There may not be a single right way for everyone to study for the bar exam, but there are certainly good practices and mistakes to avoid. Given the limitations on time most of us face in studying for the bar exam, it is important to weed out bad habits early and not waste time on studying mistakes. Here are six common mistakes to avoid for a more productive bar exam prep:
Mistake #1: Panicking!
Adrenaline can help you in tense situations, especially if you are running from a lion. But studying for the bar exam is a marathon, not a sprint, and a constant flood of adrenaline is more likely to burn you out than help you pass the exam.
Do not fall into a perpetual state of panic. In order to avoid this common mistake, you may need to distance yourself from friends and colleagues if they fuel a sense of panic. Other times it is important to take a breath and reassess your plan and preparedness. Wherever you are, do not fall prey to the culture of fear.
Panic is especially dangerous if it begins to lead you into the second common mistake, forgetting self-care.
Mistake #2: Forgetting Self-care
In the end, the goal is to pass the bar exam. You can’t do that if you are in the hospital, and you are less likely to pass if you aren’t sleeping or eating well and ignoring basic needs like showering and laundry.
Self-care should be an important element of your bar exam prep plan. This means taking enough time to sleep and eat regularly and devoting attention to your mental well-being.
Mistake #3: Ignoring what you Know Works for you
By this point in time, you’ve taken a lot of tests. You have at least some idea of the study strategies that help you to understand and retain information. Do not fall into a trap of thinking that the bar exam is so different from everything that you’ve done before that you ignore the study strategies that have helped you succeed in the past.
Think back on strategies that have been helpful and try to adapt them for the bar exam. Do you learn well with flashcards? Try making flashcards of definitions, tests, and exceptions. Do you learn best discussing topics and verbalizing? Reach out to classmates or colleagues to find a study-buddy. Are you an auditory learner? Record yourself reading your notes to listen to while you are doing chores or commuting.
The options are endless, but the point is, you have some ideas of what works for you and what doesn’t. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to ways to study for the bar exam – make your past experiences work for you.
Mistake #4: Neglecting your Problem Areas
We all have stronger and weaker areas when studying for the bar exam. Maybe criminal law is a cake walk while contracts are an impenetrable mystery, or maybe it is the other way around. Whatever it is, it is tempting to spend most of our time on those things that are easier for us. Most of us don’t set out to do this, it is often accidental and sometimes even goes unnoticed. This is why we need to be all the more careful and honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses.
Mistake #5: Spending too much Time Reviewing and not enough Time Testing yourself
Studying of course requires reading and reviewing, but it is imperative to also spend time practicing sample questions and using other methods of testing yourself. Research has shown that people learn best when quizzing themselves, so put this research to work for you.
Be sure that you are using practice questions and essays as a significant part of your bar exam study. These aren’t just to get you used to the format or time constraints of the bar exam (which they will help you to do), they are also one of the best ways to help you remember and retain the material.
Mistake #6: Not making Time to write out Essay Responses
It is tempting to spend all of your bar exam preparation time on outlining responses without sitting down and writing essays. You can knock out more responses this way, move quickly from outlining to reviewing responses, and feel like you are accomplishing a lot quickly. And while there is a place for this in your bar prep plan, it is vital to spend time actually writing essay responses. This will help you to get used to the time pressure of the actual exam and draft a coherent analysis – fundamental skills that you must be able to display come test day. In the end, it will make you a stronger exam-taker.
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