When you are deciding how to prepare for the bar exam, you will be bombarded by programs, plans, and methods that will all claim to guarantee success. They probably all have some value, but your goal is to pick the approach that will give you the best chance at bar exam success. Here are five questions to consider when evaluating which approach to bar prep will best suit you –
1. What Law School Class Format did you Thrive in?
Preparing for the bar is different than surviving law school, but as Bar Exam Toolbox co-founder Lee Burgess rightly suggests, “[l]et your academic history be your guide to preparing for the bar exam in a way that is best for you.” In the context of picking a bar prep approach, consider whether you did great in small classes where the professor knew your name or whether you preferred the straight lecture variety. Although it may be hard for you to believe, some people really do prefer the approach you hated. Consider this when deciding if you are going to watch countless hours of videotaped lectures or if you would prefer a personal tutor.
2. How did you Prep for Law School Exams?
Some study style changes will be necessary because the bar exam is different than your average exam, but try to find an approach that allows you to adapt your proven law school methods and strategies to your bar exam prep. Now is not the time to totally reinvent your study habits. For example, try to consciously choose a study environment that will help, not hinder, your efforts. If you were a library dweller in law school, find a library nearby. If you preferred the bustling coffee shop, get your loyalty card ready. Are you naturally an auditory learner, a kinesthetic learner, or a visual learner? Be cognizant of all of these predispositions and preferences when selecting a study approach and you will maximize your study time.
3. What Time do you have to Study?
Make an aggressive bar prep plan, but be realistic. Choose a bar prep approach that will accommodate you life. It may be unfair, but if you have a job, a family, or some other constraint on your study time, adjust your plan to make the most of the time you have to prepare. Being too ambitious and only making it halfway through a commercial bar prep class is likely not the best approach. Flashcards may be great, but don’t sink too much time on arguably low-yield endeavors if you don’t have the hours to waste. Try to assess what different approaches would require time-wise upfront and choose accordingly.
4. Have you Genuinely Considered your Options?
With the stakes so high, don’t just follow the crowd. Your urge may be to get to the studying as quickly as possible, but take the time to weigh the approaches available and make an informed choice. Also, don’t just pick the biggest bar prep provider or the one with the flashiest table at your law school. Try a few on for size if necessary before you make the monetary and time investment in a particular approach. Early on you can afford some false starts, but you don’t want to have to change course midway through your bar prep period.
5. Does your Plan Allow Time for you to Personalize your Bar Prep?
As you get well into your bar prep period, your strengths and weaknesses will become all too clear. Try to choose a plan that will allow you to personalize some of your study time to focus on and attack your weaknesses head on. There are many tools out there to target your study. Avoid getting so enmeshed in a rigid study plan that you end up wasting time on material you have already mastered at the expense of improving on your weak spots. Acing some practice questions in an area you are consistently strong in every once in a while can be good for your self-esteem, but be sure that the approach you choose will continually challenge you throughout the process.
Take the time to reflect on how you learn best and personalize your bar prep approach to make it as efficient and effective as possible. Ask these five questions, but, in general, be deliberate about how you choose to spend the limited time you have to prepare for the bar exam. Just because an approach works for some, doesn’t mean it will mesh well with your learning style and study habits. After years and years of schooling (and exams) trust yourself and develop an approach that makes sense for you and you alone. Once you carefully select the right approach for you, roll up your sleeves and make the most of your bar prep!