Taking the bar exam is simultaneously one of the most rewarding and nerve-wracking things that many recent law school graduates do. Those who are completing an LL.M. degree and haven’t yet taken the bar should plan carefully for the exam, as taking it more than once can be both expensive and time-consuming.
Law school students and graduates may find these eight suggestions helpful when preparing for the bar exam:
Take Advantage of Bar Review Courses
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The bar exam can be daunting, especially if you don’t know what to expect or how to approach studying for the test. Though most law school graduates become experts in particular areas of the law after completing an advanced degree, standard law school curriculum often isn’t enough to prepare for the bar exam.
Instead, many people enroll in a comprehensive bar review course, such as an in-person option like BARBRI, Themis Bar Review, Kaplan Bar Review or another online platform. Taking one of these courses will help you review the fundamentals of law and understand how the bar exam is organized. These courses also add structure to your bar preparation plan, increasing the likelihood of you meeting your objectives.
Develop and Maintain a Study Schedule
With or without a bar review course, those planning to take the bar exam typically find that a study schedule is essential. The material that the exam covers is vast, but a study schedule helps test takers plan out the types of topics to focus on each week, ensuring they cover everything before the test date.
If you choose to enroll in a bar review course, you may receive a recommended schedule. Before starting the study plan, review the entire schedule to make sure it allows enough time to cover topics you may need to study more intently. Commit to the schedule, which may require you to spend several hours a day studying, and take steps to ensure you don’t fall behind.
Limit Other Activities
When studying for the bar exam, many law school graduates find that they can focus and perform better when limiting other activities. John Bales Attorneys recommends arranging help with childcare, paying bills in advance, and even creating meal plans before beginning bar exam preparation. Checking all of these items off your to-do list will free up more time and mental space for studying.
Since preparing for the bar exam tends to demand so much attention and energy, many people find that they can’t work full- or even part-time jobs while studying. Consider scheduling the bar exam for the summer after you have completed your LL.M. degree, between clerkships, or another period of time when full-time employment doesn’t provide a distraction.
Study Actively, Not Passively
Those who have completed a law degree know that passive studying can be ineffective and can hinder your understanding of complex material. This holds true for bar exam preparation, too.
Rather than simply reading through notes, take steps to make each study session interactive. For instance, Lawyerist recommends attempting to explain a complex topic or asking yourself questions about the material to test your understanding. Consider making flashcards, copying notes, or creating outlines to help commit important areas of law to memory. Keep careful track of how many times you have studied each topic to confirm that you have met the review objectives you have established.
Understand How the MBE Works
The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) includes 200 multiple-choice questions, which numerous test takers find to be confusing or misleading. Those who perform the best on this portion of the bar exam have usually taken the time to understand how the questions are formatted and which types of questions tend to confuse them. With a better understanding of the MBE, you can decrease the chance that you will second-guess your answers or feel uncertain when taking the actual test.
Complete Practice Exams
While it’s certainly possible to take the bar exam without ever having taken a practice exam, most test takers complete numerous practice exams before completing the real thing. The bar exam will be unlike any test that most students have ever completed before, but practice exams offer insight into how the test is organized and how much time each section requires.
After completing a test exam or two, you will better understand how to pace yourself during the actual test. You will also learn the types of questions that typically appear on the bar exam and know how to answer them in a testing environment.
When preparing for the bar exam, some test takers may become so focused that they neglect to take care of themselves during this stressful time. Those who have taken and passed the exam recommend scheduling in self-care to ensure that preparing for the exam doesn’t cause stress-related reactions or health issues.
Ms. JD recommends that test takers schedule in a daily exercise routine or a trip to the gym, while others benefit from eating nutritious food rather than junk food throughout the exam preparation period. Scheduled study breaks or meditation sessions also help many test takers complete the exam while still feeling healthy.
Know When Enough Is Enough
Preparing for the bar exam can easily take over many test takers’ lives, even when they adhere to a study schedule. However, over studying may be just as harmful as not studying enough.
Bar Exam Mind recommends knowing your limits and recognizing when you are simply going through the motions instead of learning new information. When developing a study schedule, treat bar exam preparation like a full-time job. Plan to spend a certain number of hours on it each day, leaving time for activities that will help you take care of yourself, relax, and be ready to continue the learning process again the next day.
The bar exam can be incredibly challenging – but proper preparation can help. Keep these eight suggestions in mind to make bar exam preparation as straightforward and successful as possible.
To learn more about your advanced educational opportunities in law, visit USC Gould School of Law online.
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