The most important part of a bar exam preparation program is practice. There are two reasons for this. First and foremost, practice helps you learn the mechanics of how to answer questions on the bar exam. Walking into the bar exam without having taken one before is like driving a car on the highway without having learned how to drive. The graders don’t give you a few hours to get the hang of the bar exam before starting to calculate your score. The graders look at every single question you answer, so make sure that you’re ready for the test on the first question. The second reason that practicing is important is that it helps you review and memorize the material. The bar exam tests a huge amount of law, and the best way to tackle that material is to practice it under test-like conditions. So how do you move from watching bar prep videos to actively learning and practicing? Follow these steps:
You don’t have to become an expert in a subject before starting to practice, but you should have done at least a little review. For instance, you could study personal jurisdiction and then write a person jurisdiction essay. The key is to gain some familiarity with the material without spending all of your time “reviewing” and no time practicing. Remember, the most important part of studying for the bar is practicing, so it really needs to be your first priority. Now, I’m not advocating you only study personal jurisdiction and leave the rest of your civil procedure score up to chance. Once you’ve made it to a point in your bar prep that you’ve started practicing, you can still continue to study subjects. If you’re on a traditional full-time study schedule, you should ideally start practicing a few days in.
Write an Essay
Essays are one of the two (three, if you count the performance test as a separate portion) types of questions on the bar exam. Essays are the first thing that you can start to practice because you don’t need to be familiar with an entire subject to write an essay. At Bar Exam Toolbox, we always recommend that you plan out your answer on scratch paper before you write. Take about five minutes to briefly note the main issues, law, and factual arguments that both sides would make. Then use your scratch paper as a guide to writing the essay, filling in the blanks as you go. Outlining is important because it keeps your writing focused on only the issues that matter and keeps you from forgetting to include things that can score you points. If you’re having trouble with these aspects of essay writing, then you need to outline. That being said, I only did the most minimal outlining as a bar student and have been resistant to outlining my entire life. The only thing I would do was write all the numbered headers on my actual exam answer, so I had an idea of how much remained in the answer as I was writing. I would then fill in the blanks that I had left under each header.
Revise the Essay
After you write the answer, you need to read a sample answer or issue key to see what you did correctly and incorrectly. For every issue that you missed or wrote incorrectly, you need to go back and write or rewrite those sections of your answer. This process helps drill those problem areas of the law into your brain, so that you’re more likely to get this part right next time.
Answer a Block of MBE Questions
The other main type of bar practice that you should be doing is answering MBE questions. Depending on your state’s exam, the MBE could be worth anywhere from 25-50% of your score, so practicing it is extremely important. While I took several full-length MBEs during my bar prep, I preferred to take these in 1-hour batches of 33 mixed questions. You can find materials that will let you focus exclusively on one subject or even on one aspect of one subject.
Write Down the Law You Missed
Once you’ve answered your block of MBE questions, you need to go back through these with an answer key (preferably one that also has explanations). For every question that you answered incorrectly (or correctly for the wrong reasons), you need to write down the law that you missed somewhere. I preferred to write this directly in my short bar outlines. So, for example, after missing a question about poison causing injury by exploding rather than poisoning someone, I wrote “eating poison, not it exploding” under proximate cause to remind myself that exploding poison can be an example of an unforeseeable injury type.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- When and Where I Studied for the Bar Exam
- Tackling Bar Exam Materials Like a Pro
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
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