SeRiouS (SRS) is on online study tool that applies the technique of spaced repetition to legal study in a simple, engaging format. It promises to help you learn the law efficiently and conveniently by adapting to your level of knowledge and recall, and allowing you to spend as little as five to ten minutes a day reviewing rules on any internet-connected device.
What is Spaced Repetition?
Spaced repetition is a well-documented learning technique that incorporates strategically timed review to maximize memory retention. To memorize a new concept, you generally need to review it frequently at first, but less often as it becomes stored in memory. The idea is to review material at timed intervals, with longer gaps for material you know well and, initially, shorter gaps for new material that you’re mastering. It’s the opposite of cramming and promises better retention.
Spaced repetition is not unique to law study. It’s used in many contexts where large volumes of information must be memorized, including language learning.
The SRS adaptation of spaced repetition is a system of electronic flashcards organized in decks. These decks include MPRE, Boost, and Discover decks, as well as a patent bar deck. The Boost Deck currently contains 635 cards based on the most frequently tested MBE topics. Subscribers can make their own Discover decks and choose to share or keep them private. There are Discover decks for state-specific bar subjects, like “Delaware Crimes,” and law-school-specific courses, like “Con Law with Prof. Lobel at Pitt.” While the Boost Deck is “created and vetted by law professors,” the Discover decks are crowdsourced by law students. The MPRE deck is free, but Boost Deck, Create-and-Share, and the patent deck are premium products.
To get started, place decks in your “Stack” and click “Study Now.” You’ll work through ten flashcards – just ten. The face of the card poses a question, such as “What are a lawyer’s responsibilities when communicating with unrepresented persons?” Think about the answer. Click on the card to flip it and see if you’re right. Now assess how well you knew the answer, rating yourself on a scale from 1 (Know it Worse) to 5 (Know it Better). The scoring scale takes into account not only accuracy, but also ease or difficulty of recall. Your responses are collected, and they’ll influence what you’re assigned to study next.
Trying It Out
Day 1: I spent about five minutes on my first batch of 10 MPRE cards. That didn’t feel like enough studying for the day, so I opted for “cram mode” and tried out the Boost Deck. Cram mode provides extra practice, but it doesn’t count for SRS purposes: you can’t rate how well you knew the answers, and your responses aren’t tabulated. Doing more than the assigned load violates SRS principles, because the algorithm is set to optimize your learning/forgetting curve.
Day 2: I was assigned the original 10 MPRE cards to review, plus 10 new cards from my stack (MPRE and Boost).
Day 3: I had 15 cards to review, drawn from my first 20. The five I knew best had been eliminated, but they’ll pop up later. My recall improved on at least 10 of these “old” 15. Plus I was assigned 10 new cards to study.
Summing It Up
- SRS requires you to think of the answer yourself rather than choosing it from a selection of multiple-choice options. This means you’re remembering the answer, not just recognizing it.
- The algorithm relies on your self-assessment of how well you knew the material – and how quickly you recalled it. What if you’re not accurate? If you rank your knowledge “worse,” you’ll continue to see that question more frequently. If you rank your knowledge “better” you won’t see that question as often. In the first instance, you might spend unnecessary time on a concept you know adequately. In the second, you might not spend enough time to truly master the information.
- It’s very easy to make your own cards. You can tailor the material and phrasing to your professor’s preferences, your curriculum, or your jurisdiction. Share with classmates, or invite your professor to make cards!
- Although SRS may provide enough practice to prepare you for the MPRE, it is a supplement for MBE prep, not a replacement for it.
- To get adequate repetition prior to the bar exam, when should you start using it? I’d give it at least 90 days.
- Try it if you like flashcards, studying in short bursts, and varying your study methods.
At worst, SRS offers a different learning modality, and it’s fun and easy to use. At best, it might actually work!
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Thinking Ahead: Don’t Let the Bar Exam Catch You By Surprise
- What to Expect from Law School Bar Prep
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
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