Law School,  Legal Practice

How to Study for the Bar

So–I wrote this post a million years ago in a different forum but thought I’d share here rather than create new material on how to study for the bar since this was written when the Bar was still fresh in my mind.  For those that have started your bar prep course, you’ve likely found that you don’t remember much from 1L year and aren’t scoring very high on the tests and essays. That is completely normal. It takes a while to remember the basics, but what happens is that everyone starts to freak out and then it’s hard to handle the stress.  So first, regardless of how you’re doing on the test prep the first two weeks–don’t freak out!

passing the bar exam

Here’s what worked for me.

one. Study how you study.  Seriously, this is our mantra!  I spent the first few weeks doing flashcards and trying to memorize things, until I finally stopped and decided to do what I had always done.  And for me that meant using outlines.  I would retype the daily lectures into an outline that worked better for me.  That’s how I studied in law school and it worked, so study however you studied in law school.   Also, the bar course will probably give you a schedule.  It’s a guideline.  Make a schedule for yourself and try to stick to it as best you can.  This will suck for the procrastinators (why should I read in June when I can read in July?) but I would have memorized more things if I had started studying sooner.

two.  Listen with no distractions.  If you go to the daily lecture, don’t access the wifi.  I know everyone says that the courses aren’t the great, the lecturers aren’t good, etc.  Except in my case, one professor gave us an example on how to answer a personal jurisdiction question word for word and I retained that info and surprise, when there was a PJ question on the exam I was able to write a really complete and thorough response.  I’m sure gaining those extra points helped when I ended up writing a bad one for another question.  So pay attention during the lecture, and don’t let gadgets distract you.  And more importantly pay attention when you actually study.  If you’re just reading stuff but not soaking it in…take a break.

three. Practice.  You HAVE to practice the MBE questions and  you have to practice the essays. This may seem like a no brainer, but I remember some who would skip doing MPT questions or essays and it did not go well for them.  I practiced essays during June and most of July, and I knew that I had 30 minutes for each essay–10 prep and 20 to write the answer. However, each essay is not just one question–it can have multiple parts.  Which means your prep time has to be condensed to minutes per question.  I was running about 10-15 minutes behind each essay (though I eventually caught up and finished all of it).  I’m pretty sure I would have failed if I hadn’t done practice ones.  And here is a pro tip: When you practice and you do have your answer ready w/in the 10 prep time, wait it out and give yourself only the 20 minutes.  During my time, I would frequently have my answer ready before my prep time was over or was finishing my answer before the 20 minutes were up and that’s not how it happened the day of the exams. The essay time flies by so learn to manage that time effectively. 

four.  Sleep, and be healthy.   You have to sleep. Your brain needs sleep and you will retain more info and learn more if you are well-rested.  Because we lived in a loft and my husband worked normal hours, I had to go to bed when he went to bed (11pm).  During the last two weeks (which are torture) I was still getting 8 hours of sleep.  Further, most people I know gained or lost weight.  It’s because of the stress and the lack of movement.  Again, during torture weeks you’re probably studying between 10-12 hours (at a minimum) and can’t do much other than study.  I suggest that during the easy weeks (June/early July) do some type of exercise.  This will help decrease stress (anger) and will combat any of those bad snacks/sugary drinks.

five.  Don’t freak out.  I know, so many people told me this (people who had passed) and it didn’t help. I was just constantly worried and scared (especially after the first week).  But the moment they let us read the Illinois essays I was like, “oh.  I’ve done this before.”  And you have too!! All the essays were not any more difficult than anything I had in law school.  You could read them and tell they were alluding to something and you just had to think (fast) about the rules and then apply them.  Just like in law school.  So if you’ve passed a traditional law school exam then you should feel confident about this testing style.

I know saying don’t freak out doesn’t help, BUT after day one of the exam, I was embarrassed by how I had been acting the whole summer (seriously, I cried to my husband at least once a week) because this summer would have been 80% better if I hadn’t been so worried.

One Comment

  • Lety Perez @lawchica

    Thanks for this info.. i’m going to try to worry less and out my time in studying instead. 🙂

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