So, the other day, my husband and I had a conversation that went something like this:
Him: have you ever heard of Duckie Debugging?
Me: um…does it have anything to do with a classic John Hughes character?
Me: then no.
He went on to explain Rubber Duck Debugging to me. It’s basically a technique where, when programmers are faced with particularly difficult problems, they explain their code to a rubber duck (or another inanimate object). It occurred to me that this would be a great technique for some bar studiers. Does this seem ridiculous? Probably. But that’s also part of why it could work.
Teaching is a Great Way to Learn
Have you ever heard that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it? Well, it’s true. You can’t explain something unless you know it. By figuring out the best words to describe a problematic concept, you will be figuring out what it all means (on our Law School Toolbox site, we’ve recommended pretending to explain things to your grandma). I realize that there’s a LOT to learn for the bar exam, so you should probably limit this to important and/or particularly confusing concepts. But for those concepts, it’s worthwhile to break things down enough to explain them to someone (or something) who has absolutely no background in the law.
It’s Easy to Cheat Yourself When You Read Silently
So, who here has read an entire casebook chapter, only to realize that you didn’t take in any of the information? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one this happened to. And I happen to be one of the lucky people who learns really well through written information! But there are still times when reading silently just does not compute. When that happens, reading out loud is a great way to force yourself to pay attention to the material. And you can get even more bang for your buck by actually interpreting your study material as you read it. Basically, translate your study materials into information that will make sense to the duck. Still sound too silly? Well…
Bar Study Can Benefit from Whimsy
Stick with me here for a minute. Bar study is EXHAUSTING. About halfway through the bar study period (if not earlier), our tutoring students are always looking for ways to overcome bar study fatigue. Everything about bar study feels heavy and high-stakes, with way too much material for mere mortals to memorize. So…why not inject a smile into your bar study? Think about the dreaded Rule Against Perpetuities. Sorry; my bar exam is long over, and I still might get nightmares from typing that sentence. Now, imagine explaining it to a person. Still hard? Now, imagine explaining it to a DUCK. I know the Rule is still hard, but if that image made you laugh at all, it’s worth a try (give yourself some Ernie energy here if you need it). If nothing else, once you explain it to a duck, you will likely form a memory of this rather absurd exercise. One that will be easier to call to mind than yet another session of reading bar outlines.
So…How Do I Do This?
Honestly, there’s no “right” way to do duckie bar study. Like almost everything in bar study, it has to work for you. But I’ll offer some basics. First, pick your object. Personally, I’m a fan of the duckie idea, but ducks might not do it for you, and that’s OK. You can choose a person or a pet, but I think an inanimate object is a great way to go here. They aren’t going to interrupt you, and they won’t wander off while you talk. I suggest keeping it small, so that you can carry it with you in your study materials. Even a photograph could work, but I think there’s a benefit to having something tactile. Second, start studying! When you get to a topic that isn’t quite registering, stop. Pick up your duck (or other object). Look into its adorable little eyes, and tell it all about the legal concept that’s giving you trouble. Alternatively, if you just aren’t registering anything written, then either read your study materials to your duck or (even better) interpret them aloud as you read. You can also practice explaining exam answers to your duckie. Tell it what’s going on in the problem, and how the legal concepts apply to the scenario.
If it helps, keep going! And, if you hit a wall in the exam, take a moment to close your eyes and ask yourself: how would I explain this to my duck?