With the end of the Spring semester suddenly upon us, many law school graduates are preparing for one more final exam -- the bar exam. While these students have spent the past couple years preparing for this very moment, many undoubtedly will experience lots of stress over the next several weeks.
With that in mind, what can a soon-to-be licensed attorney do to ease their nerves and increase their odds of passing the bar exam? We don't promise to have all the answers, but we asked some of our attorneys who have been there for their best bar prep tips.
Here's what they had to say…
- Treat bar prep like a job, especially for the month leading up to the bar exam (9am-5pm, but take breaks for lunch and afternoon workout) or alternatively study in the method/hours that work best for you.
- I would also suggest prepping for the multi-state and do a ton of practice questions and review of answers for the multiple choice questions. I always found it very easy to get the answer down to at least 2 choices and both may be correct one is going to be “more” correct.
- For the state sections the Indiana Bar Exam, I believe past questions are made publicly available. I would aggregate the past 5-6 years of questions to see what, if any, patterns of types of questions and topics get asked and make sure you can answer all of the previous years questions. It is likely these responses are going to be applicable in some manner to the questions you will get. It's also important to be able to at least identify the type of questions and applicable law. If you can do that you could get at least partial credit regardless if the application of the law is not correct. I found it beneficial to break down each legal area and the primary issues concerning each area in the past exam questions (i.e. Family law, trust and estate, admin, contract, etc.). This will provide a good perspective as to what will likely be asked and you can at least issue spot and identify the applicable law governing the issues.
- Since the state exam questions are free response/open ended it is important to put some focus on these questions because unlike the multi-state you can’t just hope to guess right. I got about two weeks out and had been doing a large amount of multi-state and quickly shifted my focus primarily to the state exam questions for this very purpose.
- For the MBE portion, practice as many multiple choice questions as you have time for (your bar review course should provide historical questions and other practice questions), and return to the same questions twice or even more if you can. Learning how the questions are asked and how answers might be phrased is very helpful, and this can also provide a basis for understanding the topics you may need to study further.
- Generally I’d recommend following the course your bar study sets out, but don’t forget to study based on your own learning type as well. If you like learning from lectures, spend your “extra” time re-watching them. If you learn better from reading, double down on reading outlines several times. Try everything at first, but don’t waste time on things you know aren’t working for you.
- Get good sleep the nights before the exam – don’t stay up cramming!
- There is no substitute for time spent preparing. You cannot shortcut the bar, or rest on your knowledge from law school. Treat it like a full-time job, but set boundaries after hours or on weekends to prevent burnout.
- Also, if you have always studied with flash cards, now is not the time to try the outline method used by most bar prep courses. After using the outline method for a few months, I realized it wasn’t working for me. About a month before the exam, I found myself rewriting all my outlines into flash card form. I should have just started with the study method I know works for me.
- Keep doing what got you here. If you’ve made it this far, it means your study habits work for you. Now isn’t the time to reinvent the wheel.
- Take things one day at a time. There’s going to be more information than you think you can handle but if you take on things in manageable parts, it’s going to be a lot easier to retain information and build on what you’ve studied so far.
- It’s a marathon not a sprint, but it's important to stay on track. Pick a bar prep course that works for you and take it seriously. I took Barbri and followed their personal study plan and found that the division of assignments to complete each week made the entire experience less daunting. Dividing the assignments and tasks up into weeks is a great way to track your progress and make sure that you will have time to cover, practice, and master the material by test day.
- Don’t be afraid to modify certain assignments if you learn or study differently. While it's important to follow the general framework of the bar prep course's study plan, don't be afraid to deviate from it if you know that a certain method of study may be more effective for you. For instance, I know that in order to memorize something, I need to write it out. So, instead of "reviewing" the prepared outline as was assigned in the study plan, I would take more time and make my own notes and write out my own flash cards. Bottom line, you have to study in a way that will be effective for you.
- Don't overthink it. You have taken three years' worth of exams, you are ready for it. This is a test like any other test, study and prepare like you would for an exam in law school and you will pass.
Have you taken the bar exam? If so, what would your advice be for studying? Leave a comment below or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.