If You Can’t Get It Out, Write It Out: Handwriting When Memorizing For The Bar Exam

The bar exam is intimidating because of the vast amount of law you have to memorize. A lot of students struggle with finding the memorization approach that works best for them. Although there are many memorization techniques, this specific post focuses on the art of handwriting. If you haven’t tried handwriting notes or rules as a method of studying – you may want to give it a shot!

What’s Up With Handwriting?

Research indicates that the act of writing things down helps us remember those things better. When you’re listening to bar review lectures, the part of the brain that handles listening and language is fully engaged. Some of the information you’re listening to goes into your memory, but crucial information and trivial information is going in and out the same way – the brain is processing this all the same as you are listening.

When you handwrite notes, something else happens. As you’re writing, you create spatial relations between the various pieces of information you’re recording. When you’re taking notes while listening to a lecture, for example, you’re likely writing down important key points – not random pieces of information. When we just listen to something, we pick up and remember those random pieces of information. When we write things down, we tend to better remember the important information.

When we write, we are putting more thought into ordering and evaluating the information we are getting. That process – the process of writing, ordering, and evaluating – helps us better input things in our minds and increases our changes of long-term recall.

How To Incorporate Handwriting Methods

You’re probably thinking – okay enough of this background science stuff – so what do I do? Here are some study strategies incorporating handwriting that you can implement:

  • Re-write rules by hand. If you’re memorizing a section of your outline (e.g., negligence), you can re-write the rules by hand on a piece of scratch paper. You can re-write the rules as many times as you need in order to solidify them in your memory.
  • Hand-write flowcharts or attack sheets. Take some pieces of blank computer paper and draw a subject, by hand, on the piece of paper. Write out how you would approach a subject. Working on negligence? Write down how you would approach evidence and each issue within negligence that could come up. Draw flowcharts or make charts by hand.
  • Write down your incorrect answers. If you’re doing MBE and MEE questions, write down the issues or law you missed. Write down why you missed a question or an issue in an essay. The act of writing down your mistakes will help you avoid them in the future.

These are just a few ways you can incorporate handwriting as a memorization tool in your bar study. Find what works for you, try some different techniques, and do what makes you comfortable.

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