The experienced bar exam tutors at Bar Exam Toolbox have seen far too many students make these common and preventable missteps during bar prep season. Here are the top ten bar study mistakes and how you can set yourself up for success by avoiding them altogether!
1. Taking a “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach to Bar Prep
Although the major bar prep providers would have you think otherwise, there is no one-sized-fits-all approach to bar prep. You need to find a bar provider and support system that suit your learning style and needs. There are many alternatives to BarBri. If you struggled with exams during law school or have special academic needs, you may need to work with a bar tutor who can provide you one-on-one support and feedback.
2. Putting off Timed Practice
Practicing essays, the MBE, and the performance test under timed conditions is critical to achieving a passing score on the bar exam. If you put off practice until too late in the bar season, you won’t have enough familiarity with the way the bar exam works. You’ll also miss out on valuable opportunities to identify areas for improvement. Set up a practice plan that covers all subjects tested and be sure to stick to it. You’ll thank yourself on exam day.
3. Reviewing the Subjects you Know Best
During bar prep, it can be tempting to keep reviewing the subjects you know best over and over again. Sailing through an essay that tests an area of the law you have down cold or doing another set of MBE questions in one of your strongest topics might feel great in the moment, but you’re probably wasting your time. In order to pass, you need to confront your weaker subjects. Leave yourself plenty of time to work through subjects that you aren’t familiar with or struggle to understand.
4. Downplaying the Performance Test
Too often, students downplay the importance of the performance test (or “PT”). They’re under the mistaken impression that because the performance test is a closed-universe, open-book exercise that their time is better spent on the other sections of the bar exam. Save yourself from being caught off-guard on exam day and spend ample time preparing for the PT and developing strategies for handling the different types of writing exercises tested.
5. Burning out too Early
Preparing for the bar exam is a marathon, not a sprint. If you burn yourself out too early in the season, you’ll be exhausted when it’s time to actually sit for the most important exam of your career. Consider working with an experienced bar exam tutor to help set a study schedule that will allow you to master the legal concepts tested while maintaining your sanity and health.
6. Missing Important Deadlines
Many students get so caught up with bar prep that they miss important deadlines related to the bar exam. Before you dive into studying, make sure that you know when you need to register and pay for the exam, complete your moral character application, register your laptop if you plan to use it on exam day, and apply for testing accommodations if you’ll need them. Set up calendar notifications for these key dates so that you won’t forget them. In many states, there is little or no leeway for missing these types of deadlines.
7. Relying too Heavily on Essay Predictions
There are a handful of bloggers and testing services that make predictions about which subjects will be tested in essays on exam day. If you rely too heavily on these predictions, you might be setting yourself up for some very unpleasant surprises on the exam. These predictions aren’t always accurate. You need to be prepare yourself to be tested in every subject area — there’s always at least one essay that surprises everyone!
8. Making Major Life Decisions during Bar Prep
There’s no getting around it: studying for the bar exam is a difficult and stressful process that requires your full attention. If you’re facing a big life decision — such as whether to move, begin or end a serious romantic relationship, buy or sell a house, make a major financial decision, or start a family — think about if this can wait until after you’ve taken the bar exam. You’ll be better equipped to make these types of big choices once the bar exam is behind you.
9. Going down the Forum Rabbit Hole
There are a number of Internet forums and groups on social media where stressed-out recent law school grads go to commiserate and speculate about the bar exam. While it’s okay to check in and contribute to these types of forums every once in a while, allowing them to become a distraction is a mistake. These types of forums can become toxic if you allow the participants to get in your head. Your time is much better spent studying and practicing for the exam.
10. Ignoring your Mental and Physical Health
If you don’t take care of your physical and mental health during bar season, you’ll be jeopardizing your ability to sit for and succeed on the exam. Your bar study schedule needs to afford you time to sleep well, eat healthy food, and exercise. Otherwise, you may find yourself run down, sick, and mentally exhausted come exam day.
Don’t allow yourself to fall into these common bar prep traps. By putting a plan in place to avoid making these common mistakes, you’ll be putting yourself in a position to pass the bar exam and begin your legal career.