My Bar Exam Flash Cards Story
My Bar Exam Flashcards Story
My Bar Exam Flashcards Story: Most everyone takes some risks in their bar prep studying; most make some misstates as well. One of the keys to creating a study strategy that works best for you, and to help minimize the negative consequences of your mistakes and risks, is to understand how you learn. One of the biggest risks that I (Laura) took while studying for the bar was to insert the creation of flashcards into my study schedule. Unfortunately I let this extra task spiral out of control. It took too much time away from other important aspects of bar preparation. My mistake was not fatal however, because I understood enough about myself and how I learn to make sure that I got enough value out of my flash card project.
My Bar Exam Flash Cards Story
1. Should You Use Flash Cards Or Not?
Flash cards work very well for people who learn through the physical act of writing out material and through repetitive memorization. I have never been an auditory learner, and I would repeatedly find myself spacing out during bar exam lectures. In high school and college I was very independent, teaching myself the material by reading on my own time and just “doing.” I took classes in multiple foreign languages, and flashcards were my go-to study technique. And so when confronted with having to memorize a daunting amount of material for the bar in a very short period of time, I knew that flashcards were going to play a crucial role in how I approached such a monumental task. If you learn best independently, or through writing and brute memorization tactics, then creating bar exam flashcards may be an excellent technique for you!
2. How To Create Bar Exam Flashcards
There is absolutely a right way and a wrong way to approach creating your own bar exam flashcards. I had decided that as I came across a rule that I was unfamiliar with in my studies, I would write a flashcard for it and then run through them repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the exam. I had a color coded system and everything! But while my idea was good, my execution was not. The first two subjects I tackled were ones I had never been exposed to before, and predictably this meant there were a lot of rules I didn’t know. I ended up reproducing almost the entire outline in flashcard form. Once I finished those subjects, I felt pretty good about them, and decided that maybe I should make a flashcard for every rule!
3. …And How Not To!
What I did not realize was just how many rules there actually were. I bought pack after pack of note cards. Then, I spent weeks writing in microscopic print, and fell further and further behind in my study plan. I decided not to complete the full length practice exam at the time I was supposed to. Why? Because I hadn’t worked through enough of the subjects yet. By the time I completed all of my flashcards and took the practice exam, the test was only three weeks away. I had only just discovered what subjects I understood and which I needed to devote more time to. Ultimately, I never got to many of the mixed subject MBE practice question sets. I never got to the point where I could flip through and memorize every single card. There just wasn’t enough time!
I was able to recover from these mistakes due to my raw test-taking skills and natural ability to absorb information. But I went into this experience knowing that I have always excelled at standardized tests. I knew that I had performed extremely well on many of these subjects during law school. I was confident in my abilities, trusted myself, and came out of the exam feeling pretty secure. All of this came from an understanding of who I was as a learner.
4. What I Took Away From My Bar Exam Flash Card Experience
There are two takeaways from my story.
- First, before using any particular technique to study, consider how you learn best. If you’re an auditory learner, flashcards probably aren’t the technique for you. If you are a visual learner, you’d be better off devoting extra time to studying the numerous diagrams that likely came with your bar materials. But if you learn best through writing out the material yourself or brute memorization and repetition of individual rules, flash cards can be a great asset.
- The second lesson to learn is don’t bite off more than you can chew. Figure out what material and concepts you’re really struggling with and make flashcards for those. Then at the end of your initial run through all the subjects, you will still have time to review those cards and actually get their intended use out of them. Don’t try to make flashcards for everything!
If you try to make a flashcard for everything, you’ll never finish.
The outlines for some subjects can be over 100 pages long! Time is precious when studying for the bar. There are only so many hours between now and test day. And there are always so many things to get done! Don’t let flashcards take over your studying. Make sure you write your practice essays, do your MBE questions, take a full length timed test or two. Flash cards are an excellent tool when used properly, but they are not a substitute for your other practice materials.
Not everyone is like me. Not everyone can take the same risks and recognize that they’ll be able to recover from certain mistakes. The bar exam is not the time to try something wild, nor to add something new. You made it through high school, college, law school, and more. Trust in what has gotten you here.
Laura Sigler, a JD Advising bar exam essay grader, who graduated cum laude from Wayne State University Law School wrote this post.
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