It’s probably safe to say that bar prep and bad habits go hand in hand. These bad habits may develop based on the limited time within the average ten-week preparation schedule. Limited timing which may sometimes push you to cut corners by seeking out alternative ways to cover more material as a justification for your use of time. Alternatively, these bad habits may stem from the voice in your head which tries to work against your productivity, by suggesting failure. As a result, you may respond to this voice by instituting behaviors such as extreme study hours which in effect causes burn out and works against the very goal you’re trying to achieve. Regardless of the source from which these habits develop, they by no means benefit you and all serve as definite pitfalls which should be avoided at all costs during your bar preparation.
What are these pitfalls you ask? Although I can’t delve into each and every pitfall within this article, I do want to cover five very common pitfalls which you can nip in the bud today.
So let’s jump in!
1. Ignoring the Essays/MPT Questions
When we look at the bar exam in totality, there’s no denying that the MBE portion seems to be the most daunting. Two hundred multiple choice questions with definite answer selections that we can’t argue our way out of is for sure a panic-inducing task. So I get it. When we consider the essay/MPT portion it’s easy to say that we have the option of securing points by laying out our argument in several different ways so it’s unnecessary to spend as much time on this portion. If this is your line of reasoning, I beg you to nip this bad habit in the bud at this very moment.
The essay/MPT portion of your exam makes up a good chunk of your score. Therefore, ignoring this portion completely or leaving it until the last minute means that you’re leaving a lot of points on the table. Yes, I know it may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete your MBE prep and to also complete several essays. However, giving equal attention to this portion is crucial. Therefore, make the time during your preparation to complete full essay and MPT questions. Trust me, it’s worth it.
2. Not Reviewing Answers/Only Checking the Wrong Ones
Another pitfall that’s easy to fall into is to work through MBE questions without reviewing the explained answers. If you’re guilty of this then stop this behavior now. The explained answers are a golden gem which gives a very logical breakdown of why the answer choice is correct and also strategies that you can incorporate to select the right choice in the future. Yes, I know they tend to be long but completing the questions without reviewing your answers is not a corner you should be cutting. The time it takes to complete your review is entirely worth it because it will only help you to enhance your knowledge and improve your strategy. Also, don’t forget that it’s important to review the answer choices for the questions that you got correct. Sometimes we may select a correct answer choice based on sheer luck, so it’s important to understand the why behind the correct choice.
3. Burning Out
Another common pitfall is burn out. I recall during bar prep I would sometimes dedicate 17 hours for that day towards studying and then try to complete MBE questions at the end of the day. Yes, I would typically get all those questions wrong and then I would just end up more frustrated and confused than I was before. This is a sure step towards burning out quickly and, if you’re a culprit, you have to put an end to this. During bar prep it’s important to have a schedule that allows you to get a lot of work done but also allows you to have much needed breaks. I know that with the limited time, it appears enticing to cram a lot of studying into one day. However, if you’re tired, I can assure you that your brain isn’t retaining any of that information. So, take a break, revamp your energy and then try again.
4. Visualizing Failure
Another pitfall which also serves as a major roadblock towards preparation is the habit of visualizing exam failure. It’s likely that bar prep has now become your new daily normal. Therefore, you probably spend most of your days and possibly wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the exam. With such focused thought on this process it’s not too far off that you may consider the worst possible outcome of failure. If you’ve experienced this, I want you to think back to when you just started law school. I want you to think about your first 1L semester when you had no idea what you were doing and thought about all the negative possibilities of that year. But I also want you to fast forward to three years later, when you acquired your JD despite all the negative thoughts. Use that very real story of success as a motivating factor throughout this process. Even if you’ve experienced a bar exam failure before, that does not define you, and if you keep pushing through you will achieve success.
5. Failing to Develop an Exam Strategy
Finally, another major pitfall is failing to develop an exam strategy prior to the exam. Yes, it’s a great idea to practice many questions before exam day, but I highly recommend creating a plan of attack to ensure that you can endure 12 hours of intense thought and execution. If not, begin implementing a strategy into your daily study routine. As you practice your essays come up with a backup strategy for if you run out of time. Outlining your answer is a great way to counteract this common issue. As for the MBE, come up with a strategy to keep your brain active. Answering 200 questions is an intense exercise for your brain so you will need a way to remain focused. I recall that I incorporated a quick break after every 30 questions. Simply doing a breathing exercise or even taking a bathroom break did wonders for keeping me alert. Make sure you start putting together a strategy as soon as possible.
Are there any other major pitfalls that you think I should have covered? Let me know and I can incorporate them in a future post. Good luck!