Jun 22, 2008

Flashcards for Memorization - Part 1

Most students are outright frightened by the amount of law they have to memorize for the California Bar Exam. This is understandable, given that law school exams were very different - usually spaced 3-4 days apart (as opposed to minutes), covering only one subject (the California Bar Exam now has 15) and graded on a curve (you wish).

That's why we recommend that students make flashcards in order to prepare (make them during the first month, memorize them during the second).

In response to this suggestion, we frequently hear: "I haven't done flashcards since fourth grade!" or "I always remembered most of the rules in my law school outlines anyway" or "I'm just not a flashcard person." We know. No one has done flashcards since elementary school and everyone outlined in law school. This. Is. New. For. All of Us.

The reason for the change is simple. You didn't have to memorize 15 subjects at one time in law school. And you had weeks (or even months) to prepare your outline. To boot, you were able to hang out for days with your outline before taking the test on that subject. Of course you were able to memorize some of the material in it, even if the exam was open book. This is different.

When you have to MEMORIZE 15 subjects worth of rule statements, spanning hundreds of pages worth of black letter material, you are faced with a challenge that is entirely new. Having to recall this material in a matter of minutes under exam pressures is incredibly intense. You really need to know the rule statements (or as many as you can) cold. A vague recollection of them won't exactly help the timing problem (as you ponder while the clock ticks) and paraphrasing or making them up will only get you half-credit (at best). So to know these rules like the back of your hand, it's simple - become a flashcard person. Test yourself. Have others quiz you. Force yourself to guess what's on the back of that card until you can't stand it anymore. Recycle and repeat until the card is committed to memory and removed from the stack. Success.

That's the way to memorize.

The most common memorization question we get is - how long does memorization take?

Sadly, that depends on a lot of factors: your age, the other things battling for your brain's attention (life things, personal issues) and whatever you ingested during high school/college. On average - 14-17 days. Your flashcards should be done and ready by this time.