Falling behind in Bar Prep. How do I Catch Up?
If you are falling behind in bar prep, you are not alone! A lot of students begin to feel overwhelmed and anxious at this point. You may wonder how to catch up. Here we give you some tips.
1. If you are behind in watching lectures, be judicious about how you spend your time.
If you spend 8 hours a day from now until the bar exam just watching lectures and filling in blanks, you probably will not pass. But you also don’t want to skip all of the lectures. Here is what we suggest you do if you are behind in watching lectures.
- If you feel very comfortable with a subject, skip the lecture. Buy a filled-in lecture handout booklet on amazon or eBay. Or use a different outline to review that subject. There is no reason to spend 9 hours filling in blanks in an Evidence handout if you got an “A” in it in law school and otherwise feel comfortable with it. Especially if you are falling behind in bar prep.
- If you feel semi-comfortable with a subject, watch the lecture on 1.5x or 2x the speed. This will save you time so you can complete the other steps (below).
- If you feel uncomfortable with a subject, watch the lecture — and you may have to do it on the “regular” speed.
You will also want to evaluate:
- How highly-tested the subject is. (The MBE subjects – Evidence, Real Property, Torts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Procedure, Contracts & Sales, and Civil Procedure – are more important than essay subjects as they tend to be double-tested in most states.)
- How much lecture helps you. Some students love lecture. This is about 10% of students. Many students find lecture to be unhelpful or minimally helpful. If you are in the latter category or if you find a particular lecturer to not be helpful, do not waste your time! See if there are other ways you can learn the subjects–e.g. by actively reviewing your outlines.
2. Focus on the highly-tested areas of law when you review.
You cannot learn everything. The good news is that you do not need to. This applies to whether you are falling behind in bar prep or not — but especially if you are behind!
Even if you are falling behind in bar prep, make sure you take time to actually learn the law. Here are some tips on how to memorize your bar exam outlines. If you are falling behind in bar prep, you want to focus primarily on memorizing the highly-tested MBE topics (rather than memorizing everything). See this chart for all of the highly-tested MBE topics. You can see by the chart that, for example, half of the Torts questions test negligence. Thus, if you have a half day dedicated to Torts, you want to learn negligence really well, rather than in a different topic like defamation.
Do the same with the essay portion. You do not have to learn everything equally and if you try, it is no wonder you are falling behind! If you are in a UBE or MEE jurisdiction, you can find the most highly-tested areas of law by purchasing our MEE one-sheets (the expensive way) or by bullet-pointing several past MEE’s (the free way). (If you are in Michigan, check out our How to Pass the Michigan Bar Exam book where we have one-sheets as well.)
3. Dedicate a set amount of time to practice both the MBE and essay and MPT questions.
If you are behind in MBE prep, don’t fall behind in your practice!
Remember that the bar exam tests:
- whether you know the law (this means you have to understand it — e.g., by going to lecture or reviewing an outline) and memorize it (as mentioned in steps 1 and 2).
- whether you can apply the law to MBE, MEE, and MPT questions.
Many students make the habit of focusing on one rather than the other — they obsessively complete lectures and memorize their outlines and never feel “confident enough” with the material to practice. Or they skip the first two steps of lecture/reviewing completely, and instead just answer a bunch of problems. Both approaches will likely lead to failure on the bar exam.
Make sure you are memorizing the law as outlined in steps 1 and 2, and then you dedicate time to apply it.
Make it a goal to start answering, say, 20 questions a day on the subjects you review or spending an hour a two a day on multiple-choice questions. (See below.) Do the same with the essay portion and MPT portion (if you have an MPT portion).
4. Make a daily and weekly schedule.
If you are studying eight hours a day, make it a point to:
- spend three hours memorizing the highly-tested areas of law for whatever subject(s) you are learning. Focus on these areas and make sure you are actively reviewing them and memorizing them (as we suggest in part one)!
- Spend at least one hour a day reviewing past subjects you have already learned so you do not forget them
- spend 2 hours answering multiple-choice questions
- spend 2 hours answering essay/MPT questions
See an example of a daily bar exam study schedule here. You should also make a weekly schedule that incorporates timed exams and that “catches you up” with the material. You will feel better as soon as you have a daily and weekly schedule in place. This will give you a plan to stay on track and catch up!
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