Tips for Studying for the Bar Exam
As a leading provider of bar exam courses and tutoring for the New York bar exam, BarWrite® is pleased to share these tips for studying for the bar exam.
These eight 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.
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. 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.
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. If your state has an additional part like the New York Multiple Choice questions, spend time preparing that.
Stick rigidly to your time limits. Students go over their time limits trying to “finish” a single subject, and then they find that they have neither mastered that one subject nor accomplished anything else. Spend only the time you have planned to spend.
BarWrite® Teaching Assistant Marcia DeGeer, who works at a large law firm in Manhattan, suggests that students should get a big wall calendar covering their two-month study period. They should post the calendar conspicuously and assign each subject to specific days, being careful not to leave a new subject until the last few days before the bar. 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.
Activities that do not result in your knowing more black letter law are a waste of time.
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. You must be constantly adding to your inventory of black letter law, quizzing yourself, reciting law from memory, and practicing applying law logically. Merely recognizing law will get you nowhere. Shotgun, random, fact-based, “issue spotting” will get you nowhere.
Some activities feel like 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. That means 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. Learn the most-heavily tested rules by heart.
5. Read every set of lecture notes four or five times, with days off, before the bar exam.
Research shows that we learn best by lightly repeating information over a long period of time, rather than by cramming. 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.
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, 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. You should review every lecture four or five times.
7. Exercise vigorously for one full hour every day.
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. It will keep you sane. It will make you mentally sharp. It will help you sleep. It will make you cheerful.
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 be tempted to skip exercise. Don’t worry. You can memorize flash cards while you exercise.
8. Use every minute of every day for study.
Use meal times for memorizing rules of law. Use morning and evening bathroom breaks for memorizing. Use any commuting time between your bar-review class and home or your study location and home for memorizing. Take your flash cards to bed with you. Plan for just one evening of relaxation a week, perhaps on Sunday night. You can relax after you become a member of the bar.
Need Help Studying for the Bar Exam?
We hope you found these bar exam study tips to be helpful. If you would like help in preparing for the bar exam, please give us a call at (212) 327-2817.