- Seven MBE subjects.
- Hundreds of rules.
- How will you memorize them all?
- Critical Pass can help.
Why You Must Memorize the Law
There are many components to success on the bar exam, but the most fundamental is memorization. If you don’t know the rules, you can’t choose the right answer on the MBE or write an adequate rule statement on the MEE. So, as you prepare for the bar, it’s crucial to develop a plan for memorizing the law. For many students, this plan includes flashcards.
What is Critical Pass?
It’s a set of 380 flashcards (plus mobile app access for one year). There is an index card for each MBE subject, followed by a corresponding set of color-coded, numbered cards ranging from 41 for Contracts to 71 for Criminal Law & Procedure. Cards are grouped by subtopics, such as Contract Basics, Contract Formation, and Defenses to Contract Formation, and are updated before each bar season. There are also five blank cards for each subject that you can customize.
What’s on the Cards?
Rules: Each card features a rule, or closely related set of rules, in clear language and readable font. In addition to basic rule(s), cards may include an example, brief explanation, or note on MBE usage of the rule. The rules are fairly dense and detailed – they have to be, because you need to master the details as well as the general principles.
Note space: Each card also has space to add your own notes. For example, you might add a mnemonic to help you recall the rule. You might add facts that trigger the rule, perhaps drawn from MBE questions you struggled with. If you’re in a non-UBE state, you might customize a card with your jurisdiction’s variant of the rule. Such variations won’t be on the MBE, of course, but your MBE memorization should help on bar essays as well. The seven MBE subjects are also tested on the MEE (along with additional subjects). For the common seven subjects, MBE and MEE coverage is identical, so, although Critical Pass is primarily a study tool for the MBE, it supports your preparation for the MEE as well. That’s efficient!
Cross-references: Some cards include cross-references to other cards. For example, the Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress card cross-references the card for Bystander Claims for Emotional Distress. Substantive Due Process cross-references Fundamental Rights & the Right to Privacy. These cross-references help you put the rules in context and demonstrate connections you might find in bar questions.
Benefits of Critical Pass
Portability. Cards are easy to carry and less cumbersome than a complete bar outline. Throw a set in your bag to review when you have time (or use the app). This may be particularly useful if you’re working while studying for the bar, as you can study during your commute (as long as you’re not driving!) or during breaks at work.
Divisibility. Although an intact set of cards is much like an outline, the cards can be divided into subsets for flexibility. If you’ve mastered say, Personal Jurisdiction (yes, it’s possible!), put those cards aside and focus on Civ Pro rules you need to learn.
Active learning. Critical Pass allows you to quiz yourself, or to conscript a friend or family member to quiz you, rather than just reading and rereading an outline or repeatedly viewing a video lecture. This increases engagement, attentiveness and, ultimately, retention.
Compatible style. While Critical Pass pairs well with other bar prep materials, such as BarBri outlines, some students prefer the explanations and organization of Critical Pass. No doubt you’ll have access to a variety of bar prep options. It’s important to find those that work best for you. Critical Pass may be a good fit.
Time management. Should you make your own flashcards? While there is a benefit in putting the rules in your own words and synthesizing the law by writing it out (that’s why you outlined in law school), when studying for the bar exam you simply won’t have enough time. Some students spend too much time making flashcards and not enough time studying them. Having the basic rules on Critical Pass cards plus the ability to easily customize your cards strikes a good balance and may help you maximize study time.
My students who have used Critical Pass found them very helpful and strongly recommend them to others. Give them a try!
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it s look like very realistic and interesting
Do recommend these cards replacing an outline? How would you Schedule bar prep study with them? 3 hours every morning then practice questions? Or maybe outline in morning, then questions then flash cards before bed?
Critical Pass flashcards are not typically as detailed as a commercial outline, so they should probably not be your only resource (especially since they are ONLY for MBE subjects!), but they offer great attack plans for MBE subjects and tend to be quick to memorize, especially if you already have a basic understanding of the material. They are also easier to separate by subject than most attack sheets, and more portable than commercial outlines, so they might be easier to use generally. Assuming you are taking more than just the MBE, if your state does not use the UBE, then you need to make sure you have outline that covers state-specific distinctions in these subjects.
As for how to fit this into your schedule, that depends on what works best for you (though you can check out a post on developing a study schedule if you’re interested: https://barexamtoolbox.com/start-early-practice-often-developing-a-study-schedule/). In general, you don’t want to spend too much time just passively reviewing material, so it might be best to spend about an hour doing flash cards, then do some practice questions and switch back and forth. Alternately, if you are working from a commercial outline too (again, that would probably be smart, at least at the beginning), the idea of reviewing the flashcards before bed might be a good one to reinforce the material that you were outlining and practicing during the day. Good luck!