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Even More about First-Year Law Outlines

The Upside

While there is a great deal of downside to the “outline obsession” that tends to overtake first-year (1L) law school students, outlining one’s first-year topics—property, constitutional law, civil procedure, and the lot—can be beneficial.  Potential benefits from first-year law outlines include:

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 — enhanced memorization / recall of the law:  the outline can be used to help students memorize rule statements; this possibility is, of course, the main theoretical justification for making an outline at all
— increased understanding of the law:  the outline—specifically, the process of making an outline—can facilitate a person’s delving deeper into the subject matter; this possibility represents the best opportunity of all to make outlining worthwhile
— it’s something to do:  the outline can become a sort of “lightning rod” that attracts the attention of a student who would otherwise have difficulty concentrating / studying
— anxiety reduction:  some students find that, by working on their outlines, they feel more “in control” of there first-year of law school and therefore less anxious about it

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Effective Engagement—Not the Outline Itself—Is the Real Reason to Outline

Notice that all of the above possible benefits to law outlining pertain to the effect of the outline on the student, not the value of the finished product itself.  After all, as previously discussed, law students are not in the law publishing business, so a student’s outline will probably never be used again once the final exam ends.

But achieving these desirable effects does not necessarily follow from merely doing an outline.  These effects flow from effectively engaging in the process of outlining.

This effective engagement is, in short, the key to making one’s outline efforts worthwhile. Effectively engaging in the outlining process—and the learning process generally—will be the topic of upcoming articles.

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MBE | Bar Exam Tips

1.  Reading comprehension: the seventh subject. The MBE is often characterized as testing six subjects: constitutional law, contracts, criminal law/pro, evidence, property and torts.  But, in fact, probably the most important “subject” is none of the above.  It’s reading comprehension.  Many times, the key to the right answer choice is but a few words in the stimulus.  If you miss those words or do not understand them in context, it does not matter how well you know the law.  You will still have no way to recognize the right answer.

Thus, reading comprehension is something that you should practice consciously.  Develop a reading style that adheres to the correct pace and focuses on relevant information rather than irrelevancies that distract you from the trail.

2.  Take advantage of the format. The MBE is a multiple-choice test.  There are a number of classic multiple-choice test strategies that should be second nature to you by exam day.  For instance, even when you cannot see what’s right about the right answer, you can oftentimes see what is wrong with the wrong answers (good old “process of elimination”).  Every time you eliminate even a single wrong answer choice, you make a big step toward the right answer choice.

3.  You take the test; it does not take you. Do not let the test be in control.  Set your own pace, and attack the questions in the order that you have worked out with your tutor.  Stick to your game plan, and do not let yourself get into a time deficit.

4.  Be a mercenary. Your task on test day is not to please your professors, show your knowledge of the law, or understand the nuances of the cases that confront you.  Your only job is to get points and thereby pass the California Bar Exam.  Everything you do that is not directed toward getting the most points that you can is but wasted time.  Therefore, stay detached enough to avoid getting fixated on interesting or difficult problems.

5.  Go the distance. The MBE can be pretty tiring, but you cannot afford to run out of gas.  You should start the test at your best and maintain that concentration level throughout the day.  (Hence, our Test at Your Best™ motto.) Know your vulnerabilities and plan to offset them.

 

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California Bar Exam | Performance Test Tips

1.  PRACTICE. While studying the substantive law is crucial for the essays and MBE, preparing for the performance test is all about doing.  By the time test day rolls around, the doing—performing—of the performance test should feel like old hat to you.

2.  ANSWER THE QUESTION. Sticking very closely to the assigned task is half the battle on the PT.  Read the task memo as many times as you need to read it.  Patiently.  Then simply stick to what the memo has asked you to do, doing everything required and no more.

3.  ONE STEP AT A TIME. It’s interesting how widely the model answers can vary from one another; some model answers even contain inaccurate statements of law.  This variation demonstrates that doing the tasks like a competent and thoughtful professional and presenting your work product in the right package will serve you well, perhaps even more so that having the “right” answer.

4.  STAY COOL; DON’T FREAK OUT. Part of what the PT tests is your ability to handle uncertainty.  If you can simply carve out a reasonable response to uncertainty, you can pass.  While the other portions may select for mastery of the law, the PT selects for those who can master themselves.

5.  KEEP IT SIMPLE. The easiest way to adhere to all of the above rules is to adhere to this one.  Be very simple in your approach.  If you can’t see the big picture, do a good job on the parts that you can see.  If you don’t know what the whole thing should look like, simply do whatever step you do see needs to be done.

 

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California Bar Exam Essays | Some Tips

1.  Remember that your essay is being graded by a human being. Many people studying for the bar exam get so caught up in memorizing obscure rules and rigid outlines that they forget the basics of writing a decent essay.  An essay is not an outline.  It is not an unprocessed mass of all the things you know about a topic.  Instead, it is a communication between you and the reader.  Write like a human being who is writing to another human being!

2.  Establish and maintain the correct tone. The tone used in writing an essay is different from that used in writing a performance test deliverable.  In an essay, write as though you are addressing an educated person who knows little about law but who can be brought up to speed by a clear, concise explanation.  Thus, you want to mention basic principles briefly without belaboring them and then move on to cover the specifics of the present stimulus.

3.  IRAC works. There is a reason why the IRAC ( issue, rule, application, conclusion) structure  is taught in virtually every legal writing class: it works.  Some people complain that this structure is too rigid.  But the fact is that you are not writing an essay to become a famous author.  You are not trying to appeal to the masses. You are trying to get points and pass the bar exam.  Well-written IRAC applied to each of the major issues is a good way to get that job done.

NOTE:  BarRev created the ILFAC™ method, because that method scores higher and allows students to move faster. The ILFAC™ method is still the best choice, but IRAC works if done well.

4.  Get some points right up front. A one-paragraph “roadmap” of the major issues and what you are going to say about them makes a good first impression on the reader.  If the reader knows in advance that he or she is going to get high-quality work from you, he or she is more likely to be in a receptive frame of mind while reading the remainder of your essay.  Use this psychology to your advantage.

5.  Hit the right stride and stick with it. You must develop an internal gauge for the right mix of reading time, organizing time, and writing time.  Don’t get yourself backed into a corner by over-analyzing, but don’t rush into writing without any sort of plan.  Finding the right balance is a matter of practice, review, and more practice.

 

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LSAT Prep | Reading Comprehension | Overview

History

The reading comprehension section of the LSAT acquired its basic present form in 1991 but underwent a minor change in 2007. This minor change consisted of replacement of a single traditional passage with two smaller passages to be compared.

Importance

The reading comprehension section typically contributes twenty-seven (27) or twenty-eight (28) of the approximately 100 questions that go into a test-taker’s final LSAT score. This section, therefore, accounts for approximately 28% of the test-taker’s score, making it the second most important section on the LSAT (logical reasoning is first at about 50%, and analytical reasoning (often called “logic games“) is last at about 22%).

Content

Each LSAT comprises one scored reading comprehension section. The reading comprehension section consists of four subsections. Three of these subsections include a single long passage followed by five to eight questions. One of these subsections includes two shorter passages followed by seven or eight questions; the two shorter passages are related to each other in some way so as to serve as grounds for questions that call for comparison of the two passages.Each question is followed by five possible responses, lettered A through E. Only one response of the five possible responses is a credited response, i.e., the “right answer.”

Timing

The reading comprehension section is allotted 35 minutes.

Technical Information

Unlike the GRE or GMAT, the LSAT is a paper-based test. A test taker’s answers must be recorded (“bubbled in”) on an answer sheet using a soft lead pencil, which answer sheet is then scanned and electronically graded. No credit (or penalty) is given for marks in the test booklet. There is no penalty for guessing.

Strategy and Tactics

Many LSAT preparation companies are available today to assist students in preparing for the LSAT and the logical reasoning section thereof. LSAT prep companies typically provide in-class instruction regarding logical principles, test-taking strategy, and diagramming techniques. These LSAT prep courses may also include proctored mock LSATs. LSAT prep providers may also offer online LSAT training, computerized analysis of a student’s LSAT performance, and one-on-one LSAT tutoring.

For More Information

Students preparing for the LSAT reading comprehension section are advised to get a free copy of “Eight Questions for Your LSAT Tutor—and One for You” from LSAT Tutor.net.

 

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LSAT | Analytical Reasoning (“Logic Games”) | Overview

History

The analytical reasoning (“logic games”) section of the LSAT has been in its basic present form since 1991.

Importance

The analytical reasoning section generally contributes approximately twenty-two (22) out of the approximately one hundred (100) questions that go into computation of an LSAT-taker’s final score.As such, this section accounts for approximately 22% of the test-taker’s score, which makes it the least important section on the LSAT (reading comprehension is second at about 28%, and logical reasoning is the most important section at about 50%) in terms of impact on one’s score.

Content

Each LSAT comprises one scored analytical reasoning section. The analytical reasoning section consists of four subsections. Each of these subsections provides a “logic game” that comprises a set of rules about at least one set of variables. Each logic game is then followed by five to eight questions regarding these variables.Each question is in turn followed by five answer choices, only one of which choices is the “credited response,” i.e., the right answer.

Timing

LSAT-takers are given 35 minutes to take the analytical reasoning section.

Technical Information

The LSAT is a paper-based test, unlike many other standardized tests that are taken on a computer (e.g., GRE, GMAT). LSAT-takers’ answers are recorded (“bubbled in”) on an answer sheet using a soft lead pencil, which answer sheet is then scanned and electronically graded. No credit (or penalty) is given for marks in the test booklet. There is no penalty for guessing.

Strategy and Tactics

Many LSAT preparation companies are available today to assist students in preparing for the LSAT and the analytical reasoning section thereof. These LSAT prep companies typically provide in-class instruction regarding logical principles, test-taking strategy, and diagramming techniques. These LSAT courses may also include proctored mock LSATs. LSAT prep providers may also offer online LSAT testing, automated analysis of a student’s LSAT performance, and one-on-one LSAT tutoring.

For More Information

Students preparing for the LSAT reading comprehension section are advised to get a free copy of “Eight Questions for Your LSAT Tutor—and One for You” from LSAT Tutor.net.

 

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Logical Reasoning Overview

History

The logical reasoning section of the LSAT took its present form in 1991.

Importance

The logical reasoning section typically comprises about 50 questions out of the approximately 100 questions that go into a test-taker’s LSAT score. This section is therefore the most important section on the LSAT, serving as the basis for essentially 50 percent of one’s final LSAT score. Reading comprehension (about 28% of one’s LSAT score) and analytical reasoning (often called “logic games,” at about 22% of one’s LSAT score) are second and third in importance, respectively.

Content

Each modern (i.e., post-1991) LSAT comprises two scored logical reasoning sections. Each logical reasoning section contains approximately twenty-five (25) short passages, most commonly one paragraph in length each. Each passage is then followed by a question to be answered or a statement to be finished.The question or statement is then followed by five possible responses, lettered A through E. Only one response of the five possible responses is the “credited response,” i.e., the right answer.

Timing

Each logical reasoning section is allotted 35 minutes.

Technical Information

Unlike the GRE or GMAT, the LSAT is a paper-based test. A test taker’s answers must be recorded (“bubbled in”) on an answer sheet using a soft lead pencil, which answer sheet is then scanned and electronically graded. No credit (or penalty) is given for marks in the test booklet. There is no penalty for guessing.

Strategy and Tactics

Many LSAT preparation companies are available today to assist students in preparing for the LSAT and the logical reasoning section thereof. LSAT prep companies typically provide in-class instruction regarding logical principles, test-taking strategy, and diagramming techniques. These LSAT prep courses may also include proctored mock LSATs. LSAT prep providers may also offer online LSAT training, computerized analysis of a student’s LSAT performance, and one-on-one LSAT tutoring.

For More Information

Students preparing for the LSAT reading comprehension section are advised to get a free copy of “Eight Questions for Your LSAT Tutor—and One for You” from LSAT Tutor.net.

 

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