Every bar student knows they need to study for the exam, and they know studying takes a lot of time. However, the question often arises, what should you be doing with all that time? How do you make sure you’re not wasting it? If you’re concerned that your spinning your wheels and not getting the most out of your studying for the bar exam, make sure you’re avoiding these common mistakes:
Failing to condense the law.
If you have a rule statement you need to memorize, why not make it the tightest, most concise rule statement possible. It will make your writing better, and it will definitely help you retain the material. The problem a lot of bar students face is that they try to tackle an entire chapter or outline at once—which is much more difficult.
Worse than that, many students don’t actually understand the law they’re trying to memorize. You may think you understand it, but unless you can single out the rule elements, number them, map out their hierarchical structure, and then explain the whole idea and how it operates to someone who has no background in the subject, you don’t know it well enough yet. Wait to memorize until you can really understand and boil down each rule. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.
Spending all day reading.
I am always surprised by how many students spend hours on end just reading through their outlines hoping that the law will stick. Guess what, most of it won’t! Even if you’re the kind of person who learns by seeing, visualizing and reading printed material, there are much faster ways to wrap your head around all that law. If you really want to improve quickly, start making your review of the law more active in any way you can. It’s more difficult, but it’s worth it.
Losing sight of the big picture.
There’s a particular type of bar student who tends to get so caught up in the little things that they lose sight of what’s big. If you’re falling into this trap, you might find yourself focusing on “legal trivia” and fine-point distinctions rather than learning the big-ticket subjects first. You may be getting caught up in making your outline uniformly and perfectly formatted rather than finishing the substantive law portion.
Remember, this is a minimum competency exam. You need to tackle the big, important topics in each subject first and triage your way down. The substance of your outline is much more important than how color-coded they are. Making and memorizing attack plans is more valuable than knowing obscure areas of the law.
Planning to the exclusion of working.
One way some bar students waste a lot of time is convincing themselves they’re working on something worthwhile that is actually of little value. For example, say you’re behind on your assignments, so you tell yourself that you will make a calendar for the week to help yourself catch up. You brood over the assignments and when to fit in each one, you make a scratch paper assignment list and then a google calendar, you spend time making everything match and look tidy. Most of this is unnecessary.
The real priority here is finishing the work you have left to do! It sounds obvious, but a lot of students get sidetracked in the administrative side of things. Instead of distracting yourself further, just start working through the list of undone essays. Spend an hour cranking out the first one. It will serve you better than spending that time on tangential planning. I’m not saying calendars and lists aren’t important, they are. Just be sure you’re not doing secretarial work at the expense of the real legal heavy lifting.
Letting outside influences take over.
Bar students are under a ton of pressure. It can be tempting to let distractions take over—especially if they seem important in the moment. This can often happen completely unintentionally. So, how do you help yourself? If you can, try to minimize anything that is taking up your time aside from preparing for the exam.
Put your bills on auto pay, and cut anyone and anything you can out of your life that is stressing you out or yanking you into any drama-filled situations. Obviously, you can’t just isolate yourself from the rest of your life, but if you can get away from disapproving parents, fights or other time-consuming and pointless run-arounds with partners or friends, errands for your kids’ soccer team, or extra emails, do it.
Trying to learn the law through watching videos is not the best method. This works for a small minority of students. If you have a long commute, don’t hesitate to listen to some lectures, sure. If you have three hours to spend studying, though, you’d be much better served by writing one essay, reviewing it in detail, and then re-working anything you missed. That will get you a lot further than any video.
Keeping your cell phone handy.
Have you ever tried to accomplish something without checking texts and emails? It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a short period of time with no interruptions! Those pings every few seconds can really eat away at your productivity, so why not just put the phone away. If the temptation is too great, turn your phone completely off and put it in the other room. Think about it this way, what’s more important, texting with your friends who aren’t taking the bar or getting this thing over with once and for all? Put in those terms, it seems pretty easy, but you’d be surprised how many students fritter away hours of time and sabotage their concentration by letting themselves get interrupted every five minutes.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Tackling Bar Exam Materials Like a Pro
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
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