I wanted to entitle this article “Solitary Confinement or How I Plan To Study For the Bar Exam” but I was convinced it would send too many Bar takers running for the hills – but I digress…so I called it Going To Prison…
Bar Prep for the Texas Bar started on May 23rd - I’m taking an online course which requires me sitting in front of my computer for at least 3 hours a day listening to someone drone on about subjects I could quite frankly care less about. Yes, I know it’s the Bar. Yes, I know its the most difficult test I will ever take. Yes, I know I HAVE to pass it on the first go-round – but honestly, I’d rather be doing anything but studying for this fetid exam.
This is exactly why I realize that I have to go into the “hole” if you will and place myself into solitary confinement to get ready for this thing. Trying to study from home just isn’t going to cut it – there are too many distractions swirling around and it is too easy to get drug off course by those distractions. Admittedly I have not studied as arduously as I know I should have in these first few weeks – heck, even as I write this blog I’m actually procrastinating from doing note cards.
This can’t keep up – it is a one way ticket to a non-legal career. So if you’re like me and get too easily distracted here are some great tips I’ve found from across the web on how to tackle the Bar Exam.
it’s better to formulate a plan late than never. Josh Camson at the Lawyerist tells us to treat the bar exam like running a marathon - and that “interval training” is the key to gearing up to the Bar . He suggests little breaks to clear your mind and help you to remain sharp in studying. My problem studying from home is that a “little” break more often than not turns into a “big” break.
When I go to lunch with friends I usually find myself knocking off for the rest of the day because I really don’t have a plan of attack so to speak. Another suggestion Camson had was locking yourself in a room all day and then rewarding yourself with a day out with friends or a trip to the movies. This “prison” method of interval training probably works better for my habits. I plan on going to the local community college and manning a study room for the next few days and then scheduling a mid-week lunch as something to give myself to look forward to instead of being habitually interrupted or finding ways to be interrupted.
Another great piece of advice I came across in formulating a plan for studying for the Bar was suggested by Lisa Young at Law School Academic Support Blog. Lisa suggests that balancing good sleep, nutrition, and exercise habits are key to keeping in good mental and physical shape during the Bar. Brilliant! While it sounds self explanatory, I honestly did not think about those things in the first few weeks I’ve been studying for the Bar. Meanwhile I’ve noticed my pants getting a little tighter during that time. It’s real easy to grab some chips or snacks from the kitchen to munch on while listening to these endless videos. However at this rate come August I’d have to buy a whole new wardrobe and from previous experience that’s not cheap (in the last year I’ve lost 60lbs).
One of the ways I was able to lose so much weight was sticking to a rigid schedule – anyone that’s ever dieted can tell you its no small accomplishment. Young’s idea of balancing exercise, sleep, and nutrition fits in greatly to creating a schedule to manage studying for the Bar and exercising. Developing a daily schedule really helped me reach my weight goal so it seems that there is no reason it wouldn’t work in this setting either to get ready for the Bar Exam.
One further piece of advice I would advice is to turn off the cell phone when you sit down to study. It doesn’t take much to derail my train of thought when I’m studying. Keeping myself in the “zone” is difficult enough while studying for the Bar. I’ve found that if I wall myself off from as many outside distractions as possible I’m able to get my work done quicker and retain more information.
I understand I’m not reinventing the wheel here but putting pen to paper….um ….finger to keyboard helps bring the plan to life for me. As someone who absolutely needs structure , sitting down and formulating a daily schedule and recognizing potential pitfalls is exactly what I needed to tackle the beast.
If you’re struggling with the same or similar issues while preparing for the Bar – know that you’re not the only one having internal panic attacks because you know you’re not doing what you need to do and breathe – then formulate a plan of attack – and then do it.
Here’s an example of the daily schedule I created to keep myself on task. By sticking to this schedule I’ve been able to focus on my Bar prep material like I know I should. The main thing I’ve found that helps keep me focused is getting to the frame of mind of treating this like a job – after all my job and livelihood all depend on whether or not I pass this test.
BAR EXAM STUDY SCHEDULE
8:00am Wake up – Breakfast – Travel to Library
9:00am Begin Bar Prep Video
12:30pm Lunch Break
1:30pm Review Bar Prep Notes
5pm Down time
8pm Make/Review Note Cards from Daily Lecture
10pm Watch Conan O’Brien
Yes. Prison is known for its very strict schedule.
How are you studying (or studied) for the bar exam? Please share your tips.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.