Making Flash Cards Work Harder for You

There are some legal concepts that law students just must memorize–there is no way around it! Once you have outlined a topic for a class, you will identify specific rules, tests, etc. that you want to know backwards and forwards. For example, think of how you would analyze a fact pattern for “adverse possession” on your property exam. Although your professor may have worded the elements slightly differently than I have here, you know that adverse possession requires that the person: (1) actually enter; (2) have exclusive possession; (3) have continuous possession; (4) have adverse or hostile possession (without the owner’s permission); and (5) possession must be for the period of time defined by the statute. During the exam you will be feeling a lot of stress because of the amount of information you have studied and the limited amount of time you have to complete the exam. If you do not have the elements memorized, you may forget one of them when you are writing your essay. The result: fewer points, a lower grade.

Many students use flash cards to memorize the elements of rules, key definitions that they want to know word for word, and other important legal information that they want to be able to recall with little effort. Of course you can always write out your flash cards on index cards, but there are also a number of programs and apps available on the internet for free or at a low cost, such as Flashcard Machine, available at, and Quizlet, available at

You can make flash cards work even harder for you by using them as checklists for legal issues. A checklist flashcard has the legal issue listed on one side and a list of the possible related topics you might need to address if you identify facts related to that legal topic in an exam question. So, for example, if the legal topic was negligence, you might include on the flip side of the flash card the following related topics, among others: (1) comparative/contributory negligence; (2) vicarious liability; (3) joint and several liability; and (4) the types of damages available. This type of flashcard can remind you to look for related legal issues and maximize the number of points you get on your essay.

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