Recently, we published what may have been a very ill-conceived post telling the story of one of our bar students who studied ten days and passed the California bar exam. True story. Why ill-conceived? Because now we’re getting emails from every panicked procrastinator out there, asking for our help in getting them to the point of passing in ten days! Sorry, folks. Time for some tough love:
- There’s no magic bullet we can give you to pass the bar with minimal study time (especially if you’ve failed multiple times and/or aren’t planning to take any time off of work to study). It is possible (I did it twice), but you needed a firm strategy before now.
- Every second you spend at this point in time Googling things like “can I pass the bar?” is a total and complete waste of time. Just stop. And start studying.
- Every second you spend at this point worrying about whether you’re going to pass the bar is a total and complete waste of time. Just stop. And start studying.
- Every second you spend at this point asking anyone else for help is a total and complete waste of time. You know what you need to do. Start studying.
- Every second you’re spending reading this post at this point is (probably) a total and complete waste of time. Stop reading. Start studying.
But, since I’m a total softie, I’ll give you a few pieces of advice (which you’ll probably ignore along with my advice above, if you’re still reading):
- The only way to pass with minimal time is to focus exclusively on the stuff that makes you uncomfortable. In a nutshell, this means you put away the long-winded videos from your bar classes (I never watched a single one) and make sure you can recall the basic elements of the most commonly tested topics from memory. Along with this, you write, or at least outline, as many practice essays as possible, and make notes on what you’re still not getting right. And you drill incessantly on the MBE topics you’re consistently missing (you do know what those are, right?). Will this be fun? No. Will it work? It just might.
- You have to focus. I like The Circles method, but you do you. If you’re making excuses about not being able to put in the necessary study time for whatever reason (work, family obligations, being too tired or lazy to get up in the mornings), you’re probably going to fail. Sorry, welcome to reality. The bar exam isn’t a test for slackers. Even if you only study a few weeks, you’ve got to put in some serious, focused effort. Put your cell phone away, find a babysitter and a dog walker, and get down to business.
- You know how in a serious emergency, the medical professionals don’t pay much attention to the person with a headache and focus on the person bleeding from the head? Yeah, same concept applies here. If you don’t know anything about Professional Responsibility and Community Property in California, or you don’t know the elements of Negligence, you’re bleeding from the head. If you can’t recall a few fine distinctions among federal and state Evidence rules, you have a headache. There’s so much material to learn for the bar exam that it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds, panicking because you can’t possibly remember everything. So what? You don’t need to remember everything. But you do need to know the most commonly tested rules cold. (Not sure what’s most commonly tested? Check out something like BarIssues, although at this point that’s got high potential to become a massive time waster, too. Save the link for your next attempt, maybe?) Focus on what’s most likely to appear and optimize your remaining study time. You don’t have time to be worrying about anything else.
- Calm the f**k down. Yes, I know you want to pass. (Not badly enough to study properly, but we can talk about that later.) However, at this point, worrying about passing, or spinning your wheels looking for a miracle solution, isn’t helpful. Nor is it helpful to lie awake at night catastrophizing about the repercussions of not passing. While it’s important to focus and get to work, it’s also critically important to take care of yourself and maintain the best possible mindset you can muster. Whether it’s a daily yoga class, some guided meditations, or just a walk around the block, managing stress and anxiety is critical right now. The surest way to ensure you’ll fail is to panic, while studying or during the test.
The bottom line is that the bar exam is stressful and difficult, and most people need a lot of study time to be in a good position to pass. If you’re not currently in that position, all hope isn’t lost. It is actually still possible to pull things together and pass. But, please, for the love of god, don’t email me for ideas! You know what you need to do. Get off the internet and go do it.
Best of luck!
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Why Really Wanting to Pass the Bar Exam Isn’t Enough
- 6 Study Strategies to Get the Most Out of Bar Exam Prep
- Train Like an Athlete for the Bar Exam
Photo credit: Orla/Shutterstock
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Love this post, Alison. I kept reading and didn’t ignore the rest of the post 😉
If I could add one thing, it’s that these dreadful feelings are inevitable. Instead of trying to suppress them, we can lean into them, embrace them, and use them in our favor to be productive instead of looking up silver bullets.
I also appreciate this post because it addresses the two common traits of my readers who end up passing the bar, briefly:
BE SPECIFIC: They are proactive and have already thought about what they think is deficient in their skills and study regimen.
TAKE ACTION: Above all, you must take action to see improvement.