Advice for First-Time Bar Exam Takers—8 Essential Tips!
We help hundreds of first-time bar exam takers pass the bar exam every administration. Some take our full courses. Others use one of our courses, seminars, or private tutoring options in conjunction with a commercial course. Here, we give you 8 tips that are essential to know if you are a first-time bar exam taker.
Advice for First-Time Bar Exam Takers—8 Essential Tips!
1. Work on memorization.
Many commercial courses do not emphasize memorization. One of the biggest mistakes we see first-time bar exam takers make is that they go right from lecture to practicing problems. Instead, you should set aside time each day to memorize your bar exam outlines. We have some tips on how to memorize your bar exam outlines here.
While this may seem like a simple tip, it is one of our best pieces of advice for first-time bar exam takers. It is often overlooked and many students spend a lot of their time inefficiently because they have not yet memorized their bar exam outlines.
2. Speed up your lectures if you are not an auditory learner.
Most students watch lectures on a video as part of their bar review course. And many watch these lectures from home. Most commercial courses have hours upon hours of lectures to listen to. This is fine if you are an auditory learner and if the fill-in-the-blanks style works well for you. But the majority of law students are visual learners and do not find the lecture style helpful. If you fall into this category, watch the lectures on 1.5 or 2x the speed. This way, you can spend more of your time studying in a way that is productive for you.
3. Memorize one outline per subject.
Some courses give outlines, mini outlines, lecture handouts, etc. and students try to memorize three or five outlines per subject. For example, they will review the Real Property mini-outline. Then the 200-page “lengthy” Real Property outline. Then they’ll go lecture and review their Real Property lecture handout. Or they try to combine all three of these into one outline. That is simply not efficient. One of our biggest pieces of advice for first-time bar exam takers is to use one outline per subject. Stop cross-referencing four different outlines. You will drive yourself crazy.
4. Use released MBE questions.
Many students do not know that there are real MBE questions available. They also do not know that most commercial courses do not provide these real questions. (Hint: If your course does not regularly brag about providing real MBE questions, that means they probably don’t provide them! ;))
A great piece of advice for first-time bar exam takers is to make sure you get your hands on some released questions and you will be much more prepared for the style of the MBE than if you simply use questions made up by a bar review company.
5. Tweak your schedule to you.
Many bar review courses have a general schedule to follow. And it is generally a good idea to stay on track so you don’t fall behind and get overwhelmed. However, remember that you know yourself much better than a bar review course. So if you need to spend more time on Evidence and less time on Torts, add it into your schedule! Or if you know you struggle with essays, assign yourself more essays than the course gives you.
Don’t be afraid to modify something that doesn’t look like it’s going to work. You want to make sure you are doing what is best for you.
6. Don’t rewrite outlines or re-type them verbatim.
While you need to actively review your outlines (see tip #1), simply re-writing or re-typing outlines is not enough. That is a way to feel productive without actually being productive. (It is productive to reorganize outlines and re-write them if you are quizzing yourself on them, but simply retyping an outline verbatim is not a good way to use your time!)
We see a lot of first-time bar exam takers fall into this “rewriting” habit. And it is one you want to avoid!
7. Don’t try to condense all of your outlines into flashcards.
Flashcards have a time and place, but you should not transcribe everything into a flashcard. (See this bar exam flashcards story here if you want to learn more about that!)
Many first time takers have good intentions of actively reviewing flashcards, but they spend so long making them and find there is little time to actually review! So avoid this from the outset! If you are going to make flashcards, make them for specific topics you struggle with. Don’t make a flashcard for everything.
8. Remember your goal is to pass the bar exam — not complete a certain percentage of your course.
Many students call us and talk about how close they are to completing their commercial course. Or they start spending time on activities that don’t really help them just because they want to see their course completion meter go up.
And it is in some ways very good to see how much of a course you completed because it can keep you accountable. (And check with your course to see if they make you complete a certain percentage to ask for a free course should you fail — different courses have different restrictions.)
However, if you find yourself going through the motions for the sake of checking something off your to-do list, take a break and remind yourself of your ultimate goal: To pass the bar exam. Not to complete a commercial course. Keeping this in mind should help you make sure your time is spent as efficiently as possible.
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