Most of you who are reading this blog have just completed law school. You learn a lot of things in law school. One of the things you probably learned is what works for you when it comes to studying for exams.
Although they aren’t the Bar Exam, law school exams do require a great deal from us. We are required to study and retain the correct information when presented with areas of law that are very complex. It can be said, for almost every survey course in law school, that the law predates modern civilization. Think of feudalism in Property. My favorite class. (Gag!) Think of how far back it dates, and all that has followed that period up until this day.
Yes, each area of law is massive. But somehow, we all made it through the exams. We developed a studying style that helped us to retain enough information to perform well on exams. So if you did well on exams, take a few moments and think back to how you accomplished this.
Commercial Bar Prep companies make tons of study materials, and these materials are great. However, these companies don’t know YOU. They don’t know what best helps you to retain information. You do. So use that knowledge in both creating your own study tools (assuming that you started Bar Prep early enough), or tweaking commercial tools so that they work with your particular learning style.
To Flash, Or Not To Flash…That Is the Question
Did you use flashcards in law school? Did you find that they helped you at all? The first thing you must do is to determine if the use of flashcards helps you in retaining information. So the first question is, “did you use flashcards in law school?” If so, did they help? If not, why? And do you think they might help now?
If you never used them you may want to borrow someone’s commercial cards for a day or so to get a feel for whether or not this study method is helpful to you. For me, flashcards were always very useful.
Commercial Cards? Or Self Made?
If you used flashcards successfully in the past, then you may want to consider using them now. There are many commercially created flashcards. However, I would ask that you consider creating your own cards for each subject on the Bar. Yes, I know, this is quite time-consuming. That is why I caution that you can only do this if you start Bar Prep a bit early.
But rest assured that the very act of creating the cards will help the concepts you are writing about to begin to penetrate your mind. And then, when you quiz yourself using them, they will look more and more familiar, and the answers will come easier.
Not to mention that you can put anything that you like on them! If a drawing of some kind helps you remember the rule, be sure to draw it on the card. If colors or mnemonics help – list them. Anything that your mind can hook onto when trying to recall the rule will help your memory. And the beauty of homemade flashcards is you can tweak them in any way that helps you.
How do you make your own MBE flashcards? Well, there are likely several ways, but here are a couple of ideas.
Go Old School
Remember index cards? Yes, they do still make them. So you can certainly go old school and buy index cards. As you go through your outline, or your MBE questions, and see areas where you need more work memorizing – jot it out on a flashcard! This is an effective way of specifically targeting areas where you are weak. After seeing that flashcard for the 25th time, I bet you won’t be confused anymore!
There are also apps that help you make online flashcards. Quizlet is one such app. You can make your own set of flashcards that you will then use while at your computer or phone. You may not be able to draw on them, but you can likely add downloaded graphics that are even better than your stick figures! It’s up to you.
I probably did it the hard way. I actually created documents in Word. I would split up the document into 6 equal sections, 3 on each side of the 8.5”x11” paper. Then I would type out the question on one side, and the answer on the back. After that, I’d print them all out, cut them up into flashcards, punch a hole in the upper inside corner, and place them all on a keyring.
That way, I could study just about anywhere. (It was a decade ago, so I did not have a smart phone yet.) While waiting at the Dr.’s office, to waiting in any line, I had study materials on hand.
However, I must point out that this method has its drawbacks! I had trouble getting the cards in the proper placement, and placing the answers in the proper place. It could simply be that I am not tech savvy – so use your best judgment when deciding how to best create your own, unique flashcards.
Whichever way you choose, the exercise of making them is not in vain. You may think it is a waste of time, and if you are 4 weeks from the exam I would heartily agree with you. But if you are thinking ahead, and have a bit of time before Bar Prep starts, making your own flashcards is a fantastic pre-study step that will have you ahead of the game from day one.
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