When you hear about the bar exam, it is usually described as this broad and intense whirlwind. How can you prepare to succeed in this massive endeavor?
You can start by gaining familiarity with what to expect and then adequately preparing for what may be coming. What will be on the exam? The best you can do is prepare for the subjects that are fair game. You can look to the scope of what the bar exam tests to know what is fair game.
Highly Tested Subjects
Test prep companies, groups and individuals often make predictions of what may appear on the next administration. Such predictions of highly tested subjects can be based on analyses of previous exams, specifically the most recent exam. For example, if the most recent administration did in fact test Secured Transactions on the MEE, then one may predict that the upcoming exam will not cover the topic.
Unfortunately, you will not receive confirmation from the National Conference of Law Examiners (NCBE) which subjects will definitely be tested, unless they accidentally release this information (yes, it has happened!).
The NCBE, as tricky as their questions may be, are transparent about the scope of what is tested on the exam. The NCBE post subject matter outlines for the MBE and MEE. You will notice that these outlines are broad, however, they outline the scope of what is covered. The scope of coverage is what is fair game to be tested, so it is important to review these subjects in your preparation.
The NCBE pinpoints on the MBE outline that while the exam questions on the MBE derive from these categories, “each topic is not necessarily tested on each examination.” Realistically, all of the outline information couldn’t possibly be fairly tested in a six-hour multiple choice exam in only 200 questions.
The NCBE also notes on the MEE Subject Matter Outline, “questions may require analysis of more than one subject area” which means there can be overlap and has been in the past. For example, a torts essay prompt may integrate an agency law question and a family law essay prompt may have a conflicts of laws sub-question.
You are being tested on your knowledge across various subjects, but unfortunately, you need to work efficiently to cover the ground over a short period of time.
Be strategic about how much time you spend on these various topics and sub-topics.
Some of the ways you can take a strategic approach is to:
- Prepare with a company and/or with resources: there are tools available to guide you on how much depth to cover across the topics. For example, preparation companies have study plans that are designed to work through the subjects with real practice and review. Be sure to do your research and take the time to schedule a consultation with the prep company if you are seriously considering going this route. Companies differ in their learning style approaches, resources, and costs.
- Focus on your strengths: there are some subjects that you loved in law school that carried over into bar prep, which you need to work to your advantage, as these are another opportunity to increase points. Don’t take for granted that you are strong in a subject, because you need to maintain that over time, and while balancing the other work.
- Address your weaknesses: there are some topics that you hated in law school and continue to hate for bar prep. Turn that frustration into a strength, as best you can. If a topic was awful in law school, find a way to make it fun and simple this time around.
As you know, there is a lot to know, but how can you reach mastery across all these different topics? A major key to success across testable subjects is in practicing MBE questions and MEE essays. There are prep companies that offer analytics that push you to progress daily, and to see your performance over time. The benefit of seeing the data is that you can make critical adjustments along the way, so that you can drill down on material that requires more attention.
Remember that confidence in your abilities comes from getting started and doing the daily work. Thankfully, it is not required to feel confident in order to get started. Over time, the efforts you put in on a daily basis will give you confidence. Start small and consistently. Tackle each topic in chunks through MBE and MEE practice.
So much work goes into the MEE and MBE portions that bar takers often take the MPT for granted. You may think that whatever writing skills you currently have is all you need but think of this portion as an additional opportunity and gift for points. Along with not leaving subjects behind, don’t leave the MPT behind! Carve out study time to take MPTs so you can grow familiar with the various forms, depending on the task.