Students around the country are preparing for the bar exam. And already, it is happening—I am hearing comments from those studying that they don’t have time to practice because they are spending all of their time reviewing the law. I hear this from students in commercial bar review courses and those working with tutors.
Shhhh … here is the secret! Practice is the most important part of bar prep. It helps you study the law and work on applying the law to the facts. But why is this so important?
Practice is a form of active learning.
What is active learning? Well, depending on what you read it can mean many different things. But I like to think of it as doing something with the material. This is different from passive learning, which is just looking at an outline for hours at a time.
Can some people learn by reading an outline? Sure! But I certainly can’t and I am going to guess many of you can’t either. Practice is one of the many ways you can incorporate active learning into your bar prep. Why? Because you are working with the material and applying it. You are thinking about the material and evaluating it. You are testing your recall knowledge of the law. You are being an active participant in the studying process! And you know what? You often will be better at remembering law that you have applied to a fact pattern versus law that you simply read rules for or listened to a lecture on.
The bar exam tests your analysis of facts, not just knowledge of the law.
If you read the directions for the bar exam in your state, it is likely you will see the word “analyze.” In California, it actually shows up in the first sentence of the directions!
“Your answer should demonstrate your ability to analyze the facts in question, to tell the difference between material and immaterial facts, and to discern the points of law and fact upon which the case turns.”
Does it say that the most important thing is to know all of the law? Nope! It says that you need to know how to analyze.
Still not convinced? Let’s talk about the MBE. The MBE is all about knowing the rules, right? Well, not according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (they write the damn thing). The 2013 Information Booklet (you can download it here) tells you what is being tested on the MBE:
“The purpose of the MBE is to assess the extent to which an examinee can apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns.”
There is that word again, analyze! Even for the MBE, you must do lots of practice in order to test your understanding of the application of the law and how you analyze given facts.
So please don’t spend all of your time studying the law.
Really, can most of us sit down and memorize law for five hours straight? No, but I am sure many of you reading this have tried. Many experts state that we can learn for only about 60 to 90 minutes at a time. So break up that reviewing and memorization time with meaningful practice. You will be glad you did come test day (since that is part of what you are being tested on, anyway!).
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some of our other articles for more great study tips!
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