Bar Exam Prep: 5 Tips to Improve Your Memory

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 07, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There's about three weeks left before the bar exam. You know how to write an essay. You've studied all the black letter law. You've got the MBE under your belt. Or you would, if only you could remember whether singing the curtains is enough to get you charged with arson.

Here's where simple, brute memorization comes in to play. You won't be able to fully rewire your brain in time for the bar exam, but there are certain tricks that might help. Here's five techniques to help you improve your memory as you cram through the final weeks of bar prep.

Good, Old-Fashioned Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary. With the bar exam, as with law school, you should focus on studying substantive material and practicing the exams beforehand. These strategies might help you with that, but they're not going to let you cut down three weeks worth of study into a weekend cram session. So just don't.

1. Try Mnemonic Devices. If you don't already have cozy relationship with them, get one now. Mnemonic devices are techniques that allow you to "improve your memory" by memorizing easy phrases which represent the elements of a crime or approach to addressing an issue. A simple Google search will show up plenty of mnemonics for any issue you're struggling with.

2. Drink Caffeine, After Studying. Yep, you can help retain memories with a delicious coffee, tea, or triple-venti-half-sweet-non-fat caramel macchiato. Research has shown that taking a caffeine pill will improve memory recall for at least a day. Don't use caffeine to keep yourself up all night studying, however. The trick is to take your caffeine dose after you've studied.

3. Chew Gum. Quit smoking, freshen your breath, and make stronger memories. You can recall information quicker and more accurately if you were smacking on some chewing gum while learning it -- maybe. The act of chewing seems to spark up your brain's hippocampus which may help in improving concentration and retaining information.

4. Go to Bed. Your brain doesn't work well when it's exhausted. Sleep has repeatedly been shown to improve memory. It's not just that a rested brain is more likely to function sharply than a tired one. Even just taking a quick 30 minute nap after studying can help improve your recall.

5. Study in Test-like Conditions. When you study, try to do it in conditions similar to those you'll experience in the bar exam. Study in a generally quiet space, sitting upright, as you would when you take the exam, since recalling information is easier when you're in similar circumstances as when you learned it. Sorry, that means you'd better not study at the beach in your last few weeks.

Once more on the disclaimer: These are helpful tips that may work better for some than others. We are not medical researchers, so can't vouch for the clinical efficacy of these recommendations. But we did take the bar, and live to tell the tale. Just remember that.

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