The bar exam is the culmination of everything you worked hard for in law school. When you sit down to take the exam, your years of hard work are funneled into one moment. The results of the exam can have life-changing effects, and when you pass, your career in law can begin.
While passing is the goal, achieving a passing score on the bar exam is easier said than done. Luckily, it all comes down to test preparation; if you have a solid studying routine, your chances of passing the exam improve dramatically. So, we’re going to take you through a handful of things to remember during bar preparation.
Consistency Is Key
We’ll start with consistency. Every good studying routine needs a foundation. Without that, everything else you do will come crumbling down on test day. The good news is that consistency is easy to establish; you just have to maintain it.
Creating a study routine is the first thing you need to do. This all comes down to consistency, which is easy to establish if you keep a few things in mind. First and foremost, you need to schedule time each week to sit down and study for the exam.
We recommend studying for three days every week. This gives you time to focus on different sections each time you study, and you won’t be overwhelmed. Furthermore, keeping it to three days every week will prevent you from getting burnt out. Burnout leads to passive studying, which isn’t practical for the bar exam.
Once you determine the days that work for you, it’s time to create well-rounded studying sessions. The goal is to study for about three hours each day. We recommend limiting it to three hours because you’ll have enough time for short breaks and won’t feel drained by the end of each session.
Establishing a good foundation for consistency is only half of the battle; staying consistent is also challenging, especially when it comes to bar preparation. This is because there are many different components to study, and they can leave you feeling exhausted by each session’s end.
Luckily, there is a simple method to help you maintain consistency: utilizing an accountability partner. This can be anyone, even someone that’s not studying for the bar. An accountability partner will ensure you study on your designated days and complete the proper length for each session. It’s hard preparing for the bar alone, so having someone give you additional motivation is helpful.
Find a Good Bar Review Course or Tutor
Preparing for the bar is challenging on your own, especially if you don’t know where to start. If you’ve struggled to pass the bar exam in the past, or it’s your first time, enrolling in a test prep course or working with a tutor is one of the best ways to improve your odds of passing.
Bar Prep Courses
There are many bar prep courses to choose from. Some are expensive, and others are budget-friendly; depending on your needs, both options are viable. Thanks to the internet’s growth, there are many online bar prep courses you can choose from. Whatever your budget, learning style, or needs are, enrolling in a class from companies like Kaplan, TestMasters, TestMaxPrep, and Manhattan Review is a great idea.
Test prep courses also give you access to practice exams and additional materials. Furthermore, preparing for the bar in a classroom-style setting, either online or in-person, is beneficial for people that thrive in that type of environment.
Test prep courses are expensive and not for everyone. For this reason, bar tutors provide a more budget-friendly alternative. Bar tutors are great because they let you work with someone who was in your shoes before. They can teach you additional tips and tricks for the exam and can help you improve areas where you struggle. You can also find bar tutors online or in-person, so it depends on your preferences.
If you’re looking to pass the bar, working with a tutor or test prep company is one of the best ways to do it. These people have been in your shoes and want to see you succeed. Plus, you can gain access to additional materials that can boost your score.
Take Practice Exams
When it comes to the bar exam, practice makes perfect. Without preparation, you won’t know what to expect on the exam. This leads to increased anxiety and doesn’t improve your chances of passing.
We’re going to take you through two methods of taking practice exams for the bar.
Study Practice Questions
First and foremost, you want to begin with practice questions. There are many ways to find bar questions, but we recommend using questions that have been used for previous bar exams. These questions will give you the best insight and prepare you for similar questions you’ll find on the exam.
Dedicate a portion of your studying session to answering practice questions; the more questions you answer, the more prepared you’ll be. Also, you’ll want to make sure you spend a lot of time on each question. Don’t rush through one just to get to the next; you’ll want to make sure you fully understand a question before moving on.
Furthermore, you should take notes on questions you don’t know the answer to. You can spend more time on these questions or bring them up to a tutor or during a test prep class to better understand the questions.
Take Simulated Exams
The bar exam is challenging for a few reasons. While the questions are complicated and require a deep understanding of law topics, time is not on your side. You only have a few hours to answer two hundred questions. For this reason, you need to answer questions promptly and move on if you don’t know the answer.
The best way to get a feel for the exam is to take simulated practice exams. Simulated practice exams help you pace yourself, learn how to move on from questions you don’t know, and prepare you for what to expect during the real thing.
If you don’t have access to practice exams, don’t panic. With 200 questions, you have about one minute and forty-eight seconds for each multiple-choice question. This means that you have to answer about 33 questions each hour. Therefore, you can create your own simulated bar exam!
Pacing yourself is essential for bar prep. Without the right pacing, you’ll end up spinning your wheels and failing to string together productive studying sessions. Luckily, pacing is one of the simplest things to teach yourself for bar prep.
The 90/20 Rule
One of the best ways to pace yourself is with the 90/20 rule. The 90/20 rule is designed to keep your brain performing at an optimal rate. For this method to work, you study for 90 minutes and take a 20-minute break before continuing.
This method works because the average attention span is between 60-90 minutes for intense cognitive activities. By giving yourself 20 minutes to rest, you can retain more information and study without feeling mentally exhausted. With the 90/20 rule, we recommend using an alarm or timer to ensure you’re pacing yourself properly.
The Pomodoro Technique
Using the Pomodoro Technique is another way to pace yourself during bar prep. This method is similar to the 90/20 technique but breaks down sessions into twenty-five-minute increments called pomodoros.
Here are a few simple steps you can follow to get the best results with the Pomodoro Technique.
- Start by setting a timer for 25 minutes. The timer you use doesn’t matter, but we recommend using something other than a smartphone to minimize distractions.
- When a distraction pops into your head, stop working and write it down on a piece of paper or notepad. Then, return to your task.
- Once the timer reaches 25 minutes, give yourself a checkmark. This means that you’ve completed one increment. During this time, you also take a break and look over the distractions you’ve written down.
- Once you’ve completed four of these 25-minute pomodoros, take a 30-minute break. During the break, you’re free to do whatever you like, but we recommend looking over your distractions.
Focus on the Writing Section of the Bar Exam
Many students focus on the multiple-choice section of the exam and neglect the others. Sure, the multiple-choice section is essential, but most states require the MPT and MEE to achieve a passing score. Unfortunately, this means you’ll have to do some writing and short answer questions.
This sounds overwhelming, but it can work in your favor. For example, states like New York don’t have a minimum score for the MBE. This means that you can achieve a 266 by scoring a 140 on the MBE and a 126 on the writing section. So, if you’re struggling on the multiple-choice section of the exam, leaning on the writing section can help you pass the exam.
Preparing for big exams is hard, especially the bar. Still, it doesn’t have to be impossible. If you remember these preparation tips, you can improve your score and chance to pass the exam. Always go at your own pace, and don’t let the bar intimidate you. If you’ve made it this far, nothing is stopping you from achieving the law career you’re looking for!