How to learn law (even if you don't study law)

There are several articles on the blog dedicated to those studying law.

For example,

In How to Study Private Law, it is explained how important it is to master the terminology and logic of legal reasoning

in 9 essential articles of the civil code (and how to learn them), there are practical examples of how to memorize an article

Many law students have written to me telling me how, thanks to them, have managed to speed up their study.

While someone complained that they were absolutely unable to apply the techniques (see for example my answer to a law student).

But do you know who really has so many problems studying law?

Anyone who does a university other than law and suddenly finds himself facing an exam that is full of legal things!

And I believe there is at least one such exam in every Spanish university course.

The problem is not only the objective difficulty of remembering the number and content of an article. There is also the fear that it is apparently something completely new.

How I used memory techniques for my Hygiene exam

“Today I want to share with you an exercise to apply memory techniques together to the legal arguments of a medical exam.

Obviously the theme is quite specific, but I believe that the modus operandi can also be applied to many other exams.

Before starting, however, I would like to make a clarification: even if it seems paradoxical, I hate learning concepts by heart!

And it is precisely for this reason that I approached the world of mnemonics: to save time for something that just doesn't suit me, and to make the memorization process a little more varied and interesting than "reading and repeating".

Let's start!

Preliminary actions: what to do before storing

If you have been following Armando Elle's blog for some time, you will surely know that memorization techniques are not the first step, but the last, of a study method effective. (go to the article on the university study method)

If you use the classic study scheme, which is to open the book from page one and go on trying to memorize everything, not only will you encounter great difficulties, but you will really waste a lot of time.

Perhaps finding yourself in the middle of the book after several days, and without remembering almost anything of what you studied at the beginning.

If, on the other hand, you want to study quickly and well, you have to build as quickly as possible a "basic familiarity" with the subject to be studied.

Which means you must:

  • Read it quickly (preferably skimming first, then quick reading)
  • Conceptually elaborate the text
  • Identify the main topics
  • Maybe even mark the keywords that refer to those topics

Without worrying too much about remembering! (Which, however, already in this phase, will somehow happen naturally)

Only after, with these basic steps, you will have thendivided the concepts to be given priority and the details to remember by heart, you can really start worrying about memorizing.

And you can do it using the mnemotecniche!

Like? I'll show you with an example, taken from my study of the Hygiene and Medicine of the Territory exam.

Selection of material: what to remember

To start memorizing, you need to select the material to remember.

And, especially if it is "pure data" (ie dates, numbers, definitions, particular names), it can be useful to write a list or make some kind of schema or table.

This is not a fundamental operation, but I recommend it, because it always gives me good results.

In any case, the important thing is to remember only the information needed, and these vary according to the exam, the faculty, and the particular case.

For example, a medical student may not care if the wording DPR or Legislative Decree appears on the book, while for a law student, things change.

However, especially at the first memorization, do not be afraid to "skim", and be as essential as possible!

Because there is always time to memorize new things once you have a well-ordered first “core” of knowledge in your head.

While if you try to load too many things all at once, you will inevitably remember little and in a confused way.

Coming to the laws to learn for my exam, I used this very simple scheme:

Abbreviation of the decree (e.g. 833/78), stored through phonetic conversion + keyword (eg birth of the NHS) which describes its content, and allows me to link it to the concepts studied.

Believe me it is more than enough for the first step of memorization, e allows you to build a "skeleton" of steel on which to store the rest if necessary.

And that's why the steps before memorization were so important, the ones I told you about earlier!

Without proper understanding and processing of what I needed to learn, I couldn't choose what was essential!

Therefore I would never have built such a simple scheme, and I would have found myself trying to memorize a sea of ​​things in a disordered way.

If you have difficulty, and you need more examples on how to focus on essential concepts, even if you are not a law student, I recommend you read this article: how to learn 9 essential articles of the civil code.

If, on the other hand, you do not know the phonetic conversion, which is the memory technique I use for the numbers of the laws, I will present it to you below.

Phonetic conversion: turning numbers into images

La phonetic conversion, is a technique that is based on the conversion of information that does not have many links in our mind (numbers) into something known (mental images).

All this is possible thanks to the "transformation" of numbers into sounds, and therefore a numerical sequence becomes a set of words (and consequently, images).

In a nutshell then, phonetic conversion encodes something abstract and difficult to remember into something concrete and easy to remember. 

To see in detail how it works, go to the article on mnemonics for numbers.

The result of the phonetic conversion are, as I said, mental images.

But what you need to focus on right away is that mental images are very personal, so seeing other people's memorizing examples may seem complicated! But trust me it isn't.

The important is customize: everyone has their own baggage of images, sensations, memories that influence our way of memorizing; So please take a cue from mine, but the "best" images for me may not be good for you!

Let's memorize the first articles

Here is an excerpt from the table I created for each chapter of the book:

  • on the left the decree
  • in the center the images I used (after creating them with phonetic conversion)
  • on the right the topic mentioned in the decree (or at least, only the one that interested me for the purpose of the exam)

Let's start with the first box: 833/78.

As you know from the phonetic conversion scheme, the number 8 is associated with the letters F or V, the number 3 with the letter M and the number 7 with guttural sounds, with CH, GH (or in any case C and G with a hard sound). And with them I built my words / images.

The ideal would be convert the entire number sequence into one word.

But don't stare: you won't always be able to find a single word that works for the entire number sequence, and in that case you can create more than one image, as I did with UFO (which represents the number 8). , and the MOMO Design helmet (number 33), which is very fashionable in my part of the world.

But now, having more images, we are faced with a problem: how not to get confused about which one comes first and which one after?

The ideal solution depends on our creativity: for example, if we imagine a UFO with a MOMO helmet on its head, it will be difficult for us to remember which image comes first.

So, for example, we can imagine a UFO crashing into an object that breaks, and from which the Momo Design helmet comes out. Or the UFO itself explodes and many Momo helmets are thrown into the surrounding space from inside.

The same problem arises for the date of the decree (the first digits refer to the number of the decree, while the last two refer to the year in which it entered into force).

In this case, logic and "familiarity" with the topic I mentioned earlier can help us: in fact, I already know that the first digits refer to the number of the decree, while the last two refer to the year in which it entered in force!

And therefore the last image (not surprisingly I chose a separate one for each date) is always composed of two numbers, and always refers to the date!

But there are also other solutions: for example, the character that separates the number from the year, that is "/", in English is called "slash", like the famous guitarist of Guns N 'Roses.

We could therefore have Slash interact with the image that refers to the year, so as to be sure to separate the number of the decree from the year in force; here too, as you can see, the most important thing is creativity!

In any case, at this point you find that the decree 833/78 is no longer represented by numbers, but by images.

And you have to tie these to one image that represents the topic of the article. 

For example, visualizing the coffee bean hatching and inside there is a cradle with a newborn that has the face of your health care doctor! 

It sounds convoluted, but actually when you think about it it's great: you have created an image that metaphorically represents a concept, the BIRTH OF THE NHS, and you will certainly never forget it.

Precisely for the logical and creative effort you had to make!

And since this image is linked to that of the coffee bean, with the phonetic conversion you know in an instant that the year of creation was 1978! And since the coffee comes out of the MOMO case which is related to UFOs, you also know that the number is 833!

With the right exercise, believe me, doing all of this really is very fast. And you don't forget it anymore.

Try practicing a little with the second table.

Of course you can use my images, but I recommend that you make your own.

I hope this example was useful to you, and for anything write me below in the comments, and I will be happy to answer you. "

How to continue with the memorization

I thank Raffaele for his example, and I do some reflections.

Starting with a small summary of what Raffaele told us, done just as if you were preparing for the exam:

  • You quickly read the text and notes, focusing on the main concepts and the things you will need to memorize
  • You started to memorize the skeleton, after having organized it in an essential logical scheme
  • Applying the method of phonetic conversion and creating images for keywords you have actively memorized the number of each law and its main topic

In addition to this, a series of concepts and data will already have stuck to you in a "passive" way to your brain, and therefore you begin to have quite clear ideas.

However, this is not necessarily enough.

Perhaps, for example, in addition to the main content you need to know, for each article, the others.

How to proceed in this case?

Simply, redoing in the small of each article what you have already done throughout the book. And then, for example, by selecting keywords to be transformed into images, which you can then link together with the memory palace technique.

But maybe even this is not enough, because your professor is a bit crazy, and he wants you to know the articles word for word ... ..

Well, then maybe the method of learning a theatrical script can help you, which is really just a bit of an extreme extension of some of the memory techniques you've seen today.

In short, the concepts that I want to let you pass are two:

1-  Nnever be afraid of memorization. 

Even when it comes to stuff you don't know at all, like legal articles for someone studying medicine, the principles and methods are always the same. And if you know the techniques well you can apply them to any material

2- Always study by levels

You do not go from knowing anything to knowing everything starting from page 1 and going on like a mule until the end of the book.

Indeed, effective learning proceeds in concentric circles.

When you study, first of all you have to "rough out" with method: that is, understand, organize and select that you have to memorize.

And then you start memorizing, with different levels of depth depending on the needs of the exam and the time you have available!

And if you do this memorization with techniques, it will be even more effective and faster. Provided you've invested the time to learn them! A greeting. Armando.

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