The best way to get organized to study for the bar exam is to write a study plan. Today, I’ll address two questions: why are study plans so important, and what’s in a study plan?
First, why are study plans so important?
They Keep You Organized
It’s the first week of your bar exam study period, and you’re not sure how you’re going to be able to learn all the material that’s on the test. You’re not even sure how to get started. Fifteen or so subjects can seem quite daunting, and they are . . . at first. That’s why it can be stressful to start studying. The best way to make your study period manageable is to block it out and figure out what you’re going to study and when.
They Ensure You Cover Everything
A refrain that I hear from my students is that there’s no way to cover all the subjects in a typical eight- or ten-week study period. Sometimes my students tell me that they’ve forgotten to study some essay-exam subject just a couple weeks before the test. But this shouldn’t happen, and the reason is that your study plan should tell you when and how to study every subject. Without a study plan, students sometimes spend as much as a couple weeks honing in on one subject in order to learn every rule, exception, exception to the exception, and exception to the exception to the exception. Learning everything there is to know about one subject is not necessary for the bar exam and will not help you pass. Instead, the bar exam only requires that you know the basics about each subject and then master your writing and question answering skills. A study plan forces you to focus only on these commonly tested areas because come Wednesday you know you’re moving on to the next subject.
They Hold You Accountable
Study plans obviously hold you accountable to the extent that you force yourself to follow them, but they’re also useful if you use them to peer pressure yourself. I always put my bar exam study plan on the refrigerator, so I wasn’t the only person who knew what I was really supposed to be doing on a Thursday night when I was engrossed in a movie on Netflix.
They Keep You Focused and on Track
Finally, study plans make sure you don’t switch horses midstream. There comes a time a few weeks before the bar exam when you can’t maintain your constant rate of improvement, and you begin to reach a plateau. This usually occurs sometime in late January/early February or in late June/early July, depending on the exam. Students are often tempted to jump ship and try some novel study technique. Resist this temptation. It’s at this time that it’s most important to continue following your study plan and power on towards the finish line, unless what you’ve been doing is completely wrong. So how can you make sure that you’re making the best use of your study time? Put the right things in your study plan on day one . . . .
Second, what’s in a study plan?
Detail vs. Broad Overview
Study plans are road maps for the next several weeks of your bar exam studying life. You can start a study plan whenever you want, from several months before the exam to just a couple weeks beforehand. Your study plan can be detailed or more of an overview. If you only choose to have a broad overview of your studying, then you should have a separate study plan for daily activities or just have a really good idea of what you need to do to accomplish each of your more general goals. (I was in this latter boat.)
Subjects to Cover
In order to create a study plan, your should first block out all of the weeks that you have until the exam and compile a list of subjects that the exam will be testing. Not all of us have this luxury, but ideally you should aim to finish studying subjects about two or three weeks before the exam. Start with the MBE subjects early in your study period. You’ll get more bang for your buck by studying MBE topics since these appear on both the multiple choice and essay portions of the exam, and you’ll be able to start mixed MBE practice sooner. Also, the MBE subjects take longer to study, so you’ll want to allot more time to cover them than the other subjects. Your study plan may also include how to learn this subject matter. For instance, on Tuesday, you’ll read the Contracts outline and practice flashcards. On Wednesday, you’ll focus on writing contracts essays and answering multiple choice questions. You get the idea. (And here’s a post I wrote on how I learned the material.)
Targeted Amount of Practice
A study plan should also include a targeted number of essays, PTs (or MPTs), and multiple choice questions to answer and review each week. When creating this target, many students forget that an important part of practicing is reviewing what you missed and revisiting that material periodically in order to make sure that they don’t miss it in the future. Make sure that you block out about as much time for this review as it took to answer the essays or multiple choice questions in the first place. Remember that the later you are in your study period, the more review you’ll have to do because the material that you miss really starts to add up.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Tackling Bar Exam Materials Like a Pro
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
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