“Practice makes perfect” may be cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true! Behind any great performance are many hours of hard work and practice. Your performance on the bar exam will be no different – in order to do well, you must devote significant time to practicing the material and skills tested on the exam.
Why Practice is Important
For the bar exam, practice will involve writing out answers to essay questions and MPTS, completing heaps of MBE question sets, and even taking a half or full day mock exam. Most students already appreciate that practice questions can help them identify what they know or don’t know while also providing concrete results that make it possible to gauge their progress throughout bar prep. These are important functions to be sure, but completing practice questions actually does much more than just assess your knowledge or skills.
Research into practice testing as a study method has shown that it can actually improve your retention of the material and protect your memory against the negative effects of stress. So practice will not only help you remember information, it will also improve your ability to retrieve that information under stressful circumstances, like say, when you’re sitting for the bar exam. Practice is so effective because it requires you to retrieve information from memory and forces you to perform the skills you need. Unlike with reading an outline or listening to a lecture, practice doesn’t let you be a passive learner – it demands that you engage with the material.
Completing practice questions can sometimes feel uncomfortable (especially if you’re still mastering some of the rules), and it will certainly be mentally taxing, but it is truly one of the best ways to prepare for the bar exam. Practice will help you learn the material, remember the material, and boost your confidence by giving you experience doing exactly what you will be doing on test day.
How to Practice for the Bar Exam
Any practice is better than no practice at all, but there are a few guidelines to keep in mind in order to maximize the impact of practice questions. First, be sure to seek out feedback on your practice answers. Good feedback will help identify what you need to work on as well as give suggestions on how to make improvements.
Second, always set aside time to review answer explanations and model answers after you have completed an essay or a set of MBE questions. Reviewing the answers is a crucial part of the learning process because it exposes the rules that are still unclear to you and explains how they apply in a given situation. If you devote time to reviewing the rule and learning why you missed it during practice (and perhaps even re-write the rule) you will be less likely to make that same mistake on the exam.
Third, be deliberate in scheduling your practice. Devote time to practicing all the components of the bar exam and try to do at least some practice each day, even if all you have time for is a set of MBE questions. If you’re having trouble holding yourself accountable, consider signing up for the Writing of the Week Bar Essay Workshop, which will ensure you’re practicing for the essay portion of the exam consistently. To the extent you can, it’s also helpful to complete practice questions under exam like conditions, particularly as you get closer to the exam date. Taking practice tests under conditions that simulate what you will experience during the actual exam will give the most accurate insight into your progress and improve your comfort level with the exam-taking process.
Lastly, but just as importantly, make sure you approach practice with the right attitude. Remember, this is practice, so expect to make some mistakes and don’t beat yourself up if your results aren’t perfect. Learn from your mistakes and strive for consistent improvement, not perfection. Attribute any errors to fixable causes, keep working, and don’t give up!
Where to Find Practice Resources
For multiple choice questions, commercial bar prep companies are often the best place to turn because they typically have large, well-written question banks. For example, Adaptibar will give you access to over 1,700 questions that are licensed from the NCBE. For essays and MPT, check out the Brainy Bar Bank, which includes real bar exam questions in an easy to navigate format. Some states also release sample questions and answers, so be sure to check your state’s bar exam website.
The benefits of practice are too great to ignore. Set yourself up for success on the bar exam by making sure consistent, effective practice is a part of your bar prep plan.
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