Studying for the Bar Exam? 10 Things You Should Do

Studying for the bar exam is a marathon, not a sprint. While you are immersed in Contracts, Evidence, and the UCC, keep these tips in mind.

1. Choose Your Bar Prep Course(s) Wisely

By now, you have made it through law school and should be familiar with how you best memorize information. And if you’re preparing for the bar exam there is A LOT of memorization in your future. So know your study style and invest in a program that is going to compliment it.

For instance, I knew that sitting through daily lectures at school would only hinder me. (This was back when we had to actually travel to school to hear the lectures!) I decided that this would not be the most efficient use of my time.

I also knew that I am extremely self-motivated. I don’t need someone prodding me along. Therefore, studying at home was perfect for me.

So know yourself. Do your research. Pick the perfect study course for you.

2. Make a Personal Study Schedule

studying for the bar exam, superman - magoosh

Again, know yourself. Know your schedule. Then build around what you know. Be reasonable. Don’t pretend to be Superman or Wonder Woman unless you know that you will leap those tall buildings in a single bound!

See Bar Exam Study Schedule for more information on how to make the best plan for yourself. And then stick to it like glue!


Let’s be honest here. Through law school, most of us eat like crap. Not always. But there are times of binge studying that just seem to lend themselves to carb filled “energy” foods that seem to keep us going, but don’t. By now, most of us know that carbs turn to sugar in our bodies, and sugar can have a devastating effect on your body and mind.

It ultimately leaves you without energy, after the “sugar-high” subsides. And it won’t leave you clear headed either.

OK, enough of the healthy foods lecture. You know your body. Feed it well while studying for the bar exam. It will assist your efforts instead of sabotage them. Drink lots of water. It’s important.

4. Sleep Well

This one is pretty obvious, but worth mentioning. Most of us who have dared to traverse the Everest of law school know how to push ourselves towards a goal. But sometimes we sacrifice sleep and other essentials to get there. Don’t.

5. Exercise

I know you won’t want to. Unless you have kept up a solid exercise regimen throughout law school, you likely will not be thrilled about adding this particular item to your already packed schedule. But looking back, I am extremely sorry that I did not.

Here’s why.

When I was studying for the MBE, I locked myself up in my room for literally 12-14 hours a day. Yep. I’m just that uptight. I was so determined to CRUSH this exam that I was willing to do whatever it took to never, ever have to take it again. So for almost 2 months, I was locked in my room with a book in my face.

When it came time to study for the essay exam, I was going completely crazy by now. I could no longer stand being in my room. So I took it to the pool!

studying for the bar exam, exercise - magoosh


I took all of my outlines for the essay portion of the exam and laminated them. Then I punched a hole in the corner and put them all on a ring. I went out to my pool and sat the laminated copies of the outlines at one end.

I jumped in the pool, lingered by the edge with the outlines for a bit. I would take a “chunk” of information I had to memorize, and go over it in my head a couple of times.

Then I would swim. I swam laps and with every stroke I repeated the information in my head, over and over again. Then I moved on to the next chunk of text.

I did this for the next month. This is how I memorized all the material for the essay portion of the exam. It got me out of my study pit. I was out in the sunshine! It got my heart beating strongly and oxygen flowing to my brain.

I felt so GOOD after a few hours in the pool, that it was a joy to go back into the study pit and crank out awesome essays based on what I’d been studying.

And I did very well on the essay portion of the exam, so it worked!

My only regret is that I did not start my exercise system of studying sooner. I should have done that while memorizing for the MBE. It would’ve saved the pain of the preceding two months.

6. When You Take Breaks, Take Them Wisely

Time is a precious commodity during your bar study months. So when you take a break, do something that fulfills or relaxes you.

Don’t worry about pleasing others. Be selfish during these months. I give you permission! You can make it up to your loved ones AFTER the exam.

Whatever you do during your breaks should energize and recharge you. Whatever that is for you, (to steal a phrase) just do it!

7. Start with the MBE

Memorize those outlines. Then drill those practice MBE questions like a military drill sergeant! The key to doing well on the MBE is to learn how to spot the techniques used by the examiners to try to trip you up. You learn that by practicing.

Massive repetition will serve you well here. For more on studying for the MBE, check out How to Study for the Bar Exam Multiple Choice Section

8. Move on to Essays & MPT Only After You Do Well on MBE Prep

I waited until I had a very good handle on the MBE before moving on to the Essay portion of the exam. I may be unusual, but I took about 4 timed MBE exams before moving on. I wanted to get high scores on those to give myself some “margin for nerves” at the actual exam.

After getting very good scores on each timed MBE, I felt ready to move on.

As you probably know, the essay portion of the exam is all about memorization. Commit as much of those outlines to memory as possible. Then practice issue-spotting and outlining. THEN, you must practice actually writing out the full response.

You see, it’s all about not being surprised on test day. Practicingstudying for the bar exam, conditioning - magoosh it all, even writing out the essays, will get you used to the exercise and make it flow like clockwork on the actual test day. It is NOT wasted effort. It is PRACTICE for game day!

Also, keep in mind that if you don’t generally perform well on multiple choice tests, the essays are where you can pick up a ton of points! Use them well.

9. Practice Full, Timed Tests

Don’t skip this step. As mentioned above, practice is critical. Athletes practice over and over for game day. Performers have dressed rehearsals before the curtain goes up on opening night.

studying for the bar exam, practice, conditioning - magoosh

You should do the same.

Taking 100 multiple choice questions in the morning, and 100 more in the afternoon is a skill. It is a test skill with which you should become comfortable. The same for writing out essays, and either performing what is asked on the MPT or taking your jurisdiction’s afternoon multiple choice portion.

It’s all a skill. It can be learned. Time it. Sit under test conditions as much as possible. Get used to the act of sitting through all parts of the exam. You need to feel secure. On test day, you need to feel like you’ve done this before, and you’ve got it down-pat.

You will be very glad you did.


If you don’t do anything else I’ve suggested—DO THIS!!!

Both before and during the bar exam, students love to talk about it. I still have no idea why this is true. It’s all gossip, self indulgent, and useless.

What’s more, it is harmful.

For instance, after the essay portion of the exam I recall being in line for lunch. I got SO IRRITATED by these two guys in front of me who WOULD NOT SHUT UP about the essays we all just spent 3 hours writing.

studying for the bar exam, useless chatter - magooshFor about 10 minutes I was subjected to these idiots, going into great detail about how they answered the questions. They were clearly trying to “one up” each other, and every time they mentioned something that I didn’t think of—my anxiety GREW.

I don’t know how long it took me, but I finally lost it and put my earbuds in my ears so I could not hear their incessant chatter.

This can be so damaging. Stay FAR away from it. It is toxic. At a time when your head needs to be completely in the game, you do not need anyone stealing your focus. If I had let them, these guys could’ve completely dismantled me. I would have walked into the rest of the test after lunch crippled by anxiety, thinking I’d already failed.

But I knew better. And you should too. There are many different ways to answer each essay. If not, then those guys must have failed because their answers were nothing like mine, and I passed by quite a large margin!


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