You have to spend a lot of time preparing for the bar exam. It’s one of the most challenging exams you’ll ever take and determines whether or not you can begin a career in law. Unfortunately, finding time to prepare for the bar is easier said than done, especially if you have a full-time job.
The good news is that it’s not impossible. You’re going to have to make changes in your life, but they’re worth it to pass the exam. We’re going to take you through a handful of tips to help you prepare for the bar exam while working.
1. Use Active Studying
Working doesn’t leave you a lot of time for studying. With limited time, you need to study smart instead of hard. While you can read your notes thirty times a night, using active studying methods can improve your retention and memory of the law.
Active Studying Versus Passive Studying
Passive studying is what most students use. Some passive studying examples include re-reading notes, watching videos from previous lectures, or going back through the bar outline. While these methods work for some students, they’re less effective than active studying because you only remember a small percentage of what you read.
With time not on your side, active studying is your best option. Active studying forces you to get involved and challenge your mind. Some great active studying routines include re-writing your notes, creating flashcards, studying with peers, and being creative. Active studying can also be done in groups with your peers. Group studying sessions encourage peer learning through debates and group projects that keep you focused and engaged on the material.
Active studying is about being creative and proactive. You want to shy away from reading notes and watching lectures. Instead, come up with ideas that challenge your mind and keep you focused. We gave you a few options, but the beauty of active studying is that you can develop innovative methods on your own!
2. Study on the Go
Working full-time or part-time makes it challenging to sit down and study. While this means you have to manage your time wisely, there are many ways to squeeze in study sessions throughout your day. One of the best ways is to study on the go or during breaks at work.
If you have a long commute on public transportation, bring your laptop or mobile device with you. Use that commute to your advantage and get some studying in. Even if it’s only 30-40 minutes, that’s valuable time you can spend getting practice questions done or re-writing your notes. If you drive to the office, you can also carpool with a coworker so you can study during the car ride.
You can also study during your breaks at work. If you have an hour-long lunch or even a quick fifteen-minute break, you can spend time reviewing your notes or reading through flashcards. It might not seem like much, but a handful of hour-long sessions add up over time.
3. Speak With Your Boss
Speaking with your boss is a useful way to create a healthy situation for bar prep. They may be able to give you more time off, or maybe they can lighten your burden at work. This can help you focus more on the bar when you’re off the clock.
If you have a good relationship with your boss, ask for a one-on-one conversation with them. Go over what the bar requires and how vital passing is to you. If your boss is understanding, they might give you some leeway with a lighter burden or additional days off.
Still, this doesn’t work with every boss. Unfortunately, some companies don’t like the idea of losing an employee after they pass the bar exam. This can lead to you being fired or bullied in the workplace. For this reason, speaking with your boss should always be a judgment call.
4. Use Those Sick Days
Depending on where you work, you might have access to sick days and paid time off. Even if you’re not paid for your time off, we recommend taking some time off anyway. By clearing your mind of work, you can focus more on studying and clear your mind. We know that you’d rather save sick days and vacation time for when you need them, but the bar exam is worth spending days off on.
However, keep in mind that days off shouldn’t be reserved for studying or the bar exam. Giving yourself time off from work and studying can help you avoid burning out. Spend some time doing the things you love to take your mind off of work and the exam. When you get back to studying, you’ll feel refreshed and ready for the next round of all-nighters. Before taking extended periods off, as discussed above, we recommend speaking with your boss to make sure you’re on the same page.
5. Take Practice Exams
Practice exams are the best way to understand the questions on the bar exam. There are many ways you can take practice exams, and many sources have practice questions available online. This means you can take practice exams at home or on the go.
Still, in the interest of time, we recommend taking simulated practice exams. The benefits of mock exams are two-fold. Primarily, you won’t have much time to complete all of the questions, and a simulated practice exam can help you work on pacing yourself and determining which questions you can answer in time. Secondly, it will give you a clear idea of how the bar exam feels.
If you don’t have access to a simulated exam, you can create your own. The bar consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, and you have four hours to complete the exam. If you divide the number of questions by the amount of time you have, the result is one minute and forty-eight seconds per question. You can also do 33 questions per hour to achieve similar pacing. Not only does this create an authentic bar experience, but it also condenses your studying sessions.
6. Make a Schedule
Consistency is critical when it comes to bar prep. If you’re not finding time to sit down and study each week, you’ll fall behind. When you fall behind, it’s harder to retain information and leads to cramming. For this reason, we recommend creating a study schedule.
To make the best schedule, spend some time going over your prior obligations. Make a note of things you need to attend or spend time on, like work or family obligations. Once you have those marked on your calendar, schedule three days every week for bar prep. The day you choose doesn’t matter, but we recommend taking the weekend off to give your brain time to recover from the previous week.
If you’re working 40-50 hours every week, you should also start preparing for the bar sooner rather than later. While most students begin bar prep one month before the exam, with full-time hours, you’re better off starting two months before the exam. This will give you more time for error and more freedom on your schedule.
7. Pace Yourself
Preparing for the bar while working is all about pacing yourself; avoiding burnout is even more challenging if you’re working while studying. To prevent burnout, we have two methods that maximize your time and reduce burnout.
The 90/20 Rule
The 90/20 rule is an evidence-based study routine that gives your brain time to recover during studying sessions. Your brain runs on glucose, which is burned as fuel to keep you focused. Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t have an unlimited source of energy. Eventually, you’ll run out of steam, and this is when your attention span decreases and you become less efficient.
The 90/20 rule works by giving your brain time to relax and replenish energy stores. Set a time for 60-90 minutes, and when it goes off, take a break for about 20 minutes. Have a snack, watch a TV show, or even take a catnap. Then, get back to work. Studying in these increments will help you study longer and be more effective during those sessions.
The Pomodoro Technique
If you want to try something more interactive, you can try the Pomodoro Technique. This method of studying is similar to the 90/20 but uses 25-minute increments called pomodoros. The technique is simple and uses breaks to give your brain time to recover. The Pomodoro Technique works like this:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Study for the bar.
- Take a break when the timer goes off and put a checkmark on your paper.
- If you have less than four markings, take a 5-minute break.
- After four pomodoros, take a 20-minute break and reset your checkmark count to zero.
Both studying methods work similarly and achieve the same goal. We recommend giving both methods a try before determining which one works for you. This way, you can study for the bar longer without feeling burnt out.
8. A Little Help From Your Friends
Preparing for the bar alone is a nightmare, especially if you’re the only one studying. Having friends and family can help, but sometimes they can distract you from studying. For this reason, we recommend speaking with your friends and family about bar prep.
Make sure they know that you’re preparing for the bar exam and have to study often. If you can limit your interactions to one or two days per week, you’ll have more time for studying. Plus, you should let your friends and family know sooner rather than later to prevent them from feeling excluded from your life. However, while you have to make sacrifices when preparing for the bar, remember that maintaining a healthy balance in your life is equally as crucial for the exam.
For instance, you can also turn to your friends and family for support. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the people that know you the best can help talk you down. Speaking with friends and family about the stress of the exam can make you feel better and boost your confidence. Plus, going out with your friends can relieve stress and give you a break. Manage your time wisely and make sure everyone knows it will be a tough stretch for you.
9. Work With a Tutor
If you’re struggling to study on your own, working with a tutor is a great way to maximize your time. Furthermore, working with a tutor gives you an accountability partner. Plus, you’ll have to set time aside every week to work with a tutor, which creates consistency. You also don’t have to commit to lengthy bar prep courses if you work with a bar tutor.
There are many options when it comes to bar tutors. Some tutors are available online, and others help you in-person. When it comes to preparing for the bar while working, online tutors are the best option. This is because online tutors have better availability, more flexible schedules, and more budget-friendly pricing. There are also many places to find online tutors. There are excellent resources like BarMax and Wyzant you can use to find the best fit.
What makes tutors helpful is their ability to connect with you and give you unique perspectives for the bar. Tutors can also help you in areas you struggle with and even hold you accountable when you need it. If you’re looking to improve the odds of passing, working with someone qualified to help is one of your best options.
10. Take Care of Yourself
We know that balancing work and studying is challenging. But while it’s hard to find time to study, you can’t forget about yourself. You have to spend time off from work and the bar to take care of your body.
First and foremost, make sure you get enough sleep. All-nighters might seem like a good idea, but they’re terrible for your body. When you’re tired, you can’t retain information well, so they do more harm than good. Everyone is different but try to get between six to eight hours of sleep every night. This way, you have enough energy to work and prepare for the bar.
Besides sleeping, make sure you give yourself enough breaks and take time off from work and studying. This will give your brain time to refresh and focus on something other than the bar. It’s tempting to spend every day preparing for the exam, but taking a night off to relax can leave you feeling refreshed.
Preparing for the bar while working is not simple. You’re going to be juggling your job, your social life, and bar prep. Making this all work can seem impossible, but there is no need to feel overwhelmed. Implementing these tips will help you manage your time, life, and bar prep without feeling burnt out.