3 Bar Exam Study Tips

Let’s be honest. Taking the Bar Exam is a uniquely exhausting experience. After three full years of law school, we are pretty tired of studying. Burnt out might be a better description.

bar exam study tips, burnout

So, how does a 3L, who just graduated law school and is in the euphoric state of relief that comes with it, re-engage in a period of study the likes and intensity of which they’ve never experienced? It can be pretty darned hard to turn from burnt out 3L, to 100% committed Bar Prep student. And you’re not given much time within which to make the switch.

Taking my own, personal experience, and the experience of a few other people who’ve taken and passed the Bar Exam – here’s what I’ve come up with to help you successfully navigate the Herculean task before you.

bar exam study tips, hercules

Do Not Underestimate the Amount of Study Time Necessary to Pass

This is such a biggie – I don’t know how to properly emphasize it. As a law school graduate, who likely found out by second semester IL year how to best study and pass your law school exams, you may be tempted to think that any short cuts you used in the past will be just as successful here. If this idea is anywhere in your mind right now, please listen up.


If you continue to think this way, I can almost guarantee that on the day the Bar Exam results come out – you will have very bad news.

This isn’t law school. There is no teacher giving you “pointers” on what will be on the exam. It isn’t just a test of one, narrow area of law. (I know, there is no such thing as a “narrow” area of law. But one area IS narrow when you look at the entire ocean of law school subjects that are tested on the Bar Exam.)

Taking the Bar Exam Is a Skill You Must Learn and Practice

There simply are no shortcuts. Let me say that again – there are no shortcuts when it comes to passing the Bar Exam. The sooner you really let that sink into your consciousness, the better off you will be.

Not a True Test of Your Lawyering Ability

Taking the Bar Exam is a very specific skill. It is not a true test of your acumen as a lawyer. Many people have bemoaned this sad truth, but it does not change the fact that you MUST learn the skills needed to pass this test to become licensed to practice law.

There are many things I could say about the absurdity of this fact. But I’ll only touch upon one. On the Bar Exam – specifically the MBE – you are asked to do something that you would NEVER do as a practicing lawyer. Choose the “best answer” from among a list of 4, wherein two are arguably correct. Let’s just say it. This is nuts. bar exam study tips, nuts

As a practicing lawyer, if you were to make such a snap judgment without thoroughly researching the issues and law as they relate to your case’s facts – you would likely eventually be disbarred. Snap judgments are bad. The law is never that cut and dried. It’s murky.

Yet on the licensing exam, they ask you to do something that should never be done in actual practice!

So again – I stress that taking this exam and passing it is a SKILL. It is a skill that can be learned. But as with all skills, it must be learned…and then practiced. And then practice…and practiced…and practiced some more! The more you practice, the easier this exam will be for you on game day.

And just in case you are wondering – no, you did NOT learn these skills in law school. In fact, you’ve never encountered them in this format before. The MBE, MEE, and MPT are all different. Each exam requires an entirely different set of skills in order to pass.

And more than anything, learning these skills takes time.

Don’t underestimate that.

Stay Far Away From Toxic People

You may not want to think about your fellow Bar Examinees as toxic. You may not like thinking about your mom, or sibling, or friend as being toxic. But they all are – or can be. And you need to do yourself an incredible favor, and stay far away from many of them during your Bar Prep period.

I won’t say too much about family or friends who are of the “extra care required” variety. I should think that is pretty obvious. Some people in our lives are energy vacuums, that suck up our energy and our will to press forward. There is an infinite number of ways a person bar exam study tips, toxic peoplecan suck the life out of you. You may love them, and not want to distance yourself from them for 8-12 weeks – but do it. Once you pass the Bar Exam, you can make it up to them.

Perhaps a bit harder to fathom is that fellow Bar Examinees can be particularly toxic. I’ve touched upon this before, but suffice it to say that comparisons are a deadly poison.

It is hugely detrimental to be surrounded by people who are:

  • as stressed out as you are,
  • feeling as pressured as you feel,
  • and who like to “compare notes” by talking about how they did on the last practice test.

There is nothing worse than having a bad study day where you bombed your last practice MPT, MBE, or MEE – and then having a classmate come up and start talking about the great score they just got on the exact same practice test!

Spare yourself. Commit to studying in a place devoid of these influences.

Personalize Your Study Plan
In a nutshell: make your own study plan.

  • Begin with the study schedule provided by your Bar Prep course
  • Follow it for the first few weeks
  • As you get a feeling for your strengths and weaknesses
    • TWEAK the study schedule!!!
  • Focus more on building up any weak areas, while maintaining the strong areas
  • Continue to self-assess and tweak accordingly as you go along

This is your Bar Exam. Don’t let someone else tell you what to study and when. Follow the basics, make sure you cover everything but continue to self-assess and tailor your schedule to maximize the benefits of your study time.

Lastly, Personalize Your Space

I went over this in some detail in Studying for the Bar: 3 Pre-Game Tips, but it bears repeating.

You are in for an 8-12 week intense period of full-immersion study. Make the space that you will be sitting in for 8-12 hours a day as pleasant for you as possible. Make it a space that you want to be in! Whatever that means for you – make it happen!

And don’t underestimate the soothing power of study music (as long as it is instrumental with no words to distract you), meditation, and exercise (at least stretching and moving a bit). If you can create a space where you can both study, and do all of the above, that will greatly benefit you.

Good Luck on Game Day!

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