What to Do When You're Feeling Overwhelmed by Barbri - JD
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bar exam appealsFeeling Overwhelmed by Barbri?  Students sometimes call us, crying, because they are 17 days behind on their personal study plan. They can’t get everything done. Or they become obsessed with “checking boxes” or crossing things to do off their list that they often feel they spend more time just doing tasks in order to be done with them, rather than learning. They feel overwhelmed by Barbri (or Kaplan, or Themis) or life!

If you feel behind, or if you feel like you are only going through the motions rather than retaining any information, you are not alone. How do you break out of this? The first step is to take just five minutes to reflect on these questions: Is what you are doing every day helping you? Sometimes students feel overwhelmed by Barbri or their commercial course because they feel like they do a lot, half of what they do doesn’t help them, and they are already behind!

Are lecture, amps, and reading “long” outlines for each subject before lecture really helping you learn and apply the law? Go through everything in your task list and see if it is something that you are truly learning from.  If you feel like you are making progress and that your list of tasks helps you to retain information and improve your bar exam score, then keep doing whatever you find helpful!

If the answer is “no, I think a lot of this is a waste of time” then it is time to restructure your time, energy, and schedule.  To do this, let’s back up far away from any task list and think much more broadly.

In a very broad sense, there are only four things you have to do to pass the bar exam:

  1. Have good materials. This means you have one outline per subject that you are learning. Not a combination of four different outlines. Your outline has to be detailed enough but not too detailed so that it is unmanageable. It also has to be well-organized and something that you are able to learn. If you do not have a good outline for each subject, then it will be very hard to complete steps (2)-(4). (If you do not have a good outline, you can set up a tutoring session with us, or you can make your own outline. Another alternative is googling it to see if anyone else has created a more helpful outline!) Lastly, we have things like MEE one-sheets which have MEE subjects in one page front and back. This will help you if you are in an MEE or UBE jurisdiction!
  1. Make sure you understand those materials. This is generally through lecture. But it can also be through private tutoring, study groups, or recalling what you learned in law school. Comprehension is key because if you don’t understand a topic, it will be difficult to memorize it and answer multiple-choice or essay questions on it.
  1. Memorize your outlines.  Are you visual or auditory or kinesthetic? How do you learn best? If you are visual, try writing out your outline to see if you have the elements memorized, or make charts or diagrams or color code your outlines. If you are auditory, explain your outlines out loud or quiz yourself or someone else. We have many tips here on how to memorize your bar exam outlines.
  1. Apply what you know to the types of questions you’ll see on the exam. And forget Barbri questions for just a minute. Instead, get a hold of actual released bar exam questions (Adaptibar, the strategies and tactics sixth edition, or the NCBE exams are all sources of this – read more about the best MBE questions here).

These are the four key things you have to focus on. Keep this in mind throughout bar prep. Every single thing you should do during bar prep should further one of these four goals.

If reading “long outlines” before lecture does not help you learn, memorize, or apply the law, stop doing it. Or if completing amps doesn’t help you with any of the above, stop doing them.

What should you do? Next we will tell you how to create a schedule that allows you to make the above four things your priority.

How to Create A Schedule that Allows you to Focus
on these Four Key things:

The first step is being willing to stray from your commercial course schedule.  Many students are afraid to stray from their Barbri or Kaplan schedule (lest they miss out on something!) but if Barbri is not working for you then make your own schedule.  I can almost guarantee you will feel more comfortable with a plan that is tailored specifically to you than whatever alternative plan your bar review course has in store. In order to ensure you have a solid plan, read these tips on what to include – and not include – when you make your own bar review schedule.

First, Set Up Your Schedule:

First, pull out a blank legal notepad (or your phone notepad, or a word pad, or whatever you do to make lists). Put the day and date on the top of it for the next month. This is the start of your to do list.

 Second, figure out when you want to start your final “review”. I suggest you leave two weeks before the bar exam to review everything one last time. Also, add any last-minute lectures  you have to listen to for your commercial bar review course (you will likely still have some state-specific lectures to listen to, so add these in your calendar).

Keep these last two weeks right before the bar exam blank for now – you can decide what to do during your “review time” the weekend before you begin your review – when you know what you need to work on more.

Second, Learn the Law by Memorizing Your Outlines:

Plan on actively reviewing an MBE topic each day. You might think it is too early to start re-looking at MBE topics. But remember, the MBE is super-important. There are not only 27 multiple-choice questions on each subject (besides Contracts & Sales which has 28) but many of these subjects are double-tested on the essay portion of the bar exam.  Do not wait until a week before the bar exam to revisit these super-important topics. Start your process of re-looking them again right now. If you can look at them in-depth now, then review them once during your review week (basically two more times total prior to the bar exam) you will be in good shape.

And when you review, don’t simply review one topic per day. Instead, look at each MBE subject over the course of 2 or 3 days. Not only does it make it more bearable to know that you have 2-3 days to go through a 100-page Real Property outline, but it will also help you understand and recall the information better when you “space it out.” You can even double-up on MBE subjects if you want. For example, instead of doing “Real Property” on Monday and “Torts” on Tuesday, do “Real Property and Torts” on Monday then “Real Property and Torts” again on Tuesday and Wednesday. Pair up a difficult topic with a topic that is easier for you.

You can also add in essay topics that you have already reviewed.

You will remember the material much better looking at it two or three days in a row.  And when you look at the material, remember you are not reading it. Instead, you must actively review it (using the memorization tips mentioned above).

Spend more time on the MBE topics that are difficult for you. If you are stellar at Torts and Constitutional Law but you really need to review Contracts and Sales, there is no reason to treat all subjects equally (in terms of the amount of time you will spend on them). You know what you need to spend time on better than a bar review course. So allocate your time accordingly.

Third, Incorporate MBE Questions Into Your Schedule:

Plan to answer multiple choice questions each day. Many students get sick of Barbri/Kaplan questions  right about now. And many students wonder if Barbri/Kaplan questions accurately reflect the questions they will see on the actual bar exam. Get released question to use instead of your commercial course questions.

Do some questions slowly and do others in a timed setting (which we will discuss below).  If you need more multiple-choice tips, then read our multiple-choice tips here, or see all of our MBE posts here, or sign up for our MBE strategies (free) emails here.   We have a lot of resources to help students with their MBE Score!

Fourth, Get Ready for the Essays and MPT:

Get ready for the essays and the MPT (if your state has an MPT). Do not neglect the essays and MPT. If you are in a UBE state, the MEE is worth 30% of your score and the MPT is worth 20%. It is time to start learning your MEE outlines well and it is time to start getting serious about doing practice essays and MPTs if you have not already!

Incorporate reviewing essay material and doing essays in your schedule. (If you are in an MEE state and find that your outlines are sub-par, contact us about our MEE seminar – which gives an overview of the highly-tested MEE material – or for our one-on-one MEE sessions. Our outlines are stellar).

Focus on the most highly-tested MEE material. Wondering what is highly-tested on the MEE? See this post here. We have a beautiful MEE chart.  We also have MEE one-sheets which have received glowing reviews! The one-sheets will help you study efficiently for the MEE as each subject is summarized in one page, front and back.

Practice! Plan on doing at least two essays per day. Whether this is bullet-pointing them or writing full essays, it is time to start making it a habit. Remember to grade your own essays by comparing them with the model answer. It is also important to start incorporating MPTs in your schedule. You should be doing a couple MPTs a week, especially if you have been slacking on them until now!

Make sure that you grade your own essays but also seek good feedback on your MEEs and MPTs. (This could be from your commercial course, or you are welcome to contact us if you want high-quality feedback.) It makes a difference!

In sum, to get ready for the essays and MPT you want to: (1) Make sure you are reviewing your outlines for the essay portion of your bar exam — add in one or two outlines to review every day. They should take less time than the MBE subjects! (2) Incorporate practicing both essays and MPTs into your schedule. 

Other Things to Include In Your Bar Review Schedule:

Incorporate some timed exams into your schedule. There is no reason to go from 0 to 100. You can work your way up to the “full” timed exam.

Even if timing is not a problem for you, incorporate at least one three-hour multiple-choice exam and essay exam in your schedule.

We recommend you start by adding a one-hour (33 question) timed multiple-choice exam, and a one-hour (2 MEE questions) timed essay exam this week. Next week, include a timed MPT, and a two-hour timed multiple-choice exam, and a two-hour timed essay exam. Over the two weeks after that, make sure you do at least one three-hour multiple-choice exam, three-hour essay exam, and timed MPT.  You will feel more confident and comfortable with timing if you complete timed exams prior to the exam. It is also less torturous to “build your way up” to three-hour timed exams rather than starting out with a three-hour timed exam.

Lastly, do not forget to physically prepare for the bar exam.

If you are studying until 3:00 AM every day and waking up at noon, it is time to change your sleep schedule now. Start getting into the habit of going to bed earlier and waking up earlier. Sleep enough. Take breaks. Exercise. And make sure you have your transportation/hotel arrangements in order.

Example of a Bar Review Schedule: What might my schedule for the next two weeks look like?

We want to remind you to not just copy and paste this schedule — tailor yours to you! If you struggle with specific subjects, you may need more time on them. You may want to incorporate more or less timed exams. This is only a mock schedule! (This schedule is based on a UBE study schedule.)

This schedule may also look different depending on when you are reading this post — you may have more or less time. You may decide to start your final review a little later or to scrunch up some of what is in this schedule a little more.  This is only one example!

Monday, June 27:
Real Property – actively review outline
Real Property MBE questions
Two Real Property essay questions — One hour timed exam 
Review one essay subject (Corporations and LLCs) and complete/bullet point two essays

Tuesday, June 28:
Real Property- actively review outline
Real Property MBE questions — One hour timed exam (33 questions)
Two Real Property essays (bullet point)
Review one essay subject (Family Law) and complete/bullet point two essays

Wed, June 29:
Evidence – actively review outline
Con Law – actively review outline
Evidence MBE questions
Two Evidence essay  questions

Thursday, June 30:
Evidence – actively review outline
Con Law – actively review outline
Evidence MBE questions
Con Law MBE questions

Two Con Law essay questions (bullet point)
Review one essay subject (Agency & Partnership) and complete/bullet point two essays

Friday, July 1:
Torts – actively review outline
Con Law – actively review outline
Torts MBE questions
Two Torts essays bullet point

Saturday, July 2:
Crim Law — actively review outline (and begin Crim Pro)
Torts – actively review outline
2 hour-timed essay exam (with Crim Law and Torts questions)
Review one essay subject (Trusts and Future Interests) and complete/bullet point two essays

Sunday, July 3:
Criminal Procedure — actively review outline (and review Crim Law)
Crim Pro — briefly bullet-point essays
2-hour timed multiple choice exam
Review one essay subject (Wills and Decedents Estates) and complete/bullet point two essays

Monday, July 4: Break/catch-up

Tuesday, July 5:
Civ Pro – actively review outline
Civ Pro MBE questions
2 Civ Pro essays

Review one essay subject (Secured Transactions) and complete/bullet point two essays

Wednesday, July 6:
Civ Pro – actively review outline
Civ Pro MBE questions
2 Civ Pro essays
Review one essay subject (Conflicts) and complete/bullet point two essays

Thursday, July 7:
Contracts and sales – actively review outline
Contracts and Sales MBE questions
3 Contracts essays bullet point

Friday, July 8:
Contracts and Sales – actively review outline
Contracts and Sales MBE questions
2 Contracts essays
Timed MPT exam

Saturday, July 9:
Contracts and Sales – actively review outline
3-hour timed MBE exam

Sunday, July 10:
Create schedule for last two weeks.

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