Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Practice Does Not Equal Perfect. . . yet

If you are taking BarBri, you know that they give out an outline of all the assignments plus homework that you should be completing as you go. I am sure that everyone has tweaked it to suit their own tastes and study habits. This is how I tweaked it.

In my opinion, doing a bunch of practice problems is an inefficient time waster (and a little redundant too). I have always believed this to be the case, with the exception of math problems (i.e. testing a process rather than rote learning). In law school, I may have looked at one or two prior exams, but only to get the tenor of the questions rather than what was being tested or to "practice." For a final exam, one has only a day or two to learn a semester worth of material. That time is too precious to be spent doing busy work. The better approach is focus on the material and keep reinforcing it, by writing the elements out, re-re-reading an outline, etc. Why focus on application of one narrow portion of the material when that time is better spent knowing all the portions.

But, because Conviser has been teaching this longer than I have been alive, I initially deferred to his methodology. I did some of the first set of Torts problems, the so-called easy ones. And I got three wrong. Hooray for me. But what does this do for me? I can answer the easy tort questions. But the thing that bothered me was that when I was answering the questions, I knew my grasp of the material was shaky. I had to think through the problems. I had to close my eyes and visualize the elements for whatever tort the question was asking about.

That is not how I want to take a test. I want to get to the point where I read the question and I know the answer. If it is a torts questions, everything tort related flies through my mind, I see it as an old computer that ran on punch cards, and I go through all the punch cards in a second, know what I need, and go back to that punch card in the next second.

I am not going to get to that point by doing a bunch of practice questions, then having to read the analytical answer to see how I got it right. I do not want to have to read the analytical answer. I want to just know it.

That does not mean that I will not do any practice questions. I will do them, but not until I feel ready. Then I will spend four hours on some near-future Saturday doing nothing but Torts questions. That way, I can really tell that I know the material inside and out, because that sort of testing process will tell me that either, i) yes, I know all the material, even the material that the questions did not address simply because of the number of questions done; or ii) that I am screwed.

The same rings true for the essays. Same thing for the essays. I knew the answers for the practice essay I did, but again, my superficial knowledge made it difficult to effectively answer the question in the way that is required when one poor soul is grading a hundred of these things a day. So forget practice essays too.

Knowing the material is the most important thing. Each essay is worth an incapacious five points. And I would think that at least two of those points are going to be awarded for a black letter law recitation. And with a point or two for analysis (the easy part of the bar exam, unlike with a law school exam), that is the magic 3 you need for bar passage.

However, the essays have a distinct difference from the MBE, which will make practice a necessity. Issue-Spotting. Thus, when I finish my four hour tort exam, I will crack open a book of essays, and just pick out the issues, think in my head what I would write about, then check to make sure I am right. Of course, the key with issue spotting is that you have to know the law to understand what the issues.

So, study now, practice later, like in a month. Shit, this is going to be a lot of work. Back to it . . .

. . . Or am I just trying to justify my own laziness?

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