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Critical Pass Flashcards Review
Everything law students and aspiring lawyers need to know about the flashcards from Critical Pass
With so much riding on the bar exam, a lot of students turn to Critical Pass to supplement their comprehensive bar prep course with the company’s flashcards. But with a pretty hefty price tag for a bar prep supplement, many wonder whether Critical Pass’ portable summaries of black letter law rules and elements are worth it. We explore just that question and evaluate the flashcards from Critical Pass in this detailed review.
To start, Critical Pass essentially offers three primary prep resources – MBE flashcards, MEE Essay flashcards, and NCBE-licensed MBE practice questions. However, between the varying bundles of access and format, there’s about a dozen different options to choose from. And please do note: Critical Pass also offers law school flashcards for 1L’s, and we provide our thoughts on those below, but the meat of this review will cover the bar prep materials.
And when I say there’s a bunch of different options, I mean it. It’s almost overwhelming for such a simple product offering. You can choose MBE flashcards in hardcopy format, digital format, with practice material, without, with MBE Essay flashcards, or without. You get the picture. They bundle their three or so main products a dozen different ways.
But no matter how Critical Pass packages their products, they offer real bang for your buck value in my eyes. Their MBE digital-only flashcards start at around at $80 (pre-discount) and go up from there to $300 for the primo package with hardcopy and digital MBE and MEE flashcards, as well as access to official MBE practice questions.
It’s tough to compare Critical Pass to competitors, because there just aren’t many (maybe Smart Bar Prep would be the next closest thing), but we see these flashcard bundles as pretty fairly priced. As a supplement, they’re a fraction of what you’ll pay for full-fledged bar courses from the likes of Themis or BarBri, and as discussed further below, these flashcards sort of double as attack outlines. Plus, you can just about always snag them for a discount.
Critical Pass MBE Flashcards Review
In a nutshell, for those who just need confirmation, Critical Pass’ MBE flashcards are designed to drill you on the core black letter law you’ll need to know to pass the multiple-choice MBE portion of the bar exam. The seven subjects tested on the MBE are crazy content-heavy, and I can say after reviewing these flashcards, they definitely match this level of detail.
The flashcards from Critical Pass essentially contain condensed outlines of key subtopics to help you memorize definitions and concepts that you’ll need to know. Each card delivers clear and concise summaries of the topic, definitions of rules and exceptions (including all elements), and overviews of how the concept at hand relates to larger issues. They’re massive in size and contain a ton of content to reflect all of what’s tested on the MBE section of the bar. In short, these cards are uber-detailed.
They are definitely not like the flashcards you might be used to with simple mnemonics or elements only. Instead, they are more like segmented outlines in flashcard form. It is sort of like Critical Pass created a really content-rich outline for each MBE topic, then broke it out into flashcard format.
So if you prefer the brevity and simplicity that comes with good old-fashioned flashcards, you may want to think twice before purchasing these. Are they effective? Yes. Are they short and brief? No.
With that said regarding the level of detail and substance of these cards, I also was really impressed with how well these cards are organized. Not only are they numbered, with an index card for easy reference, but they are color coded as well. This makes them super easy to grab for a quick review session on your lunch break, while waiting for appointments, or to skim through at bedtime. I also liked that the cards cross reference to others, which helps to make connections between multiple topics that you otherwise might miss.
One other notable aspect about the Critical Pass flashcards that I liked is that each card includes plenty of dedicated note space. Each card measures around 5×7 and has relatively small printed content, so there’s tons of room to make your own notes. For a lot of students like myself who love to annotate things, this means you can fill up these cards with notes, mnemonics, underlining, and highlighting.
And on the size of the print – yes, it is a bit small, but they pack a TON of information on these cards. Even though some might find the small print annoying, it wasn’t that big a of deal for me.
My only real complaint with these Critical Pass MBE Flashcards is that sometimes their mnemonics and elements don’t directly align with those from comprehensive bar courses like BarBri or Kaplan. So if you’re taking BarBri for example for your full bar course, the elements for the crime of battery on your flashcards might not exactly track with what you learned from BarBri. That said, this only seemed to happen once per 5 or 10 rules, and each time I just made a simple annotation on the flashcard in the notes section. You can opt to stick with the BarBri elements, or adopt the Critical Pass ones, which I often found to be more concise and a bigger help.
But that one complaint aside, I was very impressed with Critical Pass’ flashcards. These MBE cards are their bread and butter, and they reflect the company’s roughly decade of constant updating. They’re detailed, smartly organized and streamlined, and do an excellent job distilling the key black letter law down to its most important concepts. Two huge thumbs up.
Critical Pass MEE Essay Flashcards Review
While the MBE flashcards are designed to help you memorize all the black letter law you need for the multiple-choice section, the Critical Pass MEE Essay flashcards are designed to help you break down and understand larger concepts so you can effectively apply your knowledge and master the essays on the bar exam.
Their layout is the same as the MBE flashcards and they’re organized in the same effective manner. They also have color coding, cross-references and dedicated note space. That said, these MEE flashcards cover different topics outside of the main seven MBE areas. The topics covered with the MEE Essay flashcards are Business Associations (Agency Partnerships, Corporations), Conflicts of Law, Family Law, Trusts & Estates (including Wills), and Secured Transactions.
So while the MEE flashcards have the same layout as the MBE, there are two primary areas where the content varies. For one, the topics covered are entirely different, as just noted. The second, and probably most notable difference, is that the MEE cards concentrate on a broader, overall view of the concepts most often seen on the exam. They combine learning the concepts with memorizing the rules that apply to them, proving to be a very effective tool to help prep for your essays.
These cards tend to focus more on strategies for issue spotting, crafting well-developed responses, and applying the rules you have memorized to fact patterns. All in all, I liked these cards as a supplement to a comprehensive bar course. There isn’t nearly as many of these MEE cards as there are of the MBE ones (only 120 or so), but they are certainly useful.
I wouldn’t rely on them 100% as a means of prepping for the MEE (or any state-specific essay portion), but I like them as a backstop. Sometimes full bar course essay materials can be a little thin in terms of teaching strategies, and these cards sort of fill in the gaps.
If I had to choose between the two sets – MBE or MEE – I think the MBE flashcards have more value; however, I ultimately like these MEE Essay flashcards as an add on, especially for the discounted bundle price.
Critical Pass Practice Materials
When you access your flashcards through Critical Pass’ digital platform, which you get with both hardcopy and digital flashcard purchases (more on this below), you also get access to 1,000+ quiz questions. These quiz questions are not MBE-style, but are rather just quick hit questions to make sure you are learning and retaining the material from the flashcards.
So they’re not the most robust questions in the world, as they just test your knowledge on different sections of the flashcards; however, I actually think they’re a really helpful tool for increasing material retention. It’s just one more angle to test your knowledge and reinforce concepts. And the fact that you get more than 1,000 of them through the online platform and app is awesome.
In addition, fairly new to Critical Pass’s offerings, you can now add on real, NCBE-licensed MBE questions to go with your flashcards. For about $90 more, you get access to 600+ multiple-choice problems that have actually appeared on the MBE section of the exam in the past.
This is an incredible addition to your flashcard prep, especially as a supplement to your main bar course. Again, the quick hit quiz questions are helpful, but nothing prepares you for the real thing like seeing simulated questions. And not just full-length simulated questions, but REAL previously used questions.
It’s also worth noting that to go along with these MBE questions, Critical Pass delivers some pretty detailed answer explanations. They’re not the best I’ve seen (I actually prefer Quimbee’s and AdaptiBar’s), but they definitely get the job done. They provide some solid insights into the problem and answer choices, but some are on the thin side.
So overall, in terms of quality of these practice materials, I can’t really complain. The quiz questions are basically a really nice added bonus that I wasn’t expecting, and for $90, you can’t go wrong with real, previously used MBE questions. My thoughts are that if you’re looking for a supplemental bar prep product to fill out your full course, the Critical Pass practice materials just give one more reason to go with them over other supplemental study material companies.
Critical Pass 1L Law School Flashcards
Up to now, we’ve talked just about Critical Pass’ bar prep related materials. But they also offer law school flashcards. As their name implies, the Critical Pass 1L Law School flashcards are designed to help first-year law school students learn foundational legal concepts for all major 1L courses, including Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property and Torts. In short, they’re flashcards for the six core classes that every 1L everywhere needs to take.
By now, you can probably guess that these cards all follow the same general organization and level of detail. Like the other bar prep Critical Pass flashcards, the 1L Law School flashcards are color-coded by topic and subtopic, and are cross-referenced between topics so you can create links between similar concepts in different subject areas. Each subject also has a complete index, allowing for easy searching to find the precise information you need. And also like the others, the Law School flashcards offer a healthy amount of blank space on each card so you can personalize them with notes and memory cues. So no need to beat a dead horse, but I really like the setup and structure of these cards.
In terms of the substance contained in these cards, my same thoughts on their pros and cons also hold. I love the level of detail, plain English explanations, and streamlined approach to delivering need-to-know info. But again, these flashcards don’t always align with your classes. Your classes may cover different cases to explain concepts, and certain topics may have never even been covered in your course. So when finals time rolls around, you really need to be sure to pull out the irrelevant cards (on matter that won’t be tested) and annotate the remaining cards to align with your course material. But while this is a pain, I also think reconciling the information like this helps with the learning process.
In short, I really like these cards given their super approachable price point as a last minute study resource. It should be noted though that unlike the MBE or MEE flashcards, the Law School flashcards can be purchased separately by subject or bundled with all six together for a reduced price. Trust me, don’t settle for just a subject or two. If you go this route, you will want all six, and the bundled price makes it worth your investment.
Mobile App & Digital Platform
One very cool aspect of the Critical Pass flashcards is that no matter what package you buy, you will get access to their digital platform and mobile app. For students that buy digital flashcards only, this is going to be your home base. For those that opt for the hardcopy flashcards (like I did), the digital access comes with it for free.
This digital platform and accompanying app contain those 1,000 quiz questions I mentioned above, as well as the real MBE questions (if you add them on), so it’s a vital part of your Critical Pass studying.
In my opinion, the online platform is super useful. For one, it’s got a very clean layout and easy-to-use interface. Everything is big, easy to read, and I had no issues at all navigating the portal. I mean there really isn’t much to get lost on – it’s just flashcards and practice problems – but still, usability is always nice.
It’s got nice color coding, an index of cards in whatever stack you’re in, and a generally smart structure. Overall, I was very impressed with this platform. And to be clear, the app is just as good. It’s slightly different to accommodate the 5” screen, but functions all the same basically.
It’s funny, although these guys started as an old school, paper flashcard company, I honestly think their digital tools are the better value here. Don’t get me wrong – I very much like the hardcopy cards and think there is something special about handling tangible study material – but this digital access with cool functionality and practice material is sort of their future.
Verdict: Critical Pass Flashcards
The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a rock solid supplemental resource to maximize your bar prep, the Critical Pass flashcard sets are hard to beat. In one respect, they’re ultra-detailed and provide more of an attack outline than true flashcards, but they also manage to stay streamlined and concise. I can see how some students might think there is actually too much detail on these flashcards, but for me, they were just right. I love a good attack outline and these flashcards feel just like that, but in flashcard form. In addition, the quiz questions and real MBE practice material that comes with the cards (assuming you add these on) is a very helpful complement to the core flashcards.
If I had one complaint, it would be that not all of the elements of rules and exceptions line up with your bar course’s material; however, the difference is usually negligible and can be handled with a quick annotation on the card. So overall, I was really impressed with the flashcards from Critical Pass and think they offer an awesome resource when used in conjunction with your comprehensive bar review course.
The Critical Pass flashcards range in price from about $80 for the digital-only MBE flashcards, all the way up to $300 for the fully loaded package with everything that Critical Pass offers, though we often see them on sale for less.
Does Critical Pass have a mobile app?
Yes. All purchases from Critical Pass come with access to their mobile app and digital platform, which we found to be highly useful.
Are Critical Pass flashcards worth it?
In our team’s opinion, yes. The flashcards from Critical Pass are crazy detailed (in the best of ways) and offer a smart, streamlined approach to memorizing all of the necessary black letter law.