The bar exam is easily one of the most difficult tests that anyone can take. Depending on which state’s exam you take, you’re looking at up to twenty subjects’ worth of material, and memorizing several subtopics and rules within each of those. All of this results in a ton of information to memorize.
All bar prep companies and bar tutors will tell you that the sheer amount of information you “need” to know is impossible, so you should focus your attention on learning the information that’s necessary to help you pass and nothing more. However, most law students aren’t accustomed to the bare minimum approach, and as such, you’re probably looking to memorize as much as you possibly can.
The easiest way to memorize information is to figure out what type of learner you are and how you best absorb information. I’m a visual learner–I have to see it written out on a page to ingest it. I have a friend who will not remember anything unless she hears it spoken to her, and another friend who has to write it out himself. So, if you’re not sure what kind of learner you are, figure that out first before you try to memorize anything. Note that many students are a mix of different types of learners.
After you know what type of learner you are, use that to help inform how you study. If you’re looking for a good resource for all of our best bar exam studying tips, check out this post.
The number one way to memorize is to get information in front of you in as many ways as possible, regardless of what type of learner you are. You’ve probably memorized a few of your favorite movie lines without even trying to just from watching the same scenes over and over. Similarly, you’ve probably not memorized certain material even while actively trying to memorize it because you haven’t gotten it in front of your brain enough. Here’s some methods you may not have considered:
- Write out attack sheets and post them on different walls throughout your house. Each time you walk past the wall or into that room, quiz yourself and see if you can list everything out loud on that sheet without looking. This will help visual learners because you can visualize the written words themselves (or charts, depending on what you wrote on your attack sheets), as well as where the paper is posted. It helps kinesthetic learners because the movement of walking into the room and recognizing where the paper is posted can jog your memory. Auditory learners will hear themselves saying the information.
- Record yourself talking through attack sheets or rules you need to memorize. Play them back when you’re doing regular activities like folding laundry, putting dishes away, or walking your dog. Listening to the information on repeat–even if you’re not specifically an auditory learner–can help you make connections that you otherwise may not have made. While you’re cleaning your kitchen and listening to a lecture about negligence, for example, you might associate the bleach under the sink with breach of duty.
- Use your time in the shower to memorize, whether that’s by playing audio recordings or even taping attack sheets to shower walls. I always did my best memorizing in the shower because there are no other distractions or other things to focus on, and the environment is also relaxing and peaceful. A less stressful environment makes it a million times easier to memorize.
- Use a diffuser, lotion, or specific chapstick every time you’re studying and then use the same scent while you take your exam. Smell has been linked to memory and can sometimes help bring back information in unexpected ways.
- Limit your alcohol intake while you’re prepping for the bar. Obviously alcohol is one of the major ways that law students try to destress, but alcohol can actually worsen your recall and your focus.
- If you’re having trouble memorizing, go somewhere else. This could be to a new library, coffee shop, or a park, or it could be as simple as moving from your desk onto your bedroom floor. A change of positioning and scenery can often give your brain a nice refreshing reset and help you focus a bit better.
Even while trying to maximize all of your time studying and absorbing information, it’s important to give yourself breaks to just relax. Here’s some ideas for how to de-stress, in law school but specifically during this period of studying for the bar. Particularly important to your ability to memorize is sleep. Sleeping allows your brain to sort, process, and organize information you’ve taken in throughout the day. It is also absolutely essential for moving pieces of information from your short term memory to your long term memory. Sleep is important for lots of other reasons – check this blog post out for more.