Bar Exam Preparation: Maximize the Final Weeks

Whether you’ve been studying like a maniac or taking it easy, the bar exam is happening in less than a month.

These last few weeks can make the difference between passing the bar exam and  . . . well . . . just follow these tips and don’t worry about the other outcome.

Accept the fact that you cannot learn everything

The bar exam covers multiple areas of law and at times, gets very detailed within specific areas. Even after weeks of studying, it can feel like you are unprepared for perhaps the biggest test of your life. Get used to that feeling and get comfortable with it. There is simply too much information covered in the bar exam to learn all of it.

Unlike law school classes where you can actually learn 99% of the material prior to the exam, you are unlikely to reach that level of knowledge for all the bar exam topic. There’s just too much information to cover, which can understandably cause people to panic.

Rather than panic, take a deep breath and remind yourself that for the most part, the exam tests big concepts within the substantive areas. In other words, make sure you know the big concepts within the areas, and then nail down the nitty gritty concepts if you have the time.

Disproportionately spending too much time on one area, in order to “master it,” is probably not the best use of your time, which is why you need to . . .

Make a schedule and stick to it

If you’re taking a bar exam prep class, it ends about two weeks before the actual exam. It can be tempting to look at the huge block of time and think you won’t know what to do with yourself. Wrong. Those final weeks will fly by and can leave you unprepared if you don’t manage your time properly.

Making a schedule will force you to do two things: (1) make sure you study all the topics; and most importantly (2) focus. When you block off your time for two weeks and incorporate all the topics on the exam, you will realize you cannot spend three days on tax or will and trusts. If you do that, you will essentially ignore another topic—which can create a big problem on exam day.

Not only does a schedule help you cover all the topics, it will also help you focus your time. If you know you can only spend an afternoon on a topic, you will make more of an effort to hit that goal. Sure, you might go past your allotted time by a few hours, but that’s better than a few days.

Practice, practice, practice

I can remember hearing about a fellow exam taker who admitted they did a total of fifteen practice multiple choice questions. That person got good grades in law school. That person also failed the bar exam in a state with a 90% passage rate. Don’t be that person.

Bar exam prep classes give you hundreds, if not thousands, of practice multiple choice questions. You don’t need to do them all, but do enough to feel comfortable with the format of the questions. The best thing I did was do all the “hard” questions—I think they say if you get 33% right you are on track. Practicing tough questions will help you recognize them and help you feel better about not getting all of them right.

It’s easy to neglect writing practice essays because that requires more effort—you actually have to write something instead of choosing an answer. If you’re too lazy to write answers, at least outline them so you can establish your method or system for answering these questions. As discussed in this recent post, you can essentially get points for formatting and clarity. Easy points are worth as much as hard points, so make sure your maximize those.

Remember to rest your brain

The final couple of weeks are a marathon, not a sprint (although, it’s kind of a marathon sprint). That means don’t study twenty hours a day the first week (or the second for that matter). You are obviously an intelligent person who has graduated law school, but your brain still has limits. And you need your brain at full force for the bar exam.

Make sure to work in, or even schedule, some down time everyday. Even if it’s just going to see a movie, going out to dinner, do something to get away from the books. You probably won’t feel comfortable enough to take an entire day off, which is fine if that works for you. But make sure you get plenty of sleep, plenty of good food, and enough time to allow your brain to take a break—you’re gonna need it to be nice and rested on the day(s) of the bar exam.

Study smart, study hard, and make that final push to maximize your chances at success.



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  • Andrew

    Quick question – do you have any thoughts on the depth required on MEE-only subjects vs. MBE? I feel like there are some rather vast areas of law on the MEE (Business Associations being in the forefront of my mind), and I’m trying to figure out how much time to devote to these subjects as opposed to MBE subjects that I KNOW will be on the exam.

    • I certainly think you want to allocate more time to the topics you know will be on the exam. The other topics are a toss-up. We were repeatedly told that Business Associations would not be on the exam and we got a question about LLCs.

      I think the advice below is pretty solid. Focus on the big topics, but know enough about the other topics so you can competently answer a question.

  • worker bee

    Andrew, I would say not to worry about “depth” of the law as much as much as spotting the issues, analyzing them, and making a clear argument with the given facts in the allotted time. I didn’t have the MEE in my state, but did have 4 essays, and I hear they are similar to the MEE. Rote memorization of the most frequently tested laws will probably be enough depth for the essays. The key is applying the facts given to the laws that apply and making sure your analysis matches the call of the question. Good luck!

  • Nancy

    Thank you Randall. I am trying to keep things in perspective for the CA bar. I’m doing worse than I thought on AdaptiBar and after doing over 700 ques to date still only at 43%. I am now working hard on essays and PT. Goal is to get to 1200 MBE questions. Still feeling like I’m not grasping all the material. Any last minute hints. I get guilty when I’m not studying, thus my need to stay in library for 8 hours.

  • Mark

    I am taking my second bar exam in July. The difference – my last bar exam consisted of the MBE and ten state specific essays. The exam I am taking in July will not accept my previous MBE score, and is made up of the MBE, MEE and MPT. I work as an attorney full time, so I am only able to study in the evenings. I have been doing 33 MBE questions a day since May 1. I have also been writing one MPT and three MEEs each Saturday since the beginning of May, focusing more on timing than on content. I followed a similar study schedule when I passed my first bar exam, which, I believe was more difficult since the essays were state law specific. The bar exam only tests minimum legal competency and test taking ability. You can receive a “D-“on the exam and still qualify to practice law. You cannot learn all of the law; you can, however, control your timing and remain calm while taking the exam. These are the keys to success.