While there are no real tricks or shortcuts to preparing for the bar, you can and should study in a manner that will best help you obtain that passing score. One way of doing this is modifying your study habits to best align with your preferred learning style. If you wished bar materials were presented in a way geared towards visual learners, then this article is for you!
How to Spot a Visual Learner
If you’re a visual learner, information conveyed through images, pictures, color, and other visually stimulating things work best for you. In school, you likely noticed that reading and writing were already two of your academic strengths. Professors that presented information via PowerPoint (as opposed to “pure” verbal lectures) were likely ones you understood the most. You might get distracted by movements in windows, doorways, and of others around you.
If you believe you may be a visual learner, then strongly consider incorporating one or more of the following recommendations into your bar study schedule.
Specific Recommendations for Visual Learners
Fortunately for you, many bar prep programs already have robust written outlines that you can easily borrow and use. These pre-written outlines are goldmines, because they will help you visually see how the law intersects and how you can break things down into smaller parts. However, simply having a good outline in your possession isn’t going to be enough. You need to make sure you understand the rules set forth in the outlines and would be able to use them under strict time constraints. Memorization often happens during the writing and re-writing process, so for rules you struggle to memorize, you might want to rewrite them (possibly by hand).
Alternatively, you can use your outlines from law school, assuming you did the proper legwork in school. If you didn’t, that’s alright! When that happens, consider using Lean Sheets as a base and then flesh out rules that are unclear to you. You will also want to create attack plans. These can serve as an outline for your essay answers!
If you’ve put in the work and are still struggling to memorize a specific concept, write the information out in an interesting font or with some unique graphics. Both help the brain recognize and process that difficult information. Additionally, writing lists (similar to an attack plan) can be particularly powerful.
Watch Videos or Lectures Live
Visual learners may benefit from watching videos or lectures live, because they may be able to pick up physical cues that a person on screen is using and associate those words with the information. In particular, Adaptibar and Sketchylaw both present information in a visually stimulating way.
While watching videos and attending live lectures can be beneficial for visual learners, if you aren’t getting any benefit from watching videos, stop! Many students who watch videos or listen to lectures are only engaging in passive learning, which is not going to help you pass the bar.
Create Visually Stimulating Diagrams and Charts
If you already know “traditional” outlines don’t work for you, shake things up! Your outline doesn’t need to follow a rigid structure. It can consist of diagrams and visual images using graphics, symbols, pictures, and flowcharts. If you need help getting started, be sure to check out examples in (or simply use ones from) the Emanuel CrunchTime series. When creating your materials, use a consistent system of color-coding to signify important information. Also, if you can connect the concepts you are studying to real-life examples, you are more likely to retain the information (which is why the Law in Flash flashcards can be particularly fun to use!).
Create Memory Palaces
Creating a memory palace (formerly referred to as the Method of Loci) centers on using imagery association to memorize materials. To use this method, you imagine a place or thing you are familiar with (even if the place or thing is imaginary!) and associate items in that place or thing with the information you need to memorize. The crazier, the better! (Check out this kooky example concerning prior restraint on free speech). The key benefit to converting words from your outlines into images is that the method has staying power, i.e. “stickiness” – so, the more fun, animated, or outrageous the image, the stickier it becomes.
Practice Strong Test-taking Strategies
When practicing your essays and performance tests, use scratch paper to plan and organize your response. If you get stuck and can’t remember the law, you should write down any related information to help trigger a recall. (Note: Practice these things consistently before the exam to make sure they work for you. You never want to try something new on exam day).
Things to Avoid:
It will likely benefit you to study alone as opposed to in a group to reduce distractions. Similarly, try to find a study location that restricts your access to TV screens, video games, and social media. Finally, face away from windows and consider practicing with ear buds to maximize your concentration.
Explore and Borrow Techniques from Another Style
Although these suggestions are geared towards visual learners, your preferred bar exam learning style may change based upon the information or task you are preparing to confront. In other words, you may be visually-inclined for most subjects, but for Contracts you need to take kinesthetic-learner’s approach. Similarly, you might learn an area of Torts better if you attack it with methods suited for another style. Don’t be afraid to borrow techniques from different learning styles if doing so helps you learn better and retain material longer. Find what works best for you and happy studying!
Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles and a related podcast:
- Bar Study Tips for Different Learning Styles
- 5 Bar Exam Study Tips for Visual Learners
- Why Using IRAC Will Help You Pass the Bar Exam
- What Are Bar Exam Graders Really Looking For?
- What is the Uniform Bar Exam?
- How to Approach a Uniform Bar Exam Subject Essay (MEE)
- Podcast Episode 80: Bar Exam 101 – An Introduction