Yesterday I wrote about the importance of learning how to write bar exam essay responses. One benefit of practicing is that you learn in context: you learn how to write a strong response, you learn the substantive material, and you learn how it is tested. Here are more ways to learn in context with essay questions.

(1) Spend equal time doing and reviewing. After answering a question, compare it to the released response. If the two are different, go back and look at your notes and figure out which response is better.

  • Why do this? Checking your work helps you learn and remember both process and substance.

(2) Build a rules outline. Go through your essay responses and pull out the synthesized rules from each one and add to a running list for each subject.

  • Why do this? Creating a complete and concise outline as you go along breaks up a big task which makes it easier to remember the individual rules and how they fit together.

(3) Create a key term bank for different subjects. As you work through the material and answer questions, certain words and phrases will show up again and again. Make a list of these key terms for each subject and make sure you use them in your responses.

  • Why do this? It facilitates learning because it helps organize and connect concepts, and also serves as a trigger for when your mind goes blank (and it will). If you can remember one word, you can create a rule.

(4) Answer the same question twice. Make note of which essay questions you answered early in the study process and in mid-July (when you actually know the law), answer them again without using notes. Compare your responses. You will immediately notice things you much you’ve improved.

  • Why do this? It is proof that you know and understand the material. It also gives you a feel for what you know well and what you don’t so you can focus your studying on the weaker subjects.

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