Memorization Issues: Try Leitner Boxes!
If you have worked hard to prepare for classes all semester, you probably get frustrated when you have trouble remembering information for final exams. The method we learn in today’s blog post will help you move that information from your short-term memory to long-term memory. Unless active steps are taken to remember what we learn, much of that is forgotten within the first 48 hours of learning it. (See this government publication for more information on the different types of memory.) The Leitner boxes will help you retain that information throughout the semester.
For this method, you will need notecards and four boxes to hold those notecards. After you have assembled these materials, the first step is to write on the notecards all of the rule statements, definitions, etc., you will need for your final exam. All of these cards will go in box number one.
Next, memorize all of the information on each notecard perfectly. Perfectly means you can recite all of the information on the notecard without looking down at it once. You go through all of the notecards in box number one every two days. Once you have a notecard memorized, it goes in box number two.
The notecards in box number two you will go through every four days. If there is a card you cannot remember perfectly, it goes back in box number one. Once you have a card from box number two memorized perfectly it goes in box number three.
The notecards in box number three you will go through once a week. Again, if there is a card you cannot remember perfectly, it goes back to the previous box, i.e. box number two. Once you have a card from box number three memorized it goes in box number four.
The notecards in box number four you will go through every two weeks. You get the idea; if there is a card you cannot remember perfectly, it goes back to box number three. Keep reviewing these throughout the semester until the final exam.
A word of caution to those who know they will be having an open-book or open-notes exam. You still need to know and use this method to learn and remember the information. As you know, the meat of an exam essay answer comes in the analysis / application section. In this section, you link the rule of law to the set of facts provided in the exam question–watch this video on the IRAC method to learn how to to this. Your notes and textbook will not contain the answers to an application portion of an essay. You need to know the rules of law front to back so you can go right into your application section with complete confidence that you know that rule and how to apply it. If you are spending time looking for rule statements or definitions in your notes or books, this will take away time you could be spending on actually analyzing an issue. And if the exam is timed, you do not want to spend that time flipping through your book when you could be writing your answer. The Leitner box method will save you that time because you will already know the information in your notes and in the book and will be able to write it from memory.