Every bar season around the first week of July, bar studiers everywhere start melting down — like clockwork. Why does this occur? Well, you might just wake up one morning and realize you may no longer have time to hit each subject twice. You might do particularly poorly on an essay or MBE practice exam and think to yourself, “I’m never going to learn enough law to pass in a few short weeks.” Perhaps you’re studying with a big, commercial bar prep. provider, and it’s dawned on you that not only are you way behind on your calendar, you also don’t feel like you’re improving. All of this can be really scary! But, don’t fret, we’re here to help! There are still a number of things you can do over the next month to avoid a full-blown July freak-out, and get the help you need to pass this exam.
Take Some Deep Breaths—You Can Learn a Lot in a Month if You Work Hard.
First things first. You need to recognize that panic and clarity cannot coexist. You need to choose one or the other. And guess what, it’s up to you. You’re the only one who gets to decide how you’re going to handle this situation. If you’re panicking, here’s what to do to get back on track.
Make Your Own Rockstar-Level Study Calendar.
Time is of the essence here. You need to be efficient and keep track of what you’ve done and what you have left to do. For that reason, planning is critical. Check out tips here for how to make sure you’re staying on task by making your own calendar for the month of July.
Stop Obsessing About Your Practice Scores.
This does more harm than good. Fixating on the numbers is useless. Instead, turn this attention toward doing something about your low scores. Take action! Are there any topics in particular that you’re particularly weak on? Drill that law. Are you keeping track of the rules that you miss on MBE questions? If not, do that. If you’re working hard and not improving, chances are, you’re going about things in an inefficient or unproductive way. Make sure what you are calling “studying” is actually something that helps you personally. Everyone is different! Learn how to memorize effectively, and always evaluate your work as soon as you’re done so you can learn from your mistakes.
Stop Prioritizing Memorizing the Law Over Everything Else.
Believe it or not, knowing all the legal nuances in your bar review book can only get you so far. Why? Because the graders are looking for more than a firm grasp of the black letter law. Yes, you need to get a lot of the law correct, or you won’t pass. However, you also need to be able to write structured, coherent essays and organize a PT in less than three hours. If you’re consistently missing issues on your practice essays, start by reviewing those issues (not your entire subject outline). Targeted memorization is the name of the game right now. The reality is that in every subject, there will be some topics that carry more weight than others. Know what your “big ticket items” and commonly tested areas are and prioritize these.
Ask Yourself How Many Full, Timed Essays You’ve Written.
By the beginning of July, your answer should be, “a lot.” While there’s no magic number, you should plan to write at least a few full, timed essays in each subject. And yes, you do actually need to write each essay out in full. You can’t just “issue spot” them or “outline.” You know what people who only issue spot the essays are usually really good at? You guessed it: issue spotting! You know what you need to pass this exam? A whole lot more than the issues. That’s part of it, but you need to get good at analysis using the facts too. Your essays also need to be structured and organized.
The two things you can do to get the most bang for your buck in these areas is to:
- Make attack plans (it’s definitely not too late for that!).
- Become an expert at using every single fact in your essay answers that you write out.
You have enough time. Even if you’ve barely written any essays yet, if you bump up to two or three or four every day, and make sure you thoughtfully review each answer you write against the samples, you will be well on your way!
Start Every Day by Getting As Uncomfortable As Possible.
If you’re freaking out, you’re probably already pretty uncomfortable, but that’s not what I meant. Getting “uncomfortable” in this sense means doing the very activities that make you think “Oh, wow, I am really not as good as I thought I was at this.” If you’re placating yourself by reviewing law that is already familiar because of the “confidence boost” it gives you, stop. Focus on the law you don’t know yet (and prioritize the big topics (see above)). If you’re avoiding essays or PTs because they make you feel bad about your performance, guess what? You can get them wrong now (when you have a chance to fix things), or you can get them wrong on the real exam (when you’ve only got one shot). Do yourself a favor and home in on the tasks that truly shake your confidence, and then make them less terrifying for yourself.
Honestly Assess Whether You’re Really Pushing Yourself.
This goes along with making yourself uncomfortable. You should be waking up each morning and fighting to get stronger in whichever areas feel the weakest for you. You need to know the basic black letter law cold. You need to be able to write an essay in one hour and spot most of the issues. You absolutely must use every single one of the facts in the fact pattern. It’s crucial to get the clues you need from the task memo of a PT packet and translate that, plus the materials in the library, into the right puzzle-piece structure. If you’re not working on these specific areas, now is the time to start.
Want more useful bar exam advice? Sign up for our free mailing list now!
Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Can Taking a Break Save Your MBE Score?
- How to Beat Fear During the Bar Exam
- Exercise for Your Brain – Advice From The Bar Exam Trainer
- How to Pass the Bar By Doing What Makes You The Most Uncomfortable
Photo credit: Keith A Frith/Shutterstock