Law School

Game Plan the Bar Exam

I am all about to-do lists and making action plans to get to your goal. If your goal is to pass the the bar this summer then how are you going to do that? I remember starting my Barbri course just days after graduation and just jumping into the content. Then I realized how I apparently didn’t remember anything from 1L year because I kept scoring SO low in torts and I was sure that this was a sign that I wouldn’t be able to pass.

The truth is that bar studies is a long-form game because you have to study, memorize, and recall content in the certain way, so of course, it’s likely that if you’ve just started studying you think you suck. You don’t suck–you just haven’t learned what you need to learn yet. You have all summer for that. But, your experience will be better if you make a plan for the summer.

One. Create a schedule. You need to have a study schedule and try to follow it as much as you can. Not just a schedule that blocks off time that you’re studying, but details that tell you what topic and what format you should be practicing. Creating this guide will help you study in a more efficient manner and it will give you an overview to make sure you’re studying everything equally–or focusing on weak areas.  I would also add breaks, big events, exercise, etc. I like visual, strict timelines (like at 8am, I’m working out), if you prefer something more fluid, go for it–but commit to a schedule and put it down on paper.

Two. Add fun to your schedule. Ha! I know, there’s no such thing as fun/entertainment during the Bar. Do you know how I know that? Because I still recall fondly how one night I went “rogue” and met up with friends that showed up to the city for dinner. The restaurant was in walking distance, so me and my husband headed over–I had a coke, stayed for an hour and went back home. It felt so luxurious to interact with people! So, nah you’re not going to have a lot of fun experiences this summer. If you have a great summer 17, then you’re not focusing on the right thing. Just saying. However, make sure you do have some breaks and if there are big milestone events in your loved ones’ lives, see if it’s viable to attend. But tbh, fun ends in June/early July at the latest.

Three. Be clear with everyone about your needs/expectations. I had it easy, my husband was a saint during bar prep. He never complained when I couldn’t do anything, scavenged for his food, kept himself entertained–I mean, I know that shouldn’t qualify as sainthood status because he was a grown man, but let’s be honest there are partners out there that are completely inutil and expect too much. There are families that are incredibly dependent on all members. There are children who can’t seem to be self-sufficient–I mean, how hard is it to make your own bottle? (I’m kidding!). My point is that life moves on even after law school graduation. And many family members will not understand the importance of this exam. Or they’ll get that it’s important, but not understand the overwhelming dread and anxiety it incurs. Be patient with them, but be upfront. Tell them now what you’re in for and the help you need: “by July I can’t be a babysitter, help with the house, make dinner, etc. etc.” beg for that slack, because you’ll need it. Your focus needs to be this exam.

Four. Add de-stressers to your life. So when I started bar prep, my anxiety was already so high that I started exercising because I wanted to fake out my mind and create endorphins so that I wouldn’t just eat my emotions into oblivion. A simple 30 min workout helped distract me, helped my health (hello–studying for 12 hours a day is not great on your body), and made me feel like I wasn’t going crazy. Maybe you like running, or painting, or baking—whatever works for you! Add a little bit of that to your early summer so that you aren’t going 100 mph studying and then burn out.

End of July seems like a lifetime away–there will be days that will drag on forever and then there will be days that you’ll think you’ll never be able to learn everything on time. It’s a complete mindfuck. But if you commit the time; ignore distractions; and keep the faith in your ability to get this done–you’ll do better than you imagine.

We’ll have more Bar tips throughout the summer so please make sure to visit (or better subscribe, so that it goes straight to your inbox!) and check out the Bar Exam tag to see tips and advice from years past.