You have likely read about my bar binder (and why I think it can be helpful to build one of your own).
I also want to recommend a somewhat old-school approach to building out your study materials (yes, you do need to build your own study materials). As we all appreciate, these days most of our work is done on computers. In law school you likely built most of your outlines on the computer. And you may be building study materials for the bar exam on the computer as well.
But I think there is a lot of value in turning off the computer and writing study materials by hand.
Based on the way that I learn (you can check out this link to learn more about your own learning style) I like to see things in an outline form—seeing things in an outline makes it easier for me to memorize them.
But let’s be honest: I cannot memorize a 40-page outline for every bar subject and I am going to bet you can’t either (that can be well more than 400 pages of outlines for all of the subjects on the bar exam!).
So what did I do and what do I recommend that my students do? Take your long lecture notes or outlines and boil them down to the need to know material. Then handwrite the outlines (versus using the computer). This works best for a couple of reasons:
- First, I just simply don’t have the patience to handwrite as much material as I can type on a computer. It is a simple way of self-editing.
- Second, when I handwrite material, it slows me down and I can think about the material (aka learn the material) as I am writing. I have also read that handwriting can create muscle memory that assists in the memorization process. That can’t hurt either, right?
I am not the only person who feels this way. I know a number of friends and students who find handwriting to be an effective approach. Have you done it? If not, do give it a try! Also you can get creative for impact (notice all the colors I used). Color helped me keep the materials dynamic and more interesting to look at.
What if outlines don’t work for you? Then handwrite and even draw other materials—flow charts or mind maps are easy to draw by hand. And being able to recreate them by hand may also help you on the exam (you can draw them on your scratch paper).
The key is to try different things in order to find what works for you.
For most of us, 40-page, typed outlines aren’t going to work. So experiment and find the method that works best for you. But avoid chaos and keep your study materials organized.
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- Wonder what to do with all of these handwritten materials? Put them in a bar binder.
- Not convinced you need to make your own study materials?
Image by Lee Burgess.