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When Mind Hacks Won’t Work: Brute Force Memorization

Written by Brett McKay

dreamstime_1127573.jpgI’m always on the lookout for new ways to make my studying and learning more effective and efficient. I’m a big fan of the peg system, image linking, and mindmaps. Unfortunately, I’ve found these techniques useless for memorizing 40 page law school outlines filled with abstract legal doctrine.

The Brute Force Memorization Process

While reading aloud the sentence of the thing I want to memorize, I’ll type it in my computer. I’ll repeat this process five times with each line of data I want to memorize.

I’m getting visual stimulation by reading and auditory stimulation be reading aloud. Writing things down is one of the best ways to remember things. These three done simultaneously produce a trifecta of memorizing power. Repetition crams the info into your brain. If I’m having trouble memorizing a particular piece of information, I’ll keep repeating the process until I’ve got it down.

It’s not pretty and it’s not efficient, but it gets the job done. I’ve been doing this for years and it has always helped me remember those pesky details I’ve needed to know on exams. I make sure I leave myself plenty of time before the test to do this.

Caveat: I don’t completely abandon memorizing techniques while doing this. I often incorporate them in the process when I see they would work. For example, I include mnemonics to help memorize a list of elements to a crime. But when I have to remember the definition of “connivance” or “proximate causation”, my brute force technique steps in.

I use text editor for writing the information. I have a friend who uses a similar technique but prefers writing it by hand.

Bottom line: This technique works for me. But do what works for you.

What are your memorization techniques? Drop a line in the comment box and add to the conversation!

If you liked this article, please bookmark it on del.icio.us or vote for it on Digg. I’d appreciate it. :)

The Work Ethic of the Modern Student

Written by Brett McKay

The New York Times has an interesting article about the new work ethic of modern college students. It was written by Joanne B. Ciulla, a professor the University of Richmond. Basically, Professor Ciulla writes how she has noticed the traditional Prostestant work ethic, with it’s focus on work as a means for self improvement, being eschewed for a new work ethic that just focuses on money. She then goes on to describe behavior by college students that demonstrates this new set of values.

Here are some of the traits that Professor Ciulla has noticed:

Entitled to a do-over

I noticed this all the time when I was in undergrad. If kids didn’t get a good grade on a paper or test, they would ask if they could do it again. Professor Ciulla notes that the students who make this request aren’t failing but want to push their grade up to an A- or a B.

The problem with this attitude is that in the working world, you often don’t get a chance for a do-over. In today’s cut throat economy, employers demand quality and they demand it fast. Unfortunately, many college professors are caving into these requests by students. Consequently, many students leave school thinking they’ll get a do-over in grad school or on the job.

Clock Punching

Professor Ciulla notes that many students feel they deserve a higher grade just because they put so much time into a test or paper. I noticed this as well when I was an undergrad. Here’s the deal: in the real world, your employer doesn’t care how much time you put into a project. If it sucks, the company loses money. Effort doesn’t count on the job, results do.

Overblown egos

My generation grew up during the age of self esteem. Ever since elementary school, we’ve been told we’re special and that we can do anything in the world. Kids get prizes even if they come in last place, just so no one gets their feelings hurt. On top of that is the grade inflation that runs rampant in colleges now.

As a result, many young students have a misled idea of how their work stacks up against others. When they land their first job and get reamed for a lousy performance, young people often suffer from a spat of cognitive dissonance. Their whole life they were told they were awesome. Now, all of a sudden they’re told their work sucks. It doesn’t make sense to them.

In the real world, there are losers. It’s too bad that many young people have to learn this during their first job.

What can be done?

First, we can dump the whole self esteem thing. Of course we should teach children the value of having a good self image. A person with a healthy self image values themselves, but recognizes there’s room for improvement. People with high self esteem often are oblivious to the fact that they can improve.

Second, schools need to stop inflating grades. This is going to be a tough one. Because our system of higher education has turned into a business with students and parents as consumers, college deans, in pursuit of turning a profit, cave into consumer demand, ie higher grades. I think if anything is to be done, parents will have to demand that colleges stop inflating grades.

What do you all think? Is our society preparing young people adequately for the working world? If not, what can be done to prepare them?

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Top 5 Ways to Save Money While in School

Written by Brett McKay


This is my contribution to ProBlogger’s top 5 group writing project. Go by, read the submissions, and contribute a post as well.

Like most young students, I’m poor. My wife and I are always looking for ways to save money so we can mitigate our already high student debt load. Here’s a list of the 5 things that I have found that have helped us save the most money.

  1. Live with your parents. Right now, my wife and I are living with her parents. This has been our biggest money saver. It’s worked out rather well for us and my in-laws. We have rent free housing and they get in home service. My wife cleans the house and makes dinner for them every once in awhile and I take care of landscaping and the recyclables.
  2. Don’t own a car or if you’re married, just own one. My wife and I just own one car. I got rid of mine when we married. We save on insurance and maintenance. Besides the savings sharing a car has given us time to talk between our busy schedules.
  3. Bring your lunch to campus. I’m surprised by the number of law students who go out to eat every day. If the average meal is $5, that means that many students are dropping $100 a month just on lunch. My average home brought lunch costs probably a $1, some time less.
  4. Buy used textbooks. Buying new is for suckers. Buying used law school text books can be tricky though because publishers come out with new editions frequently. It’s OK to not buy the newest edition. The reality it that there’s not much difference between the older and new editions. If there is something new, just read it in a friend’s text book.
  5. Take advantage of free food at club meetings. There’s always a club meeting somewhere on campus on any day of the week. Often at these meetings there’s free food. Stop by, enjoy the speaker, and load up on grub. In addition to bring your own lunch, this is another great way to reduce your food budget.

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[tags]ProBlogger, Top 5, saving, money, school[/tags]

Holy Crap! I’m Back in High School!

Written by Brett McKay

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If the lockers and bringing your lunch in a sack wasn’t enough, then the Student Bar Association elections has really brought law school back to high school. When I walked into school the other day, the walls were covered with homemade campaign posters for SBA delegates. It really creeped me out to seeing pictures of grown adults photoshoped pictures with Will Ferrel in order to promote themselves.

I was really big in to the Student Council thing when I was in High School and honestly thought I left those days behind when I graduated. I guess I was wrong. Somebody save me from law school/high school!

[tags]law school, student council[/tags]

How to prepare for law school finals (without spending a fortune)

Written by Brett McKay


Finals are just five weeks away for me. I’m trying to get motivated for the death march that will ensue. To help my fellow comrades, I’ve compiled my previous posts on how to prepare for exams without breaking your budget. Enjoy.

77 Tips to Learn Faster

Written by Brett McKay

Law school requires students to learn huge amounts of information quickly. Good thing the Online Educational Database has created an awesome list of methods to increase how quickly you learn things.

In Hacking Knowledge, 77 Ways to Learn, Faster, and Deeper The Online Educational Database offers several knowledge hacks that will have you memorizing future estate rules in no time flat.

Some of the useful categories for law students include:

  • Recall techniques
  • Visual Aids
  • Verbal and Auditory Techniques
  • Self Motivation
  • For Students and Self Studiers

Check it out. You can definitely spend a lot of time reading this. All of the tips are really good, but just pick a few you want to use. Trying to implement too many too soon will definitely cause your brain to overload.

Hacking Knowledge: 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better by Online Educational Database [via Dumb Little Man]