Studying for the bar exam doesn’t have to be as dreadful as it seems. Below are some bar study tips from a recent bar exam taker.
A lot of people are hesitant to practice questions early because they feel like they haven’t fully learned the law yet. The reality is that you’re never going to feel like you’re totally ready. The more you practice multiple choice questions, the more you’ll pick up on patterns and red herrings. If there are gaps in your knowledge of the law, practicing essay questions will show you where you need help.
Self-grading on top of practicing will help you even more. Self-grading will show you if you’re on track for passing your essays, but self-grading does not just mean checking to see how many points you’ve accumulated. It means going back and filling in the gaps that you missed from the model answer. Summarize what you misstated or forgot in your own words so you’ll remember how to attack a similar essay going forward.
Practicing under timed conditions is also important the closer you get to exam day. For the UBE, a lot of people put off practicing for the MPT portion until it’s too late. Going into exam day, people were unsure about how to maximize their time to get through both MPT items. In order to avoid a freak out on exam day, make sure to practice every part of the exam under timed conditions at least once.
If you don’t know where to begin with how to study for the bar exam, think about what worked for you in law school. Bar prep courses suggest that you stay on track by taking quizzes or reading through outlines for memorization. However, if you studied for law school exams using note cards, make note cards. If you’re more of a visual learner, make your own charts. A course will have all the material you need for relearning the information, but don’t feel like you have to study the way the course tells you to. Recognize that early on and use what has worked for you in your three years of law school. If you figured out how to study for exams, you can figure out how to study for the bar exam on your own as well.
Most people studying for the bar usually pay for a prep course that comes with loads of materials, but it’s easy to find supplemental multiple choice and essay questions for free online. Sometimes these additional materials are a better representation of questions that will actually show up on the bar exam, as certain prep courses are designed to make you work through more difficult questions. Some schools also provide free additional practice questions and simulated exams. Use these extra materials to your advantage.
There’s no way you’re going to know every nuance and exception to the law come exam day, so it’s important to acknowledge what you know and what you probably won’t remember. If you know you’re good at torts questions, make sure you set yourself up to get all the points you possible can in torts. If, like most of us, you struggle with real property, make sure you at least understand the most common issues. Hint: you can get away with skipping the rule against perpetuities.
Making sure you stay on top of studying is easy to do with a bar prep course, as they’ll give you a schedule and checklists to keep you on track. If you’re going to study for the bar exam on your own, be sure to set goals and keep a calendar for yourself. You may have a rough day or two, but don’t let yourself fall behind.
Get together with a study group once or twice a week to go over questions. Discussing questions with others can help you with issue spotting and improving your understanding of a rule.
When you do find down time, spend it talking to or hanging out with friends or family – it can be a grueling two months, and you need people to keep you sane.
Hopefully you know this by now after surviving law school, but taking breaks and getting adequate sleep will benefit your memory and performance on exam day.
There are going to be moments of frustration and self-doubt. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect, just competent enough to pass. Don’t compare yourself to others, and remind yourself what you’re capable of.