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.