From Law School to the Bar Exam: Tips for Making the Transition
At beginning of law school, you probably had a number of adjustments to make. This probably included spending more time studying or learning how to prepare for one final exam. Now, it’s time to transition once again! There is a major difference between preparing for the bar exam and how you might have prepared for your law school exams. There is a reason why many bar exam applicants treat studying for the bar exam as a full-time job. In this post, we discuss the best tips to make the transition from studying in law school to the bar exam.
From Law School to the Bar Exam: Tips for Making the Transition
Before figuring out how to best make the transition from law school to the bar exam, it is important to understand the key differences between the two. That is why learning how to study for the bar exam is so critical. It will ensure that you study efficiently and effectively to maximize your points – and pass the bar!
Some of the top differences to keep in mind when going from law school to the bar exam include the following:
Memorization is crucial for the bar exam.
You may be saying to yourself: “I had to memorize SO much material in law school! How can the bar exam be any different?” It is true that in law school you had to memorize material for certain courses. Depending on your professor’s course requirements and final exam structure, you may have had to memorize a lot of material. Memorization for the bar exam, however, is likely on an entirely different leval from what you’ve previously encountered. Students often go into bar prep seriously underestimating the importance of memorization.
The bar exam covers a massive amount of material – all of which you need to memorize, comprehend, understand, and sufficiently recall and apply on exam day. Sometimes, students simply don’t spend enough time memorizing material during their bar prep. With so many other tasks to complete – lectures, practice problems, writing assignments, and so on – it can be easy to set memorization to the side or fulfill tasks that seem like you’re memorizing the material when you’re really not.
You may have gotten by in law school without fully memorizing the material or were able to memorize material more passively. Some (or all!) of your final exams may have been open-book or take-home. We have countless posts with the best bar exam memorization techniques, memorization tips, and memorization “how-tos.” And that is because it really is important – so be sure to make it a priority when you begin studying!
A strong bar exam study schedule and plan is necessary.
Another significant challenge for students in making the transition from law school to bar exam is adjusting to an entirely new study schedule. You may be used to following a study plan – like a law school daily study schedule or a law school final exam study schedule. A bar exam study schedule is a much more in-depth version of that.
You likely will (and should!) sign up for a commercial bar prep course. Check out these posts with 5 reasons why a bar prep course is recommended and what sets JD Advising apart from other commercial courses. Regardless of which course you take, that course will provide you with, among other things, a schedule of lectures to attend, topics to cover each day/week, and practice questions to complete. That still leaves a lot of blank time in your schedule though. This brings us to our point: the bar exam requires you to spend much more time outside of class studying than you did in law school.
Because coming up with a study plan can be overwhelming, we put together a post on how to make a bar exam study schedule!
Focusing on the highly tested areas of law can help maximize your score.
In your law school courses, you may have been able to guess if a topic might appear on the exam based on how much time your professor spent on it in class or by reading the professor’s past exams. With the bar exam, the idea is similar. There are simply certain subjects and topics that appear more often than others on the bar exam.
With a limited amount of time to prepare for the bar exam, you simply won’t be able to retain everything! So, as you work through subject areas, make sure you’re spending time committing the most frequently-tested topics to memory. By focusing on the highly tested areas of law, you are studying most efficiently for the bar exam.
Bar exam essay answers involve fewer issues to analyze but do require you to reach a correct conclusion.
In most law school essays, you had a fact pattern requiring you to find several issues and address those issues, sub-issues, and sub-sub-issues. In contrast, essays on the Multistate Essay Exam only have a few issues that you need to address.
Even though there are fewer issues to analyze, different parts of the essay matter more on the bar exam. That is, the majority of bar exam essays need you to come to a conclusion (and you can miss out on points if you’re wrong!). This is unlike many law school essays, where professors may not award many (if any) points to conclusions, preferring to see a strong analysis. Bar exam essays contain issues that are much more specific while bar exam essays often want you to analyze multiple issues using the majority of the information you learned throughout the course.
Check out this post on how to write a conclusion on a bar exam essay.
Top Bar Exam Study Tips
We have written several posts with bar exam study tips to help you out, like these 5 excellent tips for studying efficiently for the bar exam! Below we include our top tips to help you transition from law school study to bar exam study:
Take bar prep seriously.
Many students make the mistake of assuming that they have learned all they need to know in law school – and that bar prep is just a review. That is not true! Law school has certainly helped prepare you for the bar exam in some ways, as well as for your future career. However, doing well in law school does not equate to having acquired all of the knowledge necessary to pass the bar. Students graduating toward the top of their class can still struggle on the bar exam and students who struggled in certain courses can excel on the bar exam.
Also, keep in mind that the way your professor approached your classes might not equate to the retention of black letter law leading up to the bar exam. For example, if your evidence professor focused on legal theories surrounding hearsay but didn’t emphasize the Federal Rules of Evidence, there’s still plenty to learn as you prep for the bar! So, start your prep seriously. It is easy to fall behind during bar prep, but very difficult to catch up once you do.
Do not make flashcards for every topic.
In law school, many students make and rely on flashcards. For the bar exam, there is simply too much material to cover. It is not at all realistic to create a flashcard for every rule or topic in one subject – never mind all of the subjects tested on the bar! The goal is to make the most of the time you spend studying. That does not mean you cannot make any flashcards at all, but beware how much time you’re spending creating them. They can be useful for memorization. If you do make flashcards, keep it limited to very specific portions of your outline (i.e., topics you struggle to grasp).
Follow “IRAC” for essays.
As noted above, unlike in law school, for bar exam essays, there will probably only be two or three issues to talk about for each one. For each issue, state the rule, apply the law to the facts provided, and conclude (i.e., “IRAC” format). Graders are given a checklist of sorts that essentially follows this order. Proper organization of each issue will make it easier for the grader to give you points for your correct responses. Make it easy for them to go through their checklist and award you points! Check out this post for how to use IRAC on the bar exam.
Practice using real MBE and MEE questions.
The best questions to study with are real bar exam questions. We’re referring to the actual questions released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners from previous exams. These will give you the best idea of what to expect on exam day. By studying with real MBE questions and real MEE questions, you are in the best position to pass the bar exam!
This one may seem obvious, but it is really important to stay healthy during bar prep. Staying healthy can be hard as you make the transition from law school to the bar exam. Even individuals who made healthy choices during law school find it hard to continue to do so during bar prep. It is a new schedule, jam-packed with studying, and without many of the social aspects of law school life.
If you do not make health a priority though, you will not be able to study as efficiently. And healthy choices help you to avoid burnout during bar prep! Check out this post for information on how to stay healthy while studying for the bar exam.
Hopefully, after reading this post, you have a better idea of what the transition from law school to bar prep will be like – and as a result, making the transition will be easier! Succeeding at bar prep is just as doable as succeeding in law school. With these tips in mind, you will be better prepared to tackle the task ahead!
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