At the age of 60, I decided to do something my friends thought was insane: take the Arizona bar exam.
I graduated from law school way back in 1974, but my father developed emphysema, so I decided to help him manage his real estate firm instead of practicing law. I later founded several real estate firms of my own.
Fast-forward 35 years to 2009. I had been in the real estate business all my life. The real estate market was in shambles, and it just wasn’t fun anymore. I thought “yes,” this is my opportunity to become an Arizona attorney.
Learning takes time.
Time was short. The next bar exam was in February, less than five months away. The competition was tough. The pass rate is typically 60%-75%. In other words, 25%-40% of freshly-minted, super-prepared law students flunk the exam.
I’ll never forget a challenging day just after I enrolled in a bar exam crash course. The instructor (now a good friend) called me into her office and kindly, but firmly, let me know that I was too far behind, had no chance to pass, and “at my age,” why waste the time.
After that, I recognized that effort alone would not be enough. I’d have to find a way to learn faster. So I developed a 5-step study process that I hoped would accelerate my learning and enable me to remember the material better. I figured I had nothing to lose.
Well, the darn thing actually worked! When I took the bar exam, there were 259 bar sitters (test takers). The pass rate was 63.3%. I received the #1 score!
How to learn twice as much in half the time.
Here’s the new way I studied. Feel to share if you think it might help someone you know.
1. Start with Questions. Most people read the material first and then test their comprehension by answering questions on a practice exam. You’ll learn faster if you do it in reverse.
Start with test questions (from previous exams or in your course material), then search out the answers. You may not have a clue as to the answer, and that’s okay. This approach opens your mind and makes it more receptive because it creates curiosity. It also provides purpose and focus to the knowledge quest, a key to memorability.
2. Learn in Definitions. Most people learn mushy, kind of, sort of. They don’t know the material with absolute word-for-word precision. That’s why they sometimes take forever to explain what could be said in a sentence or two.
My dad emphasized the importance of learning in definitions when he started teaching me real estate. He insisted that I memorize precise, word-for-word takeaways for every important real estate concept. That gave me a strong foundation to build on for life. I discovered that when you can say it with brevity, you know it with clarity.
3. Build a Reverse Pyramid. Picture an upside down pyramid. To support the base you need a strong tip. This means you need to learn foundational concepts first – perfectly.
For example, if you are studying the Civil War you should memorize the begin/end dates, states, issues, key battles, politicians and generals before you even open the first chapter of the book. Everything else will have context when you know the basics like your ABCs. My father made the tip of my real estate pyramid an impervious diamond I could build on for a lifetime.
4. Become a Student Teacher. I discovered that the best way to learn is to teach. This is my #1 takeaway for how to learn fast and remember better.
I often teach real estate classes. Agents usually think I am just going to stand up and teach. What they don’t realize is that after I teach, I often call on them to stand up and teach it back to me. It’s remarkable how much better they learn when they have to make the transition from student to teacher.
5. Produce a Podcast. Podcasts are audios covering specific topics. Every time I want to learn something well, I produce a series of 5-10 minute podcasts summarizing the material for myself. I then listen to them while driving, exercising, etc.
Recording a podcast is as simple as dictating into your computer or your smart phone using an app such as SuperNote or Dictate. When I was studying for the bar exam, I took my iPhone to bed so I could listen to my self-produced podcasts with my eyes closed while falling asleep. This allowed my brain to absorb in absolute solitude. Podcast learning has three advantages:
- It forces you to recite a crystal clear explanation of what you need to know.
- You learn to focus only on material important to your success.
- You leverage dead time because you can learn while driving, exercising, etc.
More info about learning quickly
I call my learning system L4X because I believe it multiplied my learning capacity four times. It helped me so much that I wanted to expand this system into a full learning tool. I developed a free e-book with all of my tips and directions for how you can learn more in less time. Get your free copy here.