To achieve bar exam success, it is essential to come up with a strategy that will work for you. This strategy may include focusing on the most highly tested subjects. Taking this approach helps you to prioritize information that is likely to appear on the exam. For example, it has been demonstrated time and time again that Evidence law and hearsay are highly tested. This knowledge would make you want to ensure you have hearsay down and feel confident with hearsay before test day.
Another popular method of prioritizing your studies is to utilize bar exam predictions to guide your studies. For example, you may find predictions regarding which topics are likely to be tested on the MBE, MEE, and MPT portions of the exam. Such predictions may be based on the testing frequency of previous exams. It is important to note that such predictions are not endorsed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) so they do not guarantee the content you will see on test day. You may be tempted to solely focus on these predicted subjects as the days fly by and the exam gets closer.
Should you use bar exam predictions to guide your studies? Distinguish between what is helpful guidance and information that does not guarantee what the NCBE decides to test you on. This is a general recommendation to help you drill down the highly tested areas. However, you need to identify where to specifically focus your efforts and the best ways to utilize your time.
Instead of solely relying on predictions and information available as a resource, be sure to place your focus on aspects that will make all the difference no matter what curveball and topic you may encounter.
Some of these things which you can control include:
1. Taking an Efficient and Tailored Approach to Your Studies
Determine which subjects need more attention and help than others. This determination is an individual-level and test-taker-specific consideration that requires you to assess your own strengths and weaknesses. How do you determine which topics you need to focus on?
You can start by considering:
- Did you find certain bar exam subjects very difficult?
- Are there courses you struggled with in law school and are dreading studying for the bar exam?
- If you answered yes to these questions, then consider focusing on those subjects as it appears they may need extra attention and some easing into so that you can start fresh and have a better experience.
- Once you dive into these topics and if you are still struggling to get the material down, consider supplemental resources that may give you the extra support you need to master the information.
2. Memorizing Black Letter Law
Getting to the point where you have immediate recall of the rules and elements across various subjects certainly requires you to take an approach that will work for you. Specifically, you need a learning and memorization technique that fits your learning style.
- Visual: Seeing the material in a format that helps you memorize and understand it best such as creating flowcharts.
- Auditory: You best learn information when you can listen or hear it or speak it such as recording your notes to yourself out loud, then playing it back.
- Kinesthetic: You learn best by interacting with the material such as carrying out a physical activity like creating and using flashcards.
It is also helpful to consider your studying style. While it may be recommended and ideal to take practice exams under the same conditions as on test day, your daily studying may require some variation according to your style of studying. For example, in terms of background sound, do you need soft classical music to keep you going, complete quiet or white noise? If you need help with time management, perhaps a method that structures your studies such as the Pomodoro method may be a good fit for you. Additionally, you may find it easier for now to focus mainly in the morning, mid-day or evening—and none of these are wrong but should be tailored to when you can focus best.
3. Practicing, Reviewing and Learning
It is key to focus on learning from incorrect answers. Getting questions wrong is a bummer, but it certainly helps to reframe failures into opportunities to make improvements on weaknesses or misunderstandings prior to the big test.
Some ideas for learning from your mistakes:
- Read the explanation and re-write it if that is helpful.
- Compare the correct answer to your outline to identify any gaps and fill in any missing blanks.
- Add a note-to-self on how to improve next time based on your review.
- Perhaps you need a mnemonic or acronym or to analyze an additional step or forgot an element.
- Add this hypothetical onto your outline to solidify the concept.
- Read the NCBE grading rubric and the sample answer to get a strong sense of what the bar examiner graders are truly looking for in a passing answer.
It is important to treat predictions as another tool among your bar exam resources but not as the sole pathway to succeeding on the exam. Rather than rely on insights of what may be tested, there are aspects, such as those listed above, that put you in control of your performance so that you are prepared for any hurdle that comes your way on the exam.