auditory learning

Crush the Bar Exam with Auditory Learning

By Natalie White
Updated: November 13, 2020

You could spend days reading online articles about different study techniques you can use to pass the bar. Should you try study groups? Flashcards? Meditation? Hypnosis? It can be difficult to know what will work for you.

Instead of searching the world for another testing technique, you should start by searching your own life and understanding how you learn. Studies show that there are three main areas of learning: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. While you likely learn in a mix of these ways, you may have stronger skills in one of these areas or weak skills in another. If you study using techniques to match your way of learning, it will be easier for you to retain the information and use it on the exam.

In this article, I will focus on the top study skills for auditory learners.

How do I know if I am an auditory learner?

Do you talk to yourself a lot? Is it easy for you to remember when people tell you directions? Do you get distracted by small noises? Do you enjoy class discussions and lectures? If the answer is yes, you are likely an auditory learner.

Auditory learners have an easier time understanding and remembering things that they hear instead of things they see or touch. Students with high auditory strengths will remember up to 75% of what they hear in a 40-50 min lecture. Those with average auditory skills will only remember the things they were interested in. Those with weak auditory skills will remember almost nothing from a lecture unless they take notes or see visuals.

One study showed that 26% of first year law students have high auditory learning ability and 5% had low auditory learning ability. The majority of people, 69%, had some auditory skills. Another study showed that among the general population, 65% were primarily visual learners, 30% were primarily auditory learners, and 5% were primarily kinesthetic learners. Even if you are not fully an auditory learner, you will likely be able to use many of these techniques.

If you are not sure about your learning style, try taking one of these self assessments from whatismylearningstyle.com, Vark Learn, or Education Planner.

Use audio material

If you are an auditory learner, you can gain a lot of information just by listening. Instead of reading your bar exam outlines over and over, record yourself reading the outlines and then listen to them several times. Hearing that repetition will boost your ability to recall the information. You also will be able to play the recording while driving, shopping, or doing work around the house, allowing yourself to be more balanced while still studying hard.

If you do not have time to record your outlines, or if you hate hearing the sound of your own voice, you can buy audio outlines from several bar prep companies including Crushendo, AudioOutlines, and AudioLearn. You can see a comparison of these outlines here. Even if you already purchased a subscription with Babri or Kaplan, I would recommend purchasing additional audio outlines with a company that is focused on auditory learning. If you are an auditory learner, this purchase will be worth it.

As an employee of Crushendo, I have seen firsthand how the Crushendo audio outlines have been designed for auditory learners. The outline is separated into smaller chunks instead of one long lecture. The content is streamlined to focus on the information critical for the bar exam, without rambling commentary or anecdotes. You can listen to each section on repeat until you feel like you have mastered the material. The speed is very adjustable, so you can listen to complex explanations at half speed or speed through the material you know at three times speed. There is also an option to listen to classical music in the background, which has been shown to improve memory retention. Learn more about Crushendo audio outlines here.

Avoid auditory distractions

One negative of being an auditory learner is that sound can be a huge distraction. You are more aware of noise and can start to focus on shuffling feet, crinkling paper, and clicking keys. Personally, I find myself incredibly distracted by people sniffing. Do you realize that some people sniff their nose every two minutes? How hard is it to get a tissue? And now all I think about is how I am going to get COVID-19. Maybe the sniffers should post a sign, “I just have allergies. Don’t be alarmed.”

Whatever your personal distraction is, take steps to minimize the problem. Study in a place similar to where you will take the test and notice sounds that bother you. Whatever you do to prepare, you cannot predict what will happen the day of the bar exam. In that huge room with hundreds or thousands or people, I just know that I will sit next to the sniffer. You likely want to use earplugs for the exam.

If you choose to use earplugs, do not just pull them out of the package on test day. You will want to practice wearing them and notice if they hurt your ears after too long. You will need to use simple foam earplugs for the exammost states ban headphones or even earplugs with connecting wires. Make sure you put the earplugs in correctly. Do not just shove them in your ear. First, roll them between your fingers until they shrink, then push them into your ear. Let them expand in your ear canal and block out sound. Learn more about putting in earplugs here.

Earplugs are provided in some states, including the states listed below, and most states allow them. If earplugs are provided, usually you cannot bring your own pair but must use the pair provided.

States that provide earplugs:

  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Georgia
  • Nevada
  • Pennsylvania

Teach it to others

While sound can be distracting, it can also help you focus. Try listening to different types of music, like nature sounds, soft piano music, or classical music, and see if it improves your study session. Listening to calming music might also block out the distracting sounds in your study area.

You may have heard that the best way to understand information is to teach it to others, and this advice is especially true for auditory learners. The process of gathering your ideas and verbally explaining them helps you consolidate your knowledge. When teaching others, you will make more connections between the black letter law and the real world application and understand what theories are fundamental.

Auditory learners often enjoy class discussions and study groups because they provide a chance for plenty of verbal interactions. When you study for the bar exam, get in a group with other bar students and get talking.

Even when you are studying by yourself, you can still use these same auditory skills. If you think you understand a difficult concept, explain it to your dog. When you use flashcards, explain each answer out loud. Repeat facts with your eyes closed so you focus on your hearing. Simply verbalizing information will help it stay with you.

Use word association

Since auditory learners easily remember sounds, they are more likely to remember phrases using word association and mnemonics. These tools could greatly enhance your memory.

One easy memory trick is using acronyms. Piano players will recall All Cows Eat Grass, an acronym to remember the spaces in the staff of the bass clef. Maybe you have heard of HOMES, which is an acronym for remembering the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. You can create your own sentences or words to remember law terms for the bar exam.

Another strategy is putting terms you need to music. Remember the classic ABC’s song? You can choose simple melodies like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and add new lyrics about torts and contracts.

Many bar exam companies can provide you with word association tools, which could save you a lot of time. Crushendo offers 250+ mnemonics for the bar exam, many of which have visual and audio components. Crushendo also provides audio flashcards so you can quiz yourself on your retention. Keep in mind that these mnemonics are made for the UBE exam, and you may want to look for state specific mnemonics or material if you take the exam in a non-UBE state.

Here is an example of one of Crushendo’s mnemonics:

Keep experimenting with auditory learning

Whatever techniques you are currently using to study, remember that there are more options out there. If you are dreading another day of mind-numbing, soul-sucking studying, mix it up and try reinventing your study schedule. Trying new things will help you recognize how your brain works and how you can succeed on the bar.

About the author

Natalie White is a 1L at BYU Law School. She likes eating homemade ice cream, driving mopeds, and reading dense legal arguments before bed.

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