When I graduated from law school, most of my classmates either spent the summer studying for the bar exam with Barbri or Kaplan. Although these and other commercial bar prep programs are sufficient for the majority of students, they don’t work for everybody. There are still thousands of people each year for whom these programs are ultimately unhelpful. The problem with commercial prep courses is that they take a one-sized fits all approach to studying that provides little in the way of individualized feedback. For instance, it’s common to receive essay feedback from a bar prep course that reads something like “Maintain consistent IRAC format,” but you’re left guessing where and how you aren’t using IRAC.
Bar exam tutors can be a great resource to help you study for the bar exam because they structure your program to your needs and give you the individualized feedback that you need in order to know how to “maintain consistent IRAC format.” Nevertheless, just hiring a tutor is not enough to pass the bar exam. In order to pass the exam, you still need to take charge of your own study program and make sure you’re getting the most out of your tutor. Here are my thoughts on how to do this:
Use the Materials Provided to You
A good bar exam tutor will be able to provide you with a huge cache of past essays, model answers, multiple choice questions, and answer keys or at least know how you can obtain these materials. These materials aren’t there to make your tutor look prepared. They’re there for you to use them. Every student is on a different bar prep schedule, but the majority tend to study full-time for eight or ten weeks. If you’re on an eight or ten week schedule, then you need to write some of those essays and answer some of those multiple choice questions every single day that you study. But writing and filling in bubbles isn’t enough. You need to use the model answers and answer keys to review your work, rewrite your essays, and keep the law and facts that you got wrong in a central location, so that you can periodically review your problem areas.
Don’t Let a Question Go Unanswered
Bar exam tutors are there to help. While you should take charge of your study program and maintain a certain level of independence from your tutor (after all, who’s the one taking the exam?), don’t let a question go unanswered. If you’re unsure about something, jot down some notes on a notepad and email your tutor your questions. Your tutor may tell you that there’s nothing to worry about, provide you with quick answers, or schedule a call to chat if there’s a larger issue. The earlier that you ask these questions, the earlier that you can get answers and move on. It’s particularly important to ask questions during the first half of a bar study program because that’s the time when major issues can be addressed and solved. If you wait until the week before the exam to start asking questions, then you’ll still get answers, but it’s often too late to implement your tutor’s advice.
Trust Your Tutor’s Advice
When you get advice from your tutor, trust it. What did you hire your tutor for in the first place? So, if your tutor continually tells you to review your essays with model answers and then rewrite your essays, make sure you do this. Your tutor has read your work and listened to your concerns, so your tutor will have a pretty good idea of what you need to do in order to pass the exam.
Circle Back with Your Tutor if Things Aren’t Working
But there are times when your tutor’s advice doesn’t work. This is normal. For instance, if your tutor tells you to try out flash cards, and you find that you’re spending hours just making flash cards, then you might need to adjust your approach. Flash cards aren’t for everybody. Don’t assume that your tutor is committed to you using one particular study method. Once you’ve made a good faith attempt to follow your tutor’s advice, circle back with your tutor and let them know how things are going. Your tutor may tell you how to adjust what you’re doing or suggest a completely different study technique. If you find that you didn’t really understand what your tutor told you to do, don’t hesitate to ask your tutor to clarify. An eight or ten week bar prep program is not that many weeks, especially when you need to make most adjustments to your approach during that first half. Time is precious, so you don’t want to let a few days go by without making the best use of your time.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- What are Bar Exam Graders are Really Looking For
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Are You Wasting Time Studying for the Bar Exam
- What are You Waiting For? It’s Time to Study for the Bar Exam
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