Over the past few administrations of the bar exam, we here at the Bar Exam Toolbox have heard about our fair share of, shall we say, “interesting” behaviors from students studying for the bar exam. Whether it’s diving headlong into a program that you already suspect isn’t the best fit based on your personal learning style, or piling up obstacles in your own way, bar students can tend to take some less-than-ideal courses of action when it comes to tackling this exam.
If you’re deciding how you will study for the bar, or if you’re already studying but wondering if you’re doing it right, here are some tips for how to tell whether your practices are “In” or “Out.” If your study habits or lifestyle choices are “so last season,” consider making some changes now to put yourself in the best position possible to succeed!
|What’s Out||What’s In|
|Watching your bar review course’s substantive law videos for hours on end and passively filling in worksheets||Actively drilling the MBE questions you miss and reviewing that law|
|Using the “awesome” outlines handed down from a friend||Using Lean Sheets and making your own outlines|
|Spending all day in the library “studying” with your study group (but mostly just wasting time)||Tracking your time, working in the time and place you find most efficient, and focusing on you|
|Studying the subjects you’re already good at because you feel like you need a “confidence boost”||Prioritizing the scariest subjects first so you can be sure to give them adequate attention|
|Taking the “one-size-fits-all” exam review course all your friends are taking without asking yourself why||Researching your options, asking yourself how you learn best (auditory, visual, kinesthetic), and considering your own personal and financial situation|
|Practicing one or two practice essays and then just “issue spotting” the rest||Issue spotting, outlining and actually writing out many, many full essays based on real past exams|
|Barricading yourself in your room or the library for twelve hours a day including weekends||Taking periodic, scheduled breaks so you can come back to the books stronger and more refreshed|
|Putting too much stock in the 75 you got on the essay you turned in to your bar review course||Getting a lot of consistent, detailed feedback and critiques from someone who is reading every word of your answer and giving you concrete tips for how to improve|
|Writing out one or two PTs and then foregoing PT practice altogether since “the PT is closed book anyway”||Doing as many full, real, timed PTs as you can and working on honing your PT planning and writing process and fitting it within the exam time constraints|
|Burning the midnight oil and waking up dog tired every day||Getting a full eight hours of restorative sleep each night and taking breaks during the day|
|Zoning out at the end of the night with a number of drinks while binge watching Netflix for a few hours||Listening to some music that makes you happy while taking a walk, or watching one or two shows that make you laugh; Winding down in a way that doesn’t turn your brain to mush|
|Wasting your time dealing with high-maintenance, emotionally draining friends, co-workers, parents or significant others||Setting firm guidelines for what you will allow yourself to spend your valuable time on. Insulating yourself from any obligations, people or negative thoughts that stress you out or make it harder to study. Keeping a positive mindset|
|Getting hyped up on caffeine, drugs or junk food so you can keep your energy up||Eating healthy food, drinking water and keeping up an exercise routine (even if it’s just taking a walk every day)|
|Trying to manage crushing depression, debilitating anxiety, or a physical or mental disability on your own||Taking a hard look at your situation and knowing when you might need to reach out to a professional for help or look into exam accommodations|
|Not asking your boss for time off and/or failing to plan reliable childcare in advance for the study months||At least inquiring into your job’s policies about leaves of absence or reduced hours and/or figuring out some help with the kids now to free up some of your time later|
|Not heeding the warning signs that you might need some extra help||Reaching out and getting help or advice if you fall into any of these “red flag” categories|
|Trying to teach yourself how to come back from a bar exam fail, or relying on the same tactics that didn’t work for you the first time||Taking some time to assess what went wrong for you and coming up with a game plan to attack the exam from a different angle this time around|
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Warning Signs You May Need Extra Help As a First Time Bar Exam Taker
- What is the California Bar Exam Anyway?
- Are You Studying the Right Way for the Bar Exam?
- How to Get Twice the Amount of Time on Your Bar Exam Prep
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