We are pleased to welcome back Jeff Curl to the Bar Exam Toolbox blog. Jeff talks about the best way to focus your studying for the California bar exam. Previously he was an apprentice grader for the California bar exam, and now works as an attorney practicing bankruptcy law at JC Law Group PC. Welcome, Jeff!
Studying for the bar is overwhelming for a variety of reasons – it stresses your life, both professionally and personally. It also puts strains on relationships and your sense of well being. One of the biggest stresses is the sheer volume and scale involved with studying for the California Bar Exam.
Naturally, you want to impose some order and limit the scope of your studies if at all possible. There are really two ways of doing this when it comes to the written portion of the exam: try to predict the questions and study for those, or use history and the structure of the exam as a guide.
I absolutely despise the attempts to predict the exam questions to the tee. I will hear that “a Fourth Amendment question is due,” or that torts is a summer bar exam topic, but not a winter question, so expect that in July. Such predictions are both desperate and dangerous.
What is the more intelligent way to focus your studies?
- Look at the historically tested subjects that make regular appearances. Negligence and Commerce Clause questions, for example, do seem to make regular appearances, albeit not necessarily as Question 2, every February administration of the exam.
- The California State Bar has made it abundantly clear that it is testing professional responsibility in almost every exam whether on its own or as a cross-over. Given that it also serves as double duty for the MPRE to get your license, mastering this subject makes sense.
- Spending a little more time on the six core subjects that are on the multistate exam also makes good sense. You are killing two birds with one stone since you will be tested on constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property and torts on the MBE already.
- Weigh the cost/benefit analysis of trying to study for every single area of the thirteen subjects tested, versus trying studying the more popular subjects. Unless you have one of those crazy memories that permits you to absorb the elements of everything, attempting to memorize 150 things may serve you better than trying to memorize 300. Never would I skip any subject in its entirety, but you must have an honest discussion with yourself about your limits and how far you can reasonably push them to incorporate every detail of every subject that is tested.
Yes, curveballs may be thrown, but spending time trying to master all potential outlier questions is just not within the ability of many bar candidates. If you can memorize everything, great. If not, design the scope of your studies intelligently from the outset.
Jeff Curl was an apprentice grader for the CA bar exam. He practices bankruptcy law with his wife Jeena Cho at JC Law Group PC.
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