Your hard work in law school (both inside and outside of the classroom) including internships, fellowships and extracurriculars brought you to this point. To succeed as far as you have, you likely made tough calls to best prioritize your time, resources, and energy.
Similarly, you need to prioritize for the bar exam! The bar exam is a comprehensive and challenging endeavor, so an effective approach is essential. When you consider all of the testable material, it can be easy to lose focus on what matters most.
Prioritizing for the bar exam will help you with:
What do you need to focus on to succeed?
Whether you have a bar mentor, bar prep program, tutor, or self-study, be sure to consider some of these aspects to focus on when preparing for the bar:
Start practicing MBE questions before you think you are ready. You likely will never feel 100% ready to dive into questions. The reason to start practice questions early is to familiarize yourself with the structure of the MBE multiple choice questions, and the common answer choice types and red herrings. Focus on utilizing NCBE licensed questions, as these have been previously tested. Even if you selected the correct answer choice, the aim is to learn as much as possible. Maximize practice with thorough review of the correct and incorrect answer choices as it will give you a comprehensive review of other subtopics.
The same goes for practicing previously tested MPT and MEEs!
Since studying is not a one-size-fits-all situation, you need to know your specific strengths and weaknesses in various subjects. Focus on getting up to speed on areas you are unfamiliar with entirely and/or struggling with. For example, if you haven’t taken wills and trusts, or secured transactions, be sure to set aside time to review these topics more thoroughly. Challenge yourself outside of your comfort zone of strengths and dedicate effort to challenging areas where you are not as confident. This could be as broad as improving your writing skills for the bar as the MEE and MPT will reward you for it!
Along the journey, you will pick up on patterns that the bar examiners like to test. Beyond recognizing the highly tested subjects, notice how the material is tested. For example, over time you will notice which MEE topics tend to be tested together such as conflict of laws and family law or torts and agency law. You will see the limited ways a property mortgages MBE question is usually asked. Additionally, practicing the MPT will expose you to the distinct types of assignments you will see on test day such as a demand letter and memo.
Carve out time to memorize the law and elements. Find what method works for you to help the information stick such as using:
- Active recall
- Mnemonics such as “MY LEGS” for remembering when the Statute of Frauds applies (standing for Marriage, Year contracts, Land, Executor, Goods over $500 and Suretyship)
- Repetition such as audio recording the black letter law and hearing it on repeat.
Memorization activities may work more effectively for you earlier in the day or when you have more peace and quiet to focus. Consistently dedicate time to memorization. Before you know it, this information will be second nature to you!
You are going to hear a lot of recommendations and methods from various test takers. Always remember that the bar exam is a lot like law school – everyone’s study process may differ. Similarly, for the bar exam, put your blinders on and focus on you by personalizing your study approach to fit your learning style. For example, if flash cards did not work for you before, they likely will not help you now. If you haven’t tried something before, it is worth a shot now!
At some point before exam day, you need to get as close as possible to experiencing the real thing. Some of the ways to do that is to build exam stamina. You will be testing for long periods of time, so you want to build up to performing and producing quality work.
You don’t want exam day to be the first time you have taken a MEE, MPT or MBE question under timed conditions. You may even want to try MEEs back-to-back in the manner your bar exam schedule will conduct the test.
7. Your Health
Passing the bar exam is the ultimate goal, but don’t forget about your overall health and well-being in the process. You may be facing enormous pressure to pass from the outside world. For some students, their job hinges on passing. No matter what the circumstances, always make time to check in with your emotional, mental, and physical health. When preparing for game day, you will perform best when you are at your personal best.