GoldList Method Explained Part 6 – Bronze, Silver, Gold

6.1 Overall idea of Bronze, Silver and Gold

We left Part 5 at the point where we have done the first three distillations and obviously the Headlist in our GoldList Book. We might well have run out of double pages in that first book and already our Headlist and the distillations could have stretched into multiple books, and if they have, then still it is all one Headlist, and the second book in the given project (usually a language is a single project unless you have good reasons to make separate projects within one language) starts off with a number like 2,251 and the first distillation might start with a number not a million miles away from 1576, although that one, unlike the H one, doesn’t need to a multiple of 25 or 20 plus one.

Even when you have multiple books with Headlist, D1, D2 and D3 going through, they are all what we call BRONZE books. You can call these books “Czech Bronze 1”, “Czech Bronze 2” etc, or whatever language or non-language subject you are learning.

The terminology “Bronze” implies that we are expecting a Silver and a Gold level too. And this of course plays into why all this is called the GoldList Method. Maybe some readers would have liked me to answer that question earlier than now in this explanation, but this is the point at which it begins to make sense. The “Gold” in the GoldList is what is the most valuable, and the most valuable thing is what has had the most time spent on it.

We know that three quarters of the work is done in the Bronze books. Only about 24% of the lines in the Project are making it through to Silver level and these are the ones which were hardest for you to remember. This is very personal and connected to your own subconscious – someone else working on exactly the same materials might have a different looking Headlist and even if that were similar would have very different Distillations, and of course the closer you get to the end the more different they are likely to be. Your Gold is what makes it to the GoldBook and that is less than 6%, and once you get through to D11 less than 2% of the original lines in the Headlist.

You can think of it as panning for gold, in the way they used to do it in the American gold rush, you would chuck out the bits of gravel where you were sure there was no gold. You can also liken it to working as a mental athlete from having a Bronze medal on the project when you complete the D3, a silver medal when completing the D7 and being the absolute champion when you finish D11. So you are working out an algorithm which leads you by way of these lists to your own personal “gold” – the words and phrases which most evaded your memory.

Let’s look again at the numbers, this time concerning ourselves more with the top left part of this already well-worn diagram:

glcamemb This shows a ten thousand word project being worked out through the GLM at what happens to be a stable retention rate of 70% every time, which we know won’t be the case always in reality, but this is a model, and 70% or lower (which is better) is usually perfectly achievable.

The colours in the top left part show which distillations belong in the Bronze book – H, D1, D2 and D3 are Bronze. They will take up probably four reasonably thick hardback notebooks. If someone chose thinner writing books it will be more than that. These books will be Bronze 1, 2, 3 and 4 respectively, and in the notation we can call them B1, B2, etc.

He or she may have been doing Czech and then wants to start a new project, maybe a new language or a subject, say “Legal cases in UK contract law”(1), and the books used for that project start at B1 again. Once you get used to GoldListing you probably will wish to use it for multiple projects.

Now let us look at another diagram, again courtesy of Excel:


What this means is, that D4 is in the same position as the Headlist was, but in the Silver Book. Likewise D5 is where D1 was, but in the Silver instead of the Bronze book, etc.

So you need a nice book, which will have to last longer and take more handling than the bronze books did, but it has to be like any GoldList book in that it needs to be thick enough to enable enough work to fit in it, and deep enough in terms of lines to enable GoldListing, if only with the 20-line method. This Silver Book doesn’t need to look Silver of course, any more than the Bronze Books needed to look Bronze. By the same token the Gold book, when we get that far, won’t need to look Gold, although if I had a choice I’d probably pick that colour.

6.2 You do the Fourth Distillation as if it were a new Headlist in the Silver Book

So, once again your top-left has a standard number of lines, either the 25 or the 20 that you had at H. If you were using the Semitic Alphabets mirror effect in the Bronze which I mentioned earlier, of course you’ll probably want to do it in the Silver Book also. But other than that, it will be very similar to doing a Headlist and just like any list in the Bronze level, D5 and the other distillations all have their own internal sequence for numbering.

However, you will want to take maybe just 6 or 7 of the 9 words you had in D3 over to D4. That means that the first double page of the Silver book will probably have roughly what’s left of the first 100 lines, the first four double pages, of the Bronze book.

This is why you might be a little less aggressive doing D4 from D3 than you probably were doing D3 from D2. All through the work in the Bronze book, you have had the benefit of being able, in case of need, to refer back to the Headlist in case of doubt. Right now you are creating that new Headlist equivalent for the SilverBook which is really the fourth Distillation, so you may think that things which are useful for reference are worth being taken across even if you think you know most of them. I know some people even take this as an opportunity to run down the Headlist one last time and if there is anything they are completely feeling as if they are looking at for the first time, despite previously having felt they knew them (this won’t happen very often at all, but it can occur, also errors of omission could have occurred in the process, where a line got skipped purely by accident) then this is like a final chance to catch these and feed them back in again.

For that reason, results not as aggressive as 30% reduction often happen at D4, and hence one likes to be a bit more aggressive in D3 and then again at D5, which as you know by now is the Distillation which in the Silver book is on the top-right corner, exactly where D1 is in the Bronze Book.

I hope I don’t need to repeat at this point that each of these Distillations cannot take place less than two weeks under any circumstances since the previous one was made. As we start to work on D6, on the bottom right, the minimum possible time which has passed since we started the project is how much?

A: 8 weeks
B: 10 weeks
C: 12 weeks
D: 14 weeks?

Hopefully you selected C, but that of course is a theoretical minimum and will be very inconvenient to work to in practice. Given that there is no maximum limit for the fermentation period, it could be (and in my case usually is) that you are over half a year into the project before anything appears at D6 level.

D7 likewise brings you to the end of the Silver Book, at which point you did 7% of the whole work at D4, 5% at D5, 4% at D6 and 3% at D7, so in total this Silver Book contained 19% of the remaining 24% left to do after the Bronze Book.  In other words, 95% of the work is done when you get to the end of the Silver Book.

You can see that if four double pages of Bronze book feed into a single double page of Silver book, then four big Bronze books feed into one Silver book. Or more, if you are getting a better distillation rate, but 70% is perfectly OK.

6.3 A practical example of the SilverBook

I will show you the practical example as it actually emerges, through the distillations and into the Silver book, as they appear. Please bear in mind that that is still a live project so it also has to go through the proper fermentation periods.


Here you can see that I started a Silver Book on 29th September, put my contact details in it in case it gets lost, and then the 45 words from D3 have been distilled to 33 words in D4.

This retention rate is 73.3% and therefore less stringent than the retention rates used for the earlier distillations, but we expected this for the reasons given above, namely that it is sometimes good to err on the side of keeping things in at D4, as you’ll then always have them through the next three distillations to refer to in  case of doubt. The odd numbered distillations are the ones in which we can afford to be more aggressive, with lower retention rates.

As this Project advances, I will update it here, so that if you like you can follow the full story of a live Project.

6.4 The Project in Total, and finishing off

This means that for your project, you may well not need more than one Silver book, two at most for really big projects. And you don’t need a Gold book for each project (unless you want it) so my general advice is to have a Silver book per language and not mix different languages in that as it will be hard to work on your statistics, but given that Gold Book is just the final 5%, and four or more languages learned to a good level will distil down to one thick book at D8 level (a thousand double pages will have been distilled to just sixty double pages at this point), I would suggest that you can mix different projects in your Gold Book although preferably not on the same double sides, and then run combined statistics at Gold List level. You know anyway 95% of the stats story and how well you distilled each language just by keeping distinct books for each project at Bronze and Silver levels.

So, in the end, the collection of GoldList Books you have might look something like this:


Now this guy, let’s call him Kim, that’s a name that has been in the news a lot recently, he has been doing four big projects using the GoldList Method. He has four Bronze Books in each of Spanish (preferably the Mexican variety as he has friends in common), Indonesian (he noticed Malay on a recent trip to Singapore but believes the Indonesian language would give him more punch in the region), Norwegian (in case he has to become an ex-dictator) and botany (in order to learn the correct way to push up daisies, should it come to that).

For each of these Projects he plans to fill the Bronze books (four per project) and Silver books (one per Project) that you see in the diagram, and in addition he has one Gold book, which contains the final 5% of all of these Projects. I’m using capital P for Project as I am using it in a GoldList-specific sense. A language or topic can be more than one Project, a Project is a set of materials whose Lists will be separately and consequently numbered through Headlist and a number of Distillations.

If we are talking about the GoldBook, because it has a Headlist equivalent (namely D8) probably less than 6% of the original Headlist, you only need one normally sized GoldBook for all the projects. Let’s say you do actually manage to fill up a GoldBook which has space for 2,400 lines, which is not a particuarly thick book, that would mean you had done by this point at least 40,000 lines which is an awful lot for a single Project. It is of course far from impossible and therefore one should aim at a thicker GoldBook or indeed one can have multiple GoldBooks. However, for most Projects, having a separate GoldBook might be wasteful. It is all down to the volume of work you plan to do.

People have asked me what about a PlatinumBook? Well, D12 is in theory well under 2% and probably in practice closer to 1% of the lines in the original Headlist, so you’d need to have completed 50 to 100 Bronze books to justify a Platinum book of similar size. I would love to think people will get this much utility from the GoldList Method, but being realistic, I think those so hungry to learn so much for so long are likely to be only a minority of users. You would probably need multiple decades of daily work to really justify the need for a Platinum book.

Another aspect is that once you have finished the GoldBook, you are dealing with items which have eluded your long-term memory even after 12 iterations (H plus D1-11) with adequate forgetting time in between. The items that will still be giving you trouble at this point will be rare and therefore we consider them your personal Gold.

Instead of going on via platinum levels and all the other expensive materials you can think of (even if only the legal ones) through to say diamond level in order to get a maximum lifetime achievement for a GM-addicted hermit down to zero, it is a better idea to make a cut-off after this figure of twelve and then do something to celebrate the lines which have made it through to the theoretical twelfth distillation. Instead of making that Distillation (D12) to a new Platinum, as it were, book, I believe it is better to use them to  create something else that you can simply have with you. You can cafe print them onto a mug or mousemat, or make a wall-chart. You can then share your creativity over these remaining words with the GoldList community (more about that in Part 7) although you might want to be careful – the selection of words which your unconscious mind has rejected might be quite personal to you and even give clues about what is really going on in the deep parts of what makes you you.  Or maybe not, but that’s an interesting consideration which doesn’t detract, in my opinion, from the fascination of using the Method.



(1) Using GLM for law students is best for law that won’t change, and of course the facts about cases don’t change. Acts in force do tend to be subject to more chage and always it is good to use the long-term memory for things that have long-term validity.  For things which have only validity for a few years I always suggest not memorising it at all but using the directory or reference work and keeping it at hand, instead of leveraging your long-term memory with information that can become irrelevant.

If you decide to GoldList cases, then a good approach is to make a template for the headlist containing name, date, court, name of judge, some lines for the facts of the case, what point of law is illustrated, what the decision was, and any obiter dicta or other interesting quotes that are associated with the case, and the precedent that was set and if the precedent is still current. You can even make a template for D1, and from D2 you can start just chucking out what is actually remembered.

Here is an example of using the Method for law students needed to cover hundreds of cases in case law, which I prepared to assist one user:

Anyone wishing to share in the funding of the coming GoldList Method Book and other coming resources can now do so here.