Five Powerful Ways to Memorize for the Bar Exam
Here, we’re going to discuss five powerful ways to memorize for the bar exam. We have a wonderful list of basic instructions on how to significantly improve memorization capabilities by utilizing a number of active study techniques. These techniques include practicing, training, and repetition. In this post, we cover five additional powerful ways to memorize rules for the bar exam. We discuss all of these in more detail below!
Five Powerful Ways to Memorize for the Bar Exam
1. Vivid Mnemonics
Vivid Mnemonics are a great way to memorize for the bar exam. A mnemonic is a device that includes a group of letters, associations, words, or a sentence or two that helps a person remember something more effectively. A common example of a mnemonic device is one to remember the order of math operations: “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally” (PEMDAS). The order of math operations are as follows:
Since bar exam rules are normally made up of a number of elements, mnemonics are a great tool to help with memorization for the bar exam. For example, a common mnemonic to help a bar examinee remember the elements of a joint tenancy is TTIP. The requirements for a Joint Tenancy to be created include
- Time: the interests must have vested at the same time.
- Title: the same instrument must have been granted title.
- Interest: all must possess an equal share of the property (same type and duration).
- Possession: all tenants must have identical rights to possess the property.
While this is certainly helpful, a better mnemonic would be one that’s more vivid. For instance, something like James Teaches that Telephones Trigger Intelligent Penguins, which equates to the Joint Tenancy requirements of Time, Tittle, Interest and Possession, can really stick out in a student’s mind and help them to memorize this concept. With this mnemonic, one can vividly picture a person (James) teaching a class filled with students about penguins while pointing to a picture of a mobile phone X’ed out above a picture of penguins in the snow. This will stand out in a bar examinee’s mind more than the basic TTIP mnemonic.
Therefore, the more vivid and the more personalized the mnemonic is, easier it is for the bar examinee to recall it on the bar exam. There are a number of online resources that can help students come up with their own mnemonics to help memorize rules for the bar exam. We also included a lot of great mnemonics in this blog post.
2. Memory Palaces
The second of our bar exam memorization techniques is memory palaces. Memory palaces work by combining images with a location a person knows well like the inside of their house or a path where they commonly walk. You first store an image of what you need to remember in the discrete rooms in the house or locations on the path and then walk through the house or path in order to recall the information at a later period of time.
For example, if we utilize a house as a memory palace, we can use each room as a separate memory location where we store an image. As an example, think of a six-room house with a kitchen, living room, a first bedroom, a second bedroom, bathroom, and a third bedroom. Now let’s say you need to remember the words:
To set up the memory palace, you would store a vivid image of the word in each room in a particular order. Let’s say you store an image of ocean waves moving in and out of the kitchen with all the pots and pans moving all over the place. Next in the living room, you could store an image of a huge cup of tea with a huge teacup in the middle of the room. In the first bedroom, you could store an image of a big table/grid in neon green color.
In the second bedroom, you could store a bunch of people speaking to each other in distinct languages which will show up in a bubble above them. Next, you can store an image of a rotating atlas of the world in the bathtub. Finally, you could store an image of the tooth fairy flying around exchanging money for teeth from a pillow on the bed in the third bedroom.
When the person wants to recall the words, they can mentally walk through the rooms and see the image they have stored and more easily recall the words from the images.
Bar examinees could use this same technique to store and recall the rule for the crime of arson. Arson is defined as “the malicious burning of the dwelling of another.” This would only require a three-room memory palace such as an apartment with a kitchen, living room, and bathroom. In the kitchen, the bar examinee could store an image of Alice falling into Wonderland because malice rhymes with Alice. Next, the examinee could store an image of a big fire in the living room. Finally, the bar examinee could store an image of Wayne Manor in the bathroom with the Batmobile riding around the sink.
When the student wants to recall this information, they would simply walk through the three-room apartment in their mind to restore the elements of arson!
Chunking is a memory enhancement technique that takes discrete bits of data and groups them together in order to make memorization easier. An example is a 9-digit telephone number. Remembering the phone number 2-4-8-2-2-8-5-5-4-7 in single digits takes up 9 bits of memory space. However, if you chunk the digits together as 248 (two hundred forty-eight), 228 (two hundred twenty-eight), and 5547 (five thousand five hundred forty-seven), this would only take up three bits of memory.
This memorization technique works well with bar exam rule memorization. As an example, the rule for the crime of burglary is “the breaking and entering of the dwelling of another at night with the intent to commit a felony therein.” Trying to memorize each word in the rule would lead to memorizing 16 discrete words.
This makes the rule hard to recall. A better approach to memorizing a long rule like this would be to chunk words together like we did with the numbers in the previous example. Here, this would look like 1. the breaking and entering, 2. of the dwelling of another at night, 3. with the intent to commit a felony therein. This will cut down the discrete data to remember from 16 to 3.
Also, associating this with vivid images of each of the discrete chunks can make this memorization technique even more effective. In this case, associating the 1. breaking and entering with an image of a door being kicked off its hinges, 2. of the dwelling of another with an image of Wayne Manor, and 3. with the intention to commit a felony therein with an image of stealing the Batmobile will help with storage and recall of the information on the bar exam.
4. Teaching the material you are learning
Teaching material to others is another sure-fire way to become an expert on a topic. By teaching the material to others, one will think through the dynamics of the material in order to both anticipate questions and answer questions that are asked. This will ultimately help with gaining more insight into the topic as well as with raw memorization of the topic itself.
If done in discrete segments, this method can help a bar examinee memorize the rules for the bar exam. As an example, a bar examinee studying negligence will learn that the five elements the plaintiff needs to prove by a preponderance of the evidence are that 1. the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, 2. the defendant breached that duty of care, 3. the breach is the actual cause of the harm to the plaintiff, 4. the breach is the proximate cause of the harm to the plaintiff, and 5. the plaintiff was harmed.
However, this is not the full story of the issues that arise when analyzing a negligence question on the bar. If, on the other hand, the bar examiner then taught the material to a friend or family member, they would need to anticipate questions or have to answer questions asked by that person.
Some of these questions could be:
- How does one determine the duty of care for the defendant?
- What is the difference between actual cause and proximate cause?
- How does the defendant breach their duty of care?
These questions force the examinee to gain real insight into the full scope and understanding of the tort of negligence. This insight will ultimately help the examinee memorize the rules associated with all the issues that can arise in a negligence question.
5. Linking technique
The last of our bar exam memorization techniques is linking. The linking technique can be used to help with the memorization of data. This method is a great way to help memorize a discrete number of words. The method works by creating a song or a story linking the words. If someone wants to remember the words:
One could create a story like, “the blue mountain lion was wearing a top hat and carrying an umbrella while ice skating on the lake.” The more vivid the story, the more likely the person will recall it in the future.
A bar examinee could use this technique to remember the elements of larceny by trick. The rule for larceny by trick is a “defendant makes a misrepresentation of material fact to obtain custody of the personal property of another”.
A story that would help the student remember this rule might be “A man misrepresented himself to a teller by telling the teller that his name was John D. Rockefeller in order to obtain 3 bars of gold, which he in fact did obtain, but only custody of.” This story would help the bar examiner easily recall the rule for larceny by trick much more readily than just trying to remember the words individually.
6. Strategy to Avoid – Rereading Outlines Over and Over
While the techniques above have been proven to be great ways to memorize information, there are techniques that are not as effective!
As an example, reading and re-reading outlines is one of the least effective ways to memorize and retain information. Reading an outline on its own is a passive way of learning and memorizing material. Your mind will likely begin to wander as you simply read the outline over and over again because it is repetitive (not to mention, boring), which leads to a loss of focus. This is not to say that a bar examinee should not reread or review their outline. Students should look to their outline as they prepare for the bar exam, but they should do so using active memorization techniques (like those described in this post!).
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