Ever wonder how on earth you will possibly remember all the rules of law for the bar exam? During my own bar exam studies, one thing I kept hearing over and over again from various bar prep materials went something like this: “Don’t worry about memorizing; it will come naturally as you work with the material.” While to some degree, this may be true, at a certain point students still have to commit the rules and their elements to memory. I often felt if there was just some machine I could place over my head that would allow all of the black letter law to become instantly memorized, boy, could I write a killer exam! You can tell that memorization is not one of my strong points. But maybe there is a scientifically proven technique that could help with memory retention and of course…there is. It’s called spaced repetition which has been shown to produce some very impressive results. And now, there is an app for bar exam students to utilize this proven technique.
We tested SeRiouS which uses the cutting-edge technology of spaced repetition to help law students study for law school exams as well as the bar exam. The theory behind spaced repetition goes something like this: If you have to learn a large number of items and retain them in your memory for an indefinite period of time, the best way to do this is to increase the intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material so that you exploit the psychological spacing effect – the phenomenon where we more easily remember things when they are studied a few times spaced over a long time span rather than repeatedly studying in a short time span. Hence, cramming the night before an exam is not nearly as effective as studying over the long term.
Now that you understand the theory behind spaced repetition, here is how it works in practice: A software program is developed based on flashcards whereby the user reviews each card, attempts to answer, and then when the answer is revealed, the user rates their understanding of how well they knew the answer from 1 – 5. The software program uses an algorithm to display what cards the user sees and how many cards at a time the user should study.
SeRiouS takes your answers on how well you knew the flashcards and turns this into your own personal forgetting curve which it uses to prompt your studying at just the right time. Not only is the methodology very high-tech, but the quality of the flashcard content is excellent. Law professors have created and edited hundreds of flashcards for the topics most likely to be tested on the Multistate Bar Exam and in core law school courses. SeRiouS even allows its members to create their own sets of flashcards and share them with the rest of the SeRiouS community. As long as you are signed into the app you can invite others to co-own or view sets of cards.
The Core set of flashcards consists of 631 cards covering the MBE subjects of Evidence, Criminal Law/Procedure, Torts, Property, Contracts and Constitutional Law. Now that Civil Procedure has been added to the MBE we hope that SeRiouS will add that subject soon. Testing yourself using this method is actually kind of fun. It doesn’t feel like you are really studying because the time interval each day limits you to about 15 – 30 minutes by giving you the goal of studying 10 new cards each day (as well as repeating the prior cards you have not yet mastered). SeRiouS recommends that you stay on this pace as “slow and steady wins this race.”
It may not be the machine to place over my head that I’ve been looking for, but I guess it’s what comes closest to making memorization less tedious while keeping it in your brain. The cost for a SeRiouS subscription is $120/year and for anyone that is serious about truly memorizing those pesky rules of law, it’s well worth it.
You can check out SeRiouS at: www.spacedrepetition.com where you can watch a brief video of their product.