How To Study For The Bar Exam While Working Full-Time
Will you be studying for the bar exam while working full-time? If so, you may be wondering how you will be able to fit studying into your schedule. After all, the bar exam is difficult for anyone—and even more so for those who work during it. Unlike many bar examinees, you will not be able to treat studying like a full-time job (because you will already be working one of those!). You are not alone though. Although studying for the bar exam while working full-time might not be ideal, many bar examinees do it—and pass! It will take excellent time management, focus, and hard work. In this post we discuss 10 important considerations for studying for the bar exam while working full-time that will help you crush your bar exam studying!
How To Study For The Bar Exam While Working Full-Time
1. Talk to your employer about your work schedule.
First and foremost, before you can create a bar exam study schedule, you will need to figure out what your work schedule will look like and how much free time you have for studying. Does your daily work schedule have set hours (i.e., 9AM to 5PM Monday to Friday) or is there any flexibility as to when you can get your work done? Do you plan on asking for any time off to study or are you stuck working full-time for the duration of your studying? Will you need nights or weekends off from work? Consider these questions and discuss any scheduling concerns with your employer as soon as possible!
If you are working for a law firm or in a legal-related position, your employer most likely will understand the demands of studying for the bar exam (especially studying for the bar exam while working full-time!). If you do not work in the legal field, it may be best to start by explaining what the bar exam is, why it is so difficult, and why you need time off or schedule flexibility.
Regardless, have the conversation early on (ideally as soon as you sign up for the bar exam) so that you know how much time you will have available to study.
2. Make a bar exam study schedule.
Once you know for sure what your work schedule will look like, you can plan out your study schedule. A solid bar exam study schedule helps ensure that you study efficiently and effectively.
Although a study schedule is something that all bar examinees must create, if you are working full-time while studying for the bar exam, it is even more important because your study time is more limited. You should aim to study every day, but remember to take breaks and time off when you need it. (Check out our post on why it is beneficial to take breaks during bar prep!). Make the most of your weekends and time off.
For each day, designate what you want to review. Additionally, figure out where will you study—at home, a library, your office, all of the above? And when will you study—morning, afternoon, evening? Consider where you can best focus and avoid distractions while studying for the bar exam—and check out this post on the best place to study for the bar exam!
The more specific you make your schedule, the more likely you are to stick to it. The specificity also helps to break down the momentous task of studying for the bar exam while working full-time into manageable portions. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, you will feel more in control!
Check out this post to get started on crafting a stellar part-time bar exam study schedule specifically for those who are studying for the bar exam while working full-time!
3. Clear your schedule.
Remember that you are trying to fit a lot of material in a shorter amount of time than a traditional study route. That means you may need to make more sacrifices with your personal time. Although there may be some commitments (like a sibling’s wedding etc.) that you cannot avoid, try your best to clear your personal schedule of any large commitments or trips during the time that you will be studying for the bar exam. This will help avoid burnout or undue stress. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by adding in any unnecessary commitments during this time.
4. Start studying early.
If you are studying for the bar exam while working full-time, you should start studying earlier than traditional bar exam prep courses. Most traditional bar exam prep courses are about two months long.
Although the exact start time for someone studying for the bar exam while working full-time could vary based on how many hours they will be working per week and how well they did in law school (and thus how many reviews they need of some subjects!), starting about a month earlier than traditional bar exam prep courses is a good rule of thumb. You can start reviewing the black letter law, especially the law that is highly tested on the MBE about two months before a traditional course would begin.
The key is to get a jumpstart on studying to make up for time lost while working and avoid burnout by trying to cram too much in at once. Check out this post discussing 5 advantages of starting bar prep early!
5. Sign up for an on-demand bar exam prep course.
Taking a bar exam prep course is critical. With a bar exam prep course, you are more likely to pass the bar exam! This is especially true if you are studying for the bar exam while working full-time to ensure you study efficiently and effectively with the limited study time you have available.
Many bar exam preparation courses offer an on-demand option, which is perfect for bar examinees who will be studying for the bar exam while working full-time. The basic premise behind an on-demand course is that you can complete the entirety of the course remotely and at your own pace. Lectures are recorded and uploaded, and you can move through them at your own pace. Learn more about JD Advising’s highly-rated on-demand bar exam prep course here!
6. Study efficiently.
If you are doing a commercial bar prep course, the “to-do list” that the course will provide is likely based on students putting in a full 8-hour day of studying. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can cram in a full traditional bar exam prep course.
If you are studying for the bar exam while working full-time, you cannot blindly follow a to-do list. Modify it to fit your schedule. Instead of trying to check off all the boxes, think about what you truly need. Have you always struggled with Torts and need to spend more time on that subject? Did you get the “High A” in Contracts and know that you can do a lighter review? Think critically about what you need to work on to ensure you are studying efficiently and not wasting time just checking boxes off a to-do list.
Some additional considerations for studying effectively include:
Focusing on highly tested topics and subjects.
One of the key ways to study efficiently is to pay attention to the most highly tested areas of law in each subject for every portion of the bar exam. You shouldn’t ignore any testable subject or topic, but you should prioritize the highly tested issues.
We have guides detailing the highly tested topics on the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), highly tested topics on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), and highly tested Multistate Performance Test formats.
Use real MBE practice questions from the very beginning of your studying.
The best questions to practice with are real MBE questions, which are those that the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) creates. The NCBE writes the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) questions. What is better than questions direct from the source?! You will get used to the format of the MBE, see how the NCBE tests specific areas of law, and know what level of difficulty to expect on the exam.
Not watching lecture videos if they’re not helpful.
If you know a subject really well, you may want to consider skipping a lecture that your bar review course offers. Similarly, if you don’t learn well from watching videos, focus on study techniques that do fit your learning style (read more about how to figure out your bar exam learning style here!). Everyone learns best in different ways, so do what works for you—don’t watch a lecture video just to check it off the list if there are more efficient ways to use your time.
Check out this post for more advice on how to study effectively for the bar exam!
7. Be creative with your free time.
Do you have an hour-long lunch break during your work day? Do you have a long commute to work when you can listen to lecture video audio? Can you stay late at the office to study where you can focus better than at home? Can you review flashcards or answer multiple-choice questions while waiting in line at the store? Be creative with how and when you fit in your studying. Every minute counts when you are studying for the bar exam while working full-time!
8. Seek the support of your family and friends.
Your family and friends probably already know that you are studying for the bar exam and may even have a slight idea of how unavailable you will be based on how you treated law school exams. However, the bar exam takes up much more time than law school exams. Some family members or friends may wonder why you are not going out as much and may resent you for it. To avoid any misunderstanding, it is best to tell them ahead of time that you are planning to devote many of your free hours to studying. This will hopefully eliminate or lessen any negative feelings toward you while you are trying to study!
Ask family and friends for their understanding and support. The bar exam is a difficult feat for anyone—made more difficult by studying for the bar exam while working full-time. They may be able to help ease some stress by preparing meals for you or assisting with chores like laundry. Even the smallest things can help eliminate stress, so don’t hesitate to accept any offers to help from others!
9. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Many of your law school friends who are not studying for the bar exam while working full-time are probably in the library for 8+ hours a day. Don’t compare your progress to theirs! Remember that you are on different study paths. You are not on the same schedule and may not have reviewed the same topics at the same time. That’s okay! Your study plan is different, so comparing progress will only serve to make you feel anxious.
10. Maintain healthy habits.
Studying for the bar exam can be intense and stressful, particularly if you are studying for the bar exam while work full-time. Thus, it is critical that you maintain healthy habits. Not only will it help you concentrate better and retain information, it will boost your immune system and reduce the chances of you getting sick. Some top ways to stay healthy when studying for the bar exam while working full-time include getting sufficient sleep, eating well, exercising, and taking breaks.
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