How to Memorize For Finals
Even if you’re attending Zoom University, the calendar is still the same. The first couple of months in the semester are about survival. The third month is about outlining. The last weeks are about practice exams.
And at some point, your mind starts turning over the daunting task of memorizing all that material.
The problem? In law school, there’s a LOT of material.
1. Don’t Panic
First off, don’t panic about having to memorize the material for four classes.
Remember, when the bar exam rolls around, you’ll be memorizing for 15 finals on the same day. You don’t have to do that yet, so keep it all in perspective. You’re only memorizing for four finals. Here, we call that a down payment!
2. Don’t Memorize Too Early
Anything you memorize in August or September (or January and February) is worthless. There’s still a lot more material to cover and, by the time you get there, the stuff you memorized at the beginning of the semester will be long forgotten.
Another method that’s just as dangerous? Trying to memorize the material before you take a practice exam. With this method, you won’t end up taking any practice exams until Question 1 on exam day, and that’s a disastrous strategy. (Don’t be that guy!)
I recommend that you wait until the reading period to do your memorization.
If it’s done properly with the appropriately-sized outlines, you can memorize one subject in 4-8 hours the day before the exam.
3. Learn How Not to Memorize
There’s a right way—and a wrong way—to memorize material for your law final.
Drafting flashcards? That’s the wrong way. It takes up so much time that you won’t have any time left to actually memorize anything.
I once saw a student peel off a label (with a law she typed on it the night before) and place it on a hole-punched flash card that eventually went onto a gigantic ring. She wasn’t studying, just making these perfect flashcards.
What about a cram session? That stuff is out of your head the next day. Same goes for dictating your notes into the tape recorder.
So what’s the right way to memorize?
4. Summarize the Material
The key concept is synthesis.
Humans learn best in short-term memory through synthesis. Don’t just jam material into your head. It won’t stay there. Synthesizing larger and larger material into smaller and smaller parts is what will help you retain that which you are memorizing.
The process is something akin to what I learned in a History of the Vietnam War class I took at Cal in the spring of 1992 (I was a History major). One day, Professor Douglas Pike, America’s foremost expert on North Vietnam, suddenly started riffing about (of all things) memorization.
Professor Pike said, “How do you really know something?” I was immediately bewildered. This was a History class, not a Philosophy class!
Then he said, “Say you write a 100-page paper. Then you write it again in 50 pages. Then 25 pages. 10 pages. 5 pages. 3 pages. And then you synthesize that 100 page paper into 1 page. If you can do that, you know what you’re talking about.”
Fast forward seven years later, nine days before the February 2000 Bar Exam, and I’m thinking about my experience with Professor Pike. How do I put all of this material together? Fourteen subjects, seven days to memorize, then a day off, and then into the exam. How do I memorize fourteen subjects in seven days?
I utilized the synthesizing idea that Professor Pike talked about. I combined the biggest subjects with the smallest subjects. Memorization is about synthesizing, yes. But it’s also about volume. You don’t want to memorize Con Law and Property in one day—too much stuff! But when properly compiled, you can memorize 1-2 subjects a day and be ready to go for the Bar Exam.
But as 1L’s you don’t have to worry about that! Just one subject. How do you do it? Synthesizing.
How My Program Works
What about carpal tunnel? Aren’t you worried about carpal tunnel?
Nope. This memorization process I teach in my program is oral. You can write letters of mnemonics if you want. But no need to write entire subjects out.
Does it work? Remember I teach Big League memorization—15 finals on the same day. And students of all stripes have done it. 1st timers, 12th timers. 25-year-old recent grads up to students in their 60s. Learning disabled students? Check. Autistic student? Yes.
It can be done and has been done for over two decades.
My memorization plan has a mechanism to help you bring the information forward to the next day (actually the next 7-11 days) so you can recall the material when you need it most. Memorization is a temporal notion, my friends. You can’t memorize it all right before the test. You have to start early.
But whatever you memorize early, you need to bring forward. I’ve got you covered. I have done what you are trying to do and under more trying circumstances (your next final is 5-6 days later, while I was memorizing for 14 finals on the same day). And I’ve helped students like you memorize when it mattered the most.
What if you’re a universalist and you’re a top 10% student, and you’re convinced that the only way you will get through the Bar Exam is to memorize everything in sight, just like you did for your 1L finals? That can work for one final five days from now. But it won’t help you when you are memorizing for 15 finals on the same day. I have a plan for it, and you can learn how to do it too.
Or… you could learn how to practice perfectly now, for semesters on end, so doing that Big League memorizing for the Bar Exam won’t be nearly as hard.
Let’s talk about it and help you generate some points!