Five Ways Not to Study for the Bar Exam
There is lots of advice out there on how to study for the bar exam. But in this post, we offer some advice on how not to study for the bar exam! These are mistakes that we see bar exam takers commonly make, and we give you advice on what we think you should do instead!
Five Ways Not to Study for the Bar Exam
1. Focusing only on your course completion percentage.
Too many times we see those who failed the bar exam question why they did so, given that they completed 75% (or 80%, or 90%, etc.) of their course. Many commercial courses do track students’ completion percentages, and these can be useful indicators of very broach conclusions. Someone who completes 30% of their course and has put in little to no effort studying outside of course assignments probably hasn’t put in enough effort. But being able to say that you completed 90% of your course does not guarantee that you will pass.
Success on the bar exam is dependent on studying the right way. If you flew through your assignments with the goal of merely checking them off, or spent too much time worrying about completing assignments that do nothing for you personally, you aren’t studying the right way. Thus, you should not study for the bar exam by having a high course completion percentage be your only goal. Again, it can be a useful indicator of how you are doing, but it should be used only as one of several metrics.
2. Preoccupying yourself with every tiny detail.
There is A LOT of information that could possibly be tested on the bar exam. And one way not to study for the bar exam is to preoccupy yourself with trying to memorize every single possible rule! It’s not possible to memorize absolutely everything. There’s just too much. That’s why you need to prioritize your time and study efficiently.
If there are topics where you should know all of the tiny details, it is the highly tested ones. Certain concepts appear far more frequently than others, and thus knowing those extremely well is more likely to earn you the most points. Now that’s not to say you should ignore the less frequently tested topics. But a more surface knowledge of them will be acceptable if you can dominate on the highly tested topics. The important thing is not to spend too much time trying to learn everything that you run out of time to get through what you need to. You can review highly tested MBE topics here and highly tested MEE topics here.
3. Sticking too rigidly with something when it isn’t working.
Preparing for the bar exam requires a good study schedule. Commercial courses will create one for you, and those who don’t take one of these courses should always make sure to create their own. However, another way not to study for the bar exam is to stick rigidly with everything that is planned for you, refusing to adapt as you go along. Commercial course schedules don’t know and understand you. They don’t recognize how you learn.
While all the tasks that they assign have value, they don’t always have equal value to each person. If Barbri AMP is not helping you learn, cut it out of your schedule! If you need more writing practice but you have none schedule, move some things around and add it to your schedule! You should always attempt to stick to the basic timeframe of your schedule so that you ensure you get through everything. You should also make sure you a firm with scheduling and then completing timed exams. But your study schedule needs to adapt and evolve based on how you are learning and what you need to spend more (or less) time on.
4. Merely reading your outline and not memorizing it.
It can be tempting to just read your outlines over and over again, hoping that you’ve absorbed what you need to know. However, that is another way not to study for the bar exam. Your study time should be composed of three main things: understanding the law, memorizing the law, and applying the law. Many bar exam takers ignore the middle step and hope outline reviewing will be sufficient.
Memorization is too valuable of a step to be skipped! It is one thing to be able to understand legal concepts when you read about them. However, you need to be able to call them up at will and reproduce them when you need to! This becomes much more difficult when you don’t have the rules memorized. Be sure to interact with your outline when you are reviewing them! Quiz yourself, challenge yourself to re-write portions of the material from memory, create flashcards, etc. Make sure you spend time memorizing!
5. Writing out only a few essays.
The final way not to study for the bar exam is to practice writing only a few essays and assume that you’ll do fine on exam day. It is important to devote time to essay writing each week. That way, you master the skills necessary to succeed on the written portion. Not only do you need to master the law, but you also need to master writing skills such as formatting and organization. You need to practice your issue spotting and your ability to apply the law to a complex set of facts. You need to have confidence in your timing. Finally, you also need exposure to how the Examiners test each different subject. Thus, it is advisable to have practiced a few essays from each subject that could be tested so that you are prepared! If your state offers the multistate performance test (MPT) portion of the exam, it is also very important to dedicate time to that. One of the most common reasons we see students fail the bar exam is that they did not take the written portion seriously.
LAURA SIGLER, WHO GRADUATED MAGNA CUM LAUDE FROM WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL, IS A JD ADVISING LEGAL RESEARCHER AND ESSAY GRADER.
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