Thursday, September 20, 2018
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), citing to Law.com and TaxProfBlog editor Dean Paul Caron, the national average score on the MBE multiple-choice portion of the July bar exam dropped to its lowest level in 34 years. http://www.abajournal.com; https://www.law.com; http://taxprof.typepad.com. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) reports that the July 2018 MBE average score was just 139.5, while for the July 1984 exam, Law.com reports that the MBE average score was likewise low at 139.21. http://www.ncbex.org/news; https://www.law.com.
In an article by Law.com, the President of the NCBE - Judith Gundersen - is quoted as saying that "they [this summer's lower MBE scores] are what would be expected given the number of applicants and LSAT 25th percentile means of the 2015 entering class." https://www.law.com. In other words, according to the NCBE, this summer's low score average is the result of law school admissions decisions based on the NCBE's appraisal of 25 percentile LSAT data for entering 2015 law students.
Nevertheless, despite the NCBE's claim, which was previously theorized by the NCBE back in 2015 (namely, that bar exam declines are related to LSAT declines) previous empirical research found a lack of empirical support for the NCBE's LSAT claim, albeit limited to one jurisdiction, one law school's population, and admittedly not updated to reflect this summer's bar exam results. Testing the Testers.
As an armchair statistician with a mathematics background, I am leery of one-size-fits-all empirical claims. Life is complex and learning is nuanced. Conceivably, there are many factors at play that might account for bar exam results in particular cases, with many factors not ascribable to pure mathematical calculus, such as the leaking roof in the middle of the first day of the Colorado bar exam. http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/ceiling_leaks_pause_colorado_bar_exam. Here's just a few possible considerations:
• The increase to 25 experimental questions embedded within the set of 200 MBE multiple-choice questions in comparison to previous test versions with only 10 experimental questions embedded.
• The addition of Federal Civil Procedure as a relatively recent MBE subject.
• The apparent rising incidences of anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities found within law school populations and graduates.
• The economic barriers to securing bar exam testing accommodations despite longitudinal evidence of law school testing accommodations.
• The influence of social media, the internet age, and smart phones in impacting the learning environment.
• The difficulty in equating previous versions of bar exams with current versions of bar exams given changes in the exam instrument itself and the scope of subject matter tested.
Consequently, in my opinion, there's a great need (and a great opportunity) for law schools to collaborate with bar examiners to hypothesize, research, and evaluate what's really going on with the bar exam. It might be the LSAT, as the NCBE claims. But, most problems in life are much more complicated. So, as a visual jumpstart to help law schools and bar examiners brainstorm possible solutions, here's a handy chart depicting the overall downward trend with respect to the past ten years of national MBE average scores. (Scott Johns).
September 20, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Starting outlines can be an intimidating process, especially for those who are not "born organized." Using flashcards to construct outlines is a useful technique for those having trouble getting started, for kinesthetic and visual learners, and for anyone who has trouble organizing masses of complex material within the confines of a laptop computer screen. This is also a useful technique when small study groups want to work together to construct an outline.
Although outlining with flashcards can be time intensive and certainly doesn't work for all students, it has advantages for many students. Like using a whiteboard to construct flowcharts and mind maps, using cards is highly visual and kinesthetic, so it involves the whole person in learning. The learner doesn't have to start off being organized or understanding the material -- rather, understanding and organization come from engaging in the process. Unlike a whiteboard, cards allow for more detailed information and more permanence even while they allow for easily moving, manipulating, and deleting information. And the same cards used for constructing the outline can also be used as flashcards for memory work and issue spotting.
Here's my recipe for starting to outline using the flashcard method. Like any recipe, alter it to your own taste.
- 3 X 5 cards, store-bought or homemade (Check your local dollar store for good deals. It may be cheaper to buy cardstock paper and cut to size.)
- Pens, pencils, and highlighters in desired colors
- Glue dots
- Rubber bands
- Source material -- case briefs, class notes, casebook
- Room with a big table or tables (an empty classroom is ideal) or with big blank walls
- "Brain-dump." On each card, handwrite one, and only one, piece of information. That could be a concept, definition, major rule, subrule, element, policy, case holding, case facts, example, or hypothetical. Handwriting is important here, because creating cards on a computer may bog you down in perfection paralysis -- and perfectionism is the enemy of starting outlines in the first place.
- Once you have brain-dumped, review each individual piece of information to make sure it is accurate. Did you use the proper terminology? Does a rule include all the elements in the proper order?
- Spread your cards out so you can see each individual card. You can do this on any flat surface like a table, but many people find it easier to see and grasp the information if the cards are on a wall (glue dots are incredibly useful for this).
- Now start sorting your cards into rough groupings. For example, which rules and cases come under duty and which under breach?
- As you engage in working your way through the material, you will almost certainly think of more concepts, rules, definitions, and examples you didn't think of when you were starting out. Great! Create a new card for each of these and plug into the appropriate place.
- Work your way from rough groupings into more formal relationships shown by outline format. For instance, does this case illustrate a major rule or a subrule?
- Use this process to think your way systematically through the material and deeply engage with it. Remember, relationships are not always obvious and might be logically placed in different places, but you want to find the best place. For example, if you were analyzing some torts or crimes, would you treat lack of consent as an element, or would consent be an affirmative defense?
- Color code, number, or otherwise mark your cards to show the order between them. It's handy to periodically take pictures of your cards as arranged on the wall to record your outline as a visual construct. If you are working at home and have lots of room, you might keep the cards on the wall; if not, take down your cards in order and secure them with a rubber band.
- Revisit your outline often with the new understanding gained by working your way through hypotheticals and taking practice tests. Are the concepts in the best order? Are your rules accurate? Are your examples helpful for understanding the concept?
- The more you use the cards, the better you can understand the material on both a micro and macro level. It's critical to periodically spread the cards out to get a visual sense of the whole organization of your subject. In addition, you can use the cards as flashcards for memory or issue-spotting work.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
There is nothing like undertaking a new exploit to help you establish an affinity with the 1L law students with whom you are working. Enlisting as a contributing editor to the Law School Academic Support Blog, for example, has for me provoked the mix of hopeful excitement and mystified apprehension that used to be just a fuzzy memory from my own first year of law school. Will I impress people favorably? Will I put my foot in my mouth? Suddenly I feel a fresh sense of empathy with the incoming class.
And this makes sense! How else would anybody feel upon realizing that they have voluntarily taken on a future of writing dozens or hundreds of essays in which they are expected to take a stance and justify it with a combination of facts, logic, judgment, history, inference, speculation, and the occasional appeal to emotion, and then presenting these essays to readers who are knowledgeable attorneys with high standards? Whether you are a law student or a law blog author, this can be an intimidating position.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. I am excited to have joined the Law School Academic Success Blog team, notwithstanding any qualms about performing on a new stage. But I have been reminded of my first few weeks in law school, and even a brief flash of empathy with our new law students has some value. It can build rapport. It can also help us find ways to exploit our own experiences for our students’ benefit.
In this case, as I considered writing for this blog, I realized that the greatest source of uncertainty, and thus anxiety, was not knowing the expectations of my readers. What topics do you want to read about? What kind of tone do you prefer? There is not much I can do to answer those questions, other than to write and wait for reaction. But it does not have to be that way for our students.
An issue I see commonly in 1L writing, particularly in the first semester, is a misapprehension of the expectations of the person grading the writing. Some students rely mistakenly on crafting the kind of intricate prose for which they received high grades in the past. Others, in lieu of legal analysis, reflexively regurgitate the rules, case names, and historical details they have memorized. Sometimes students overemphasize something they have learned in law school -- IRAC format, for example -- and apply it indiscriminately, without prioritizing the most relevant issues. These errors are not always the result of not grasping their professors’ expectations, but sometimes they are, and when they are, it can be frustrating for a student not to realize their lapse until after they receive a disappointing grade that might have been avoided.
For this reason, when I am working with 1L students, I try to convey a blend of messages about what they should be striving for. While I aim to be clear with students about the importance of developing skills such as clear analysis and precision, I also insert explicit messages about how law professors, in general, often have expectations of student performance that differ from those of students’ previous teachers. Yes, professors expect their students to know the rules discussed in class, but they also expect students to use those rules as tools, and to exercise judgment in choosing which tools to use, and how to use them. They expect students to make choices about what they discuss, and at how much depth. Moreover, different professors may have different expectations with respect to these choices, and students can learn to glean these individual preferences by paying attention to what each professor emphasizes in class and by talking with the professors and their teaching assistants.
Of course, many law students figure out the importance of their audience’s expectations naturally. But there is a subset of students who seem most comfortable approaching academic performance as an objective, quantitative measure of how much they know. Helping them to see early on that, in most cases, their academic performance in law school will be judged by qualitative standards that are shaped to some degree by their teachers’ subjective expectations can hasten those students’ movement out of their comfort zone and into a realm in which they make prudent decisions about what issues to address, which facts and rules to use, and which outcomes are most likely. Encouraging students to consider their readers’ expectations can help them to see that their job as law students, both in class and beyond, is not merely to memorize and recite, but to learn how to engage in discourse as part of a larger legal community. (Bill MacDonald)
Sunday, September 16, 2018
We are finishing our fourth week of classes for all students and the fifth week of Torts for 1L students (they started Torts during orientation week). Multiple 1L students have been in my office the last 2 weeks stressing over the amount of work and their struggles to comprehend the material. Many of them have been comparing themselves to "everyone else." They are convinced that they are the only ones who are confused, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, and chips-and-coffee-fueled.
When I reassure them that they are not "the only ones" and that "everyone else" is not leaps and bounds ahead of them, I see a glimmer of hope. They are not yet convinced, but they are willing to take a deep breath and regroup.
Each student's concerns are somewhat different. We unpack what is going on, and most often make future appointments to address specific topics (time management, learning preferences, reading/briefing, etc.). Here are some of the things we may discover with different students when we start to unpack the overwhelmed responses to the situation:
- The student does not fully account for the newness of law school: a new language, a new way of thinking, a new way of questioning, a new way of writing, and a new professional experience.
- The student has always been one of the brightest immediately in a new course and suddenly is not.
- The student's prior education has not been very challenging and did not require much time and effort to get high grades.
- The student believes that "fast is best." Finishing before everyone else has been the student's measure for success in learning. Suddenly the student is painfully slow.
- The student has lost perspective of what is needed for a course and is overworking (capturing trivia, reading multiple study aids, reading string cites and note cases in full).
- The student believes that everyone else is grasping the classes in less time, with less work, and at greater depth.
- The student believes every classmate who brags s/he understood the 25-page assignment in 30 minutes or never studies evenings and weekends.
- The student forgets that judicial opinions are not written for law students, that not all questions have right answers, and that edited opinions may skip paragraphs linking ideas.
- The student is preparing for either case understanding or synthesis but not both so that some questions are always "from left field."
With each student's appointment, I am once again reminded of what it was like to be a fall semester 1L without an academic support professional to help. The good news is that they already know more than 5 weeks ago (if they just look back), they will know far more in another 5 weeks, and at the end of the 1L year they will be amazed at themselves. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Radical. Bold. Ambitious. And shocking too. Until I read the research. But first, the country-wide experiment in learning...
As reported by CNN, starting earlier this month with the new school year, France has banned, I mean completely banned, student cell phone use in all primary, middle, and high school campuses throughout France (and throughout the entire school day (lunch included)): https://www.cnn.com/france-smartphones-school-ban-intl/index.html
As detailed by CNN, there's research to back up the educational benefits. As described by CNN, the research evaluated the relationship between cell phone use and academic achievement for 130,000 UK students. The researchers "found that following a ban on phone use, the schools' test scores improved by 6.4%. [And,] [t]he impact on underachieving students was much more significant -- their average test scores rose by 14% (emphasis added)." https://money.cnn.com/smartphones-schools-ban/index.html. Citing research authors Dr. Richard Murphy and Dr. Louis-Philippe Beland, CNN reported that just by prohibiting cell phone use in schools, "[s]chools could significantly reduce the education achievement gap...."
That's big news - that ought to make a big splash in legal education - because the research suggests that a low tech solution might help law schools too narrow the achievement gap for those most at-risk of not doing well in law school. So, as you meet with students who are struggling this semester, you might ask your learners about their cell phone habits. No need to be pushy. Instead, just show them the research and then let them make a decision. http://cep.lse.ac.uk/publishedresearch
Based on my own review of the research, here's my recommendation to my students: "For one week, just leave the mobile phone at home...or in one's school locker...or tucked away with the power off in one's backpack. Even if it doesn't lead to better learning, you'll find that you'll quickly put a quash to those never-ending furtive glances at one's phone to see if someone has tried to connect with you. And, more importantly, you might find that you are actually making better connections with the materials (and others) by not connecting to the digital world while at law school. In short, you might reap the same educational benefits as those documented in the UK." That's a great educational goal for all of us. (Scott Johns).
Monday, September 3, 2018
My favorite season began last weekend. Some people like one of the weather seasons, but my favorite season is college football season. The pageantry, great food, and fanaticism permeates the air. Last Saturday’s heat index rose above 100 degrees while hanging out with over 85,000 of my closest friends, but I couldn’t be more excited. I get to experience that pure joy with my 2 sons, and we have a blast. Similar experiences and joy are important for a successful law school career.
My love of college football didn’t start after law school. I grew up rooting for my hometown team, which eventually became my alma mater. I watched them consistently growing up and attended some games in college. I wouldn’t miss watching a game. When I got to law school, I made the decision to take off every Saturday to continue watching or attending games. It was one of the best decisions I made for myself.
Law school is hard and busy, especially the first year. The language isn’t the same as undergrad. Readings take longer. No one feels prepared, and many first year students feel behind almost immediately. Many students have a tendency to work non-stop to make up for the perceived inadequacies. Students will read something every day and not schedule down time. LRW assignments start increasing, and by mid-October, many 1Ls start hating law school.
Law school hatred is fueled by burn out and being overwhelmed. Those feelings lead to less focus when reading, which then requires more time to complete the work. Students will then take more breaks throughout the day, extending work late into the evening. The extended work deprives them of relaxation each night. Feeling behind causes some students to work 7 days a week, which then exacerbates the exhaustion. The downward spiral unfortunately continues throughout the semester, and it causes many students to despise the law school experience.
While law school is definitely hard, the experience can be much better with built in balance. Work-life balance isn’t a fad, and balance isn’t a problem for “other people.” Everyone needs time away from studying to stay both happy and productive when preparing. Everyone is different. I took almost every Saturday off during law school. I made the choice that what I enjoyed would be a priority. It made outlining on Sunday easier for me. I had my break and could get back to work the next day. I have students who spend every Sunday with their family. Think about what is important for you. Write it down. Decide now what will help you enjoy life outside law school.
After deciding what is important, decide when you take time off to enjoy it. Planning the time away now is important. Everyone has difficulty taking time off when already overwhelmed. Trying to come up with coping mechanisms while stressed is difficult, and trying to add in relaxation when overburdened is near impossible. The time to plan your non-law activities is now.
While planning when to take time off, consider the impact when everything is scheduled. Our 1L students have classes M-F. Many students read the day before class. On Friday, students go to class, but then tend to take the rest of the day easier. They may look at a few extra problems or organize material from the week, but they don’t spend 4-5 hours on those tasks. The day is still long, but not as productive as a normal day. Those students then spend a significant portion of Sunday completing the reading for Monday, which is still exhausting. For those students, 6 days a week are long and exhausting. They also struggle to find time to complete outlines, practice problems, and LRW assignments.
A different plan may increase effectiveness and decrease stress. I encourage students to spend Friday reading like a normal day. Read the material for Monday. The stress of required work on the weekend is gone. Spend a day off either Saturday or Sunday. On the other day, work on outlines, practice problems, and other study tools to prepare for finals. I wouldn’t casually study on Sunday, but working for a couple hours, then taking a break is easier when class isn’t looming the next day. Spending 5-6 hours on study tools provides a huge benefit for final exams. Choosing what to study each day has an impact of how overwhelmed you feel. This schedule benefits from a clear day off and a day focused on final exam study.
Peanuts, hot dogs, fresh air, and exuberance helped my mood throughout law school. The break can help your mood as well. Make time for your fun activities to not merely survive, but to thrive in law school.
Thursday, August 30, 2018
I recently heard a pastor say something to the effect:
"We listen in lines.
We learn in circles.
We grow in circles.
We change in circles."
As I take it, here's the point.
Whether at a place of worship or at a school (or at any other place of learning), most of us think that we are learning when we are sitting passively, and yet attentively, in an orderly line with others, listening, watching, and taking notes from an expert teacher...as the teacher presents the materials to us.
In contrast, according to the speaker, if you (or me) think that we are learning by just being present in class, by sitting in lines, we are sorely mistaken. Let me be frank. We are in fact self-deceived. We are merely listening but not learning; not growing; not changing. Listening ≠ Learning.
I realize these are strong words (strong medicine). But, as Dr. John Dunlosky, professor of psychology, suggests, we are all easily tricked into imaging and believing that we are learning when we are merely studying. https://www.aft.org/periodicals/dunlosky.pdf There is in fact a big difference between studying and learning.
Let me be direct.
In my own view, learning requires us to live and move in circles. It requires us to move beyond the lines of our classroom environment, to no longer just sit still and silent, but rather to share with others what we are thinking, to loop back through our notes to distill and reshape them using our own words, and to make what we have heard into something personally meaningful to us individually. In short, it means to act...to act upon what we have heard.
If that sounds difficult, it is. But, it's not impossible...for any of us.
However, it does mean, as Dr. Dunlosky observes, that we will often feel uncomfortable and uncertain about our learning (indeed, whether we are even learning at all). That's because learning means that we understand that - as presently situated - we have things to learn, things that we don't yet know, and indeed that we don't really know anything until what we learn becomes part of who we are as human beings. And, that happens in circles not lines. It happens with us daily interacting and acting with and upon the materials. It happens when we pause and reflect. It happens when we share and debate with others what we are thinking. It happens because learning is really in reality a social activity, a social enterprise that helps shape us into who we are as people.
So, as you celebrate this upcoming Labor Day holiday, feel free to step back and think about your past learning. In particular, take time to reflect on how you personally learned something in the past that now sticks with you forever. Perhaps it was learning to play guitar. Perhaps learning arithmetic. Perhaps learning to meditate and be mindful. Whatever it was, the things that you have learned - really learned - all occurred because you moved beyond the line into creating meaningful circles of relationships with what you heard and watched. So, take the next step in being a learner by taking charge of your learning journey, and, in the process, you will grow and change. In short, you'll learn. (Scott Johns).
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Most law schools have either completed a week of classes or are about to begin classes. Getting organized at the beginning of the semester makes a huge difference in feeling organized throughout the semester. Here are three tasks that can help you get a jump start for your semester:
- Read each course syllabus carefully and highlight important information:
- Learning outcomes
- Required or recommended books and materials
- Attendance and participation policies
- Grading policies
- Assignment, exam, or paper information
- Bonus points for participation, attendance at outside lectures, etc.
- Use of laptops, recorders, etc.
- Other information relevant to success in the course
- Note on your calendar any important deadlines and due dates given in the syllabus:
- paper drafts
- assigned group work
- reflection papers
- court observations
- additional workshop attendance
- Begin your quest to be an expert on your professor’s course:
- how the class is organized or structured
- what participation method is used: volunteers, random, seat assignment, panels
- what teaching methods are most commonly used
- what questions are asked about most assignments
- what buzzwords or phrases are commonly used
- whether policy arguments are emphasized
- whether spin-off hypos are used
- whether pop quizzes are given
- other patterns relevant to this particular professor
Paying attention to the syllabus, flagging all the deadlines, and sussing out your professor's teaching will give you a foundation for learning from the early days. Best wishes for a successful semester! (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, August 19, 2018
It is very easy with the excitement and busyness of a new semester to develop some bad habits or lose some good ones. First-year students especially are likely to feel pulled in a million directions by the new experiences and expectations of law school. Not only do 1Ls need to learn new study strategies, but they often need to cope with a new city, first apartment, and increased responsibilities for daily chores. 2Ls and 3Ls may have gotten out of the study-life routine over the summer while they slid into a 9 to 5 summer clerkship routine of evenings and weekends off.
It does not take long for the workload to become a bit overwhelming, and for life-law-school balance to get out of whack. Students start burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Before long, late nights, junk food, and caffeine jitters seem unavoidable. A downward spiral begins: stress, fatigue, lack of motivation, sadness, and more.
By implementing some simple steps for wellness and study-life balance at the beginning of the semester, law students can avoid that overwhelmed feeling and the downward spiral. Consider these steps as "preventative medicine" for law students:
- Set up a weekly routine with blocks of time marked off for study tasks for each course (class prep, outlines, review, practice questions, other assignments) as well as for life's tasks (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands). If you are married or have children, life tasks may include family dinners, bedtime stories, and other tasks. By having repetitive blocks already scheduled to cover all of these tasks, you see where you will get things done.
- Enter 7-8 hours of sleep per night into your schedule blocks. Proper sleep combats fatigue, stress, depression, and lack of motivation. Proper sleep increases focus, concentration, productivity, retention/recall, and mental agility.
- Enter blocks into your schedule for meals. Proper nutrition combats fatigue, stress, depression, hypoglycemia, and more. Proper nutrition supports brain function. Planned meal times aid digestion and relaxation.
- Enter blocks into your schedule for exercise. Exercise not only has physical benefits, but it does wonders for combating stress. You only need 30 minutes 5 times a week to get the boost.
- Enter blocks into that weekly routine for "down time" when you have permission to relax fully because you have already completed the other tasks for the week in the scheduled blocks. Most law students want the most down time Friday and Saturday nights, but it varies with lifestyle. Knowing you will have time off provides greater motivation to get things done to enjoy guilt-free time off. Scheduled down time also allows spouses and children to plan fun activities with you.
- Complete meal prep on the weekends as much as possible. You will save time during the week while avoiding the temptations of junk food. Cook a main entree that will last several nights in a crockpot. Cut up raw fruit and vegetables for healthy snacks during the week. Make sandwiches ahead in single-serve containers to grab and go. Portion out nuts, raisins, trail mix for energy snack packs.
- Group errands together by location. Grocery shop when the store is less crowded. Spread laundry or cleaning over several different days or weeks (Saturday clothes laundry and Sunday sheets and towels laundry; dust one Saturday and vacuum the next Saturday).
- Use a "to do" list to prioritize the tasks for the time blocks you have in your schedule for the day. The class prep for Contracts block translates to "read pages 28-41 and complete problems 5-7" on your daily list. You know exactly what tasks need completion and lower your stress as you cross tasks off your list.
- Take small breaks throughout the day to practice relaxation, meditation, or mindfulness. These mini-breaks can rejuvenate your body and mind.
If you take control over these basic areas of your life, law school falls into place and allows you balance. You do not have to fall victim to the often-heard rant that "law school does not allow time for anything else." (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, August 11, 2018
TIPS FOR ORIENTATION WEEK
- Practice your one-minute elevator speech to introduce yourself repeatedly to new people you meet.
- Realize that your future reputation as a lawyer begins with this week. Your classmates will be your professional colleagues after law school. First impressions matter.
- Read carefully all of the Orientation materials so that you are not clueless about dress code, class assignments, computer access, and much more.
- Report to sessions promptly with the required materials and ready to learn.
- Complete all of your session assignments carefully. These sessions are preparing you for the REAL THING so take them seriously.
- Scope out the law school building: your classrooms your library carrel, the student lounge, faculty offices, and study areas.
- Spend your evenings getting your non-law-school life sorted: unpacking boxes; decorating your apartment; setting up your study area; stocking food staples and supplies; locating the pharmacy, grocery store, and dry cleaners; deciding the best commuting route to school.
- Remember that the study of law is exciting as well as challenging. Enjoy this new adventure!
Thursday, August 9, 2018
It's the start of a brand new academic year, and that means that first-year law students all across the nation are hearing for the first time about "IRAC" (the deductive formula for reminding us as law students to analyze legal problems by stating the issue, defining the rule, applying the facts at hand to the rule of law, and reaching a logical conclusion).
But, is IRAC really new to us as entering law students?
Well, the answer is plainly and firmly no.
You see, as Professor José Roberto (Beto) Juárez Jr. explained during orientation at the University of Denver this past week, all of us have been doing IRAC since our toddler years. I mean all of us! That includes you and me!
As Professor Juárez elaborated, children know all about rules, how to interpret rules (usually narrowly), and how to apply them (also usually narrowly).
That's because kids are faced - early on - with lots of rules imposed by adults, whether the adult is a teacher, a parent, or a youth leader. Adulthood is filled with rules (and with adults trying to get children to obey their adulthood rules). But, let's face facts. As a child, rules have only one purpose in life; rules are meant to curb fun, to rob us of joy, to bar us from truly living.
Consequently, as a kid, we all learned - staring as early as toddlers - how to analyze rules for lots of factual and legal loopholes. In short, we have been analyzing like "lawyers" from our earliest years using IRAC.
So, as you being to play, learn, and work with IRAC as a first-year law student, please don't forget this truth, namely, that you have been an IRAC-genuis for most of your life! (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
I asked a few rising 2L and 3L students what they wish they knew as first year, first semester, law students and I received a slew of answers. Not every answer is listed here and certainly, there is a lot more one could consider outside of the categories listed here. The responses I received fall into some of the categories listed below and I limited categories to the six below.
The Library Can Distract You. The library is typically thought of as a place where one goes to focus and study. In law school, the library can be a very distracting and social place. Some classmates want to talk to each other or you and you might want to have conversations to avoid reading or completing your tasks. Students who previously frequented the library and considered their visits productive might now find it to be the most distracting location to study. Give the library a try and see what happens, closely monitor your time and productivity. Simply clocking hours in the library does not equate with quality and fruitful study time. “I spent several hours, all semester long, in the library but when I consider the time I spent studying, it was minimal. I accomplished a lot more at home.” Student A
Attend Office Hours. Meeting with professors one-on-one can humanize the professors and cultivate the student-professor dynamics. Professors are human beings, really. This is a good time to ask pertinent questions and sort through difficult concepts early. Also, this interaction allows professors to get to know you which might become helpful in the future when they seek a teaching assistant or research assistant. This interaction can also be helpful if you need a letter of recommendation in the future but you must engage with professors to cultivate that relationship. “When I needed a reference, my professor was willing to write me one and remembered me because I was in office hours with at least one course related question every week.” Student B
You Can Sleep Before Midnight. Law students spend hours preparing for class and completing legal writing assignments, particularly in the beginning. Students often pull all-nighters to balance class preparation and completion of assignments. However, if you plan out your time and maximize the time you spend on various assignments and tasks, you can accomplish a lot. “I worked (which I was advised against), commuted to school from about an hour away, am married, and have three children but still managed to complete all of the requirements of my 1L curriculum. It is doable. It is all about time management, prioritizing, and temporary sacrifice.” Student C
Be Humble. Some students can be more confident than they should be particularly if they were high achieving students in a previous academic environment. It can also be difficult when your path in life was to make it to law school so you took the necessary classes, participated in pre-law programs, worked with lawyers and other members of the legal profession, and have family members with experience in the legal profession. All of the above and more are confidence building and present knowledge that other students might not have. You must keep in mind that everyone will have their own journey, path, and experience which might be different from yours. Just because another person’s experience does not fit the cookie cutter law school experience does not mean it is of any less value. “I had a lot of exposure to the legal profession, legal terminology, law school environment, etc. and I understood things quicker than it seemed others did but that was not enough when I saw my law school first semester grades. I should have approached things the way some of my classmates did and I could have learned from them but refused to. I wish that I was more open to the Academic Support Program and what other individuals in the law school environment had to say about preparing for exams. My attitude also isolated me from some of my classmates.” Student D
There Are Endless Opportunities. Some students often feel limited by their academic performance or perceived ability compared to other students. Students have the impression that there is only one trajectory to achieving a goal or developing a skill or to be a part of particular programs, co-curricular activities, and/or extracurricular activities. Everyone is not going to have the same opportunity to do the same things. There might be an alternative route to whatever you would like to do and/or accomplish but you may need to chat with someone, reach out to others, and be okay with alternatives. It is never the end of the world; therefore, you might just have to take a different path.
Invest In Your Well-being. Always ensure that you keep the friends you made outside of law school as they can keep you grounded and remind you of who you are and your values. They also provide a means of escaping law school. Schedule some fun on a weekly basis whether it is a movie, dinner, a walk, a run, or anything that makes you happy. This will keep you motivated and centered. Consider investing in a locker or a roller bag which will help with carrying your books around and save your back. Overall, simply pay attention to your body and your mental, physical, and emotional health. This will serve you well in the future.
This is a very exciting time for new students! Welcome to your new journey but remember to stay as true as you can to your authentic self. (Goldie Pritchard)
Monday, August 6, 2018
Excitement is mounting. A magical experience begins in the coming days. Joy and the nerves of the unknown rise. I could be describing a 6 year old’s feelings the day before seeing Magic Kingdom or the emotions of someone starting law school. Law school has the potential to be just as magical as Mickey pancakes.
The adrenaline will be high the first few days, but try to soak it all in. You only get to start law school once. If you embrace the new journey, it can be eye opening. Disney World is hot, muggy, expensive, and crowded the vast majority of the time, but it is still the happiest place on earth. Law school can be hard, time consuming, and draining, or it can be a thought provoking and transformative experience. Enjoying law school is about the perspective during the mundane of daily activities.
Law school magic is all around. Learning how to "think like a lawyer" is similar to seeing all your childhood movies come to life. Hearing numerous different people try to explain IRAC, CIRAC, CRAC, or any other legal analysis method is just like A Small World. The song is the same just using different languages. Some professors are larger than life like Mickey. Some classes will be exhilarating like Space Mountain, while others will be the Jungle Cruise, predictable and full of bad jokes. Every class will provide pieces to the larger puzzle that lays the foundation for the practice of law.
As you embrace the magic, understand you are joining a new profession. My biggest suggestion for law school is to treat this unique opportunity as your new career. You will make an impression on both colleagues and professors starting now. References and referrals many years down the road are impacted by what you do starting day 1.
Treating law school as a career includes preparation. Start your day early. Attend every class unless an emergency or sickness arises. Adequately prepare for each class. Everyone is different, but my adequate preparation required slowly reading each major case while briefing it. Some students will skim the case and then read it again to make the brief. The key is to prepare as if this is your job. You wouldn’t, or at least you shouldn’t, show up to work unprepared or ignore your bosses instructions, so don’t show up to class without doing the assignments from professors. Finals are much easier to prepare for when you do the work throughout the semester.
Joining the profession also requires passing the bar exam in a few years. No one wants to think about the bar now, but your actions on the first day will impact bar preparation. I can virtually guarantee the material from the first week of law school will be on the bar. The more effort you put in right now, the less stress during bar prep.
This is an exciting journey and will be as magical as you make it. Treat this as your new profession and have fun.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
Attention Bar Takers:
Here's a couple of short winning tips for your final weekend flight plan checks as you prepare for success on your bar exam next week!
I. Focus on a Winning Attitude:
First, remind yourself right now why you can pass the bar exam...because, after all, you've been trained as an attorney.
That's right. Boldy recognize that out of all of the people in the world, you are one of the very few who have earned a law degree. Yep...YOU'VE earned your law degree, having successfully demonstrated that YOU know how to solve legal problems. That doesn't mean that you know it all (nor that you need to know it all for your bar exam). But, you do know how to read and ponder and analyze and write and communicate as an attorney because you've been trained - for over the course of three years - to think and, more significantly, be an attorney.
So, as Professor Chad Noreuil says, look forward to your bar exam next week as a "get-to" opportunity rather than a "got-to" threat. That's because this is YOUR moment to show YOUR state Supreme Court that YOU are professionally-trained attorney.
II. Rehearsing Your Lines:
Second, keep your focus on positive learning throughout this weekend as you...
YOUR BIG PICTURE RULES FOR YOUR BAR EXAM NEXT WEEK!
In other words, don't think of memorization as dry and dusty work.
Rather, consider memorization as theatre work.
Just like actors, carry your script (your study tool) with you in hand, personally by your side, ready to swing into your eyesight, as you walk through the major issues and rules for each subject. Move swiftly. Your goal on Saturday is to work through each subject in well under an hour or much less. Then, do the same for each subject on Sunday.
Here's a Tip - Less is More!
Stick with talking, singing, or acting out only the big picture rules. Don't dive deep. In other words, just state the rule for burglary but don't practice the definitions for each of the elements. Then, do it again...quicker. On Sunday, grab those study tools and once again work through each subject - one at a time - with freedom and abandon to peek at your study tools.
The Memory Power of Peeking!
Too many people don't want to peek. But here's the secret to memorization (based on the famous saying that a "peek is worth a thousand words").
When we peek, we visually see where the rule is on our study tool and how it is organized and positioned. As the learning scientists indicate, we tend to comprehend (a.k.a., remember) things better when we see them in text (whether in our set of notecards or outlines or posters) because the visual position of the words creates meaning for us. And, memorization is just about creating memories with your study tools. So, be a memory creator this weekend.
Finally, I would be remise if I didn't talk about Monday (also known as the "day before the exam").
If you can't help yourself, feel free to review your study tools. But, most certainly don't do any more practice problems. And, definitely don't work on memorizing your study tools. Just skim through them.
And, if at all possible, take the day off. I mean the whole day. From start to finish.
Recognize that brainwork - just like exercise in preparation for a marathon - requires rest and relaxation time the day before a big event in order to rejuvenate and refresh.
So, be extra kind to yourself, my dear doctor of jurisprudence, and splurge with some good old fashioned R&R. And, good luck on your bar exam next week! (Scott Johns)
Sunday, July 8, 2018
Law students are the "cream of the crop" out of undergraduate, graduate, and employment situations. Typically they have been very involved in student or community organizations; often they have held multiple leadership positions at once. Many worked part-time or full-time during their studies. Some had additional family responsibilities while studying: elder care, child care, marriage.
In short law students are "doers" in their pre-law-school lives. They have juggled a variety of experiences while getting A and B grades in school. Often they tell me they "never had to study" to get those top grades. Many tell me that they studied under 20 hours per week; some tell me that they studied under 10 hours per week. They also tell me they wrote papers the night before and never studied more than a couple of days for tests. When academic pursuits come easily, it leaves lots of room for other pursuits.
Most law students enter law school with the impression that they can continue their high involvement in activities and still get the highest grades. However, a more cautious approach is probably the wiser approach - at least the first semester. Here are some of the reasons why over-involvement may be less than optimal:
- The cohort in the first-year class is different than the past cohorts in most classes. Remember all of you are from the "cream of the crop," and consequently the outstanding level of intelligence and achievement of your new classmates is likely different from the past. Law students were accepted to law school because they excelled in their prior lives.
- Law school is different than other educational experiences and will require new learning strategies and study skills for success. All first-year students find the fall semester an adjustment as they face different expectations for classes and exams.
- The pace of learning is faster in law school because more material that is dense and complex is covered in a semester. On top of preparing for class, law students need to synthesize the material and practice application of that material to new fact scenarios to prepare for best exam performance.
- Legal research and writing courses require lengthy projects using different analysis and writing skills than previously acquired. Even excellent writers previously have to retool their techniques because legal analysis is more precise and concise. A well-written legal writing project can take consistent work over several weeks with multiple drafts.
We want new law students to get involved in the life and organizations of the law school so they feel part of their new environment. However, here are some tips for entering law students to help them make wise selections regarding their level of involvement:
- Attend any student organization fairs that your law school holds to find out more about the variety of student organizations: purposes, events, requirements for membership, time commitments.
- Attend sessions that may explain community opportunities for your involvement: pro bono clinics, volunteer opportunities, service organizations, local bar organizations.
- Consider any school requirements on your time as a law student: required pro bono hours, mandatory extended orientation meetings for first-year students, supplemental study group-tutoring sessions.
- Consider your personal interests and career goals that may match student organizations or community opportunities: oil and gas law, criminal defense, immigration law, homeless populations, animal abuse, diversity.
- Consider time commitments that you already have outside law school: elderly relatives nearby, spouse/partner, children, pets, religious services, national guard service.
- Weigh all of these factors and look for balance in your commitments in all areas of your life; determine your priorities for your time - both academic and non-academic.
- Become involved in one or two activities that are good matches for you; focus on being a member who regularly attends meetings, social events, and speakers. You will get to know other students (especially upper-division students with whom you have no classes), feel more connected to the law school community, and have several items for your resume.
- Possibly consider being on a committee for an organization, but probably avoid being a committee chair or an officer during your first semester. There will be plenty of time in future semesters to take on positions of leadership.
- If you choose a "heavy-hitter" commitment such as Student Bar Association or class officer, be even more aware of not stretching yourself too thin your first semester.
Get involved in law school life, but make academics a major priority while you acclimate to the different demands of law school. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, July 1, 2018
Law school is different from most prior educational experiences because it is a professional school using different learning and testing experiences than what undergraduate and graduate education use. Students who treat law school just like undergraduate school are frequently disappointed in their first-semester results.
First-year students need to adapt to the new learning environment if they want to achieve the level of grades they have the potential for in their studies. Here are several ways that law school is different than past educational experiences and what those differences mean to the approach needed:
- You are learning relevant skills for your career in each course. In prior education, we often had courses that had no future impact on our lives: general education courses, interesting but unrelated electives, majors that we did not intend to use after university. In law school, each course is providing you with one or more skills needed in the daily practice of law: analysis of case precedents and statutes; legal reasoning skills; analysis of both sides of a legal problem; precise/concise legal writing; policy arguments; judicial reasoning; procedural rules. The skills in each course build on the skills in previous courses and ultimately determine one's readiness to practice law upon graduation. In addition, much of the content from required courses is tested on the bar exam after graduation. Time spent in successful law school learning (as opposed to short-term studying) pays off in the future in major ways.
- What you do in class each day is important, but is not what you need to do on the exams. Law school exams focus on applying the law that you have extrapolated from reading appellate cases/statutes for the topics and subtopics in the course. In class you look at cases/statutes to understand what the actual law is and why that is the law. You learn how to tear apart cases/statutes to understand the law, how courts analyze the law, and how lawyers argue the law. On exams you typically are asked to solve a new factual scenario by applying the law and analyzing the arguments for both sides of the dispute. You need to synthesize the law (make connections across the "black letter law": rules, variations of rules, exceptions to rules, policy arguments, etc.) for topics/subtopics and apply that deeper understanding of the law to the analysis. As a lawyer, you will read and analyze cases/statutes every day and then apply that law to construct arguments to solve your client's legal dispute.
- Your professors expect you to prepare thoroughly for class and will not spoon feed you. Law students often tell me that prior professors told them exactly what to learn for the test so that they did not have to learn any material independently. They just copied down notes and memorized the material to regurgitate on the exam. In law school, professors expect you to not only read the cases carefully, but also understand how those cases fit together before you come to class. They will hit the highlights and make some connections (again that idea of "synthesis"), but will not tell you exactly what will be on the exams. You need to synthesize (again that word!) what you learn each class into the larger topic/subtopic and understand how to use the material to solve legal problems.
- Memorization of the "black letter law" is essential, but only the beginning of your learning for exam success. Law students often think they just need to memorize the law to succeed academically. You must know the law well so that you can to spot the legal issues in dispute ("issue spotting") and accurately state the law that applies. However, you then need have the higher-learning skill of understanding that law (why it works the way it does; when variations or exceptions come into play; when policy arguments might be appropriate, etc.) to gain points on the exam. Application of the law to the new scenario facts and analysis of the legal arguments are major skills for exam success. Evaluating the arguments for both parties to state a conclusion is needed - but the application and analysis are where the big exam points typically are.
- Exams are typically comprehensive over all of the 15-week semester's material. Many law students relate that they never had a comprehensive exam before law school. They had four or five tests over a semester that covered pieces of the course, but never put the entire course together at one time. They did well on those partial exams because they could cram a limited universe of knowledge, dump it on the exam, and forget it afterwards. Because law school exams tend to cover all of the course material, law students need to review the material and practice applying it throughout the semester; there is too much material to cram everything at the end and have enough time for applying that material to practice questions before the exam.
- Important study steps (outlines and practice questions) are needed beyond daily class preparation. It is very easy to get caught up in class preparation and not include other important study steps in your weekly schedule. Because synthesis, application, and analysis are critical to exam success, law students have to manage their time carefully to allow time for regular synthesis and regular application. Outlines flip your thinking from individual cases to concepts and inter-relationships within subtopics/topics that support analysis. Practice questions after review allow you to apply the law to varied fact scenarios and practice analysis and evaluation before the final exam.
You are not alone in trying to make these adaptations! You have a number of people who are there to help if you take advantage of the resources offered to you. However, you need to use the resources to gain the benefits.
Many professors will initially help students in class to see how to analyze cases and synthesize them into topics/subtopics. They may offer fact-scenario questions so that students can practice application and analysis. Professors are available to answer questions outside of class. The academic support/success professionals at your law school will offer workshops on a variety of study skills that lead to academic success. You can also request individual appointments with those ASP folks. Many law schools have upper-division teaching assistants/tutors to supplement your first-year classes. Many law schools also offer writing specialists or writing centers to assist you.
You can successfully adapt to the different law school educational experience by being aware of the differences and then seeking assistance as needed. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, June 18, 2018
Father’s Day week is awesome for many reasons. I normally get to caddy a junior golf tournament with my son, spend time with family, and watch golf’s US Open. We spend the majority of our time outside enjoying activities together. This week is what summer is all about.
I love the US Open because it is normally the hardest golf tournament of the year. They play courses with near impossible putting greens and impenetrable rough. A little part of me enjoys watching the best players in the world struggle the same way I do on weekends. As I prepared this post, I watched Rory McIlroy, who reached #1 in the world rankings a few years ago, hit a shot from the right rough to left rough 20 yards short of the green. He then proceeded to hit his next shot only 10 yards out of the rough into a sand bunker. I can absolutely relate.
The US Open winner will have similar struggles, just not as many times as the rest of the field. Most winners will say this tournament is all about perspective. Par is a great score this week if everyone else is above par.
Bar prep and completing MBE questions is a similar experience. Missing question after question is like hitting from the rough, to more rough, and then the sand. Mental exhaustion increases mistakes and leads to more stress. Students hear they only need a certain percentage correct to pass, but most students aren’t near that percentage right now. The struggle is brutal. Bar prep requires the same grind as the hardest round of golf or any other endeavor.
For my students, and many others, the timing is increasing stress. Yesterday was the halfway mark between graduation and the bar exam. Time is flying by, but no one feels comfortable with the material. New subjects are still presented. Low scores and new material breaks spirits, and everyone needs high motivation to finish the rest of preparation.
The critical action right now is to find perspective. Just like most of the golfers are hacking it around Shinnecock Hills Golf Club right now, the vast majority of students preparing for the bar exam are struggling right now. Almost no one feels comfortable with the material. Nearly no one is scoring great. Also, you don’t have to score great now or ever. You only need to get enough questions correct at the end of July to be above the pass line.
Many of you are halfway done with bar prep. Celebrate that success. Everyone has come a long way to this point. Get perspective on where you should be right now. I am not saying blindly keep going no matter what. Always keep in touch with your bar prep specialist, but remember, everyone is a weekend hacker on MBE questions right now. Keep hacking away with guidance to put yourself in a position for success.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
It's the time of the year when one group of graduates are taking their oaths of office while another group of graduates are preparing for the bar exam this summer. That brings me to an interesting conversation with a recent bar passer and his spouse about studying versus learning.
You see, with an introduction in hand, I asked the bar passer's spouse if she noticed anything different between her spouse's law school experience preparing for final exams and her spouse's bar prep experiencing in preparing for the bar exam.
Without hesitation, the report came back: "No. It was much the same, same hours, same long days, the same through and through."
In rapid response and without the slightest hesitation, the recent graduate - who just passed the bar exam - exclaimed that it was "totally different. No comparison between preparing for law school exams and the bar exam."
You see, according to his spouse's perspective, preparing for law school exams and bar exams outwardly seemed identical, but, according to the recent graduate, in law school he spent most of his time reading...and reading...and reading...and then learning as much as he could just a few days before final exams. In other words, he spent his law school years studying. In contrast, even though outwardly he put in similar hours for bar prep as for law school studies, his focus was on practicing...and practicing...and practicing. In other words, for law school he was studying; for the bar exam he was learning.
So, for those of you preparing for the bar exam this summer, focus on learning - not studying. What does that mean? Well, a great day is completing two tasks: working through lots of actual bar exam problems and then journaling about what you learned that very day. Yep...that very day. That's key. Learn today. Spend less time studying (reading commercial outlines, watching lectures, and reading lecture notes) and more time learning (doing lots and lots of practice problems). That's because on bar exam day you aren't going to be asked about what you read but rather asked to show what you can do. So, be a doer this summer! (Scott Johns).
Thursday, June 7, 2018
We're just about three weeks into bar prep. The excitement of graduation seems so long ago. We're back in the same 'ole schoolhouse setting, watching bar review lectures and working through hypothetical legal problems. Sure seems like the same old pattern as law school. But, it need not be.
But first, a bit of background...
In aviation, air traffic controllers will often query pilots about their altitude. It's a bit of a hint from the controllers to the pilots that something might be amiss. And, it almost sounds sort of polite: "Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, Say Altitude."
In response, the pilots make a quick check of the altimeter - the instrument that measures altitude (i.e, height of the airplane in the skies) to confirm that they are at proper altitude as assigned by air traffic control: "Roger Denver Approach Control, Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, level at 15,000 feet."
In between the two communications, however, you can bet that the pilots were quickly making some fast-footed adjustments to the aircraft's altitude to make sure that they would not be busted by the air traffic controllers.
That brings us back to the world of bar prep. A quick "attitude check" might be similarly helpful for your learning.
You see, as Professor Chad Noreuil from Arizona State University puts it in his book entitled "The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam," it can be mighty helpful for your learning to have what I call an "attitude check." In particular, as Professor Noreuil cites in his book, researchers have identified a positive relationship between an optimistic approach to learning and achievement in learning. Consequently, Professor Noreuil counsels bar takers to take on a "get-to" attitude rather than a "have-to" attitude towards bar prep because a "get-to" attitude improves one's chances of succeeding on the bar exam. That's what I refer to as a "get-to" versus a "got-to" attitude.
But how do you change your attitude from a "got-to" to a "get-to" attitude? Well, here's a possible approach that might just help provide some perspective about the wonderful opportunity that you have to take the bar exam this summer. You see, very few have that opportunity. That's because the numbers are just stacked against most people. They'll never get the chance that you have this summer.
Here are the details. According to the U.S. government, there are about 7.5 billion people worldwide, and the U.S. population is close to 330 million. https://www.census.gov/popclock/ Out of that population, according to the ABA, there are about 35,000 law school JD graduates per year. That's it. https://www.americanbar.org/content/ And, because most states require a JD in order to to the bar exam, very few people get to take a bar exam, very few indeed.
That brings me back to you. As a JD grad preparing for the bar exam, you are one of the very few who get to take the bar exam. So, take advantage of that opportunity this summer by approaching your bar exam studies as once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to "get-to" show your state supreme court all the wonderful things that you have learned about practicing law. You've worked hard in law school for just such a season as this, so, to paraphrase a popular slogan, "Just do it...but do it with a get-to attitude this summer! (Scott Johns).
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Last week I posted about The Future of the LSAT, including LSAC’s collaboration with Khan Academy to provide free online LSAT prep to everyone. This week I am taking Khan Academy’s LSAT course for a test drive.
Registering for the course was simple. I just needed to input my name, date of birth, and email address. Then I selected LSAT prep from the list of available courses. Once I was officially enrolled, Khan Academy provided me with an overview of their 4 step system:
“1. ... Take a mini-test or a full practice test, and [Khan Academy] will identify the skills you should focus on to improve your score the most.
2. ... Unlock your personalized practice plan. Based on your score goal, schedule, and starting skill strengths, [Khan Academy] will craft a unique practice plan with lessons and exercises at just the right level.
3. ... Step-by-step lessons and explanations will help you understand the questions and concepts on the LSAT, and official LSAT practice tests develop the test-taking and time-management skills you’ll need to reach your goal.
4. ... Your practice plan is divided into stages that start with focused skill practice and end with a LSAT practice test. As your weaknesses turn into strengths, you’ll see your test scores rise towards your goal.”
Because I was strangely curious about how I’d score with 15 years of legal analysis under my wing, I opted to take the 3 hour full-length exam instead of the 70 minute mini-diagnostic. The diagnostic exam—comprised of four graded sections—did not have an official timer (you had to time yourself), but did let you skip between questions within each section and highlight passages in the reading comprehension section. I get the impression that the system may allow for timed tests, however, because under the personal settings tab I was given the option to adjust the testing timer for time-and-a-half or double-time.
I found completing the diagnostic exam online slightly more difficult than a pencil and paper version because I could not engage in active reading techniques or quickly cross-out obviously wrong answer choices. Unsurprisingly, I’ve heard the same complaint from law students who are studying for the multiple-choice section of the bar exam using primarily online resources. My experience this week, combined with my students’ feedback, reinforced a growing concern that I have about LSAC’s decision to explore a digital LSAT exam.
All that aside, at the conclusion of the diagnostic exam, I received my overall score, as well as my score on each particular section. I was then given the option to create a personalized study schedule based on (1) my upcoming LSAT exam date and (2) my target score.
I selected a test date three months away (September) and a target score 9 points higher than my diagnostic score. With that information, the program suggested that I complete 10 full-length practice exams and study approximately 2 hours per week to reach my goal. I could also opt-in to receive automatic email reminders to help me stay on track. My personal study plan included “sub-goals” and very specific target areas on which to focus my efforts (e.g. reading comprehension passages dealing with science), based on my diagnostic performance. This project chunking and mini-goal setting system is definitely a fantastic skill to teach aspiring law students and a welcome feature in the program.
Regardless of whether I opted to complete the diagnostic exam, I could click on the “lessons” tab at the top of the page to instantly access the full repository of available handouts, videos, and practice problems. Click here to Download List of Khan Academy's LSAT Lessons. The 1 to 10 minute lecture videos stream via an embedded You Tube player and include closed captioning, if desired. The quick guides and handouts had helpful tips, but were entirely online. I also received “energy points” for each goal achieved and activity completed, in the same vein as a video game.
Overall, the Khan Academy LSAT program appears to be quite robust—especially given its zero dollar price tag. I would recommend this website to law school hopefuls. (Kirsha Trychta)