Is It Too Early to Start Studying for the Bar Exam?
From the first day of law school to your last final exam, passing the bar exam is on the minds of many students throughout their time in law school. Generally, the majority of law school students spend three years learning the law and preparing to take the bar exam. Even so, an extended study period and a bar preparation program may still be necessary to earn a passing score. While traditional bar review programs recommend spending 8-12 weeks preparing, every student is different. Some students may need extra time to study. So how early is too early to start studying for the bar exam? We discuss this in more detail below!
Is It Too Early to Start Studying for the Bar Exam?
Level of Education and Training
Depending on your experience prior to law school, you may not need as much time to prepare for the bar. While many students come to law school not knowing what a “tort” is, you may have already spent an extensive amount of time working with subject areas that are likely to appear on the bar exam. For example, if you clerked at a law firm, you might already have a good grasp of negligence. Former legal secretaries and paralegals now attending law school might already understand civil or criminal procedure. These students may have a good foundation of legal knowledge and might be able to get done in 10 weeks what other students need 12 weeks to do!
However, other students such as foreign-trained attorneys and students with LLMs (Master of Laws) may need additional time to prepare for the bar exam. LLM programs are usually shorter than JD (juris doctor) programs. As such, LLM students don’t always get exposed to the same classes and topics covered on the bar exam. Additionally, foreign-trained attorneys may face a language barrier when taking the bar exam. All of this might mean that they need more than twelve weeks to prepare for the bar exam!
Personal Obligations and Circumstances
Be sure to take your personal circumstances into consideration when determining how early to start preparing for the bar exam. You may have a part-time job that takes up a good amount of time others use to study. Others might have a family with children to care for. These factors can play a role in helping you determine when to begin studying for the bar exam. Additionally, some students may have experienced anxiety and stress in law school. Mental health issues such as these may hinder you from having an intense study timeline. Taking extra time to prepare for the bar exam may help relieve anxiety and stress. Making a study schedule that works for you and sticking to it is a great way to relieve stress prior to the bar exam.
Law School Courses
Another important factor when determining your study timeline is how long it will take to review the coursework you took in law school and learn new subjects from courses you did not take.
During 1L year students take the basic classes that will eventually show up on the bar exam, such as civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, and torts. While most law schools have a set course schedule for 1Ls incorporating many bar exam subjects, the same is not always true for 2Ls and 3Ls. These students often still choose to mix in bar exam courses such as criminal procedure and evidence with other courses that are of particular interest. Over time, though, you will likely forget some of the subject matter you studied during your 1L year! Be prepared to relearn much of the information you studied in that first year of law school when taking the bar exam three years later.
Keep in mind that there are some courses that you simply won’t have time to take that you’ll still need to learn for the bar exam. Yes- you read that correctly. Students may be required to answer secured transactions questions even if they didn’t take the class in law school. This is where bar preparation programs fill in the gaps. Looking for a better idea of what might appear on the MEE? Check out our MEE frequency chart!
Many students think they will need an extended period of time to learn all of this new information. Fortunately, that is usually not necessary. Most students can learn material they were not exposed to by simply following a bar exam prep course. So, while many students may think that they need six months to a year before the exam to prepare, that might not be the case! If you find that you took only a few courses covering subjects tested on the bar exam in law school, you might need to get a head start on studying.
For others who only missed out on a course covering a bar exam topic or two (or three!), studying too early might only result in you forgetting about some material by the time the bar exam rolls around. Remember, the bar exam journey is unique for every student. It is just important to focus on your personal needs when it comes to studying (and possibly starting earlier or later) to set yourself up for success!
Study habits weigh in heavily when determining how early is too early to prepare for the bar exam. Generally, law students spend between two to three weeks at the end of a semester preparing for final exams. This might include reviewing/memorizing an outline, or for some students, finishing up their outlines. Others need more time and spend the entire semester outlining and reviewing as final exam week looms in the distance.
Basic law school study skills will transfer to a bar preparation study window. You will want to determine what you personally need to prepare. If you need more time to learn and master concepts, you might want to consider adding a few weeks or even months to your bar preparation schedule. However, if you are able to outline and review the subject matter in a couple of weeks and ace the final exam, the study period set by your bar preparation program should be sufficient.
You can get a head start on bar prep by simply working on study skills during law school. As you take notes in class and complete assignments, make sure to spend time reviewing this work throughout the semester. Sometimes law students become overwhelmed during the semester and forget to return to their notes to review. Then, outlining and memorization become a massive task at the end of the semester! You will then be ready to crush the bar exam using the skillset you’re already comfortable with.
Early Bar Prep
Students who needed extra time to prepare for final exams may also need to start their bar prep a little bit early. There are many ways students can do early preparation on their own six months to a year before the bar.
- Review your final exam outlines in subject areas that are tested on the bar exam. This can be a useful refresher as you gear up for bar prep.
- Find free bar exam practice questions (both MBE and MEE) to get a head start with both multiple-choice and essay questions.
Another incredible way to do early bar prep is to sign up for an early bar prep program. JD Advising offers a free program that covers early bar prep tips in just five minutes a day. This type of program is an excellent way to memorize important concepts and work on study skills such as creating a study schedule for your bar preparation window. While this may seem like overkills to some students, for others it can be incredibly handy!
Scheduling: Start Early
The first thing every law school student needs to establish is how long they think they may need to prepare. Whether it is 45 days or six months, it is important to make a study schedule so you can be sure to cover all the subject matter on the bar exam.
For example, students who follow a shorter study schedule will need to figure how to pack in a lot of information in a short amount of time. There will need to be time to learn new information as discussed above, review core concepts, and practice, practice, practice! A good 45 day study schedule will allow you to:
- Review all of the bar exam topics that may appear on the Uniform Bar Exam or applicable state bar exam;
- Practice taking approximately one thousand multiple choice questions (MBEs);
- Practice writing 70 essay exam questions (MEEs)and MPT essays if taking the uniform bar exam; and
- Incorporate some days off to rest.
A longer bar exam study schedule such as a six-month schedule may include weeks that alternate core subjects, weeks for review, and interlaced practice taking multiple choice questions (MBEs) and essay questions (MEEs and MPTs). Most students, though, will fall somewhere in the middle. The majority of bar exam prep courses are structured around 8-12 weeks of study time!
Traditional Bar Preparation Courses
A traditional bar preparation program is necessary for most law students to pass the bar exam. While law school likely did an excellent job teaching students the core concepts, review and practice are absolutely necessary prior to taking the bar. Most bar prep programs allow eight to twelve weeks to study and many even come with a set study schedule. If you are not sure how much time you’ll need to prepare, sticking with a study schedule similar to that provided in a bar exam prep can be a great option.
For example, the JD Advising traditional bar prep program includes a personal study schedule, outlines, instruction given by bar exam experts, released practice bar questions, and feedback from attorney graders. This program guides you through the bar preparation and provides lesson plans so you know what to accomplish every day. While you may want to do early bar prep on your own, signing up for a traditional bar prep program will give you the best chance at success. (Also, our bar prep program has an early start option depending on when you sing up!)
How Early is Too Early?
As you determine how much time you need to study for the bar exam, think about your personal needs first. Then, focus on developing a study schedule that works for you. Whether you are a first-time taker or you are a repeat test-taker, find the schedule that works best for you and then put your plan into action. Consistency and sticking to your schedule is the key to success!
If you have additional questions about starting bar prep early, check out our Youtube video above for more insight!
Looking to Pass the Bar Exam?
- 🌟Bar Exam Free Resource Center: Access our most popular free guides, webinars, and resources to set you on the path to success.
- Free Bar Exam Guides: Expert advice on the MBE, the MEE, passing strategies, and overcoming failure.
- Free Webinars: Get insight from top bar exam experts to ace your preparation.
- 🏆One-Sheets: Our most popular product! Master the Bar Exam with these five-star rated essentials.
- Exclusive Mastery Classes: Dive deep into highly tested areas of the MBE, MEE, MPT, and CA bar exams in these live, one-time events.
- Specialized Private Tutoring: With years of experience under our belt, our experts provide personalized guidance to ensure you excel.
- Bar Exam Courses: On Demand and Premium options tailored to your needs.
- Bar Exam Crash Course + Mini Outlines: A great review of the topics you need to know!