The ability to generate memory strategies is a key factor in performance of episodic memory tests. There is evidence about the inefficient use of memory strategies in old adults. However, a question remains unresolved: Worse performance on memory test in the older people is due to an inability to mobilize cognitive strategies or to an episodic memory deficit? In this study we tried to answer it by using the Test of Memory Strategies (TMS), which parametrically reduces the need of executive functions on memory tests. The test consists of five experimental conditions (TMS1–5) where a progressive external organization of the material reduces the need to mobilize memory strategies. TMS was applied to a sample of 180 participants (n = 180) divided into three age groups (25–45; 46–65; 66–85). The results showed an increased performance in all groups groups (F(2, 177) = 14.79, p < .001) across conditions (F(3.88,674.04) = 292.48, p < .001), without group differences in those conditions with a maximum reduction of the need of executive functions (F(7.61,674.04) = 1.95, p = .053). However, middle age and older adults showed more difficulties in establishing cognitive strategies, in the initial conditions. These results lead to the conclusion that the typical pattern of low performance on episodic memory tasks in the older population may be due to the deterioration of executive functions and not mainly to a primary decline of memory process.