As you begin your preparation for the Bar Exam, here are some general tips to keep in mind:
- Have a plan – Before you even begin your substantive review of the materials in your bar review course, you should pull out your calendar and create a detailed timeline that will serve as your study plan for the months and weeks leading up to your bar exam. Efficient and effective use of study time is a major factor in bar exam success. Now is the time for complete honesty. If you have too many outside commitments, including work, family, social, and community obligations, you need to find a way to defer as many of these activities as you can until after the bar exam. If you want to be successful on this exam, you need to focus the majority of your time and energy on bar preparation. If you are working, ask your boss for time off. Explain to your family and friends that you will be unavailable for the next few months. Your loved ones want you to succeed in your career and they will understand the sacrifices that you need to make. Once you have cleared the decks, make a detailed day-by-day action plan for how you will spend your time. If you are taking a bar review course, don’t forget to include time for lectures and workshops, as well as time spent outside of class.
- Practice testing is key – While memorization is certainly a necessary step in the process, the real key to success on any bar exam is practice testing. Unfortunately, most students spend too much of their bar preparation time creating detailed outlines and not enough time doing practice testing. They lose sight of the big picture. The bar exam is not simply a test of what you know or do not know. Rather it is a test of how you can use the knowledge in your head to analyze various fact patterns and reason your way to the correct answer. In the case of the MBE, it involves using logic and reasoning to eliminate wrong answer choices so that the choice you are left with is most likely to be correct. Practice testing will hone your reasoning abilities while at the same time teaching you the black-letter law. Therefore, the bulk of your study time needs to be spent doing practice testing.
- Simulate actual exam conditions – Your practice testing will be much more effective if you strive to simulate exam conditions. This means timing yourself, preferably with a timer or stopwatch. When doing practice essays, be sure to adhere to space requirements by following the same character limits as mandated on the real exam. Do not allow any interruptions during practice testing sessions. If necessary, go to a library or other quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
- Spend as much time reviewing the practice questions as you spend doing them – Most students fail to spend enough time reviewing their practice tests. It is not enough to simply do practice questions each day. You need time to go over these questions and make sure that you understand why your answer is right or wrong. After all, if you merely guessed at the correct answer on a multiple choice question how can you expect to learn anything from it unless you take the time to really understand why the answer choice is considered correct? Also, many MBE questions require a process of elimination to reach the correct answer choice. Therefore, it is not enough to know why answer choice (A) is correct. You need to figure out why (B), (C), and (D) are considered incorrect before you can honestly say that you have mastered that question. So don’t skimp on the time you spend reviewing your practice questions. As a general rule, plan to spend as much time reviewing the practice questions as you spent doing them.
I hope these tips help you to put your study time to best use. Good luck.