Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Spaced Repetition for Bar Study

Repetition is one technique widely known and frequently used for memory retention.  However, during bar review, many students try to spend long hours cramming the black letter law into their heads without thinking about sequencing or spacing. 

Bar students typically focus on one subject over the course of 10-14 hours and only move on when they feel that they have sufficiently memorized the core substantive law for that area.  This is called “massed presentation” because it is focused study over a short span of time (i.e. one day or a few hours).

“Spaced presentation” differs because it entails studying the material several times spaced out over a longer time frame (i.e. one hour every four days).  There are several specific theories and detailed approaches that have been studied regarding spaced repetition.  However, the essence of what the research tells us is that repetition with spaced intervals increases learning, retention, and supports memorization of vast amounts of material.  Thus, it is advantageous for bar students to create a schedule that incorporates “spaced repetition” instead of cramming.

So, instead of “massing” all of Torts in one day, students should consider studying Torts one day for a few hours; and, then studying Torts again two days later for a couple of hours.  The more exposure to the material and the more they try to actively recall it, the better they will remember it.  

With 18 days left until the bar exam, students need to find the most efficient and effective study strategy.  Spaced repetition is not only efficient and effective, it also helps students avoid passive studying and keeps them focused.  Just think, if they are cramming Torts for 14 hours straight, they may feel like committing a tort by the end of it.  Instead, switching subjects and means of study, will provide variation and increase attention and retention.

Lisa Bove Young

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