Five Tips if you are Starting to Study for the Bar Exam Now

It is hard to believe that it is already the end of September. I have recently been getting quite a few emails and having coffee with folks who are already starting to study for February. Most of these folks are repeat takers and many are working full time while studying. Are you one of these individuals?  Are you starting to study early? If so, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Take time to evaluate what went wrong the last time. When you are coming back from a bar exam failure, it is incredibly important to figure out what went wrong. This isn’t necessarily the most pleasant exercise to go through, but it is essential as you sit down to prepare again. How can you make any positive changes without evaluating what happened in the past? (Need some help? Here are some tips on evaluating your past results.)
  • Don’t study in the exact same way you did in the past. Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. This does pertain to bar exam study. Did you take a commercial bar review course last time? Should you take it again, just because you can do it for free? Well, depending on why you think you failed, this may not be the best use of your time. For example, if you struggled with legal analysis, hours of substantive lecture are unlikely to help you raise your scores. Remember, for most of us, simply listening to lectures isn’t going to get us ready for the exam.
  • It is likely you didn’t practice enough. No one likes to hear this, but the reason most folks fail is because they didn’t practice enough. No one likes to practice. My own students usually fight me when I assign them lots of practice. But practice is one of the ways that we can become an expert exam taker. It helps us review the law, issue spot, and work on analysis. This is true for both the writing portion and the MBE portion. I have never had any students tell me that they wish they had practiced less (well, after the fact that is—in the moment, plenty of students tell me they don’t want to practice). There is no downside to practice other than it isn’t particularly fun. So make a commitment to yourself that you are going to practice as much as possible. Practice even if you are using your outlines (because you haven’t memorized the law yet). Practice even though you don’t want to—it is a decision you are unlikely to regret. (And along with practice, make sure you evaluate your work to learn from the practice.)
  • Evaluate whether you need help. A lot of folks studying for a long period of time want to go it alone because they are worried about the expense of hiring a tutor or paying for a review program. However, you must constantly evaluate whether you are doing okay on your own. Although paying for help can make the bar exam even more expensive, not getting help can stand in your way of success (and taking the bar exam another time can be even more expensive). Whether it be a bar exam tutor, bar review program, or possibly a therapist or performance coach, you definitely want to reach out and get help if you need it. If you are going to invest all of this time and effort studying, you want to do what needs to be done in order to give yourself the best chance of passing.
  • Warning, possible burnout ahead.  If you start studying on October 1, you will be studying for almost five months for this test. That is a long time. When you are studying for that length of time, there is always a risk of burnout. And burnout can be a huge hurdle in your preparation. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint. You need to plan carefully to avoid burnout.

Bonus Tip: Put important registration dates on your calendar. I have to share a story that I heard last bar season. A student started studying early in the year because she was studying and working at the same time. She wanted to put off paying for the exam and registering because she wanted to save up some additional money first. However, she didn’t carefully track the registration dates and she missed the registration deadline. She lost her opportunity to sit for the test. Don’t let this happen to you—make sure you stick registration dates on your calendar and don’t wait until the last minute to register. You may regret it later!

Good luck with your early bar preparation.

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®.

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