The bar examination is one of the most important events in the life of a young lawyer. And after all the time and effort you’ve put into preparing for this exam, the final weeks are slowly approaching. Acting as the ticket of admission to practice law, the bar exam is the “finale” of years’ worth of law school education. For that reason, these last few weeks are critical to your bar exam preparation and can make the difference between success and failure.
During this time, you are establishing a detailed study plan to follow, memorizing your law knowledge and doing practice test after practice test, all while trying to stay sane at the same time. Here are some tips to help get you through these last couple weeks:
1. First and foremost, you need to create a study plan to help guide your schedule up until exam day. When it comes this close to taking this important of an exam, it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed. That’s why you need to make a plan to ease that nervous feeling you have that there isn’t enough time. Two weeks is a long time (that is, if you are smart about how you prioritize your study time). Making a schedule is always a good way for you to focus your time and, in this case, to help guide your study efforts.
- The plan should include a detailed daily schedule that outlines your entire day, including what part of the exam you will study for at what part of the day, and what subject you will concentrate on during that time. For instance, don’t just spend one day on MBE questions, then another on outlining and rewriting practice essays. Do a little bit of everything, every day.
- Most importantly, make sure your plan is realistic and you will be able to stick to it. Many students make the mistake of getting too caught up in worrying about all of the information they need to know, and will attempt to study unrealistic amounts of material and end up just stressing themselves out even more.
2. Come to terms that you cannot learn everything. The truth is, you cannot possibly learn every little bit of information that will be tested on the exam. No one can.
- Do not waste your time getting frustrated over that one minor issue that you are struggling with. However, what you can do is focus on how well you are able to grasp the larger, more important concepts within the areas, and then go back to those little details if you have time.
- Try to focus on all that you do know, rather than worrying about the little things you don’t. At this point, you can only do the most you can do.
3. Prioritize your weaker areas. Make studying easier by simplifying the material to what you need to know. Since you do not have time to reteach yourself every subject, go through your comprehensive course outlines and supplemental review and pinpoint your weaker areas. Create a list of all the subtopics on the exam, placing the areas that are most difficult for you on the top, and putting the ones you feel best about on the bottom. Start with the subtopics you are struggling with, then you can go back and spend less time on reviewing the material you have already covered and feel the most confident about.
- Don’t forget to take into consideration how heavily each subtopic is tested on the MBE (e.g. Individual Rights is 50% of Contracts) to justify how much/little time you spend reviewing an area of weakness. To learn more about the ratio of MBE questions, refer to the NCBE outline available at http://www.adaptibar.com/mbe-subject-outline.aspx.
4. Manage stress. At this overwhelming time in your law school career, you are probably feeling anxiety and stress much more than normal. However, it is very important to avoid stressing yourself out, especially right before the exam. It makes sense that we do our best thinking when we are calm and focused, not when we are stressed. If you can reduce or remove the stress in your life, you will be in a much better place to not only study for the exam, but also take the test and perform to the best of your ability. There are several ways to managing stress, and everyone deals with it differently. Whatever method works best for you, plan on spending some time each day that is devoted to reducing your stress.
- How do you cope with stress during the bar exam? Students share how they’ve overcome their stress and anxiety during the Bar exam- http://barexamtoolbox.com/bar-exam-tips-how-to-cope-with-stress/
- If you are studying for the Bar Exam, you can do without the common problems of anxiety, stress and fear. Matt Racine’s book, Bar over Mind: A strategy guide for an anxiety free bar exam, will help mentally prepare you to keep calm and focused while you study.
5. No matter how busy you are, you must remember to take care of yourself. That means, getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy and staying active. When planning your daily study schedule, make sure to set aside time to exercise. Even going for a 30 minute walk or doing yoga counts, and can also act as a short study break. Not only is exercise good for your health, but it will also help your brain function better. Even though it may seem like you don’t have enough time, you must make the time to take care of yourself and give yourself breaks to rest your brain.
- Lee Burgess explains why taking care of yourself is critical to bar exam preparation: http://solopracticeuniversity.com/2013/05/31/taking-care-of-yourself-is-part-of-your-bar-exam-preparation/
6. Focus on yourself. After the countless tests you’ve taken over the years, you know better than anyone else what study methods work best for you. Many students tend to lose sight of their own preparation by getting distracted by what other test takers are doing or trying to keep up with the recommended schedule provided by their comprehensive course. The only thing this will do is freak you out and cause you to think you aren’t prepared or that you know less than you really do. Every student has their own way of studying that works best for them. That is why there are so many different bar preparation tools available. During these last final weeks, don’t get caught up in worrying about what other people in your class are doing or how much they have studied. Focus on your studies and your studies only.
- “Students want to know: Am I working hard enough? Am I learning fast enough? Am I doing this right? But they have no way of finding the answers.”
Does any of that sound familiar? Mentally prepare yourself for the Bar Exam with Lauren Fire, founder of Mind Over Bar, a brain strategy course that focuses on the mental challenges students go through while preparing for the bar exam. (http://barexamtoolbox.com/bar-study-tips-getting-mentally-ready-for-the-bar-exam/)
7. Practice makes perfect. As you should already know, a significant amount of your time should be spent on practicing. Understanding the law is one thing, but being able to recite and apply that knowledge is another. That is why practice is so important. Not only does practice help you recall information quicker and more efficiently, it also helps prepare you for exam day. As you take more and more practice questions and tests, you will get a good feel for the structure of the exam. Knowing how these exams are designed and delivered will give you a sense of the necessary pace. Essentially, the more comfortable you are with the format and how you will be tested, the better you will do on the actual exam.
8. AdaptiBar (http://www.adaptibar.com/) the leading online supplemental preparation program, offers a unique online program with two modes: Practice Questions and Practice Exams. Practice Questions is the mode in which AdaptiBar is known for, as the patented adaptive technology is applied. However, the alternative mode, Practice Exams, allows you to simulate real exam-like conditions to help you manage and perfect your timing. AdaptiBar’s database of 100% licensed MBE questions provides a realistic representation of the MBE questions you’ll see on your upcoming exam. It’s best to get used to practicing with questions licensed directly from the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the organization that writes the MBE. Only AdaptiBar combines 100% licensed MBE questions from past exams with adaptive technology that adjusts to your real-time performance and studying needs. What better way to get yourself ready to take the bar exam than by practicing under real test-like conditions with test-relevant material only?
- In the beginning of your preparation, AdaptiBar recommends using Practice Questions Mode to diagnose your strengths and weaknesses, so you know where to focus your study efforts. Practice Questions Mode is the most effective and efficient way to prepare for the MBE, as the program is continuously assessing your performance and adjusting the presentation of questions to focus on your weaknesses.
- Each question presented to you is based on your current study needs and your performance statistics are automatically updated each time you submit an answer. Practice Questions Mode presents one question at a time, and immediately displays the correct answer and detailed explanation after you submit your answer choice. It’s important to make sure you read the explanations given so you fully understand why your response was correct/incorrect.
- Use the authentic MBE questions in AdaptiBar to determine your weak areas, then use your outlines provided by your comprehensive course (e.g. BarBri) to review those areas in which you are demonstrating weakness (e.g. Individual Rights). Refer to your performance statistics to point you in the right direction. Your accuracy rate per subject and subtopic are clearly displayed in the Subject Performance & Benchmark graph, as well as the Past Performance Table. Use your performance data to determine which areas you need to focus on in order to raise your overall MBE score.
- As we are getting closer to exam day, many first-time takers like to utilize Practice Exams Mode. In this mode, you can take 100-question exams that mimic real exam conditions OR pinpoint specific subtopics (e.g. Negligence) by creating an unlimited amount of customized exams. Please note: Questions included in Practice Exams Mode are based on your selections, NOT your accuracy rates as in Practice Questions Mode where the adaptive technology is applied. AdaptiBar generally recommends answering questions in Practice Questions mode only. (http://www.adaptibar.com/adaptibar-features.aspx).
- Another great way to get a feel for the structure of the exam is with the NCBE’s Online Practice Exams (OPE’s). There are three 100 question exams available that consist of released questions from 2006, 2008, and 2011.
- AdaptiBar’s unique Timing Analysis calculates your “sweet spot”, or time at which you answer questions with the greatest accuracy. The timing performance graph displays your performance in 10-second intervals of time, so you can see when you are scoring at your best. As you answered practice questions, you will develop your internal clock that monitors your own pace. AdaptiBar helps refine your internal timing, so that it’s last thing you need to worry about on exam day.
- Your overall accuracy rate is a realistic prediction of how you’ll score on the upcoming exam. Generally speaking, AdaptiBar recommends answering at least 1,300 MBE questions (of the total 1,433 questions available) throughout your program session and achieving an overall accuracy rate of about 70% to be in a good position going into the exam.
9. Think Positive, Be Positive. During this hectic time, it is easy for students to freak themselves out and put the idea in their head that they are going to fail. Let’s face it. If you are preparing for this exam, you are a smart and intelligent person. It is a privilege to be sitting for the bar exam. Having passed law school, there is no reason you won’t pass the bar exam if you have properly prepared. So be positive! This is not the time to worry about what will happen if you do fail. Now is the time to focus on what you can do to pass with the time you have left.
10. Take the day before the test to relax. After all, the bar exam is said to be a marathon, not a sprint. Just as you are supposed to take the day off before the race to rest your body, it is a very similar routine when it comes to your bar exam day. That isn’t to say you can’t review anything the day before. But for the most part, you should give your brain a break to relax so it will be fresh and ready for exam day.
- Whatever you do, do not start trying to learn new material to the last few hours before the exam. Realistically, if you don’t feel prepared by the night before the exam, nothing you learn in those extra few hours is going to help you. Last minute studying does more bad than good because it causes you to overthink everything you have already learned.
- Keep in mind; the bar exam is testing your overall exam preparation, not how much material you can absorb during last minute cramming sessions. That being said, stick to your study plan, pace yourself and you will be able to give your mind and body the rest it needs going into exam day.