A quote that captures the importance of utilizing practice questions to succeed on the MBE, MEE and MPT is “[n]othing will work unless you do.” – Maya Angelou. While you will definitely work hard throughout bar prep, there is work to be done on a deeper level with actual practice.
You have a lot to cover in a short amount of time. In law school students usually seek out outlines for their courses to save time. Similarly with the bar exam, it is easy to locate forums of bar prep takers seeking outlines and materials from people who passed. Much like law school, a commercial or passed down outline and study materials can only take you so so far if you haven’t taken the time to process the information for yourself.
The best way to succeed on the bar is to confront the practice aspect of the exam. Practice is where the deep work is done. You can fill your day with passive activities such as watching videos, listening to lectures and second-hand outlines. However, the real growth and points come from testing your own knowledge. As my professor would say, “engage with the page!”
Below are some of the benefits of practice:
1. Improves Memory of the Law
Using practice tests will force you to use what you do know and tap into your memory to recall information you have reviewed. Practice questions will back you into a corner and ask you “what have you retained and what do you need to work on?”
With respect to missed questions or questions you struggled with and perhaps even answered correctly, you always have the opportunity to review your work. Read and re-write the explanations in ways you will understand. The benefit of reviewing both the correct and incorrect answers is that it will help you learn from your mistakes and solidify the content.
The process is undoubtedly uncomfortable, and you would probably rather not figure out your weaknesses this way! However, take it from the studies that support how practice and repetition learning can significantly enhance your memory performance. The proven benefits to your brain is a great reason to start and continue practicing!
2. Understanding Rule Application
You will take stock of the trends and types of questions that are commonly tested and how they are tested. While you can easily google and find lists of commonly tested bar topics, nothing replaces actual practice. When you practice questions, you are gaining examples of the application of the law. You are getting a deeper understanding of a definition or list of elements and seeing how it is construed by the bar examiners.
Take advantage of the questions you are encountering and add them to your own study materials. Be sure to reference question numbers, and even integrate helpful illustrations into your outline.
The best way to build confidence around the bar exam is to prepare. This approach can be especially helpful if you are in any way intimidated. Roll up your sleeves, and personally get to know this exam by seeing past exams and questions. By practicing real questions released from the NCBE and reviewing previously administered essays and MPTs, you will soon master the beast until it doesn’t seem so intimidating or scary. The more you see the exam, its tricks and style, the more prepared and empowered you will feel to conquer the test. Regardless of failures along the way, you are gaining confidence with familiarity and preparation. Confidence on test day will come from knowing you took every opportunity make mistakes before exam day, so that you don’t make those same errors on the real thing.
4. Eliminate Anxiety
Studies show that study preparation has a positive impact on test anxiety and testing performance. Specifically, preparing with an engaged approach such as teaching the material to someone else, creating your own outlines and index cards, as opposed to a passive approach such as watching a lecture, can relieve test anxiety and show positive performance. Discover your learning style and make changes to your study approach so that you can be most engaged with the learning process.
Timing on the exam can really cause anxiety around the exam. Tackle this aspect, by keeping a sense of time when you practice the MBE, MEE and MPT.
For example, on a practice MPT where you have a total of 90 minutes on exam day, try using half the time (45 minutes) to read and outline, and the other half to write. It’s ok if it is not perfect because you are gaining a sense of where you are with timing. The real opportunity is in reflecting on how you will make changes going forward and committing to making improvements each time you practice an MPT.
If you are using practice questions and past exams, you are already on the path to bar exam success! Experience benefits including increased memory, reduced anxiety, increased confidence and enhanced exam performance with real practice!