Most students, temporarily overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information they have to learn, start bar prep concerned that there won’t be enough time to adequately prepare for the exam. After all, the typical bar taker will only have 8-10 weeks to learn (and memorize) vast quantities of the law, some of which may be completely new to the student, while also practicing the analytical, writing, and time management skills necessary for the exam. While the compressed time frame can be intimidating, several weeks of preparation is usually adequate if you are sticking to an appropriate study schedule. What you may not realize, however, is that sometimes the bigger challenge during bar prep isn’t how short the time frame is, but how long. While you may have the best of intentions when you start bar prep, it often gets harder and harder to stick to your study schedule as the weeks go on. Ten weeks of studying may not seem like enough at the beginning, but it’s actually a significant length of time when you consider the intense pace of bar prep. Use these tips to help you stay motivated and maintain good study habits throughout bar prep:
1. Routinize your Day
A well thought out, detailed routine is one of the best ways to maintain your consistency throughout bar prep. Don’t try to wing it – have a plan and follow it. Your routine should not only include when and what you will study, but also when you will get up in the morning, when you will work out, when you will eat your meals, and so on. There are going to be plenty of times when you don’t feel like completing a bunch of MBE questions or listening to a lecture on secured transactions, but you’ll be more likely to get through these assignments if you’ve established a solid routine to your day. The goal is to make studying day in and day out feel automatic, so that you complete your tasks as a matter of habit rather than relying on willpower.
2. Build in Breaks
While the majority of your bar prep days will consist of reading, reviewing, and practicing, it’s absolutely essential that you give yourself time to take breaks and recharge. No one can study nonstop throughout bar prep, and what’s more, you don’t need to if you been following a good study schedule (see above!) In fact, you will be more likely to maintain good study habits if you take periodic breaks and give your brain a chance to relax. Make sure your routine includes short breaks throughout the day and, if your schedule allows, the occasional day off from bar prep. Building breaks into your study routine from the start will allow you to enjoy them guilt-free because you won’t feel like you’re getting behind. Additionally, don’t underestimate the importance of self-care during bar prep. Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and consistently getting a good night’s sleep will all help you maintain your motivation and focus over the long prep period.
3. Make Positive Associations with Studying
To state the obvious, bar prep is not fun. No one likes practicing multiple choice questions or reviewing outlines. Which is why it’s important that you find a way to make positive associations with these mundane tasks. Allow yourself to indulge in a cup of gourmet coffee during your morning study block, enjoy a candy bar after completing a set of MBE questions, or snuggle up with your dog while reading an outline. If you know that studying will be accompanied by something you enjoy, you will be more motivated to get through some of your more boring or difficult assignments.
4. Try Some New Productivity Strategies
If you’re really struggling to be productive on a daily basis, you may need to try some new strategies to get yourself back on track. If you want to increase your efficiency, think about implementing the Pomodoro Technique or similar segmented study blocks. If you’re having trouble focusing, you might try listening to music that is specifically designed to enhance focus. If you find yourself procrastinating, recruit a friend to check in with you each morning to hold you accountable. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or distracted, create a detailed to do list that you can cross off to help you see how much you’re accomplishing. Diagnose whatever may be holding you back or sapping your motivation during bar prep, and try to mix in a new approach to break you out of your rut.
5. Stay Goal Oriented
Simply reminding yourself why you’re studying for the bar exam can be a huge motivator. It can be easy to get caught up in the daily grind of bar prep and forget that you’re doing this so that you can achieve a specific goal: pass the bar and become a lawyer. Stay focused on this goal and try to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, the exam day will arrive and all of your hard work will pay off.
The bar exam has a way of fostering insecurity in even the most confident of students. But you can pass this exam if you maintain good study habits throughout the entirety of bar prep.
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