The Importance of Bar Exam Practice

The biggest question on every bar taker’s mind: how do I pass this exam? Whether they’re first-time examinees or repeat takers, the answer boils down to many of the same essentials. The central underpinnings of these is practice. In order to do well on the bar exam, you have to practice the tasks you’ll be doing on exam day!

Now, I’m not talking about just “issue spotting” essays and outlining them but never really getting around to writing them out in full, under timed conditions. Doing lots of MBEs on your computer at your leisure also won’t prepare you as well as if you add in some hardcopy timed practice with a real pencil and paper and a stopwatch. Same thing goes for the performance tests: yes, these things are three-hour beasts, they’re difficult and they take forever, but you need to write them out in practice as well.

Assuming you get how important practice is when studying for the bar, the next question we get from students is usually, “but how do I start?” Most bar takers, even up until the final weeks of studying feel unprepared to put themselves through the agony of trying an essay even if they don’t know the law perfectly, watching the stopwatch run up, getting stuck, stumbling, and then salvaging the best they can before time runs out. Why? Because this is an incredibly nerve-wracking and uncomfortable process! Don’t worry, it is for everyone---that is, until they practice so much it becomes second-nature!

So, what do you do if you don’t feel quite ready to practice an essay or PT on your own yet? Figure out a way that you can do it with “training wheels” on. You can experiment with your own method for this, there are several options, or you follow a program designed by the experts.

Remember, the bar exam is just like tennis. If you want to cultivate a wicked serve or back-hand, you can’t just sit on the sidelines observing. And, believe it or not, as much as you might not want to believe it, practicing full, timed exams of the type you’ll be required to do on exam day is the number one way to get from the bench to the court. You can’t possibly do something quickly and proficiently if you haven’t practiced it many times in real life. The bar exam is no exception! So, get out there and write an essay, or if you feel ill-equipped on your own, try some practice with training wheels on.


Lee Burgess is the only child of two attorneys, so she had little choice but to become a lawyer herself. Perhaps it was because she had absorbed legal jargon with her breakfast cereal for years, but Lee did very well in law school at the University of San Francisco. She graduated cum laude, was a TA for Contracts and Torts, and was the Managing Editor of the USF Law Review.

After graduating in 2008, Lee worked in a large law firm until she received a letter from the California Board of Bar Examiners about being a bar exam grader. Rather than grade for the bar exam, Lee decided her real passion was helping students conquer the California bar exam! So she left her law firm job and became a private California bar exam tutor and law school tutor. Various Bay Area law schools recognized her teaching talent, and Lee has served as an adjunct member of the faculty at several local law schools. 

Lee created Bar Exam Toolbox with Alison Monahan to help law students across the country find bar exam success. Bar Exam Toolbox helps both first time and repeat bar exam takers through one-on-one tutoring and effective (and affordable) courses and workshops! Bar Exam Toolbox also features a blog with helpful blogs devoted entirely to preparing for the bar exam. She also is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, which provides tutoring and courses for law students. 

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