How to Make Bar Exam Flashcards

There are two essential characteristics of good flashcards:  (1) they should be short and (2) you should create them yourself. 

If, however, you have ever used pre-printed flashcards with success or if you do not have time to make your own, there are lots of pre-printed options out there:

You may want to check out these products: (1) Bar Cards Complete Set (California and Multistate Subjects), (2) Kaplan PMBR: MBE Review Flashcards, (3) Passing The Bar board game based on the MBE, (4) Critical Pass, (5) Law in a Flash and (6) Dominate the Bar

As I have discussed earlier, I am a believer in making your own outline for each bar exam subject area.  You should not make flashcards until you have made your outlines.  Making your own outlines permits you to synthesize the material into a more manageable size in a format that works with your brain and temperament.  (If you do not want to make your own outlines, then use the commercial outline or an outline you got from a friend or online.)  Once you have your outlines, create flashcards as you conduct your review of your outlines during the first month of bar studies.  This way, you don't spend 10 hours straight making Con Law flashcards, but get your flashcards over a month or so.  In my opinion, you will learn more making your flashcards over a few weeks than you could absorb/learn if you forced yourself to create the flashcards in one marathon session.  In any event, you should have all of your flashcards done with at least one month to go before the examination.  This will give you plenty of time to memorize them.

How do you decide what to put on your flashcards?

As I stated above, the information should be brief.  So, you can put definitions, elements, "prongs", etc.  Never put some sort of long, drawn out analysis on a flashcard.  This will just freak you out and make studying cumbersome and ineffective.

For example, the front of your flashcard might say:  "Burglary -- Elements".  The back would say:  "(1) breaking; (2) entering; (3) the dwelling; (4) of another; (5) at night; (6) with intent to commit a felony therein."  Do not put a treatise about mens rea and intent on the same flashcard. 

When I took the PMBR course, it came with a large set of flashcards.  These cards had massive answers on the back.  It seemed like they were just reproductions of the famously wordy PMBR answer explanations (which are great, but not for flashcards).  I threw the PMBR flashcards in the recycle bin shortly after I received them.

Finally, be sure to note in a corner on the front of each flashcard what subject is being addressed by the card (e.g., Crim Pro; Real Prop; Evid; etc).  This way, you can keep your cards grouped by subject.  In my opinion, you should always study flashcards by subject.  To the extent the topics overlap, you should be able to practice this when you are writing practice "cross-over" essays.

How to memorize.

You probably have your own method for this.  I like to take a small number of flashcards (20-30) from a single subject and review them after I have spent a block of time studying that subject.  So, for example, if I have spent the last two hours writing practice Civil Procedure essays, I will spend 30 minutes reviewing and memorizing flashcards on this topic to solidify related content in my mind.

Another way to do flashcards is to have an MBE session.  So, for 2 hours, you review only MBE topic flashcards.  Then, you spend another two hours doing 50 MBE questions and reviewing the answers to them.  Reinforce your knowledge with different techniques in these back-to-back sessions.

Finally, during the last two weeks before the exam, you will have certain topics you know well and others that are more difficult.  Concentrate your efforts on flashcards from the more difficult subjects during these final weeks.  Of course, you will need to review the easier topics' flashcards periodically during this period as well to keep the information fresh.

[Photo: k4dordy]


probatur denuo said...

Speaking of pre-printed flash cards, I have found the Law In A Flash cards to be extremely helpful for the MBE. It's just a shame I can't get them for state subjects. They are too in depth to go through entirely for the MBE, but they are definitely helpful for drilling areas I'm having trouble with or want to focus on.

There are times I wish the exam only tested the 6 MBE subjects, because I would probably spend all of my substantive review time with these cards. They are truly excellent. I recommend them for law school students as well. Doesn't look like Aspenpublishers is making the specific Multistate Exam Law in a Flash anymore, but since it's still being produced, you can still cobble it together from the separate subjects.

I also find it helpful to write the cue side of the flashcard in the form of a question. Oddly enough, this simple technique improved my study a hundredfold - and I didn't figure this out until I started studying for the bar exam.

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