Recently I have been getting a number of emails from folks on how they should go about preparing for the bar exam after taking a break. I feel that this is becoming more and more common as, due to financial concerns, many bar studiers forgo taking the next bar exam and instead seek gainful employment and start to pay down debt. That makes sense to me—even though, generally speaking, after a failure I recommend taking the next bar exam offered.
So, if you have taken time off, how do you gear up to prepare again? Here are some tips for you to get started.
1. Dust off that past exam and try to evaluate what went wrong.
The first step to preparing again is to evaluate what went wrong the last time. Was it your MBE score that cost you a passing result? Or did you struggle with the writing? Did you have debilitating testing anxiety? All of these are common reasons that students don’t pass. So you want to dust off your old answers, review your score sheets, and brainstorm why you think you struggled with the exam in the past.
2. Unfortunately, you likely need to take some sort of a preparation course.
Even if you have taken a prep course in the past, you may want to investigate taking one again, especially if it has been years since you sat for the exam. But remember—prep courses aren’t what they used to be and it is likely there are more options out there, at many different price points, than you may be familiar with. Many programs now are available completely online or on your iPad, allowing you maximum freedom and flexibility while you study. The other bonus? Often, these courses are offered at a lower price point than the in-person bar review courses. So do a little research, shop around, and see what sounds like the best fit. We have reviewed different bar review tools over at the Bar Exam Toolbox, if you want some additional suggestions.
3. If you feel that a prep program isn’t the answer, then you want to start reaching out to bar exam tutors.
There are bar exam tutors who will give you one-on-one help to assist in your preparation whether for the MBE, essays, or performance test. If you want some personal help overcoming the exam, this may be the answer for you. Also, if you are working full time, a tutor can often help you tailor a study schedule to meet your specific needs. Not sure how to select a bar exam tutor? Here are some suggestions for choosing the right bar exam tutor for you.
4. If investing in bar prep isn’t going to work for you financially, then buy a couple of helpful books and get your studying on.
I know bar prep is expensive and money can be really tight. Therefore, you may want to check out a couple of helpful books to start studying again. For essay and performance test help, you can check out these books by BarWrite Press. If you are studying for the California bar exam, you can also check out this book about self-studying for the bar exam (the same author also recently released an MBE self-study book). By spending time on Amazon or Craigslist, you may be able to buy some used prep books to keep your costs down. You can absolutely self-study for the bar exam, but it is challenging and you want to attack it with all the resources you can get your hands on.
5. Spend some time asking yourself if you are ready and able to commit to studying for the next exam.
One common concern that comes up in the emails I get is how to balance life responsibilities with studying. I have too often seen someone trying to study for the bar exam, especially after a failure, who lacks the time to dedicate to the process, to make it a priority and get things done. This may require working out additional child care or talking to your boss about taking extra time off. The key is to make sure that you aren’t self-sabotaging your prep, simply because you can’t allocate adequate study time. It is best to wait to take it again until you can be in a situation where studying is possible and likely to lead to success. So sit down and really think about the next few months you have coming up. Can you make room for bar exam preparation?
6. Don’t ignore how emotionally challenging it might be to start studying again.
We have talked about mental readiness here on Solo Practice University and frequently on the Bar Exam Toolbox. If you have taken some time away from this exam, I would recommend you give yourself time and space to think about whether you are mentally ready to study again. Coming back to this test can bring up a lot of emotions that you may have left to the side for a while. It may bring up previous feelings of doubt, frustration, and disappointment. These feelings, especially while mixed with anxiety about preparing again, can make it difficult to focus and study effectively. Make sure that you spend some time sitting with these feelings so you can acknowledge them and deal with them. Or if they become overwhelming, you can seek help prior to the exam to make sure you are ready for exam day.
Hopefully, these tips will help you get started creating a plan for your bar preparation.
Have you come back to studying for the bar exam after a break? If so, share your experience in the comments.