How To Memorize Bar Exam Outlines

Ashley Heidemann is the owner and founder of JD Advising, a law school and bar exam prep company offering services ranging from LSAT tutoring and application assistance to bar exam tutoring, courses and seminars.


Memorization is a critical part of studying for the bar exam. You may be tested on the nuances of the law, but you need to have the law memorized first! It may seem overwhelming at first, but it can be done. By breaking down your outline into manageable sections, testing your knowledge and focusing on highly tested areas, you can effectively and efficiently memorize your bar exam outline.


1 | Memorize Your Outline Section By Section.

To make memorizing your bar exam outline manageable, do not try to memorize your entire outline in one sitting. Instead, divide it into manageable sections. If you are memorizing Civil Procedure, for example, then personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction and venue could be three separate sections under that subject.

When I was memorizing bar exam material, I would memorize each section by writing out all the rules without looking at my outline. Then, I would check what I wrote against my outline to make sure it was correct. I would keep rewriting the rules until I knew them all. However, you may find that a different technique works better for you. (See the next tip!)

Keep working on one section until you know it by memory. Then move on to the next one.


2 | Actively Review Your Outlines.

Rather than passively reading an outline, you should actively memorize it! To figure out which method of active review is best for you, reflect on how you best learn new material. Are you a visual learner? An auditory learner? A kinesthetic learner? Knowing how you learn best will reveal which techniques you should use to memorize the content.

If you are a visual learner, you may learn best from colorful charts, diagrams, pictures, and lists. You may also find it useful to rewrite outlines until you know them (see tip one).

If you are an auditory learner, listening to lectures and attending study groups will be helpful for you. It might also help to read outlines aloud and explain concepts to yourself or others. Rhymes and mnemonics will be especially beneficial for you.

If you are a kinesthetic learner, you learn best by doing a physical act. You may find it helpful to trace diagrams, flow charts, or pictures. You might even find it valuable to act out certain concepts or move around (e.g. pacing) as you learn.

Keep in mind that no matter which method of review works best for you, it is hard work to memorize bar exam outlines! Plan on taking frequent breaks when you work on memorizing this extensive material. 


3 | Quiz Yourself!

One of the best bar exam memorization techniques is quizzing yourself. There are a few ways you can do this:

 - Cover up your outline and ask yourself if you can remember the law.

 - Complete practice problems and focus on whether you can recite the rules.

 - Meet with a friend or study group and quiz one another on the law.

Quizzing provides a great way to actively review the material and truly test what you know.


4 | Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!

Once you learn the material on an outline, review it!

Set up a “retention schedule” to review the substance. If you reviewed Evidence on Monday and Tuesday one week, look at it again at least once or twice that week and then review it consistently thereafter (e.g. once every week or two weeks).

The more you review it, the less time it will take you to look it over. And, by the time you take the bar exam, you will know it very well.


5 | Focus Highly Tested Areas Of Law.

One of the biggest struggles that students have when memorizing bar exam outlines is that there is so much information to learn! Study smart and focus on the highly tested areas of law. For example, negligence is highly tested in Torts. And, relevancy and hearsay are highly tested in Evidence.

Even if you cannot learn every word of every outline, focusing on the highly tested areas of law will ensure that you are studying efficiently and making the most of your time.


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