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 before the exam, you are unlikely to reach that level of knowledge for all the bar exam topics.
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 each area being tested 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, or about two weeks from now. 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 make sure you study all the topics and 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 just one topic. 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, but 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. 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 have to write something instead of choosing an answer. If you’re too lazy to write answers, outline them so you can establish your method for answering these questions.
Remember to Rest your Brain
The final few weeks are a marathon, not a sprint (although it’s kind of a marathon sprint). That means don’t study twenty hours a day. You are obviously an intelligent person who has graduated law school, but your brain still has limits. You need your brain at full force for the bar exam.
Make sure to work in, or even schedule, some down time every day. Even if it’s just going to see a movie or 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.
Study smart, study hard, and make that final push to maximize your chances of success.
Originally published 2012-07-03. Republished 2017-07-03.
Read the next post in this series: "Performance-Enhancing Bar Exam Study Distractions."