lot in school. He can quickly review material the night before a test and get a very good mark. 

"Like geography, history, I can memorize that so fast and it's so easy for me to have a good mark and spend less time," he said.

Chris Strickey, the director of admissions at King's-Edgehill, says Xie is a straight-A student.

Xie says both of his parents have good memories, so the talent largely comes to him naturally, but he also uses memorizing techniques and trains for several hours each week.

10 hours of practice a day

Before December's championships, he practised 10 hours a day and would sometimes get up as early as 5 a.m. to train.

After earning the honour, Xie flew to his home province of Shandong. He says several people came out to cheer for him at the airport and they brought flowers.

Xie says now that he's achieved the International Master of Memory designation, he will focus on his studies.

There are no Canadian International Masters of Memory. Only two Canadians have ever competed in the championship.