Thanks to everyone who filled out our prep survey! We had a total of 20 usable responses with a fair range of experience levels and geographic diversity. Let’s get into the results!
How You Prep
First off, computers and legal pads still dominate across the board. 55% of our responses had that exact combination of their prep device and prep material. Add in instances of notebook or scrap paper, and 70% of respondents are researching on their computer before jotting their ideas down on a physical format. In other words: paper is still king.
Interestingly, 3 people or 15% of the pool, said they use a digital format like reMarkable, GoodNotes, or even Google Docs. A novel format, but increasing in popularity. Some people may just prefer to type, though an added benefit of a digital format is that all of your prep is saved for later review. I have lost maybe hundreds of speeches after cramming my legal pads into my backpack (and that doesn’t count the speeches lost to my unreadable handwriting).
When(?) You Prep
Okay, this is about time splits. Awkward header, I know. 20 minutes of research and writing along with 10 minutes of pacing and speaking is the leading result, as expected. It’s closely followed by a 15/15 split, then a 10/20 split, and it trails off from there. A bit of a callout, but the only person to have a split of under 10 minutes writing, over 20 minutes pacing, was Teddy Gercken. I don’t even want to ask how that’s possible.
What You Prep
Here’s the good part, the actual flow structure of people’s prep, and the part I care the most about. On the form, the example flow posted is my own:
Going line-by-line, it is: question, attention grabbing device, background, statement of significance, answer, on-top, (first tag, a subpoint, b subpoint, impact) repeat for each point, conclusion.
Coincidentally, 11 people also explicitly sectioned off their subpoints like I do. 5 people use what I call a box flow, where each point/tag is denoted by vertical rectangles as opposed to going straight down a paper. For instance:
Bonus points for that person because they are the only one out of this field to prep HORIZONTALLY. I know a couple people who do that, and I fully believe them to all be psychopaths.
Again, thank you to everyone who submitted information about their prep style! This article could not have been written without your help. I hope to do more of these community/survey style articles in the future. We’ve been through practice schedules, podcasts, and now, prep styles. If you have any ideas about what to ask extempers next, comment on this post or feel free to tell me in-person if you’re going to UPenn or Harvard.