Best method to memorize a textbook?


I’ve spent the last few months reading every memory book I could find, and I think I’m ready to start using some of the techniques - but I need some advice concerning what method would be best for my needs.

I’m a law student, and I’m trying to memorize all of my textbooks using one or more memory techniques.

So quite simply, what method would be best for memorizing something like a law textbook? How would you approach it?

I do like the memory palace technique, and I can use it successfully to memorize a pack of cards, but I just can’t figure out how I would apply it to book memorizing? How do I turn a 300 page textbook into a palace which I can access at will? How does that technique allow me to, for instance, tell someone what is on any random page if asked?

Would I be better off transcribing the textbook into a set of lengthy notes first, and memorize that?

Would other methods be more effective? Finally, how long would you estimate it would take to memorize a 300 page textbook?

Thanks for your help!

Hi launched!

Welcome to the site! Now that is a lot of questions and I’ll try to reply to them as succintly as possible. I was in the same situation as you and with the help of mnemonics, I’ve managed to go through medical studies quite easily, compared to my friends.

So before I go into details, contrary to popular beliefs, mnemonics and memory techniques are not the easy way out of memorizing large texts and books.

Contrary to what other memorizers are saying, even the best ones, mnemotechnics are not for everyone. The concepts and principles are relatively easy to understand but for you to master them, you need to practise, practise and practise even more. Memorizing a simple shopping list using memory techniques is fairly easy for the novice but keeping large amount of information and being able to recall them at will is not that easy.

Before launching yourself into complex, text memorisation, you’ll need to have some weapons at your side. Develop a simple 2 digits system for numbers and you’ll find that helpful along the way. Practise a lot visualization first before tackling your textbooks.

Now for your 300 pages text book, the way I would go about it, is not to use a memory palace but a journey instead, with 300 loci or 6 journeys with 50 loci each. I would assign a locus within a journey to one page. I would use outdoor journeys with large, open spaces instead of objects in a rooms or a house.

I would go through each page first and try to understand the information being said first. Memorizing without comprehension is useless. I would then jot down key points in my own words. I would then try to come up with an image for each point. Try to use the least amount of images possible. Try to assign one image only for a point. Be consistent. Always use the same image for the same point. I use the image of the bad guy in Terminator 2, for T-Cells in Immunology, in various situations.

Link each image using a story or other linking methods within each page on the same locus. Do this for each page.

Start with the first 10 pages. You’ll see at first, that you are taking more time learning them with memory techniques, than doing them by rote. But as you practise and start to develop your imagination and memory power, you’ll go faster on the other pages.

Review each finished page. Review, Review and Review them as many times as possible in your head. When brushing your teeth, in the shower, before going to bed. Review each page after it’s been done, after 3 hours, the next day, the day after, after two days, the next week, the week after and the week after that. You’ll find that it has stuck to your memory.

I still remember information I’ve memorized last June and I can tell you on which page they were.

There are many other techniques I’ve developed but I don’t know whether it will work for you. Some of them have to do with speed reading, time management, visualization, etc.

Anyway hope you found this little guide helpful. If you have got any techniques of yours or you are using another method to learn, please do share it with us. :slight_smile:


Very interesting comments, Yan. I’m in the same situation as Launched; looking to memorise law textbooks. I have experimented a little without the technique described by Yan, although I’ve found that the textbooks I’m trying to memorise contain so much important information on each page that it is not feasible to use one loci per page. I have looked at using one loci per paragraph, but this necessitates an extraordinary number of loci (thousands if I wanted to memorise several of the core textbooks). Any ideas of a more efficient way to memorise these textbooks?

Also, Yan, you mention some of the other techniques you’ve developed (“speed reading, time management, visualisation, etc.”), I’d be very interested to hear more about these if you didn’t mind sharing them. :slight_smile:

Hi Tw… Thanks for the comment. :slight_smile:

Like I said above, I’m not memorising each information word by word, but visualising an image for a concept or idea. Like I can create an image for Endocarditis and add information to that image for symptoms, treatments, etc… After many reviews, you’ll find that you won’t have need for the loci and images because the information would have been stored in your long term memory. You’ll have all the information at hand just by thinking of endocarditis.

The advantage with this method is that you don’t have to have your material with you to review the course as per the traditional method of rote. You can just go through your images in your head to make them stick.

The technique is not to do all at once. You do, little by little, mastering the things you have learnt first before moving on.

The most important thing is not the creation of images or loci but the actual act of reviewing several times.

Later on, you can use the same places for other information.

I’ll share all the techniques later on. I’m currently writing them down. It is too long to write all at once here. :slight_smile:

If you want any help, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ve been there too…


Law is studied by case. Memorize case names. Use name techniques because the case name is name of parties.

Just a couple of thoughts to add to Yan’s very thorough answers. Mind mapping might be good way to organize the material to show relationships.

Boris Sidis, the prodigy, said that if you understand you will remember. So organising to remember helps the natural memory as well.

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I believe the best method to memorize a legal treatise is by what I call the story method also known as the journey method. I agree with the observations of memorizing the case name. I would however use the case name as the name for what I call a “chapter card” Mentally this is a 5 x7 card with the case name. On the front, is a five sentence summary of facts and the holding on the issue. This can be dublicated in the real world before you place them in your mind. Your outline becomes the contents of the journey/story/mental palace. You will find that unless you have the case name/rule number you don’t have a handle by which to access the idea or relate it to the “real world” of your professors/judges. I place a mental ipad in each location in my mind palace for play back and use a peson/action/object method to access them with the case name as the result. I used to have a professor that said that if you can’t give the answer in five sentences you don’t know it. The next stop is contrasting present facts with missing facts, contrary results with different application of cases/statutes and argument by advocacy for desired results.(How you put it down.) After thirty years of practicing law, the missing piece appears to be that lawyers don’t know how to win cases with bad facts. They have forgotten or do not know how to make ideas overwhelm facts. This is done by making ideas as important (or more important) to the decision maker. The final pupose of memory is to cause to be triggered in the decision maker the desire to ask; and have them ask the question to which the answer has been provided by you in way to accesss their memory and common knowledge. If you want to memorize specific rational I believe that is more doable than complete text books.

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After further reflection I would add the following-

I would also spend a great deal of detail in preparing your memory palaces. Perhaps one for each topic or case name so you will have a detailed map of your journey. But you will need to know the case name or statute so you can access the memory address. This will be your handle for reference. Treat the plaintiff’s name as husband’s name and defendant’s name as the wife. Code the case citation as well. Place the rationale in the first room you come to in each house and perhaps a quote close by. Each of your memory palaces should be complete enough to hold the details of each addressed memory and concept. I have found a good way to build your memory palaces is by using a smart phone to take a picture so I can embed it in my mind. This does not need to be crutch but a training aid to help you build the most accurate memory palace. My belief is that it is more difficult to building the memory structure than to place the memory. Sadly, this is not emphasized enough. This takes the capital investment of time before you start memorizing. This is the major reason I believe that more people don’t use memory palaces more. But that being said, after the palace is built, the memory is easier to construct and access. With the type of memorization you wish to undertake you will of course need very large houses or a complete town/journey. Then when you need to access a certain street (say contracts) you can access the concept (English or American Rule) and then the case name and perhaps the rationale. The amount of detail will be limited by the journey you have constructed, the detail supplied, and the number of streets. Further suggestions regarding building various palaces could come in the type and style of house, etc. The practice will be come easier with use but is initially glossed over in memory training. I find that constructing the unique memory palace is usually the most difficult part, but once you get the hang of it can be mastered. It further underlines the point of memorizing the case name and/or rule number. Before I discovery these memory techiques, I remember one exam I crashed had four questions, one of which was, “What are the implications of Rule 55?” (This is the federal rule in civil procedure regarding default.) I knew the concept before walking into the exam and after walking out, but could not for the life of me remember the caption to the rule or what it was about while I had my pen in my hand. Had I known the caption I would have been able to plug in the answer but because I failed to remember the caption I was lost. Some of this can be rote but ultimately it will give you the address to communicate with the outside world and a reference point to start or end your mental journey. Don’t lose your on individuality in constructing memory palaces or how you do this, else you won’t remember the details as well. Ultimately the professor/judge will look not just to if you know the answer but if you are the answer. Going to law school is as much about being the effective advocate as knowing the law. They both strengthen the other.

Good Luck in your studies. Let me know how it goes.


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Pmemory make claims for this but I would recommend the Dominic O’Brien book HOW TO DEVELOP A BRILLIANT MEMORY and my MEMORY PALACE DEFINITIVE, whose number-letter codes overlap and together cover most memory improvement topics. Dom for the techniques, mine for the palaces and journeys.

MPD gives ample possible “Location” codings for each numbered page up to 999 and many more for numbered pages from 1000.

And even if you don’t like my book (would strongly recommend the paperback over the Kindle) you can return it to Amazon for a refund.

I suggest memory palacing the key stuff by page then mind mapping more for summarising and indexing the most crucial or difficult to recall things.


You can read a similar discussion on by hearting books by me

With name memorising books/topic/concept.

In memory in education folder

My technique: read the book first with the active reading technique. Than you make qoustions out the notition. Then you answer the quostions every day, and the things you cant remember that are the things you memorize with the mnemonics technique (loci/link/story/etc.). I like to make donkey bridges and make image from that. The image i place on a door of on a window with the loci technique. And if i can answer all the quostions, i read the book again with the active reading technique, to see if i miss someting. After this you go see documentrys, you go bring the knowledge in practise, and do someting with the new knowledge like expanding.

A another way is that what Dominic o’brien said in one of his books: make a mindmap en memorize the keyword with the loci technique.

Active notetaking: ebook --> learn more, study less

I would say the same as JeffreyLucas, unless you want learn your book verbatim (there is some thread dealing with it here and here) I think you can’t avoid the important step of note taking to understand and keep the most important.
Personally I do mindmaps, I turn the ideas represented by my maps into images + locis (not only the keywords, I failed with this approach, but more generally the ideas aimed by the keywords used) I also turn my maps into anki files to organize nicely my revisions. There was no bridge Mindmaps->Anki, so I create my own , have a look on it if one day you consider using Xmind and Anki.It’s a free app.
Good luck.

Hello Bruno, stumbled onto this thread whilst trying to get some ideas about memorizing textbooks. Previously I used Freeplane mind mapping software…but having downloaded your xmind2anki I think I may be switching over to xmind . What a useful program, thank you.

Hi everyone,I think the ZOX pro training system might come in handy here.

Matthew, did you have any success with the ZOX system? I stumbled across it and after reading the reviews I thought it is a scam.

I had to do this once. I was on a law diploma course on my only day off and worked fourteen hours a day on the other six days. Sometimes seven days meaning I would miss quite a lot of classes and I was the only one in the class that wasn’t already either working at a law firm or already a lawyer. In effect, I was years behind everyone else and didn’t have much time. It didn’t take long to catch up but, I did already know how to memorize and had plenty of journeys. You will certainly need to learn how to memorize and get used to making journeys/locations.

Some people suggested above that you use the Dominic system. I used this system and would have to agree with them. The reason was that it is a system for four digit numbers and law is taught with up-to-date text books. Given that, all the dates are going to be years of Acts of Parliament or the equivalent where you live. All of which contain four numbers.

I certainly didn’t memorize the whole book. I would suggest you don’t either. It’s a waste of locations made for the purposes of memorization.

All I did was to use the law-book, flip to the back and hey presto ! It’s already laid out for you. The reference pages. I memorized a list of words. The definitions are with the words but, I learned the words first. If you do the same, what you will find is that some of them will already be familiar and you might not bother with these. If you do that, these are the ones you will forget and make you stressed out by getting the tip-of-the-tongue syndrome.

In a typical diploma book on law there aren’t that many definitions. Concentrate on the name alone and memorize it. Each subject will have one or two hundred. Don’t bother with the definitions until you know these.

Then, use other locations already numbered using the Dominic System. Make it from say 1850 - 2050 to account for future statutes. You can fill these in as you go along. Some dates will be empty locations except from the year number. You will use them in time as you come across other acts.

Case law. In Britain, case law always contains the names of two people. All you need is to memorize the name of those two people, unless it’s against the state in which case, in Britain, it’s the name of the Person v. the Crown. So, it’s still the same as two names. Like Donoghue v. Stevenson. Maybe that would be the television host on Stevenson’s rocket. Number these 00-99 using the Dominic System.

Have a journey for each of these things. If you are studying at degree level, it would need a lot of locations. Five hundred is a reasonable amount.

Index of words/definitions - 200 locations.
Acts of Parliament - 200 locations.
Case law - 100 locations.

Many of these locations will be empty, except the words and their definitions. Many of the definitions you will already know when given the keyword trigger so, you will only have to work when you memorize more technical or unfamiliar ones like incorporeal hereditaments if you are doing property law/conveyancing. In Britain, a lot of the terms are Latin.

The locations for Acts of Parliament and case law can be added to at will. If you work on getting these locations ready, you can memorize them during the class. Just go to the date location in your head when the teacher mentions it and listen.

Here’s what will happen. You are given a new law, statute or whatever. You will be given the name of the act and a date. Immediately you know the location from that date. Go to that location in your mind. You don’t have to memorize the name of the act at this point. The teacher will explain the law of this act. Immediately, the teacher will use words you have already memorized that are in the definition of legal words index so, you don’t have to create new images. You already have them in your head.

Now, you will have, a date in a location and a definition you have added to it. Not the whole definition, just the key word image you used when you memorized the index. The definition will be in a separate location with those so, don’t overfill the date location with unnecessary information.

At some point in the class, prior to the end, the teacher will give you the name of the Act of Parliament. Since this may be long, you can memorize this when you get home. Again, You don’t want to miss what the teacher has to say. At the same time, you don’t want to overwrite the things you have already memorized.

Go over what you learned at the class immediately after or at the nearest opportunity. The sooner you do this, the better.

Often, the longer name for the Act of Parliament will already have been made into a mnemonic by the college so, just take that and put it into the appropriate date location. For example, even though I wasn’t studying criminal law, I can’t forget that in Britain, the Police and Criminal Evidence act is usually referred to as PACE because it often comes on the news. If not, make a mnemonic from the words. You already know the date is the storage place for acts so, you don’t have to memorize that again.

As has already been pointed out to you, memorizing the entire book verbatim is not necessary. If you memorize a small amount of information, it will trigger other information that you already associate with it. So, to me, if you said Donoghue v. Stevenson (famous contract case law in Britain) I would immediately know you were referring to the case of the snail in the ginger bottle. All other relevant facts, if you have read about them, will come to mind. All you actually need is a trigger. A guide to show you where in your brain your imagination was when you first heard the story.

If I said to you, “do you remember the film Jaws ?” Would you remember it ? Yes, of course. But, you would remember a lot more than the title, you would remember a great deal about the story because it is already familiar. This is why memorizing every word in every page is pointless.

The index of words is already in alphabetical order. This makes it easier again. The dates, if you order them as I have suggested, will have the same effect. The case law can be numbered suing the Dominic System starting from perhaps 01 and you fill it up as you come across new case laws.

Make the most of your time. Calculate how long it will take you to make 500 locations. Make sure each location is at least the size of a small bathroom so you can fit in a few people doing some activity. If you make 10 Locations per day, it will take you 50 days. The sooner you do this, the better. The sooner you do it, the more chances you get to review. You may think you don’t have time but, as has been said by Yan, you can review while doing other things. Any time you are in a queue or in the bath, at the dentists, etc.

Anyway, i’m off to the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company. They’ve got a great offer on to help me shake this cold.

Cateav Emptor
Buying and reading the books recommended above may have a significant effect on you memory and you could turn into a great lawyer.


I too need to memorize law (but also business books for my major). Would it be smart to identify some key definitions, phrases and words to code them into figurative codes – just as you do with numbers? For example, create an image for words like:

  • permission
  • community
  • digital
  • internet

And then use for example the Russian Doll method to code them into journeys/Cicero/Loci’s and thus memorize all chapters.

I try to make images for anything that comes up frequently.


The letter combination “kv” is somewhat common in Esperanto, so I use an image of a quartet. Kvitanco (receipt) is a quartet dancing at a restaurant table, asking for a receipt.

Common words like “that”, “this”, “he”, “they” all have images. I just made them up as I was memorizing things, and then I reuse them…

If the words are categories and you have a lot of associated information you could also make them into rooms in a memory palace. That way anything found in the “digital” room would be associated with “digital”.


first, thank you very much to past responders for your efforts in helping others. A good lot of people no doubt read these answers and then move on to various other sites without ever needing to even mention that they were here.

I know that most of the thread here focuses on law and the memorizing of text books, as one would of course expect by way of the thread’s title, however my need is a little more complicated.

I have been trying to memorize Greek and Latin combining forms and root words for years but haven’t found the appropriate method. I bought in to Pmemory, and it ended up being a waste of time, mostly because I was just out of energy when I finally found it.

Recently, (some four years later) I started another memory “course” and it has been a lot better thus far. However, in putting the Greek root words into an actual number, I found that there are about eight thousand of them. It’s not the kind of information that can be grasped by “understanding,” per se, as in, nothing can very practically be elicited. And, if I use a “memory palace” or, as I call it, any “place,” then how in the world am I going to create something with as many as eight thousand support images?

Even if I break it down, it still seems impossible. If I have about 8,000 words to remember, each with only one or two basic corresponding meanings, I would have to organize them according to something that would allow me to retrieve them in any way I like, not only by starting at “the beginning.”

So, let’s say I take a building of 80 floors, each with ten apartments inside, each apartment with the capacity to store ten images. That would amount to quite a bit more than 8,000 support files, but I don’t know any building even remotely like that room-in and room-out. And, again, since it will be alphabetized information, a “journey” or trip (I am American) would leave the information quite unorganized and therefore inaccessible.

I could memorize a hundred or so support files worth of information and repeat the support files enough that I actually have the information “memorized” and no longer need the support files, thereby being able to re-use the same support files until I make it to mark eight, however in the future if I were to forget any number of words, the support files woouldn’t be there any longer and so I really would have “forgotten.”

  • Is there no other better way to memorize so many words? I could see using both a place and or structure for three or four hundred support images, but eight thousand? Even a bunch of broken up places seems hard to remember. I’d almost have to be memorizing to memorize.

HELP! :frowning:

Memorizing to memorize is probably the best answer. In order to get fast enough to predict how long it will take you.

To memorize that amount of information you will certainly need to make a lot of locations. Even at 1000 locations that’s 8 images per location. It can be done and the locations can be numbered so you don’t have to go from the start to find your place but, it will be time consuming so, it makes more sense to learn how to memorize numbers and random words reasonably fast first, then, you can calculate a time it will take you to do it.

If you can make the time to do that, you can calculate how long it will take you. Then, say you can memorize 50 words in 30 minutes, you can calculate or approximate how long it will take you and you can set that time aside, or take your notes to the toilet, bath and everywhere where you might get five or ten minutes. Assume the time is double the memorization time to take account that you must review immediately. So, if you have an hour spare per day, memorize for half an hour and keep the other half an hour for reviewing what you just memorized. Do this review immediately after memorization.

One thing is certain, making locations every day is a must. Make it a habit until you have a lot. Like 1,000. Until you have a significant amount. You could in theory use say 500 locations. This would not be enough to fit all the images in at once but, you could learn them in groups. Like first 500, then do a lot of reviewing (At lest 5 times). Once you reviewed something numerous times then, typically you will remember it. There is a name for this. It’s called the rule of 5 and it’s by Hermann Ebbinghaus. Reviewing 6 months later might be a bit out of your plan but, you can do extra reviews early on. The general rules is, to make it a permanent memory takes five reviews. Generally, and as you may not have 6 months to follow the rule but, need to get it done, you’ll have to review enough early on.

I would make priority making locations though. Filling them with numbers ready for the big push. It will be hard work so, good luck.

You can then set out a plan like, today, review yesterdays new 50 locations/images and build 50 new locations and memorize numbers on them and review that. Reviewing is the key for keeping it in your head. The brain will interpret your reviewing as meaning the information is something that is important. The more reviews, the more likely the information will stick. This is made easier by creating good images in the first place.

Always review immediately after memorizing if you plan on retaining it. Once things are in your head and you have reviewed, a good time to do it is in bed. Before you get up and before you go to sleep.