Law School Study Tips: Improve Your Memory

As a 1L, you often hear advice to “Do your own thing,” and “Study whatever way works for you,” or “Stick to your learning style from undergrad.” However, if you’re still figuring that out or if you’re willing to try something new, I’ve compiled a list of study tips. Despite the increase in open-book exams afforded by the pandemic, let’s not be lulled into a false sense of security. Below are five scientifically based tips that may accelerate committing your material to long-term memory.

  1. Change Outline Font Style

Convert outlines to hard-to-read fonts, as it can help us to think more thoroughly about the material. The goal is to make it difficult to skim and trick yourself into thinking you’re retaining the information. A study from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) reports, “when a piece of information is too easily and cleanly read, it can fail to engage our brains in the kind of deeper cognitive processing necessary for effective retention and recall.”  A few font ideas include: Bodoni MT and Didot. (Don’t forget you can use Command + A to quickly select all text for editing font style).

2. Create a Memory Palace

A few years ago, at the Houdini Museum, I met a magician who had memorized the first word for each page of an entire book.  When I asked how, he explained his technique of using a “memory palace.” The memory palace or Method of Loci, involves visualizing a familiar place such as your house or campus and creating associations for each element along the route. The more outrageous the visuals, the more effective they are. Although law school material is more complex than rote memorization, this tip may be beneficial for definitions, or other facts that fit into the larger context of the course.

3. Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Yet another benefit of mindfulness meditation practice is improvements to cognitive functions such as memory. In a review of several studies, researchers found that early phases of mindfulness training could be associated with significant improvements in selective and executive attention. Additionally, increased cerebral blood circulation from regular meditation boosts brain functions important in memory and attention.

4. Vary Learning Methods

You may have heard the categorization of learners as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, etc., but there is little evidence to support these separations. A study published in the journal of Theory and Research in Education suggests that dual coding (combined methods of learning) is more beneficial for all students. In addition, they found a highly significant effect of visual methods, where students retained twice as much information as those in the auditory group regardless of self proclaimed learning style. Another study found that incorporating images, especially self-drawn, was a reliable means of boosting memory. They believe the reason this improves memory is the integration of elaborative, visual, and motor methods. Essentially, the more areas of the brain engaged during learning, the better. So, if you can find a way to incorporate doodles or images into your outline – try it out.

5. Read Aloud

This last tip might be a bit awkward, especially if you hate the sound of your own voice (same). Nevertheless, a 2017 study in the journal Memory claims that you are more likely to remember something if you read it out loud. They claim that there is a “production effect,” caused by simultaneously speaking and hearing your own voice, while the part of the memory benefit of speech stems from it being personal and self-referential.


Fiona Maguire is a first-year student and brand new Impact blogger. Contact her at maguirfi@bc.edu.

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