As we near any bar exam, we always notice a substantial uptick in the popularity of this post. It’s an appealing thought, right? Being able to pass the bar exam after studying for only 10 days? Here’s the thing. Even the tutor who wrote it warns against using it as your primary plan. This post is a fallback position. And, really, it’s one to be avoided if at all possible.
Think of it this way. Have you ever watched a movie where the character has to jump off a roof for some reason? They aim for an awning or a conveniently-placed mattress delivery truck, and they get up and walk away with only a few bruises. That doesn’t mean that jumping off the roof is a good idea, just that aiming for the awning was the best chance for survival under the circumstances. The ten-day plan is the equivalent of an awning for bar exam study. If you want to get off a roof, you should take the stairs. It takes longer, but it’s safer (unless you’re in an action movie scenario). If you want to pass the bar exam, you should start studying early. Even more than that, you should start preparing to study early.
In these posts, I’m going to talk about three areas where you can improve your chances by starting early: selecting a tutor, selecting a course, and developing a study schedule. Let’s start with selecting a tutor.
Selecting a Tutor
Every year, we have a LOT of students who try to hire us when we’re less than two weeks away from the bar exam. And we hate to say no! But there are a lot of reasons why you should hire your tutor (and start working with them!) early.
Don’t Forget to Try That On!
OK, fine. A tutor isn’t the same as a shirt that looks bad on you (it’s a much bigger investment!). But you still should talk to a few companies and make sure that you’re making a decision that suits both your learning style and your budget. If you’re studying for a bar exam in one of the jurisdictions that we cover, we obviously have some great tutors! But just because they’re great doesn’t mean that they’ll be great for you. If you start working with a tutor early, you’ll have time to get to know their personality and whether their approach to tutoring works with your approach to learning. And you have time to make a change if necessary. If you start looking early, you can make this decision based on your needs rather than the pressure of finding someone right away.
What Do You Mean You Don’t Have Room?
Think about this in terms of travel. If you plan in advance, you get a wide variety of options. You can look at different hotels in the same city, choose your departure and arrival times, and make sure that your accommodations are exactly what makes sense for your wants and your budget. If you plan last-minute, you may end up paying a lot more and/or getting a lot less compared to your vision for the trip. You may even need to pick an entirely different vacation spot! Tutoring programs want to help as many students as possible! But they also don’t want to sacrifice quality of tutoring. This means that they have to shut down admissions when they reach capacity. If you wait until the last minute to find a tutor, you’re going to be spending time searching for options because your first (and second, and third) choice was full. This will cut into your valuable study time and increase your panic unnecessarily. You don’t want that!
Getting to Know You…
Most tutors can adapt their style to some extent. That’s the primary benefit to working with someone one-on-one rather than attending a large class. We work with students who have busy schedules and students who are studying full-time; students who are just out of law school and students who have been out for several years; students who find learning relatively easy and students who have a wide variety of learning issues. Each student presents his or her own unique challenges. The longer a tutor has to work with a student, the more effectively they can develop a study plan that makes sense for that individual student. Sometimes learning or motivation issues surface only after a few sessions. It can also take time for trust to develop. Bar tutors have a hard job! A tutor has to be able to tell students when they are doing certain tasks improperly. That’s never easy news to give or receive. If you don’t trust your bar tutor to be giving you the news because you need to hear it, rather than just to be “mean”, you won’t be able to learn from them effectively.
So, when should you start looking for a bar tutor? No time like the present! If you’re a third-year law student, you should look into your options before you even finish school so you can hit the ground running. If you’re repeating and looking ahead to the next bar exam, consider making contact four or five months before it. This is especially true if you will only be able to study on a part-time basis. For part-time studiers (about 25 hours per week), we recommend at least 16 weeks of bar study in order to give yourself the best chance at success. For full-time, we recommend at least 8 weeks of active studying, but 9 or 10 is better.
Good luck selecting your bar tutor!