Dear California Bar Reviewers,
Welcome to the latest installment of our CA bar exam newsletter. In this issue, we consider:
- Important Upcoming California Bar Exam Dates
- California Bar Exam Study Strategy: The Testing Effect
- California Bar Exam Essays In-Depth: Common Equal Protection Mistakes on Constitutional Law Essays
- California Bar Exam Newsletter-Only Discount
- Next Issue Preview
Important Upcoming California Bar Exam Dates
- Final Filing Deadline (All Takers): January 18, 2011
- California Bar Exam: February 22-24, 2011
California Bar Exam Study Strategy: The Testing Effect
In our last issue, we discussed the "spacing effect," a concept derived from cognitive science (loosely, the study of how human beings learn and retain information) research. This week we address a related concept: the testing effect. An evaluation of the testing effect is important for your bar review, as it demonstrates why practice essays and performance tests are so important for ultimate success on the California bar exam. Also, a brief explanation may provide additional impetus for you to faithfully integrate practice essays into your California bar exam preparation.
The Testing Effect Explained
In simplest terms, the testing effect "refers to enhanced memory resulting from the act of retrieving information, as compared to simply reading or hearing the information. The effect is also sometimes referred to as retrieval practice or test-enhanced learning." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testing_effect. Research into the testing effect also demonstrates that an individual will know the material better, and be better prepared for an examination, if study is combined with testing versus study alone. Moreover, the testing effect increases when "feedback" for the "test" is available to the student. "Study" simply means passively reading the testable material (e.g., reading a black-letter subject outline).
Leverage the Testing Effect to Your Advantage During Your CA Bar Review
So, how can the testing effect help you prepare for the California bar exam? The significance for you is that you can improve your CA bar exam preparation, and take advantage of the testing effect, by integrating "testing" into your exam preparation instead of study alone. "Testing" can be any activity that requires you to recall ("retrieval" in cognitive science-speak) the testable concept or principle (e.g., rule of law). The "testing effect" has been utilized for many years in the form of flashcards and practice multiple choice questions for individuals preparing for bar exams.
However, one area where the testing effect has been neglected for CA bar exam preparation is the integration of full, practice essays with actionable feedback into an individual's bar exam preparation. You wouldn't dream of taking the MBE portion of the California bar exam without consistent, regular multiple choice practice questions that provide you answer explanations (this type of practice already takes advantage of the testing effect). Likewise, to take advantage of the testing effect for the essays and performance tests, we believe effective, efficient California bar exam preparation should include regular practice essays and performance tests that provide you comprehensive, actionable feedback to improve upon your mistakes.
All of our California bar exam programs are designed with the testing effect in mind, and we believe this type of essay practice with knowledgeable, actionable feedback is a major reason why individuals that complete our essay programs pass the California bar exam at a significantly higher rate than the overall passing rate.
California Bar Exam Essays In-Depth: Common Equal Protection Mistakes on Constitutional Law Essays
Our Essays In-Depth feature is an excerpt from our California Bar Exam Essay Solution On-Demand Workshop or one of our subject-specific California Bar Exam Essay Primers. This week we discuss the reasons individuals struggle with Equal Protection issues, identify common Equal Protection mistakes, and provide some guidelines for you to improve your treatment of Equal Protection when you encounter it on a California bar exam essay.
Why Individuals Struggle With Equal Protection Issues on the California Bar Exam Essays
In our experience, Equal Protection is one of the most difficult concepts/claims for individuals to understand, let alone master, while preparing for the California Bar Exam essays. Generally, the main reason for this difficulty is individuals fail to recognize that Equal Protection issues contain multiple layers of analysis. Unlike most concepts tested on the California Bar Exam essays, Equal Protection requires multiple stages/layers of analysis. For example, analysis of the appropriate level of scrutiny depends upon the nature of the preceding classification or fundamental right implicated. Additionally, individuals also struggle with Equal Protection because they simply possess no prior exposure, in law school or otherwise, to the concept (many 1L Constitutional Law classes do not cover Equal Protection).
Common Equal Protection Mistakes
Given the preceding observation that Equal Protection is an inherently complex, difficult concept for most individuals to grasp while preparing for the California Bar Exam, it is unsurprising that individuals commit a number of common, recurring mistakes in their attempts to address Equal Protection claims on the CA essays. Four common mistakes include:
- Failure to explain/define the nature and purpose of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment
- Lack of issue organization
- Failure to identify multiple bases for possible Equal Protection claims
- Overall lack of understanding
Equal Protection Solution: Understand Multiple Layers of Equal Protection Analysis & Effective Organization
Considering these common mistakes, there are two areas individuals can address to prevent these mistakes from occurring on their CA essays: 1) understand the multiple layers of Equal Protection analysis and 2) provide effective issue organization for Equal Protection claims.
Understand the Multiple Layers of Equal Protection Analysis
Fundamentally, most individuals would improve their treatment of Equal Protection issues on a CA essay by recognizing that effective Equal Protection analysis should include 1) an identification, evaluation, and analysis of the pertinent classification or fundamental right implicated by the facts and 2) an application of the corresponding appropriate level of scrutiny. A summary understanding of the classification/fundamental rights and scrutiny dichotomy includes the following:
- Suspect Classification (Race, National Origin, Alienage) = Strict Scrutiny
- Fundamental Rights (Travel, Vote, Marry, hold political office) = Strict Scrutiny
- Quasi-Suspect Classification (Gender, Illegitimacy) = Intermediate Scrutiny
- Non-Suspect Classification (Poverty, Age, Mental Retardation, Economic Regulation)= Rational Basis Scrutiny
Effective Issue Organization is Key when Discussing Equal Protection Issues
Once the layers of Equal Protection analysis are understood, an effective organizational model is still needed for an individual to adequately address the concept in the context of a California bar exam essay question. One such model is provided below (note, this is a skeletal, issue-only model; for purposes of illustration, and for sake of economy, the components of each underlined issue have been omitted):
[Define and explain nature, extent, and Constitutional source of Equal Protection; identify the elements of an Equal Protection claim (state action, classification/fundamental rights, and appropriate level of scrutiny)]
Appropriate Level of Scrutiny
[Conclusion for this basis of an Equal Protection claim]
Additional Classification/Fundamental Right
Appropriate Level of Scrutiny for Additional Classification/Fundamental Right
[Conclusion for this basis of an Equal Protection claim]
Additional Classification/Fundamental Right....
If you carefully review the above organizational model, you will see that the four common mistakes cited above have been eliminated. First, the overview statement forces you to explain and define the nature and purpose of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Second, the strict, element-based organization prevents you from carelessly omitting either layer of Equal Protection analysis for any one basis of the claim. Third, this form of organization enables you to identify and organize multiple bases for possible Equal Protection claims. Fourth, if you are able to communicate this model of Equal Protection analysis, and the constituent issue components each heading above deserves, then you will demonstrate a high, passing level of understanding.
California Bar Exam Newsletter-Only Discount
Subscribe to this newsletter to receive newsletter-only discounts in your inbox.
Next Issue Preview
In our next issue, our Essays In-Depth feature will begin a 3-part series on Issue Analysis.
If you have any questions about this newsletter or any of our products or services, then please feel free to Contact Us.
-The BarReviewSolutions.com Team