The Month Before the Bar Exam – Your questions answered
Here, we list some common questions that students ask us the month before the bar exam. You can read the answers to all of the questions below or click on the specific questions you are interested in.
If you have a question that is not answered, please feel free to contact us or post in the comments below!
*We will continue to update this post with questions and answers as we receive them
- I have too much to learn! How do I learn all of this?
- I am worried about the MBE. How many MBE questions should I answer a day until my score improves?
- I know the law but I always choose the wrong MBE answer when I am in between two. What should I do?
- I haven’t started memorizing yet. I am worried!
- Is it okay I have not completed that many essays/performance tests?
- I am behind in my bar review course. What should I do?
- I am feeling overwhelmed. Any tips?
- There is not enough time (and yet there is too much time). How should I use this last month?
- Should I do a full practice test before the bar exam?
- My friends are studying 12 hours a day but I feel burnt out. Is that normal?
- I just realized I’ve been studying all wrong and am not prepared. What should I do?
- What should I do during my final review period?
- What are some last minute resources I can consult to help me through this last month?
The Month Before the Bar Exam – Your questions answered
Many examinees feel overwhelmed the month before the bar exam because they feel that they have not learned enough law. And maybe you haven’t – but that is okay! Remember two things: first, you still have a month left! This is a long time to fine-tune your knowledge. Second, you do not have to focus on everything. Remember your goal is not to learn every area of law perfectly. Your goal is to pass the bar exam. These are two very different goals. If your goal was to learn everything perfectly, it would make sense to feel completely overwhelmed. A month is not enough time to do that! (Even a year isn’t enough time to do that!)
But your goal is to pass the bar exam. So this means you need to focus on the law that the bar exam tends to test. If you zero in on the highly tested areas, you will make fast progress toward your goal and feel less overwhelmed.
You can read the highly tested MBE topics here. You can review the highly tested MEE topics here – these will help you if you are in a Uniform Bar Exam state or Multistate Essay Exam state. (Lastly, you can purchase our MEE one-sheets or MBE one-sheets for a quick review of the highly tested areas!)
You are not alone if you are worried about the MBE. Right around now, many students start to feel anxious or realize that their scores are not improving. Here is what we recommend you do: first, stop focusing on quantity. While quantity of MBE questions is important to some degree, you do not want to get into the vicious (and time-consuming, anxiety-producing) cycle of answering 100 MBE questions a day and never seeing your score improve.
The better approach is to take a deep breath and slow down. Here, we have a post on how to answer an MBE question. It takes you through a slow and methodical method of answering MBE questions. We have had many students successfully use this strategy to get out of their MBE ruts! So try focusing on quality rather than quantity.
Also, do not ignore the essay portion. In most states (including Uniform Bar Exam states) there is no “minimum” passing MBE score. So, if you are a good writer, you could work really hard to increase your MBE score by, say, ten points. But you could work significantly less hard and increase your essay score by ten points. Your overall score is what matters so focus on that score, rather than one portion of the bar exam. Play to your strengths, especially during this last month. Don’t over-focus on one portion of the test.
There are a few reasons that you may choose the wrong MBE answer even when you know the law:
- First, you don’t read the facts closely enough. Next time you are in between two answers, instead of staring at the answer choices, reread the facts. Oftentimes, this illuminates the correct answer!
- Second, you know the basics of the law but the question turns on a nuance. This is very common. A student will understand the basics of the law but not the specific nuance that the question is testing. If this happens to you, write down the nuance of the law that you didn’t know and review it later!
- Third, you haven’t specifically identified the issue. Perhaps there are two correct statements of law — one in answer choice (A) and one in answer choice (B). By asking yourself, “what is the issue here?” you can oftentimes get to the correct answer choice.
Remember to give yourself a break too. Inevitably, you will answer some questions wrong by picking the “second best” answer choice. That is okay. If you always chose the wrong answer, you would be getting zero questions correct. So this may not happen as much as you think!
If you have not started memorizing yet, you are not alone! In fact, you are ahead of the game because a lot of people don’t come to this realization until one or two weeks before the bar exam when they begin their review period. Focus on the highly tested areas of law (see question 1). You will be fine! You don’t have to get an A on the bar exam. You just want to pass the bar exam – which is equivalent of getting a D in most states! (266, the average UBE score divided by 400, the maximum amount of points, is 66.5%!) This is not to say getting that D is “easy”– because it is not. But you certainly do not need to keep those high standards you may have had for yourself in college or law school. You can pass without them!
Some people pass the bar exam without completing a single essay or performance test! However, it is definitely the best practice to complete essays and performance tests (if your state administers them) prior to the exam.
It is overwhelming to think “I have to complete 30 practice exams and 10 performance tests and I have no time!” Instead, break it down by week. And then break it down further by day. Complete, say, one or two essays a day during the weekdays, even if it is just bullet pointing an answer. And set aside time to complete two performance tests a week if you are in a UBE state or state that administers performance tests. With four weeks left, you will complete between 20 and 40 essays and 8 performance tests before the exam. That is a lot and it won’t seem that overwhelming if you break it down by week and by day.
Note: If you struggle with timing, you will want to bunch up your essays/performance tests and start timing yourself. For example, aim to complete two essays in an hour during week one, then four essays in two hours during week two, etc.
If you are behind in your bar review course, you may wonder what your approach should be the month before the bar exam. What we recommend you do is as follows:
First, if you are behind in lectures, prioritize listening to subjects that (a) you struggle with or (b) you did not take in law school. Do not try to watch these at a faster speed as you will probably get less out of them or you may end up feeling even more overwhelmed. Skip lectures that cover subjects that you are comfortable with.
Also, forget about other extra assignments that your bar review course gives you for now. What you want to focus on after you are caught up with the lectures that are beneficial to you is as follows:
- Focus on memorizing the highly tested areas of law (see question one, above)
- Focus on completing practice problems — essays, MBE, and performance tests
Don’t worry about extra homework or any other activities that your course gives you. You want to focus on two things — learning the law and applying the law!
Feeling overwhelmed is so common! Here is what we recommend you do if you feel overwhelmed (and in this order!):
- First, come up with a study schedule for the last month of bar prep. Once you organize your last month as well as the days leading up to the bar exam, you will feel much more in control. This may mean letting go of some things you had planned on doing. That’s okay! Focus on learning the law and practice problems. And focus on the highly tested areas of law rather than trying to learn everything, as is noted above!
- Second, think of something fun to do post-bar exam. It could be a post-bar exam vacation, or just going out to eat with friends. Having something to look forward to will help you remember, on a conscious and subconscious level, that there is more to life than the bar exam. This could take a little as ten minutes and will make a big difference.
- Third, do thirty minutes of exercise. This could be a walk, a jog on the treadmill, lifting weights, yoga. Do not listen to your bar exam lectures or try to go through your flashcards while you do this. Instead, take a break from bar prep. Take a few minutes afterward to shower, eat a healthy snack, or make a cup of coffee. You will feel refreshed and ready to continue with your bar prep study schedule!
- Fourth, figure out a way to relieve stress and add it to your schedule every day in the morning — even if it is just for ten minutes. We recommend meditation, bar exam affirmations, and visualization. It will make a big difference in your day.
- Lastly, commit to staying away from anxious bar exam takers. Even if your friends are well-meaning, if they give you anxiety, it is time to stay away from them for a little while so you can find peace. Just tell them you need some time to focus alone. They will understand! Surround yourself with positive people who give you energy and motivation during this last month before the bar exam.
Here, we have a post on how to come up with a study schedule for the last month of bar prep. Once you have a good study schedule in place, you will feel as though the amount of time before the bar exam is just enough!
Remember that there is not enough time to learn every subject perfectly…but there is enough time to learn every subject well enough to pass the bar exam. Study smart. Focus on the highly tested areas of law, as noted in question 1, above. You will be fine!
Not necessarily. If you do not struggle with timing, you may not need to complete a full simulated two-day exam. However, it is a good idea to complete full “sections” of the bar exam. For example, complete a 100-question MBE exam in three hours to replicate the half-day of the MBE. And complete, for example, three hours of essay questions to replicate the essay day (this would be six MEEs in a Uniform Bar Exam state). If your state administers performance tests, complete performance tests in the allotted time (two performance tests in ninety minutes if you are in a Uniform Bar Exam state).
If you do not struggle with timing, there is not a super compelling need to replicate a full bar exam (e.g., six hours of essays one day and six hours of multiple-choice the next day). It is often hard to review answers if you do this and your time may be better spent doing something else.
However, it is a good idea to take a full two-day practice exam if:
- you are not used to sitting for long periods of time or focusing for long periods of time (most of you will be since you have been studying so much!)
- the thought of a two-day test makes you anxious and you will feel significantly less anxious knowing you have completed the two-day exam in a simulated environment
- you are prone to excessive fatigue or other physical issues and need to practice ahead of time. Most students that fall into this category carefully plan (and test) their sleep schedules and test out eating certain foods and drinking coffee at certain times of day to see how it affects their concentration. Some students have specific medical issues (e.g., back problems which require them to stand/sit in increments) and taking a two-day exam helps them to figure out how to approach these specific issues.
It is very normal to feel exhausted and burnt out, especially during this time. Some students feel a burst of anxiety and stress. Others feel completely sick of studying and feel unable to be productive. Many students feel a combination of these emotions and perhaps contradictory emotions at the same time. If you find yourself in this boat, we recommend you do the following:
First, forget about what others are doing. What matters is your bar exam performance, not theirs. They could easily be exaggerating how long they are studying – either in their own minds or to you. They may be “studying” but not using their time effectively (and if they study more than eight hours a day this is very likely to be the case at least toward the end of their study time). Or they may have a different study style than you (e.g., they procrastinate and work more toward the end). Regardless, it does not matter. It may be better to not talk to people who discuss things like this and instead, spend more time with people who are either not studying for the bar exam or who are able to stay away from this kind of conversation.
Next, come up with a study schedule for the last month of bar prep . If you have a plan, you are much more likely to focus on what you need to do rather than wallowing in feelings of exhaustion or anxiety.
Third, figure out a way to relieve stress. We highly recommend exercising–even a half-hour walk will be beneficial! It will clear your head and help you focus. We also recommend meditation, bar exam affirmations, and visualization.
The combination of these things should help you get into the right mindset before the bar exam.
It is better that you realize this now than the day you take the bar exam. Most students do not prepare as effectively as they could have. Some feel that they spent too much time watching lectures. Others feel like they spent too much time making flashcards, or not enough time practicing questions.
It is normal to not be perfect at the art of studying for the bar exam when you first start studying. So give yourself a break. The past is behind you. And no matter how ineffective you believe your studying was, you have probably come a long way from where you were when you started. So give yourself credit for that. Instead of focusing on the past, focus on what you can do in the future. You still have plenty of time to make a significant change in your study habits.
As for the final month, see the next question (“What should I do during my final review period?”). If you have specific questions that relate to you, please comment below or email us!
The bar exam tests two things – whether you know the law and whether you are able to effectively answer practice questions. So, these are the two things you want to focus on.
First, learn the law and focus on the highly tested areas. Spend about half of your study time doing this. So, if you study for eight hours a day, four should be focused on reviewing the highly tested areas of law and making sure you understand them. The other four should be devoted to practicing (about two hours on MBE and two hours on essays or performance tests).
Lastly, you should start incorporating some timed exams into your study schedule. Most students do not have to replicate a “complete bar exam experience” (where you complete a full day of MBEs and a full day of essays) as noted above, but make sure to replicate the full portions of the exam – like three hours of 100 MBE questions or three hours of essay questions.
If you are looking for help making a bar exam study schedule (as well as seeing a sample bar exam study schedule, see this post!)
We have a few helpful links:
- How to make a study schedule for the last month of bar prep
- Read this excellent post on five essential last-minute bar exam tips!
- We have several free guides, including the following. Many of them serve as a very efficient way to approach the bar exam.
- Seven Best Free Uniform Bar Exam Resources
- Sources for MEE Student Answers
- MPT one-sheet
- Sources for MPT Student Answers
- Here is a printable bar exam packing list, for when you get closer to bar exam day!
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