During the first few weeks of bar season I usually have a few stragglers who wait until the last minute to start studying. Not everyone needs a full eight or ten week program to study for the bar exam, particularly if they’ve already passed one exam before. But even if you’re a bar exam ace, there’s no reason to wait until the last possible moment to study. (Note: some students may need more than eight or ten weeks.) Here are some reasons to start sooner rather than later:
The Bar Exam Takes Practice
The first reason that you should start studying as soon as possible is that the bar exam takes practice. Everyone makes mistakes and has some amount of trouble following the bar exam’s ridged writing format. The only way to refine your writing technique is to give yourself time to make those mistakes and to learn from them. If you start at the last minute, then you are only giving yourself time to make mistakes. Who wants to spend a few weeks making the same mistakes over and over and then make those mistakes once more on the bar exam? In order to improve your writing, you need to dedicate the time to reviewing your essays with model answers, understanding the legal and organizational aspects with which you struggled, and editing those essays as much as you can from memory to make them look like the model. You are absolutely guaranteed to make the same mistakes more than once, but if you allow yourself time to follow this review strategy, then you’ll only have a small chance of making those mistakes on the exam.
Bar Review Is Stressful Enough
Even if you’re a bar exam ace and don’t need a lot of time to review your answers to refine your writing strategy (of course, this begs the question: why are you reviewing for the bar at all?), then you’d still benefit from starting early. Studying for the bar is really stressful because the bar exam is a really unnatural exercise: how often do you sit in a room for two days writing answers to questions you haven’t been able to prepare in advance, only to be scrutinized by graders who use a secret rubric that nobody fully understands? (For some perspective, check out The Examination.)
In a lot of ways, the bar exam is even tougher than the typical jury trial: at least you can prepare for a jury trial by learning your case inside and out. Not only does the bar exam not give you the facts in advance, but you must grapple with several essays, performance tests, and two hundred multiple choice questions, each with its own fact pattern. Take it from me: I’ve taken two exams, and while the second exam was a walk in the park compared to the first, I still experienced my fair share of sleepless nights and freak outs when studying for it. Do yourself a favor and start on time.
What if Something Goes Wrong During Your Study?
We’ve all heard the stories: breakups on the eve of the test, deaths in the family, not-to-be-missed opportunities at work, etc. Although disaster rarely strikes during a typical study period, you should be ready in case something like this occurs. What happens more frequently are lesser events that distract from studying. You may create an ambitious study schedule and manage to keep up with it for several weeks, and then something happens that throws you off a little. This is perfectly normal. It’s impossible to completely control what happens during a two-month period in your life, so it’s inevitable that you’ll be at least somewhat distracted during this time. This is why it’s important to leave time for the unpredictable.
Control the Bar Before It Controls You
Who do you want to be in charge of your life? You or the bar exam? I often see students spend several weeks worrying about the bar exam and procrastinating when they could be studying. By the time they start studying, they’re already exhausted from stress. The bar exam impacts every student’s life: productivity at work suffers, significant others have to take care of a few extra chores around the house, and it’s hard to completely relax with a deadline looming on the horizon. Nevertheless, there’s no reason that the bar exam should control you. Seize the exam by the horns and create a study schedule that you can stick to. Learn and practice the material now, so you can get on with the rest of your life. I promise you that one day you’ll only have faint memories of those couple months that you spent studying for bar exam.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Are You Wasting Time Studying for the Bar Exam
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
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