Most students know that bar prep will be a long, tough haul. Here are some common struggles you may encounter while studying and some strategies to help you overcome them.
I’ve been Studying for Weeks but my MBE Scores are not Improving
MBE scores that show no improvement after several weeks of studying could mean you need to refine your approach to solving multiple choice questions, improve your comprehension of the substantive law, or both. Regardless of the cause, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to your school’s academic support office or find a reputable bar tutor to help you diagnose the cause of the problem and put a study strategy in place. In the meantime, be sure you’re devoting time to reviewing the answer explanations as soon as you complete a question set (i.e. when the material is still fresh in your mind). Reviewing answer explanations is generally a productive study strategy because it gives you another chance to review the substantive rules, shows you how rules are commonly tested, and explains how the rules were applied in a specific fact pattern. Learning why you got an answer right or wrong can make it more likely that you will select the correct answer on the real exam.
My MBE Scores Suddenly Tanked
If you find yourself in this situation, you first need to consider whether the change in scores is the result of any external factors. Did you switch from online practice questions to paper practice questions? Are you studying in a different place or at a different time? Did you go from single-subject practice sets to mixed practice sets where all MBE subjects are tested together? It’s not uncommon to see a dip in scores if any of these or similar changes has taken place, so don’t panic! Instead, keep practicing diligently and you should see your scores start to improve again. If your scores do not improve, or you suspect the drop is the result of a bigger issue, use the suggestions above to help get yourself back on track.
My Essay Scores are Below Passing
There’s lots of great advice on how to improve your bar exam essay writing skills, but here are three that I strongly recommend: First, get some feedback on your essays. A grader can objectively evaluate your work, help you identify problems, and give you ideas on how to fix them. If you’ve received feedback from a grader but did not feel that it was helpful, request a different grader for future essays so that you can get a new perspective. Second, create one page attack plans for each testable subject. These hierarchical, skeletal outlines can improve issues spotting and organization. Lastly, practice! Writing out complete, timed answers is best, but even issue spotting and reviewing an essay is beneficial.
I’m always Running Out of Time on my Practice Tests
It’s normal to feel crunched for time on the bar exam, but if you’re consistently failing to get to a significant portion of your practice exams before time expires you may need to improve your test taking speed. On the essay portion, try your best to stick to your time limits for each individual question and work on memorization so that you can automatically recall rules without having to spend time thinking about how to articulate a concept. For the MBE, rather than checking your time for every question, make sure you’re completing a specific number of questions every 10, 20, or 30 minutes depending on your preference. Additionally, don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on a difficult question at the expense of getting to some of the easier questions. Every MBE question is worth the same amount of points, so there may be times when you simply need to guess and move on.
I just can’t Seem to Get Started or I’m Falling Behind on my Study Schedule
Here is the truth about the bar exam: you have to study in order to pass. Is studying difficult? Yes. Is it boring? Usually. But so are many things that lawyers have to do on a day to day basis, so stop procrastinating and do your work! If you’re falling behind because you’re feeling burned out, consider whether you can afford to take a break in order to recharge your energy. If work, family, or other outside obligations are impacting your ability to study, create a new, more realistic schedule and think about whether you can reassign some of your responsibilities until after the exam.
I’m Feeling Totally Lost, Overwhelmed, or Stressed
This may be the most common bar exam struggle of all! Nearly every person who has sat for the bar exam has felt this way at one point or another, so you’re not alone. Caring for your mental health and managing stress in healthy ways are crucial during bar prep. Alleviate negative thoughts and emotions by writing down exactly what is bothering you and then creating a plan to address it. Maybe you need to update your study schedule to focus on areas where you’re struggling, prioritize getting a good night’s sleep, find someone supportive that you can talk to about your fears, or something else. Whatever the case, taking action, rather than wallowing in a negative space, can help you feel more in control.
One way or another, everyone will face difficult moments and challenges during bar prep. The key to success, however, is to not let those struggles defeat you. Persevere, keep trying, and your hard work will almost certainly be rewarded!
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