Every law student must learn to build memory for law-school examinations and the bar exam. Very few people have eidetic memories (colloquially called photographic memories), so what are some techniques and basic principles to help with memory? Following are some mnemonic devices, or memory techniques, to consider.
Acronyms are made up of the first letters of the words in sequential order. Take, for example, SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) or IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion).
This is using a sentence or poem with the first letter of each word to cue your memory. Consider this example using the adverse possession elements (actual, continuous, hostile, exclusive, open): Angry crazy horses eat oranges.
You may have also heard this referred to as a memory journey or memory palace. This method entails selecting a familiar location and visualizing a path through it. Associate things you need to remember with something you would see walking through that location. Consider this example using common-law murder elements (unlawful, killing of a human being, malice aforethought): Imagine that you’re in the kitchen. You approach your utensil drawer. Inside there are multiple knives. You pick out a knife from the drawer to mince your recipe ingredients.
This method involves creating associations between items in a list; each item uses the concept in the previous link to introduce the next item. Consider this example using negligence elements (duty, breach, causation, damages): I don’t have any downtime as a law student. Without any downtime, I get bossy. When I’m bossy, others get cranky with me. With others cranky with me, I get distraught.
This process uses visual diagrams to organize concepts into a hierarchy. It also connects and shows relationships between all the individual pieces. Not only can mind-mapping help with memorization, but it will also help you see the forest from the trees and where everything fits.
This memorization technique entails reviewing and recalling concepts at intervals until the information is committed to memory. This active-recall technique keeps materials fresh in one’s mind until it works its way into long-term memory.
One of the best ways to commit things to memory is to teach the concept to someone else. Known as the protégé effect, this is a theory you have likely heard before: if you can teach it to someone else, you probably know and understand it well.
Finally, science tells us that a good night’s sleep can boost memory. Rather than pulling all-nighters, consider getting a good night’s rest and maybe even a nap if needed. Also, the physical act of writing things out (rather than typing) can help commit concepts to memory. Remember that these are just some of the memory techniques you could consider using when trying to commit the vast amounts of information you learn to memory.