As a Bar Exam Toolbox reader, you know better than most that there is no shortage of information and resources available to you as you prepare for the bar exam. There are a host of bar prep courses, there are practice exams, and there are bar exam tutors, to name a few. However, as is often the case, harnessing the collective knowledge of people who have recently been through this experience will pay the greatest dividends. Straight from the horse’s mouth and all that.
In this post and in that spirit, we catch up with five recent bar examinees to get their take on the most important lessons they learned during their bar exam preparation.
1. “Keep doing what works for you – you’ve gotten this far.”
For people taking the bar exam for the first time, it is natural to compare and measure your process against those of your classmates – this is unknown, uncharted territory. But while the structure of the bar exam, and, for some sections the substance may be new to you, studying is something you have done (and slayed) more times than I’m sure you would care to admit. Think back to the methods that worked for you when you prepared for the LSAT and for law school exams. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. And if your process doesn’t perfectly align with your bar exam prep course, that’s okay, too. A one-size-fits-all program could never be tailored to the unique needs of every examinee. You know you best!
2. “Don’t be Afraid to Change Course.”
All that said, if you do try a new approach to studying – after all, there is no denying that the bar exam is different than the LSAT and law school exams in fundamental ways – do not hesitate to change course if it’s not working for you. For example, a lot of people find critical pass flashcards extremely useful. So they are probably worth at least a try. But if flashcards weren’t your thing in law school and these prove no exception, ditch ‘em and ditch ‘em early. (Well, maybe hold on to them and try to re-sell them at some point. They tend to be in high demand as test day approaches.) But bottom line, don’t waste time. In the immortal words of Regina George, stop trying to make something happen when it’s simply not going happen.
3. “Study with Friends; Misery Loves Company.”
For the most part, studying for the bar exam is a solo activity. There are some instances where a group study might make sense, but, for the most part, prepping for the bar is not a team sport. But there is no reason that you can’t study alone, together! It may sound like a small thing, but proximity to other people who are going through the same thing makes a huge difference. You can plan to sync up breaks and meals, and, if you’re taking the same prep course, laugh about the sometimes ridiculous video lectures together.
4. “Find your Study Spot(s).”
One major upside to preparing for the bar exam is that you can essentially study wherever you prefer. For some people, that will be the law school library where they have studied for the past three years. For others, that will be in the comfort of their own home. But the options are pretty much endless – as long as you have any physical materials you might need and there is internet access, you are good to go. But, my advice? Choose early on and establish a routine.
5. “Water your Own Grass.”
This last one is my personal piece of advice for soon-to-be examinees, and something I think applies more broadly to law school and in the legal profession. While it can be incredibly difficult to do, try not to focus too much on what other people are doing. When it comes to the bar exam, you are not competing with anyone but yourself, so take control of your own process. Every moment spent focused on how much further along this person is in the study schedule, or how much better that person did on the practice exam, is just another moment you steal from your own progress. This is not to say that there is nothing to be gained from checking in with classmates and friends about their process. But always keep in mind that at the end of the day, it will only be you, your brain, and the exam in front of you.