Passing the Bar: 6 Study Tips to Help You Succeed on the UBE

Those years of law school were tough, huh? The stress of the first year, the hustle of 2L, and trying your best to coast through that last stretch. But hey, you did it! It was a long journey, but it’s over. Time to start celebra….wait, what? Already?!

passing the bar

It feels like hours since your last lecture, and already it’s time to start studying for the bar exam. I feel your pain. Take a deep breath, shake it off, and read this handful of study tips that will help you succeed on the UBE.

1. Make a plan.

The bar exam is a different beast altogether from your law school examinations. It is comprehensive, grueling, and long. Some of you, like me, may have had a few instances during your law school stint where you slacked a tad under the sheer amount of reading, case analysis, and assignments. So, you let something slide. Maybe just a quick pre-class skim of the reading material, or even just keeping your head buried in the books during a lecture and praying you don’t get called on. And then you get called on. “Mr. Parsons, what can you tell me about the facts from Smith v. Van Gorkom?”

That will not work on the bar exam. Luck won’t pull you through those twelve hours of comprehensive testing. You won’t be able to wing through this one. No, you’ll need a strategy. You need a battle plan.

Map out your subjects over the weeks and months. Set aside time to properly reacquaint yourself with (or learn for the first time) the testable material. Intersperse your studying with practice MBE questions and MEE prompts, both to test your knowledge and to get a feel for how the material is tested. As I’ve said before, the bar exam is largely an exercise of time management. Proper allocation of that time, and diligence, is key to success on the bar exam.

2. Stick to your plan, but modify when necessary.

Be careful not to stray too far from your plan. Slack too much, and you’ll suddenly find you just spent the last two days binge-watching Netflix.

That said, modify as needed. As you study certain subjects, or topics within subjects, may just click a little more naturally for you than others. That’s awesome! Consider shifting a little time out of your confirmed strengths and into some weaknesses. Acing all your Property questions? Know your M’Naughtens and Irresistible Impulses like the back of your hand? Maybe shift a little time to memorizing those pesky Civil Procedure filings that give you trouble.

Similarly, you may have just taken a bar-tested course during your last 3L semester. You should absolutely still study and refresh yourself on the material, but you may be able to afford shifting a little time from it into something you may know a little less about. For example, if you just took an Article 9 Secured Transactions course the semester before you graduated, but have never studied Trusts and Estates in your life, perhaps consider studying the latter a bit more intensively.

Bottom line, everyone will have different strengths and weaknesses, whether they be from natural talents or previous experience; modify your plan accordingly.

3. Review them all – even the ones you get right!

It feels awesome to knock a set of practice MBE questions out of the park. Riding that boost of self confidence can give you the motivation to focus through the rest of your study day, and you definitely deserve to pat yourself on the back from time to time. After all, studying this dense stuff is exhausting. Give yourself some credit for working so hard!

Still, if you guessed on a handful and happened to get lucky, you won’t have learned anything if you don’t go back and try to figure out why it’s the right answer. Even worse if you arrive at the right answer for the wrong reason.

Here’s a brief personal story: during my first bar exam I distinctly recall an MBE question over the present sense impression exception to hearsay. I had just looked at questions involving the more common hearsay exceptions less than 48 hours prior, but I hadn’t properly reviewed all of them, having guessed my way into overconfidence on the topic. In my jumbled hurry, I fumbled a relatively easy question, and to this very day I wake up in a cold sweat, cursing Rule 803….

Just kidding. Missing an “easy” question or two isn’t the end of the world, but the less holes you have in your understanding, the better. Review them all!

4. Don’t neglect the MPT.

The scoring breakdown of the UBE is as follows – the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) is worth 50%, the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) is worth 30%, and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is worth 20%. That point breakdown should definitely influence the time you spend preparing for certain sections of the bar exam.

That said, when studying for the UBE it’s easy to accidentally give the MPT short shrift since it’s worth only 20% of the points. While you should certainly allocate your time accordingly, don’t neglect the MPT altogether. That 20% is somewhat unique compared to the rest of the bar exam – it does not require any hard or specific knowledge of the law.

Why is that important? Time you spend making sure you understand the general form of an MPT, and how to properly write one in the allotted time, is a relatively easy way to ensure you will perform that section at least competently. If you go confidently into the MPT section of the bar exam, it could help you make up for points missed elsewhere.

5. Practice is more important than you already know.

Alright, alright, lower the pitchforks. I fully understand that “practice the test” is the most obvious piece of advice in the world, but hear me out. There’s a method to emphasizing how important practice is, and one that you may not have considered.

What are the advantages of practicing? We’ve already discussed how MPT practice helps familiarize yourself with the form and method of writing an MPT. For MBE and MEE questions, it’s to make certain you understand the material while seeing how the questions may be asked, right? But let’s dive deeper into this last bit.

The more MBE questions you do, and the more MEE essays you practice, the more you’re going to start to see trends, methods, and frequently recurring themes and legal principles that question-makers tend to gravitate towards more than others. This “sixth sense” will likely be more latent than upfront in your mind, but multiple choice questions will start to look familiar. You’ll notice essay fact patterns consistently using the same tropes to test the same material.

This is a good position to be in for the bar exam. Being able to immediately recall your experiences with a particular subject, and the lessons you learned from them, the moment you start reading a fact pattern is an awesome edge to have.

6. Take it easy sometimes!

Just like you shouldn’t slack off, be careful not to completely burn yourself out either. Our minds are only capable of so much cramming before it starts to pour out of our ears. Breaks throughout the day help keep you fresh and able to return to studying with a clear mind. Ultimately, a little rest can make your study time more productive in the long run.

That doesn’t just apply to small breaks between study sessions. Don’t be afraid to go out a night here or there. Go to that concert you’ve been looking forward to. Go ahead and attend that birthday party. See that new Jennifer Lawrence flick everyone is raving about.

Let’s have a brief heart to heart – the habits you’ve been developing through law school, and will continue to develop through bar preparation and your first years as a newly-admitted attorney, will set a pace for yourself for the rest of your life. Our profession has a reputation as being overwhelmingly stressful, and not without reason. Working hard is certainly important, but so is making sure you still live your life. Don’t mistake me, you will certainly have to study hard, but make sure you are also studying smart.

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I hope you found these 6 study tips to help you succeed on the UBE helpful. I recommend perusing our other articles for many helpful tips, tricks, explanations, and insights into the examination.

I’d wish you luck, but we both know you don’t need it! You’re a bar-exam demolishing machine!

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