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.