KHernan881

Bar Exam Tips

This is the time of year when people, some annonymous, some not, start posting their advice for studying for the July bar exam on various web sites such as Ms. JD.  I still read a number of these websites -- the same ones that I read when I was in law school.   It is my recent reading of some of that advice that has prompted this post.   I will try to address a few common threads that I see handed out as internet advice, each of which I have affectionately called "myths" below.  Obviously, this is also just one person's advice so take it with a grain of salt...

Myth #1:  If you study too much, you will burn out.  First of all, who is to say how much studying is too much?  I had classmates who studied around the clock in law school.  They outlined, re-outlined, made flashcards, joined study groups, bought 3-4 hornbooks per class, and on and on.  I knew people that took the same approach to the bar exam.  They signed up for three or more prep courses, hired a tutor, listened to PMBR on tape in the car and in the gym and on and on.  In each case, that didn't seem to "burn" these folks out.  They handled it just fine.  I guess my point is that the point when studying is "too much" is different for everyone.  Don't listen to the person next to you in BarBri that says that if you study more than 4 hours a day, you'll burn yourself out before the exam.  Also, this is likely the most important test that you'll ever take.  In many states, such as CA, if you pass you'll never know your score.  That means that you'll never know if you studied too much or just enough.  The only way to find out your score is to fail and...well... that doesn't seem like a great way to determine if you are studying too much. Therefore, I say study all that you can handle, emotionally, physically, socially, etc. 

Myth #2: If you did well in law school, you'll do fine on the bar exam.  Obviously, this is a flawed premise as you know that there are people at your law school that did very well but can't pass a bar exam for anything.  In reality, the bar exam tests very different things that law school tested.  Did you have a single multiple choice test in law school? -- I didn't.  Is there a single policy question on the bar exam? -- Nope.  You need to tailor your strategy to what the bar exam graders are looking for.  It is for this reason that I highly suggest taking a bar exam review course.  They exist to teach you how to take the specific exam that is the bar exam and nothing else.  When it is all said and done, you shouldn't care if you learn everything there is to know about wills, trusts, and estates.  You only need to know how to answer a question on the subject on the bar exam with enough proficiency to get a passing grade.  If you are going to be an estate attorney, you should have taken that course in law school.  If you took the course in law school, you should try to forget everything you learned that they aren't teaching in  your bar review course.

Myth #3:  The BarBri practice essay exams are impossible to pass so they aren't worth even trying.  The low scores you receive will do more damage to your morale than it is worth.  I actually do believe that the BarBri practice essays are impossible to pass.  However, that doesn't mean that the exercise isn't worth it.  I feel like getting those practice exams graded by BarBri is a big part of what you are paying for.  You should take advantage of it by giving them a real effort in simulated exam conditions and see how you do.  This goes back to my main point that studying for the bar shouldn't be something that you cut corners on. 

Good Luck.

1 Comments

Eralon

I just thought I’d add a few thoughts of my own to this post.  I think these tips are great; but I would add these caveats:
1)  Don’t freak yourself out.  Really.  Especially before the exam.  Take the evening before the exam off so you can decompress.  My roommate for the bar stayed up until 1:00 the night before and I went to sleep at 10:00.  We both passed; she was just a lot more nervous.  Often, last minute studying does more harm than good because it makes you too nervous!  If you’ve studied enough in advance, it shouldn’t be a problem to take some time away to get a good night’s sleep.
2)  While I believe some people can study all the time without burning out, I’m not one of them.  Know yourself and what study method works for you.  You went to law school- you know what you can and can’t do without burning out.  You know if you’ll be more helped by reading the outlines provided by BarBri or doing practice questions.  Generally don’t freak out when someone else talks about how much they have studied or are slaving over the outlines; figure out what works best for you and stick with it and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.
3)  Take PMBR.  Really.  And I promise, I’m not an employee nor do I have any vested interest in saying so.  BarBri was really great at helping me learn stuff for the essays.  However, PMBR helped me MUCH more on the Multistate, which is a huge portion of the score in Illinois (where I took the bar) and many other states.  PMBR gives you great books of tough practice questions for the MBE- I found them way more useful than BarBri.  I learn best by doing practice questions so the books they provided were invaluable!  I took the three day course at the end of BarBri which was useful b/c it gave a chance to do a full sample MBE not too far before the test.  My only regret, however, was that I did not use the practice questions in the books they provided prior to taking the actual MBE class (they sent the books early, and like I said, they were really helpful).
4)  Go to the BarBri lectures.  Take notes.  Try to pay attention despite the beautiful weather and the fact that you are stuck inside.  Even if you haven’t done the prep work- go to the lecture (live or taped).  There’s a reason BarBri can charge so much for their class- they know what they’re doing.
 Hope these helps!  Good luck to all you bar takers! 
 

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