The Fastest Way to Memorize in Law School
You’ve started law school. You’re taking notes, building outlines, diligently studying, and attending class. As you start to move through the material, pay close attention to how your final exam will be administered. While some schools offer “open book” exams, the majority of law schools still only allow you to take final exams using the material you have memorized throughout the course of the semester. So, what’s the fastest way to memorize material prior to a final exam? We provide some guidance on the fastest way to memorize in law school below!
The Fastest Way to Memorize in Law School
Realize that Time Might Not Be Your Friend
This may seem like an odd start to a blog post discussing the fastest way to memorize in law school, but it’s important to point out that there aren’t really any shortcuts when it comes to memorizing material. You simply have to put in the time in order to get the desired result. That being said, you can make the process easier and faster by spending your time wisely. By taking some time toward the beginning of the semester to create a process for note-taking, outlining, and then memorizing, you’ll make preparing for final exams easier. This helps you avoid memorizing material at the last minute!
Start Your Outlines Early
Another great tip to memorize in law school is to not wait until the final exam reading period to start your outlines! Instead, start putting them together at the beginning of the semester. During each week or after class, set aside time to add to your outlines based on your class notes and classroom discussions. By working on your outlines when the material is fresh in your mind, you have time to get clarification on any confusing concepts so you have a better understanding of the material when it’s time for finals. Additionally, by starting your outlines early and methodically adding to them each week, you’ll be able to set more time aside in the weeks leading up to final exams to do things like memorizing your outlines. This puts you in a better position for final exams!
Set Aside Time to Memorize
When you are planning your law school study schedule, make sure you’re designating specific times to work on memorizing material. Memorization requires your full attention, and remember that you actively have to memorize material. You cannot expect to read through your notes or outline over and over again in order to memorize key concepts! Instead, you have to engage in memorization techniques in order to retain course material. The good news? By focusing on how to memorize early on in the semester, it will become part of your routine. This makes memorization faster and easier in the long run!
Memorize One Outline at a Time
Don’t jump from outline to outline when trying to memorize material! This might lead you to attribute certain content to the wrong class, which is the last thing you want leading up to an exam. Instead, memorize one outline at a time with breaks before moving to the next outline. To do this, divide your outlines into manageable “chunks” based on the subject matter. For example, if you’re starting to memorize Constitutional Law, you could have a chunk for the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause, First Amendment free speech, etc. By breaking up your outline into more manageable chunks, the process of memorizing all of the material becomes less overwhelming.
Move On When You’re Ready
Once you are able to write or recite an entire “chunk” of your outline, move on to the next “chunk” and start the process all over again. Know that memorization is often messy, but if you are able to write or recite key concepts, it’s ok if they are not word for word from your outline. Being able to incorporate keywords and phrases is usually enough to move on. Some students get caught up in perfectly memorizing that they stay too long on one “chunk” of their outline. By remembering to move on, it’s less likely that you will have material left to memorize as you get closer to final exams!
We cannot stress this enough! Memorizing can be an exhausting task! Take short breaks between sections or around every forty-five minutes. Use your break time to go for a short walk or grab a snack so you can come back refreshed and ready to do some more memorizing.
Review the Outline Again
At the end of each “memorization session,” go back and review everything you just learned. It’s ok if you can’t recall everything! This is an important step so you know where to focus your efforts the next time you review. Write down what you’re struggling to recall so you know exactly where to start during your next memorization session. Remember, continuing to review your outlines is going to be key to ensuring that the subject matter stays with you on exam day!
Step Away and Get Some Sleep
When you get through what you plan to get through in a day, set the outline aside and step away from the material. Move on to whatever you plan to do next. You’ve just done a lot of exhausting work! The next day, take another look at the material. It’s amazing how much more you can remember after a good night’s sleep!
Consistently Review Your Outline to Improve Memorization
Once you do your initial walk-throughs and some memorization of the material, don’t forget to return to your outline! Repetition is key when memorizing, so you should be revisiting your outline regularly in order to ensure that the memorizing you’re doing sticks with you on exam day! Initially, this might mean reviewing the materials every couple of days. Later on, you might revisit these materials every week or so. You’ll be surprised at how much easier memorization gets when you make it part of your routine!
So, how exactly do you go about memorizing an outline? There are several different ways (including some we don’t mention here!). Our number one tip for memorizing is to use the techniques that work best for you! There isn’t one way to memorize materials; the most important thing is that you can correctly recall it when you need to on exam day! We recommend that you try multiple techniques to figure out what works best for you. Feel free to change techniques as you work your way through the material. This can be especially helpful if you find yourself getting stuck or for some additional motivation. We discuss these memorization techniques in more detail below!
- Our top recommendation for memorizing material is to simply cover up a portion of your outlines and see if you can write it down correctly. For example, if you’re working on memorizing Criminal Law, see if you can jot down all the rules for first-degree homicide from memory. Check to see if you are correct, and note what you did wrong. Keep going until you are successfully able to write down the entire rule from memory! This memorization strategy tends to be most helpful to visional learners and many law students are visual learners.
- For students who tend to be more auditory learners, you can still use the same technique! Instead of writing down the portions of the rule statement (using the example above), recite the elements until you know them by heart.
- Try drawing a chart, diagram, or picture to illustrate a law. This can be especially helpful for rules laws that have multiple components or for laws that might have different applicable provisions outcomes depending on the facts and circumstances. By taking some time to illustrate a law, it will better stick in your mind. This makes it easier to recall on exam day!
- Use mnemonics! There’s a reason you might still be able to easily recall the order of operations from your junior high math class or why you can easily recite the colors of the rainbow or the order of the planets in our solar system. Chances are, you likely used a mnemonic to memorize this information! The same concepts can be used when memorizing law school outlines. Make up a sentence with the first letter of each word corresponding with the same first letter of an element of a law. Use word association with elements of a crime. Using mnemonics can make information much easier to recall on exam day!
- Quiz others or have others quiz you on the law! This not only can aid with memorization, but it can also be a refreshing change to study with others.
- Are you having trouble committing a rule or concept to memory? Try to make efforts to understand the rationale behind the law. Sometimes if you can get a better grasp of why a law is in place, it makes it easier to commit the law to memory!
Don’t Spend All Your Time Making Flashcards
Flash cards can be an incredibly helpful tool to assist you as you memorize small sections of your outlines. Be careful, though, about how much you rely on flashcards! Some students spend so much time making thousands of flashcards that they don’t have enough time to actually review them! Also, flashcards tend to hone in on nuances within certain subjects while outlines can provide more overarching details and show how concepts fit together. While some students successfully rely on flashcards when studying for final exams, many students wish they had not put as much time into making flashcards. It’s ok to use other techniques even if you find your entire study group are flashcard fanatics!
Use Print Materials
Want to memorize with less repetition? Print materials might just be the way to go! Studies show that students who studied solely using their computer screen had to do more repetition in order to digest the same information than students who used print materials. Additionally, students who used print materials seemed to understand the materials more fully than students who only relied on electronic resources. While students who used electronic materials were still able to retain and recall information, students who used print material were able to do so more quickly. So, consider printing your outline to memorize it. It might just make the process go a little bit faster!
We hope this post on how to memorize in law school helps you as you embark on your final exams!