Tips for Studying for the Bar Exam: Your Study Schedule

As a leading provider of bar exam courses and tutoring for the Uniform Bar Exam, BarWrite® is pleased to share these tips for studying for the bar exam.

These nine bar exam study tips will help you design and stick to a successful study schedule. With this bar exam advice in hand, you can design a schedule that helps you gain the knowledge and skills you need to perform well on the bar exam.

1. Make a detailed written daily study schedule and commit to sticking to it.

To begin with, your first rule studying for the bar exam is to account for every minute. If you are taking a bar review course, as you should be, include class time and commuting time in your plan. Most important is to plan every day, day in and day out, from now to the bar exam. Plan your life, live your plan. Post your schedule on your bathroom mirror, on your door, and on your refrigerator. You must have iron commitment. “If you don’t have a study schedule, don’t take the bar exam.” That is the advice of Annie Noula, a BarWrite alum who is a member of the Greek bar and the New York bar.

2. Include study for every part of the bar exam every day.

Don’t just do MBE questions, do everything, every day. Spend time on the MBE, time on outlining essays, and time on studying your lecture notes. In addition, if your state has an additional part, spend time preparing that.

Stick rigidly to your time limits. Students go over their time limits because it seems like they can “finish” a single subject, but then they find that they have neither mastered that one subject nor accomplished anything else. Accordingly, you should spend only the time you have planned to spend.

Former BarWrite® Teaching Assistant Marcia DeGeer, who worked at a large law firm in Manhattan, suggested that students should get a big wall calendar covering their two-month study period. First, they should post the calendar conspicuously and assign each subject to specific days. Then they should be careful not to leave a new subject until the last few days before the bar. That is because the last two weeks are not a good time for learning new law. I return below to how to distribute the subjects in your schedule.

3. Make sure every activity on your schedule will pay off in the ability to recite black letter law.

The bar exam graders are looking for evidence that you know the black letter law and can apply it in a logical way, reasoning from law to conclusions. Accordingly, you must be constantly adding to your inventory of black letter law, quizzing yourself, reciting law from memory, and practicing applying law logically. Thus, merely recognizing law will get you nowhere. Shotgun, random, fact-based, “issue spotting” will get you nowhere. Therefore, flashcards are key. Thus, finally, activities that do not result in your knowing more black letter law are a waste of time.

It seems like some activities are hard work, and they are hard work, but they don’t help raise your grade, and so they are a waste of time. Many students like re-reading their notes, but re-reading is worthless if no new law remains in your memory. Some students like to re-type class lecture notes. But when I ask such students what they have learned afterwards, they don’t have an answer. In other words, re-typing notes feels like a lot of work, and it is, but it does not result in your knowing more law. Therefore, finally, it is a waste of time.

4. Focus on reviewing the most-heavily tested areas of law and on learning the most-heavily tested rules of law.

Study several areas of law every day. It is foolish to think that you will remember much law if you study nothing but torts or nothing but contracts for several days. One basic principle is that you should learn the most-heavily tested rules by heart. Read out blog post on memorizing.

5. Read every set of lecture notes four or five times, with days off, before the bar exam.

While cramming is a temptation, research shows that we learn best by lightly repeating information over a long period of time, rather than by cramming. Thus, no matter how intensively you study, you will remember nothing unless you repeat what you learn in a few days, and then in a few more days, and so on. Accordingly, you should keep track. See the section below.

6. Use a system for keeping track of how many times you study every set of lecture notes.

Make a chart that lists in the left-most column every bar-review lecture. That is, probably about forty rows. Make at least five columns. In the row next to each lecture, in the first column, write the date when you first reviewed that lecture. Every time you review a lecture, note that date on your grid. Accordingly, you should be able to review every lecture four or five times before the bar exam.

7. Exercise vigorously for one full hour every day.

Most noteworthy, the bar exam is a physical challenge. Exercise will not only make you feel better, it will make it easier for you to learn the law. Exercise will make you strong enough to complete the exam. It will keep you calm. You will help you stay sane. It will make you mentally sharp. You will find sleeping easier. It will make you cheerful. It seems like exercise is a distraction, but in fact, the opposite is true. You should not exercise less than one full hour every day.

Make that strenuous exercise. Walking is not enough. Go to the gym. Go running. Climb up to the roof in your building and run downstairs again. You will probably be tempted to skip exercise. Don’t worry. In fact, you can memorize flash cards while you do certain kinds of exercise. Finally, exercise will make you smarter. Accordingly, exercise is not a diversion, it is bar-preparation.

8. Use every minute of every day for study.

Meal times may look like a time to relax, but they are in fact a good time for memorizing rules of law. You can use morning and evening bathroom breaks for memorizing rules of law. Any commuting time between your bar-review class and home or your study location and home is a good time for memorizing. Finally, take your flash cards to bed with you. You can plan for just one evening of relaxation a week, perhaps on Sunday night. Remember, you can relax after you become a member of the bar.

9. Memorize and practice using all of the basic rules. They will be your best friends on the exam. Use flashcards. Make your own flashcards and use commercial flashcards. Read our blog post on flashcards.

Do practice questions to exercise your knowledge of the rules and how to apply then. Do practice MBE questions and practice essays. Doing practice questions will teach you how the exam is constructed. It will sharpen your game. Therefore, it is key.

Need Help Studying for the Bar Exam?

We hope you found these bar exam study tips helpful. If you would like help in preparing for the bar exam, please send us a message. Take a look at our BarWrite courses. They have helped many candidates before you.

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