Every student would desire the eidetic memory of a Mike Ross of Suits, allowing every law student to just replicate everything they read verbatim come exam day. That is of course possible but only in the movies. In real life, if you desire to memorize faster and retain efficiently then you’ll need adopt a technique that harnesses your brain power. It may not make you another Mike Ross but you will manage. The tips shared here work too for memorizing cases but you must not forget to take advantage of our other exciting tips on an earlier article on how to be a successful law student. Here are 9 tips to help you memorize faster as a law student
(1) Use outlines
You want to avoid a potential exam black out, then you must learn to utilize outlines in the course of your reading. What outlines can do for cramming cannot. Outlines simply require that you present your ideas in a skeletal framework, zeroing in on your course essentials. Write an outline of the most important points you’ve learned from a chapter. Draw diagrams by the side of your notes and provide a few examples. Add a bit a humor or short story to make it truly memorable.
(2) Underline key words
Well if you didn’t know, among Nigerian law students exists a dual pen ritual where every law student must own a least two pens. One a blue, the other a red pen. Blue goes for taking notes, while the red is used for highlighting important texts and cases. It is believed that the pen color used for highlighting key words and cases would often determine which part of the memory bank the information will end up – either in the long-term or short-term memory. The brain tends to send strong signals that an item be given top priority when it is highlighted. Don’t red danger flags put even you on notice? Why should your brain react any differently!
(3) Use Online Flashcards.
Any discussion on memorizing that omits the use of online flashcards would warrant the front row seat in criminal negligence. Use online flash cards in your reading for effective retention. In using flashcards, ensure you personalize them the way you’d understand them.
(4) Use Mnemonics.
Don’t tell me you are hearing this for the first time! Mnemonics is to retention what codes are to programming. I’m no neuroscientist but from my own personal experience with mnemonics, what I can say is that when you shorten your long case titles or statutes to their initials, the brain has this unbelievable way of recalling it even under intense pressure. We go back to primary school here. How did your recall your 9 planets again? It was with the mnemonic MVEMSUNP. With each letter representing the initial of each of the 9 planets in sequential order. Say them out loud using the acronyms…M for Mercury…that is more like it. One time I shortened Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Lagos, all States in Nigeria where only one particular law applied to 2E4OL. Did it work? You bet!
(5) Associate Ideas.
How come you never forget Mike Ross or Harvey Specter of Suits? If that’s going too far, your name or mummy’s. It is because they’ve had a massive impression on you. Associate newer information you acquire with older ones. You can do this using analogies, metaphors and other memorable things. Connect your new information with things you know fairly well.
Imagine when I had to recall a long case title like Commissioner of Taxation v. English, Scottish & Australian Bank. I split the first parties name “Commissioner of Taxation” and associated it with the name of a roommate who really looked the part. In my mind’s eye, he seemed like the ideal “tax collector” never smiling, always serious. As for the second party “English, Scottish and Australian Bank”, I used my notable football icons “Rooney of Manutd” for “English” (he was an Englishman in every sense). “David Moyes” for “Scottish” (and who would forget that one) and Tim Cahill (former Everton player). If I ever forgot my case title, I still had Rooney, Moyes and Cahill as my insurance. Go find yours, it might not be football icons.
The subject of repetition as a memorizing technique has been a little belabored of late but you can ignore it at your own peril. Repetition is by far the most effective memorizing technique on offer. The more time you pore over an information, the better your retention of it. Recite the information for maximum stickability.
(7) Avoid activities that over-task your brain after reading
Getting involved in certain activities that over-task your brain immediately after you are done reading will cause the new information to evaporate. Your brain takes time to assimilate newly acquired information so when you do certain things within that interval, they tend to interrupt the process. An instance here would be watching too much TV or playing video game after reading.
(8) Learn before going to bed
Psychologists say we should learn right before going to sleep as this will allow our brains put the information in our long-term memory right away. Convert those short periods before bed time for reading and watch your amazing retention.
(9) Teach others what you learn
One of the most effective ways to memorize faster is to teach others new things you’ve learned. You retain 10% of what you read, 20% of what you hear, 30% of what you see and 50% of what you hear and see, 70% of what you discuss with others and 80% of what you learn from personal experience. But the real game changer is teaching others what you learn. When you do that, you retain 90% of what you learn. I’ve seen teachers who can tell you word for word the content of a text book off hand. But that is a cinch after teaching students from the same text book every semester for maybe 10 years running.
A youngish lawyer with penetrating insight, Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lawstudenthub, a site dedicated to helping new wigs find their footing in a trickily slippery legal profession and stay current with emerging developments in the legal industry. He holds an LL.B from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja.
To get in touch, follow him on social media.