From Civ Pro to Secured Transaction, the bar exam covers a lot of material. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the prospect of bar prep when you first look at the thick stack of outlines you’re supposed to memorize or browse the endless number of practice questions you’re supposed to complete. The high-pressure conditions surrounding the exam and studying burn out after completing three years of law school may also contribute to some hesitation towards starting bar prep. Although preparing for the bar exam in just a few short weeks may seem like an impossible task at the start of bar prep, with the right strategies and mindset you can learn all that material. To help you manage the workload, follow these five tips as you prepare to start studying:
1. Customize Your Schedule
The mass of material you need to memorize will seem less intimidating if you break it down into increments and schedule specific days to review each subject. Your schedule should be detailed and include the days and times on which you’ll study each concept, take practice questions, and review your answers. If you’re using a commercial bar prep provider, they will likely have provided you with a schedule to follow. These schedules are general suggestions designed for a national or state audience and generally, aren’t tailored to particular students. Think about your strengths and weaknesses – both in terms of subject matter and in terms of skills – and tailor your bar prep schedule to fit your specific needs. Creating a customized, detailed schedule that breaks down bar prep into more discrete units will show you how much you can achieve over the next few weeks and make you feel more in control of your studying.
2. Maintain Your Perspective
To control your anxiety and help you stay positive throughout bar prep, it’s helpful to remember that you only need to pass the exam, you don’t need to get the highest score. No one AmJurs the bar exam and unlike law school, you’re not competing against other students for the highest ranking. Although just passing the exam will still take a lot of hard work, framing the exam in these terms can make achieving your goal more realistic.
3. Prioritize Your Topics
One of the reasons the bar exam – and particularly the MBE – is so tricky is because it tests a wide array of subtopics. Fortunately, you don’t need to know all of these subtopics as well as others. To get the most out of your study time, review all the concepts, but prioritize the highly-tested topics. The hours you devote to understanding the Rule Against Perpetuities, which might show up on only one question, is better spent mastering a subtopic that will show up more on the exam.
4. Set Benchmarks
If you’ve struggled through some practice exams at the beginning of bar prep, you may wonder how you’ll ever get a passing score by July. Instead of focusing on where you’re starting from, try to focus on making consistent progress each week. Set achievable goals – both for practice test scores and for reviewing material – to ensure that you are moving in the right direction. Setting benchmarks for your progress will make bar prep seem more manageable and meeting those goals will help you stay motivated as the weeks go by.
5. Mix It Up
The monotony of studying day in and day out for the next several weeks may be enough to demoralize any student. To combat the tedium of all that studying, make sure you mix it up as much as you can. Routines are great and can be very helpful when tackling a huge project like the bar exam, but you don’t want to be so rigid that you end up getting bored and losing focus. Try to mix up the subjects you study each day and switch between practice MBE questions, essays, and outline review. Instead of just reading over outlines, try to hand-write the rules, say them out load, review flashcards, or do other activities to break up your study sessions. Relocate your study locations periodically and take short breaks to refocus. Mixing up your subjects, skills practice, and locations will not only ease some of the monotony of bar prep, but it will also improve your ability to retain information.
There’s no getting around the fact that preparing for the bar exam takes a lot of hard work and self-discipline, but you don’t have to let it overwhelm you. Motivate yourself to sit down and get started. If you use the tips above and take it day by day, you can manage your bar prep workload.
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