When we finished with our first bar exam, we all swore up and down that we’d never do it again. But life, and our career, often changes in unexpected ways, requiring us to move to a new state–and take another bar exam. The concerns when taking the bar yet again are real: we’re further out of law school and having taken the core classes that make up the exam; we aren’t entering bar exam study season being carried along by the entirety of our post-grad law school cohort; and oftentimes we don’t have three months off of work just to study.
But don’t worry. Your experience taking the bar exam the first time around can and will help you as you prepare for the next one. Here are five tips on how to use what you learned during your first exam to pass your second.
1. Remember What didn’t Work for you when Preparing for the First Exam
Bar review courses and self-study guides contain a lot of material, and a lot of different ways for you to absorb that material. From video lectures, to classroom sessions, to online quizzes, to condensed outlines, you can get the information you need from just about any medium.
Unfortunately, we only have a limited amount of time to prepare for the bar exam. And if you’re already working when you take your second bar exam, you probably have even less time. That’s why it’s critical for you to remember what resources helped you most the first time around. Did you fast forward through the video lectures because they weren’t helpful? Ignore the condensed outlines in favor of making your own? Don’t be afraid to recognize how you learned best and to stick with those resources again.
2. Use Old Outlines and Flashcards
Some of us, having invested both time and money in taking our first bar, kept our outlines and flashcards. While taking a bar exam in a different jurisdiction may involve identifying distinctions in that state’s laws being tested, much of what’s on the exam will remain the same. Utilize the outlines and flashcards as a general refresher, or let them serve as a starting place to create new ones.
3. Dig into those Substantive Topics you Struggled with the Most
When we take the bar exam for the second time, we aren’t flying blind. We have an idea of those topics that we struggled with previously. Always blank on the Contracts essays? Couldn’t get those answers to the Real Property MBE questions? Recall what you struggled with and make a list.
By starting with those areas, you’re giving yourself more time over the course of your bar study to get that material down. As you start on MBE and essay questions in those areas, make a list of the rules you keep forgetting, then go back and memorize that list. Over time, this will help you improve your scores in those areas, and give you confidence that you’ll be successful on your second bar exam.
4. Rediscover your favorite Routine
Routines help us get through difficult work periods, including studying for the bar exam. We have to acknowledge that our schedules likely aren’t the same as they were when we first studied for the bar. You may be juggling work and even a growing family. Long gone is the three-month period where all you had to do was prep for the bar. But routines provide stability and, even more critically here, predictability to your schedule.
Think back on the aspects of your routine that worked the first time that you can still incorporate now. Were there times of the day where you were able to concentrate best, like in the morning? Are there certain places, like coffee shops or libraries, that put you into study mode? Tap into those to craft a routine that gets your bar study set at its most productive pace.
5. Reconnect with your Support System
It doesn’t matter how many times we do it: studying for the bar is hard. And while we felt like so much of our career was riding on our success the first time we took it, that doesn’t mean the feeling goes away. In fact, it may be even more intense. You may have a job that is contingent on passing or you may be delaying starting the job hunt until you do pass. Either way, it can feel like you’re under a lot of pressure.
Look back on those core support networks who were key to your success then and can be again. Reach out to those supportive friends and family members and let them know that you’re entering bar exam season again. They’ll be able to reassure you and help keep your confidence up as you go through the process.