When it comes to studying for the bar exam, most tutors and bar prep companies will give you essentially the same advice – review your outlines, answer a ton of MBE questions, and complete practice essays and MPTs. These methods are effective, but they can also get a little tedious. If you’re needing to shake up your routine, try out these creative study strategies that will give you a change of pace while still helping you learn the law or improve your skills:
1. Write Your Own Essay Questions
Drafting essay questions is a great way to test your knowledge because it requires an in-depth understanding of the material. You simply cannot write a good fact pattern if you don’t understand all of the details and nuances of the rules. Additionally, writing your own essay questions will improve your issue spotting skills because it will force you to think about the types of facts that trigger issues. Pick a few essay subjects and challenge yourself to come up with a fact pattern that resembles what you’ll see on the bar. Then take a shot at writing a model answer or exchange questions with a friend for even more of a challenge. If you’re really struggling to write a question, that’s a good indication that you need to review the material more thoroughly.
2. Grade Your Friend’s Essay Answers
In addition to reviewing model answers and getting feedback on your written work from an experienced bar prep tutor, you can improve your essay writing abilities by taking a turn as the grader yourself. Exchange answers with a friend and grade the response as though you were a bar examiner. This process will give you insight into why particular strategies – like headings, succinct writing, short paragraphs, etc. – are so effective on the bar exam essays. It will also highlight common pitfalls that graders encounter so that you can learn to avoid them in your own responses. In short, looking at an essay or MPT answer through the eyes of a grader will help you see the qualities that make up a passing answer so that you can incorporate them into your responses.
3. Go Big
Creating your own flow charts, attack plans or concise versions of the commercial bar outlines for each subject are great study techniques to incorporate into your schedule. But don’t stop there. Enlarge your attack plans by writing them out on poster board and posting them around your house. Creating these extra-large attack plans will be a good review while their prominent location will encourage you to sneak in a little studying while you’re doing other household tasks. The best aspect of these poster boards, however, is that they can help you memorize. Our minds are naturally better at remembering visual images as opposed to a series of words. Unlike a traditional attack plan on a regular sized page, these poster board sized attack plans more closely resemble a visual image that you can hold in your mind.
4. Do Some Group Mnemonics
Mnemonic devices are a highly effective way to memorize elements and various components of a rule. To help you gather a wide variety of mnemonics, make each member of a study group responsible for one or two subjects, then come together to share your ideas. Coming up with your own unusual or clever memory devices will get your creative juices flowing and spreading the work across group members will make sure you cover more subjects.
5. Make The MBE A Competition
There’s no substitute for completing practice MBE questions to help you tackle this difficult component of the bar exam. But after weeks and weeks of working through these questions in isolation, you may need a change of pace, even if it’s just for a few hours. To break up the monotony of studying solo, get some friends together for an MBE competition. Designate a moderator to read the questions and see who can buzz in first with the correct answer. In addition to trying to answer the questions yourself, you’ll get to see how other students work through MBEs which can help you identify the best strategy for evaluating different types of questions. Games like this give you a break from your typical routine while still ensuring that you’re spending time doing some valuable studying.
6. Study the Old-fashioned Way
Put your laptop and your phone down, grab a book of MBE questions, and physically write down the answers. Maybe this isn’t a “creative” study strategy, but it’s becoming more and more rare as the majority of bar prep moves to online modules. While online modules are great for convenience, they don’t replicate how you will take the actual exam. So make sure that you incorporate some old-fashioned studying into your routine by using a pencil and paper every now and then.
Studying for the bar will never be fun, but the more entertaining or interesting you can make the process, the more likely you are to stay focused to the end. There’s no getting around the difficult and often boring work of reading outlines and completing practice questions, but you can supplement these traditional study methods with creative strategies that will give you a change of pace while still helping you learn.
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