Four Tips For Memorizing For The Bar Exam - JD Advising
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September 2020 Uniform Bar Exam, Memorizing For The Bar Exam

Four Tips For Memorizing For The Bar Exam

Overwhelmed by the amount of material you need to memorize for the bar exam? You are not alone! Struggling to memorize bar exam issues and the rules associated with those issues is probably the number one reason students do not pass the bar exam. The bar exam consists of hundreds of rules, each comprised of several elements. These rules also come from an array of different subjects. Below, we discuss four tips for memorizing for the bar exam.

Four Tips For Memorizing For The Bar Exam

This post will discuss the four best methods for memorizing rules for the bar exam. The four methods are:

  1. Draw out the rules and repeatedly write out the elements on paper.
  2. Use mnemonics to memorize rule elements.
  3. Try the chunking method to memorize rules.
  4. Memorize rules in short intervals.

Using one or more of these methods will help you remember and recall rules more efficiently.

1. Draw out the rules and repeatedly write out the elements on paper.

If you’ve ever seen an episode of The Simpsons (or maybe even if you haven’t seen an entire episode!), you’ve likely seen the opening credits where Bart Simpson repeatably writes something he did wrong on the chalkboard at Springfield Elementary. The school apparently uses this as a form of punishment to deter Bart from committing the infraction in the future. This “punishment” is actually one of the best ways to memorize rules for the bar exam! Little does Bart Simpson know, writing out rules is one key method to store and recall rules in an effective manner on the bar exam.

Many students spend hours upon hours typing up outlines for each individual subjected tested on the bar exam. They then spend more hours reading and re-reading those outlines. While reviewing outlines is certainly important, a much more effective technique for memorization is to write out the issues and rules over and over again. Likewise, when students begin studying for the bar exam, they should consider drawing out the rule in order to better commit the rule to memory.

For example, in torts, the rule for false imprisonment is “the defendant acts with intent to confine or restrain the plaintiff to a bounded area, actual confinement occurs, and the plaintiff either knows of the confinement or is hurt by it”.   A good technique is to fold a piece of paper in half: on the left side draw out the rule while on the right side, write out the rule multiple times. Make the drawing memorable! Something like two people in a room, one person standing by the door with a gun telling the other person that they cannot leave the room, while the other person is attempting to exit the room. Now, who is going to forget that?

After drawing the rule out on the left side of the page, write out the rule statement over and over again on the right side of the page. This will help you to memorize the rule for false imprisonment. It has been shown in study after study that taking notes by hand is far superior to typing them on a computer when it comes to memorizing what you wrote.

Check out a list of bar exam memorization tips here.

2. Use mnemonics to memorize rule elements.

Another great technique for memorizing bar examination rules is the use of mnemonics. Mnemonics are memorization devices that help you to remember information efficiently. A mnemonic device is a pattern of letters used to trigger a memory of a rule’s elements.  It can also be helpful to come up with your own mnemonics, especially if you can’t find what you’re looking for online!

The two best forms of mnemonics for the bar exam include letter and word mnemonics. Letter mnemonics are just letters put together to form a non-word, similar to an acronym. Letter mnemonics for the bar exam include TTIP (Title, Time, Interest, Possession) and G-SAM (Give it away, Sell it, Actual foreclosure/judicial sale by a judgment lien creditor, and execute a Mortgage in a title theory state).  Both of these examples help a students remember the rules for creating and destroying a joint tenancy.

Another example of a bar exam mnemonic is found in criminal law.  The mnemonic BARRK stands for Burglary, Arson, Rape, Robbery, and Kidnapping.  This mnemonic helps bar examinees remember the standard for felony murder.  Think of a dog standing by a gate barking (or in this case, baarking) at a person. The rule for felony murder is death that occurs during the commission or attempted commission or flight from a dangerous felony.  What are those dangerous felonies?  Burglary, Arson, Rape, Robbery, and Kidnapping! We still run into people who took the bar exam over a decade ago that still remember this mnemonic!

Check out our list of helpful bar exam mnemonics.

3. Chunking method to use grouping to memorize rules.

Chunking is a memorization technique that involves breaking down material into chunks of discrete data and memorizing each chunk of information.  By grouping and memorizing, one can improve the amount of information they can remember.

As it relates to the bar exam, chunking can be used to memorize rules or elements of a rule in groups of words. For example, the rule for burglary is “the breaking and entering of the domicile of another at night with the intent to commit a felony therein.” If a bar examinee tried to remember each word discreetly, they would need to memorize “the + breaking + and + entering + of + the + domicile + of + another + at + night + with + the + intent + to + commit + a + felony + therein” (19 words!).  Instead, by employing the chunking method of memorization, the examinee would memorize the words in just three chunks or groups.

Chunk 1 would consist of memorizing “the breaking and entering of the domicile of another.” For this chunk, the bar examinee might picture crawling through the window of their neighbor’s house.

Next, Chunk 2 would consist of memorizing “at night.” For this chunk, the bar examinee might picture the sun setting or the moon or stars to help remember it has to be nighttime.

Finally, Chunk 3 would consist of memorizing “with the intent to commit a felony therein.” For this chunk, the examinee might picture someone holding a bag and putting jewelry into it.

By putting Chunk 1 together with Chunks 2 and 3, you can more efficiently memorize and recall the rule for burglary.  Furthermore, by putting the images of the three chunks together, you can simply remember the pictures associated with each chunk.  This allows you to more easily recall the rule for burglary!

4. Memorize in short intervals followed by some form of exercise.

Cramming for the bar exam is never a good idea. In fact, studying 12 or more hours a day with little or no breaks can actually be counterproductive. Studies have shown that the human brain operates best at high levels of focus for short intervals of 60-90 minutes.  Given this, when memorizing rules and elements, consider using shorter intervals of studying.

For example, when you see a subject that can be broken down into issues or rules that can be broken down into elements, consider studying each issue/element one at a time.  For example, look at the elements of negligence: (1) duty of care, (2) breach of duty, (3) actual cause, (4) proximate cause, and (5) damages.  Consider focusing on each element of negligence for a shorter period of time with a break in between each element.  Stepping away for that break could include going for a short walk, listening to some music, or eating lunch.  Whatever it might include, the reason for stepping away is to give your brain time to digest the material. Stepping away also gives you time to recharge so you can better focus when it’s time to return to studying.

By carving out a shorter interval of time to memorize material for the bar exam, you will be more productive and efficient than if you try to learn the material in long intervals with no breaks.


All of the above memorization techniques can be used alone or in conjunction with the other techniques. These memorization techniques will help you memorize material, which in turn will help you pass the bar exam!

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