When you say to people, “I’ll be doing bar prep full time for two months,” it’s not uncommon for them to respond with something like, “that doesn’t seem that bad.” Um…not that bad? Anyone engaged in bar prep now, or who has survived bar prep in the past, will tell you that it is not just bad, it’s awful. When struggling through bar prep, there is nothing more painful than getting a low score on one of the several practice tests you’ll take. Despair not, my friends, there is time for course correction and redemption before the big show.
Use the Available Tools
All of the bar venders build practice exams into their curriculums. These are fantastic opportunities to make sure you have the stamina to sit for the exam. In addition, you get feedback on your essay writing and performance on the MBE. For both components, your bar prep vender will provide critical feedback about your performance. The two aspects of the practice exam that are so important are 1) taking the practice exam (please don’t skip this important step), and 2) reviewing your results. If you don’t take the test or review your performance, you have virtually no chance of improvement.
Face the Music
It is laborious and painful, but a comprehensive review of your incorrect answers on the practice exam will go a long way to increase your knowledge in your weaker areas and help you to identify, definitively, the areas that need your attention. Seeing all of the areas that you’re struggling with requires a bit of humility and the fortitude to stay the course. As they say, the struggle is real, but you can only combat the struggle when you know what’s wrong. Take some time to understand what you have missed and confront your weakness. This is the most important step one can take to change course after a poor performance on a practice exam.
Maybe a New Approach?
When your performance on a practice exam is lower than desired, the idea of changing methods can be intimidating. I’m not suggesting changing bar prep venders, but maybe it’s time to find a new study method for the areas in which you are. Are the essays your Achilles heal? Maybe it’s time to find a new approach to the way you analyze the fact patterns, approach the data, or outline your response on the exam. Having trouble with the MBE? Perhaps you should use a new method to learn the rules. If you haven’t spent a lot of time on practice questions, get started right away, paying particular attention to the areas in which you are struggling. Poor performance on the practice exams is a great reason to try something new. I’m not advocating a radical departure, just a slight adjustment to your approach.
Although it’s important that you take care of yourself during bar prep, I am not talking about taking a Flintstone vitamin for better performance on your practice exams. I am talking about using commercial supplemental materials other than your bar prep vender’s materials. You should not go too far afield here, but when faced with a lower-than-expected score on a practice exam, a new perspective or approach could be just the thing to help you make a minor course adjustment and improve your results. I did well on my first full practice exam; however, my score dropped on the second. I invested in an excellent book, which helped me bring my score up by several points on my subsequent practice tests.
Ultimately, two months of full-time study is a lot of time (sort of). More importantly, it’s enough time as long as you do the work. Many have come before you and succeeded in this awful endeavor with just two month’s preparation. Many of them had to make adjustments mid-stream. The work required includes confrontation with yourself, making adjustments, and doing the tasks you absolutely hate (I am looking at you MPTs). There is nothing fun about the process, especially when you aren’t performing at the level you think you should be. Don’t panic, continue to do the work recommended by your bar prep vender, and never forget that the work you do now will be worth it when you open those bar exam results.
Realizing that you are not performing at the level you want to be is scary, especially as the date of the exam looms closer, but there is no need to panic or despair. There is always time to make adjustments, change course, and find new ways to approach the material. Have the strength and fortitude to confront yourself and make the required changes to be successful on your next practice exam. You can do this.