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How To Memorize Bar Exam Outlines!

How To Memorize Bar Exam Outlines: Many students struggle with how to memorize bar exam outlines. There is SO much to do. And so little time! How do you conquer this monumental task?

You may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to do this. And that is actually normal. Many students do not learn how to memorize until they study for the bar exam! So if you are just now learning how to memorize, you are not alone! Take it slowly and give the process a chance and you will find yourself retaining  lot of information.

The author of this post (Ashley Heidemann) received a 180 on the MBE. I studied a lot and of course did practice problems, but I found memorizing the details of the law was the biggest contributor to my overall score. After all, as anyone who has completed any multiple choice practice questions can tell you, the MBE tests the nuances and the details of the law.

How To Memorize Bar Exam Outlines

Here are our tips:

1. First, memorize one bar exam outline at a time.

We’ll say you start with Torts. Divide that outline into manageable chunks. (e.g. in Torts, it could be “intentional torts”, “defenses to intentional torts,” then “duty” “breach” “cause” “harm” could each be its own chunk).

Take one piece of the outline (intentional torts) and try to memorize it. There are many ways you can do this:

The best way to do this is to consider your learning style and try to primarily use techniques that will help you. However, it is also helpful to “mix up” techniques and try different things.

  • The best way for many of our students is simply to cover up part their outline and see if they can quickly jot it down again. Write down, say, all of the intentional torts and their elements. Then check to see if you got them right and correct what you got wrong. Keep doing this until you get all of them right. This strategy helps visual learners and many law students are visual learners.
  • If you are an auditory learner, it may help for you to repeat the elements out loud until you know all of them in lieu of writing them down.
  • Make a chart or diagram, or draw a picture to illustrate a law.
  • Make up mnemonics for certain areas of law.
  • Quiz others or have others quiz you on the law.
  • If you truly do not understand a section of your outline, figure out the rationale behind the rule. This will make it more memorable and easier to retain.
  • Some students use flashcards (which is not a bad idea for small sections of your outlines—say on intentional torts, or crimes, or hearsay exceptions). But don’t fall into the trap of making thousands of flashcards and never reviewing them. Flashcards are limited in their usefulness as they do not give a bigger picture of the law like an outline does. So, they tend to be more helpful for small sections of an outline rather than entire outlines. (Note: If flashcards work for you for memorizing whole outlines, then great! Keep using them. We are just letting you know that for most people, this is not the ideal strategy. And many students regret spending so much time making flashcards.)

2. Go to the next section of your outline.

Once you are able to write or recite the entire part of that outline, take a brief break, then move on to the next section of your outline (e.g. “defenses to intentional torts”). Do the same thing that you did above to learn that section. (Later, after you get bored of one memorization style, you may want to use a combination of the strategies listed above. However, it is good to use one to start with until you feel comfortable with it.)

3. Take breaks.

Memorizing is an exhausting task! Take short breaks between sections or every 45 minutes or so. Do something non-law related (like go on a ten-minute walk or grab a snack). Try to give your brain a break from reading or thinking too intensely. This will make it easier for you to focus when you begin the process of memorizing your bar exam outlines again.

4. Review the whole outline all over again.

At the end of your “active review” period, go back and review everything that you just learned. At this point, you will still not feel like you “know” the outline. You will be able to remember most of it, but it will be a task and you will find yourself struggling to recall some things.

5. Put the outline away.

After some time of intensive reviewing, you will have to put your outline away and move on to whatever you have to do next (like multiple-choice problems, or essay problems).

6. Get a good night’s sleep!

A good night’s sleep is magical for memorization. The next morning when you get up, review everything that you did yesterday again. Quiz yourself on it and see what you remember. Here, you will see how beneficial a good night’s sleep is. While you will not remember every little detail, you will be able to recall portions of it much better than you did the day before.

7. Consistently review the outline.

You may feel good about how far you have come, but you are not done yet. Keep reviewing your Torts outline every day or every other day the same week that you do it. (You don’t have to review the whole outline every day, but review the whole outline again at least once or twice that week in total.)

8. Continue in the weeks to come.

Next week, when you are perhaps long past Torts, still review your Torts outline once a week, at a minimum, to keep it in your head. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy task every week. You will find it takes more time in the beginning but goes much faster as you go through it. Eventually, you will find that you can just flip through your outline and make sure it is still in your head.

Remember: Repetition is key to memorization. And there is no way around that!

I can’t memorize all of these outlines ! What should I do?

If you just don’t have time to memorize bar exam outlines, then here is what we recommend:

  • Focus on the highly-tested subjects. In other words, make memorizing your MBE outlines a priority. These are subjects that are usually double-tested on the MBE and essay portion of most state bar exams (including the Uniform Bar Exam) so these are your most important outlines by far.
  • Also, prioritize the most highly-tested portions of the outlines. The MBE tests negligence, hearsay, and certain topics more than others. The essay portion on most state bar exams, including UBE bar exams, tend to test some topics over and over again. (You can decipher what these are by doing a lot of practice questions. If you are in a UBE state, you can purchase our MEE one-sheets or go to our MEE seminar which will tell you what you really have to review!)
  • Spend less time on subjects that might not show up at all. For example, you know all of the 7 MBE subjects will show up. So memorize bar exam outlines for your MBE subjects, as we stated before. But what about an essay subject? If you are in a UBE state, for example, the essay subjects are not always tested. This is not to say you should ignore an essay subject entirely. Never completely ignore a subject!!! However, when you study something that is not guaranteed to come up, focus on past essays and highly-tested issues. This is simply studying effectively! There is no way you can learn every single detail of law for your bar exam!

If you have any questions about how to memorize bar exam outlines, feel free to email us at [email protected] or post in the comments below.