5 Bar Prep Tools for the Visual Learner

We are law students. We’ve endured 7+ years of post-high-school education. We’ve taken many tests. We’ve done well on those tests, or we wouldn’t be here – facing months of Bar prep.

How did we do it? Memorization. As an undergraduate English major, I knew that taking notes in class, memorizing the professor’s take on any given piece of literature, and spitting it back at them on the test – was the sure way to an A. Whatever your undergraduate major was, I’m pretty sure that this system worked. We are perpetual students. We know how to memorize.

Or do we?

Do we know the best way to memorize? If you’ve made it this far in school, you probablybar prep, auditory already know your learning style. Different people learn differently. There are visual learners, kinesthetic learners, and auditory learners. If you don’t know your learning style, you can take this quiz to find out. It’s helpful to know as you go into Bar prep, because it can help you to memorize in the fashion that best suits you.

bar prep, eyesI am a visual learner. As I sat in law school classes, I essentially took dictation on my laptop. This helped me tremendously in retaining information. If I write it down, I won’t forget it. If I only hear it, it goes in one ear and directly out the other. I could no more tell you later what I’d heard than a dog could.

That’s just me. If you are anything like me, here are some tips for memorizing most effectively as a visual learner.

Write it Out

I know, it’s time-consuming. But as a visual learner, it helps to see things in writing. Tremendously. It helps even more if you are the one writing it out. As you write the information, your brain sees it – and you retain more than if you simply glanced at it pre-written on a sheet of paper or computer screen. If you write it, you are thinking through it at the same time. It “sticks” better. And that is what it’s all about during Bar prep.

Write Your Own Outlines

If you are reading this at least a month before Bar prep begins, here’s a word of advice. bar prep, astonished Make your own outlines.

WHAT!?!?!? I hear the gasps of disbelief and disapproval. I get it.

This is a tremendous task I’m asking of you. Maybe crazy. I mean, isn’t that what we pay for with many Bar prep courses? Well, yeah. But if you are going to actually learn more, and retain more by writing it out – and dissecting it as you go – then it is worth the extra time.

You can use a commercially prepared outline! Don’t think I’m asking you to actually create it from scratch. Instead, use a good, detailed outline. But write it out YOUR WAY. What do I mean by that?

I always felt irritated by commercial outlines. They were either organized in a way that didn’t match the “visual” I saw in my head, or they left out information that I needed to help me understand and remember important concepts. I found myself making so many notes in the margins that the outlines became almost unreadable.

So – rewrite them – your way.

Make It Personal

Make it personal. Write your outline in a manner that reflects how you personally think about the topic. How it structurally makes the most sense to you. Starting with a commercial outline, look at the idea you are trying to summarize. Let’s say it’s hearsay – everyone’s favorite. Look over the outline, and as you’re reading it, see if anything is missing that would help YOU remember the information better.

The problem with a commercial outline is that it does not know you. It doesn’t know that you have a hard time recalling all the hearsay exceptions (or whatever your weakness is: fill in the blank.) So it treats all of them with equal weight. Whereas you know that you always forget present sense impression, the commercial outline does not. Or maybe you don’t fully understand the business records exception and its qualifiers. This is the beauty of writing out your own outlines – assuming you start early and have enough time.

You can skirt past the hearsay exceptions that you know cold. Yes, write them down, but you don’t need any additional information on the outline if you know it cold. But where you are weaker, do what needs to be done! If you need to add a bunch of bullet points, or pictures under business records exception, then do so! This will help solidify the concept in your mind as you begin studying.

Then, as you progress through your study months, you can shorten your outlines until they are lean. But you will know all of it, and your weaknesses will have been strengthened because you learned it your way.

Use Colors

Were you a rainbow briefer in law school? I surely was! I loved the idea and always had a set of my favorite highlighters with me for the duration of law school. For me, the ONLY bar prep, visualway to survive the Socratic method was to highlight the issue in blue, the rules in orange, the relevant facts in green, the holding in pink…you get the idea. To this day, I still remember what each color stood for! I guess that is what happens even a decade later when you’ve used your color scheme on 1000’s of cases.

So color mattered to me. It helps many visual learners. Color coding helps us to separate ideas into understandable chunks of information. If this sounds like you, then don’t stop using color as you prepare for the Bar. Color code your outlines in whatever way helps you the most. Maybe make the rules one color, and the exceptions another. Do some thinking – and then make it your own.

Use Pictures / Drawings
Never underestimate the helpfulness of drawings. No, you may not be Michelangelo, but you don’t need to be. Stick figures are quite helpful, particularly in areas where you are bar prep, visualweak. If you need to use a stick figure drawing of two tiny houses with a path running in between and arrows indicating that anyone can use the path – in order to memorize what an easement is – then do it!

If you need a little drawing to help you remember the relationship between different business entities, then do it! The sky and your imagination are the only limits. Drawings can help you recall almost anything, from mnemonics to the steps of Civil Procedure. So let the artist flow!

Visual Aids

Lastly, don’t forget about visual aids. Flashcards were tremendously helpful for me. Whether you make your own or buy a commercial set, they can really help. Not only do they reinforce concepts you’ve already learned, they are handy for study-on-the-go.

For instance, if you are still working while studying for the Bar, you can bring your flashcards with you to work to pull out whenever it is slow. Use your spare moments to reinforce key concepts, without having to tote your Mammoth Bar prep books with you. And you can personalize flash cards. If you drew something on your outline, maybe you want to draw the same thing on the pertinent flashcard to connect the concepts in your mind.

Also, don’t forget about mind-mapping. This is an excellent study aid that can really help visual learners. There are a number of free sites that offer mind mapping apps, so check them out.

The bottom line is: this is your exam. Create, or tweak any study aids to suit YOU. You’d be surprised how those little tweaks can enhance your recall when the pressure is on!

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