Sep 1, 2008

Flashcards for Memorization - Part II

A lot of people are curious about the best way to make flashcards for the individual bar exam subjects. We have come up with an easy method that is the most likely to aid in memorization during the final two weeks of the study period.

First, use the flashcards for rule statements and definitions (in other words, the definition of an easement or the elements of negligence). Also consider using flashcards for types of rules (for example, a flashcard with a list of the types of exceptions to the warrant requirement in Criminal Procedure or a list of the hearsay exceptions rules in Evidence).

Second, put no more than 20 words on the back of each flashcard. Any more than that will make it impossible to memorize the material during crunch time. Use whatever abbreviations you are comfortable with, but make sure you get the exact verbiage.

If you find yourself going over the 20-word limit, it's probably because you are now defining sub-rules on the back of the card, which is incorrect. They should each have their own card. For example, on the back of the negligence card, you should only have four words - duty, breach, causation and damages. You shouldn't have the sub-rules for those terms on the back of the same card. They get their own card. Remember that the brain can only take in so much at once. Shoving four additional rules onto the back of your card will only make it more frustrating to memorize that card just before the exam.

Third, on the front of the flashcard, consider putting more than just the rule you are trying to define. Include the layers above that rule as well. For example, if you are doing a flashcard for the EGGSHELL SKULL PLAINTIFF RULE, put the phrase "eggshell skull plaintiff" on the front of the card AND a brief reminder about where in the grand scheme of things it can be found in the subject of Torts. For example, it's under Torts-Negligence-Causation-Proximate Causation. That's the layering that goes before the eggshell skull plaintiff rule. When you include the layering on the front, you are reminded to not just memorize the rule in isolation from everything else, but instead to memorize what rules go above and around it (that are worth valuable points). We call this unfolding or layering.

Fourth, if you are a visual person, consider making your flashcards on different colored pieces of paper. For example, all of your Torts flashcards can be red (association: blood), the Property flashcards can be green (association: grass), the Criminal Procedure and Law flashcards can be orange (association: prison jumpsuits). That way, when you try to jog your memory during the real exam, your brain will automatically see the color of the card and easily sift through the stack for the correct definition. People with photographic memories will like this approach.

Fifth, for memorization, consider memorizing each subject in a different location. For example, Torts in the living room, Contracts in the office, Evidence in the bedroom, Property outside, etc. This will also make it easier to jog your memory in a panic. If you are stuck on a specific rule statement, your brain will automatically go to the color of the card (as noted above) and the place where it first learned the rule (outside, living room, etc.). With all of this compartmentalizing, the brain will get less overloaded and make finding the rule you are looking for that much easier.

Finally, you should end up with large stacks of cards for each subject, and some stacks are larger than others. Don't be intimidated by this. Because each card only has 20 or fewer words on the back, it will be no problem for you to get through the stack quickly. Once you have guessed correctly at the definition (with ease) take the card out of the stack immediately and move it into the "memorized" pile. As the stacks get shorter and shorter, you will be able to measure your progress and feel better about the whole ordeal.

Jun 22, 2008

Flashcards for Memorization - Part 1

Most students are outright frightened by the amount of law they have to memorize for the California Bar Exam. This is understandable, given that law school exams were very different - usually spaced 3-4 days apart (as opposed to minutes), covering only one subject (the California Bar Exam now has 15) and graded on a curve (you wish).

That's why we recommend that students make flashcards in order to prepare (make them during the first month, memorize them during the second).

In response to this suggestion, we frequently hear: "I haven't done flashcards since fourth grade!" or "I always remembered most of the rules in my law school outlines anyway" or "I'm just not a flashcard person." We know. No one has done flashcards since elementary school and everyone outlined in law school. This. Is. New. For. All of Us.

The reason for the change is simple. You didn't have to memorize 15 subjects at one time in law school. And you had weeks (or even months) to prepare your outline. To boot, you were able to hang out for days with your outline before taking the test on that subject. Of course you were able to memorize some of the material in it, even if the exam was open book. This is different.

When you have to MEMORIZE 15 subjects worth of rule statements, spanning hundreds of pages worth of black letter material, you are faced with a challenge that is entirely new. Having to recall this material in a matter of minutes under exam pressures is incredibly intense. You really need to know the rule statements (or as many as you can) cold. A vague recollection of them won't exactly help the timing problem (as you ponder while the clock ticks) and paraphrasing or making them up will only get you half-credit (at best). So to know these rules like the back of your hand, it's simple - become a flashcard person. Test yourself. Have others quiz you. Force yourself to guess what's on the back of that card until you can't stand it anymore. Recycle and repeat until the card is committed to memory and removed from the stack. Success.

That's the way to memorize.

The most common memorization question we get is - how long does memorization take?

Sadly, that depends on a lot of factors: your age, the other things battling for your brain's attention (life things, personal issues) and whatever you ingested during high school/college. On average - 14-17 days. Your flashcards should be done and ready by this time.

Apr 23, 2008

California Bar Exam Private Tutorial Applications Released

Applications are now available for The Bar Code July 2008 private tutorial. Submissions will be accepted beginning on May 1, 2008. As a courtesy to those students awaiting bar results, applications will not be formally accepted until May 16, 2008. Thank you for your interest in The Bar Code.

Private Tutorial Applications (click to apply)

Apr 19, 2008

Why Are My Bar Exam Books Inconsistent?

A common complaint we hear from students in the bar review industry is that the multiple materials they use for bar prep vary significantly on specific points of law. Rule statements from one textbook may be different from those in another, and this causes great anxiety for students understandably interested in picking up every last essay point.

One of the reasons that the books are inconsistent is that the terminology in cases and commentaries is also not consistent. The Restatements occasionally help to remedy that situation, but often this takes an incredible amount of effort and time. Moreover, a Restatement is considered a secondary authority - a treatise published to address uncertainties but not binding. While they are often cited in court cases, they are still not the final word on the black letter law.

So it may be that one bar exam book pulls a rule from the Restatement, while another draws it from the highest binding opinion. It's not a big deal. The graders know that there is a difference and will give you credit for either definition. Most of the time they mean the same thing anyway.

Apr 18, 2008

The Bar Code Welcomes Greg Wolff to the Team

Greg Wolff, a Legal Writing and Moot Court Instructor at Hastings (and former bar grader) joined The Bar Code team in mid-March.

Greg has been a judicial attorney in both the Court of Appeal in Los Angeles and the California Supreme Court. He joins The Bar Code as the lead Essay Intensive instructor in Northern California. We are pleased to have him.

Whitney Roberts Releases Third Edition of The Bar Code Cheat Sheets

On May 20, 2008, The Bar Code will be releasing the third edition of its textbook, The Bar Code Cheat Sheets in Action, by founder Whitney Roberts, Esq. The updates will include 100 new footnotes, four new cheat sheets (Remedies - Specific Performance, Agency, Agency/Partnership, and Trusts) and a revised appendix.

The text will be offered for the same price of $139.95. It will be available in the Hastings College of Law and McGeorge bookstores no later than May 29, 2008.

To order, please click on this link: