Bar Exam Time Management Tips: 20 Ways to Save Time! - JD Advising
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bar exam time management tips, save time studying for the bar exam

Bar Exam Time Management Tips
20 Ways to Save Time Studying for the Bar Exam

One of the most common inquiries we get is about time management. How do you learn everything in such a short period of time? How do you watch all your bar review lectures, answer all the assigned questions, and still have time to eat, sleep, exercise, and maybe even take a break once in a while? Here, we discuss bar exam time management tips. We give 20 time-tested tried and true ways to save time studying for the bar exam. We break this down in the area of lectures, memorization, multiple-choice questions, essays, and general tips.

Bar Exam Time Management Tips


1. If you feel comfortable with a subject, consider watching your bar review lecture at 1.5x or 2x the speed.

Many students complain that they spend so much time in lecture that they struggle to complete their other tasks – like memorization and completing practice problems. Further, not only is lecture very time-consuming but some students get very little out of lecture. You will not get as much out of listening to a bar review lecture if:

  • you are primarily a visual (rather than auditory) learner
  • you already know the subject well (see the next tip)
  • you find yourself racing to fill in blanks during lecture rather than taking in what the lecturer is saying.

You will get more out of lecture if:

  • you are primarily an auditory learner
  • you don’t know the subject area well (perhaps you didn’t take the class in law school)
  • the lecturer is engaging

So, to save time, especially if you feel comfortable with a subject, speed up the lecture and watch it at 1.5x or 2x the speed. If you do not know the subject as well, then try watching it at 1x or 1.25x the speed. This is one of our bar exam time management tips that can save you up to 1.5 hours a day that you have lecture!

2. Consider skipping lectures if you feel very comfortable with a subject.

If you know a subject really well, you may also want to consider skipping a lecture that your bar review course offers. Many students feel uncomfortable about the prospect of skipping anything! But, keep this one very important point in mind: Your goal is NOT to complete your bar review course. Your goal is to pass the bar exam. Your commercial bar review course is not going to be 100% tailored to you. But you can tailor your own study schedule to yourself. Don’t give undue weight to the percent of your commercial course you completed. If you got an A+ in Evidence, and you just took it your last semester of law school, it honestly might not be worth watching six hours of lecture on the subject.

Another way to gauge whether you should skip a lecture is to review the outline then (once you have it memorized), try answering multiple-choice and essay questions on the subject. If you are doing well, great! If you struggle with some of the concepts, consider going back to the lecture.

pass the bar exam, commercial bar review courseMemorization: 

3. Memorize your outlines within 24 hours of listening to a lecture. 

You will remember much more if you review an outline within 24 hours of listening to the lecture on the outline. We find it effective to listen to lecture, take a break, and review the outline the same day and then once quickly the day after. Sleep does wonders for your brain so if you can review your outline before and after a good night of sleep, you will remember significantly more than if you put off reviewing until the end of the week, the month, or longer. This tip alone can save you a lot of time!

4. Figure out your learning style.

If you tend to be a visual learner, listening to lectures all day, or joining a study group, may not be as effective as a learning style for you. But, re-writing color-coded outlines and making charts might be very effective. Figuring out your learning style can save a lot of time and frustration when you study for the bar exam. It can also help you memorize more effectively. Not sure what your learning style is? Read this article on how to figure it out!

5. Focus on the highly tested subjects and prioritize the highly tested issues within each subject.

This is not a tip telling you to ignore certain subjects while prepping for the bar. You shouldn’t ignore any testable subject or topic but you should prioritize the highly tested issues.

Remember: you do not have to know everything about all subjects tested on the bar exam to pass the bar exam!  What do you need to know? You need to know the law that will be tested! If you are wondering what the highly tested topics are, check out the following resources:

6. Stay away from time-consuming memorization techniques.

For example, do not rewrite your outline or retype it word for word in an effort to memorize. This can be passive and wastes time. Remember the key part of active review is that it is active, and aiding in your memorization. Instead of rewriting or typing your outline word for word, instead try rewriting the rules over and over again until you can write it down without looking at your outline. This way you aren’t trying to create a new work product, but rather you are rewriting the rules to memorize.

Further, do not try to make flashcards for every single rule. There are just too many! You can make flashcards for certain topics but it is not worth it to make flashcards for every single rule of law you have to know. You will spend all of your time making flashcards! Check out this bar exam flashcards story if you are tempted to make flashcards for every area of law!

7. Stick to one outline per subject.

This is one of the bar exam time management tips that most students say this wish they would have known ahead of time!Some courses will give you multiple sets of outlines — a mini-outline, a long outline, a lecture handout. Trying to learn three different outlines for, say, Real Property, is overwhelming. Especially when one of those outlines could be very lengthy (i.e. 200 pages)! Instead, stick to one outline! Typically, the lecture handout will be long enough — but not too lengthy — to serve as the main outline you focus on. Focusing on one outline will help you memorize more effectively and will also save you a lot of stress and anxiety.

bar exam time management tips for multiple-choiceMultiple-Choice:

8. Focus on the highly tested areas of law.

We don’t recommend that you skip or ignore anything, but you should spend more time on the areas of each subject that are highly tested when you review and prep for the essay portion of the exam. Check out our frequency chart on highly tested MBE topics here.

9. Practice timed and untimed questions.

There is a lot of value in untimed practice. Be sure that each week you are spending some time doing questions slowly and methodically. You can get a lot out of each question when you do this. While it may seem counterintuitive, slowing down and dissecting each question will train your brain to use the proper technique and will help you improve your score faster. Further, if you use the legal pad method we recommend (read more here), you can focus on the areas of law that you struggle with. Many students attribute significant improvement in their MBE scores to this method!

(However, since the real exam is timed, be sure you are factoring in timed exams as well.)

10. Review those areas of law that are harder for you.

When you are reviewing previous subjects, be sure to spend more time on those areas of law that are harder for you. You shouldn’t treat all subjects and/or areas of law equally if you are struggling with something that is highly tested. It is also helpful to review these areas of law at your best time of day (for example, if you are a morning person, then review them in the morning!).

11. Use real questions.

There is a lot to do during bar prep, so when you practice you should get the most out of your practice. To do so, you should make sure that you are using real MBE questions. You do not have to exclusively use real questions—so if your bar review course provides invented questions, that is okay. But the best source of practice is real MBE questions. So, make sure to use real questions at some point during your preparation. You can learn more about where to find real MBE questions here.

bar exam time management tips essaysEssays:

12. Focus on the highly tested areas of law.

Just like you should focus on highly tested areas of law when you memorize your MBE outlines, you should also focus on the highly tested areas of law when you memorize your essay outlines.

We don’t recommend that you skip or ignore anything, but you should spend more time on the areas of each subject that are highly tested when you review and prep for the essay portion of the exam. As noted above, if you are wondering what the highly tested topics are, check out the following resources:

13. To get through more practice essays in a shorter time period, bullet point essays on a regular basis.

We recommend practicing essays in a timed setting and writing out full answers to these essay questions.  But if you are looking to get through more essays faster (particularly after you have spent some time writing answers), bullet point them instead of writing full essay answers! (Note: do not just read the question and answer—this is cutting too much out of the process!)

14. To get through more essays (and to help with timing), try answering essay questions in less than 30 minutes (or whatever time you have allocated).

For example, allocate 25 minutes to each essay question. This will help you with time management and will also improve your timing on exam day!

15. Be smart about which essays you complete.

For example, Torts tends to test negligence, proximate cause, vicarious liability, strict products liability, and battery.  So, if your study plan includes completing five torts essays, try to cover each of the topics mentioned above rather than, say, five essays on negligence. This adds variety to your study routine and saves time by helping you study efficiently. You can complete less essays and still get exposed to ways in which multiple topics are tested.  If you do complete several essays that test the same topic, consider bullet-pointing them rather than writing full answers.

bar exam productivity tips, bar exam time management tipsGeneral Tips:

16. Identify and eliminate distractions.

It is hard to study effectively if you are constantly distracted. You may find you are distracted if you work from home. Or you may find technology distracting. Figure out how to eliminate distractions ahead of time (e.g. turn your phone on silent or turn off your notifications while studying). This is one of the best bar exam time management tips for those who find themselves easily distracted.

17. Study when you study best.

Do your hardest work at your best time. For example, if it is easier for you to concentrate in the morning, and you find memorization to be difficult, focus on memorizing in the morning (rather than the evening, when you may find it more difficult to be focused!). You can get a lot done quickly if you use this technique to your advantage.

18. Spend some time at the end of each week to reflect upon what worked and didn’t work for you that week.

Then, adjust your schedule accordingly so that you don’t continue to do things that aren’t getting you closer to your goal of passing the bar. Even spending five minutes reflecting on what worked and what didn’t can save you a lot of time the next week. No need to “go through the motions” if something is not working for you!

19. Get your study plan together ahead of time.

Spend some time each week outlining your plan of action for the next week. For instance, be sure you know where you are going to study—including which essay subjects you want to review and how many essay questions you want to practice—and have a plan to prepare for what you need to bring as well as things like snacks and meals. Walking into the week unprepared will result in wasted time that you could’ve spent studying!

20. Invest in what you need.

Time is your most valuable asset during bar prep!

So, if you need to take time off work or if a flexible work schedule would benefit you, please consider discussing it with your boss. If you work at a firm, your firm probably is invested in you passing so will be incentivized to take your requests seriously!

If you have supportive family members or friends, consider asking them if they can help with any other obligations you may have (cooking, cleaning, or just giving you a break if you cannot go to every family event!).

Lastly, if you need bar exam private tutoring, a supplement (like MBE one-sheets or MEE one-sheets), or real MBE questions, pay for it now rather than regretting it later. You are investing into your future. So if any of these things will help you pass the bar, seriously consider the investment. It will ultimately save you a lot of money if you do not have to retake the bar exam (and pay retaker application fees, travel/hotel fees, additional bar prep fees, not to mention taking time off work, etc.).

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