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How to study for the bar exam

The bar exam has a reputation for being one of the most difficult exams that someone can take. After all the work you’ve put into law school, crushing the bar exam is a huge deal. For those of you gearing up for the bar, here are some basic study tips to help you be successful:

  1. Start Early

The amount of time that you spend study depends on a few factors.

The first factor is how much time you can spend studying in a day. If the bar exam is the only thing on your plate, you can study full-time for 40-50 hours per week. If you are able to devote that much time in a week to study, 8-10 weeks should be a sufficient amount of time for most. If you are only able to study part-time for about 20 hours per week, that time should be doubled to 16-20 weeks.

Another factor that will influence when you should start studying is the amount of difficulty you had during law school. The 8-10 week/16-20 week timeline is generally for people who were able to meet expectations during law school. If you really struggled, spend more time study. On the flip side, if you excelled during law school, you may be able to shorten that timeline a bit.

  1. Create a Schedule that Fits Your Needs

To spend your study time effectively, it’s important that you go into it with a specific schedule in mind. You can set this schedule to fit your specific needs so that your study time is the most beneficial to you.

If you notice that you are most focused and alert in the morning, schedule your study time then. If you know you won’t be disciplined enough to study on a Saturday morning, load those study hours onto a different day.

You can also set aside extra time for aspects of the bar that you know you’ll have more trouble with. Take the time away from a topic or section that you know you have nailed down.

  1.  Use Quality Study Materials

Set yourself up for success by using quality study materials. Some study materials cost money, but if they give you a quality product and help you pass the bar, it will be well worth it.

There is no official answer when it comes to which study materials are best for you. Everyone learns in different ways. Everyone needs to focus on different topics.

The main thing you need to check for is that the study guide and materials you’re using reference multistate bar exam questions written and released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. This way, you can ensure that you’re familiarizing yourself with the kinds of questions you’ll see on the bar.

When you prioritize quality study materials, you can also shorten the amount of time you spend studying. Studying for hours on end with poor study materials will not benefit you nearly as much as shorter study time with good materials.

  1. Memorization and Practice Techniques

Memorization should be an important part of your study time. It’s not enough to simply understand the laws, you have to be able to remember them off the top of your head. This will help you make a connection once you find the fact pattern in your essay questions.

Memorization provides a solid foundation for you to build the rest of your study time on, so memorize laws throughout the entire 10- or 20-week study period. Flashcards can be helpful for this.

Another useful practice technique for essay questions is the IRAC method.

What is the IRAC method? IRAC stands for:

  • Identify all issues, not just what you think may be the “most important.”
  • Consider which laws are relevant to this issue.
  • Discuss why the law is relevant to the issue. Assume the reader does not know anything about the law or why it matters in this context.
  • End the essay in a conclusion that wraps up the main ideas and laws that are applicable.

This will provide a framework for you when working through essay questions. After the bar, this is also a good skill to have as a practicing attorney.

  1. Take Care of Yourself

With the stress that people put on the bar exam, it can be easy to get overly focused on studying and forget to take good care of yourself. Despite what your knee-jerk reaction might be, locking yourself away in your home with piles of books and freezer meals does not mean that you’re setting yourself up for success.

When it comes to studying efficiently and preparing your mind, cramming and studying 24/7 with no breaks will not make you more prepared. When you take proper breaks to let your mind rest, get a good night’s sleep, and cook a good meal, you will feel more energized and refreshed.

Exercising is another great way to get the blood pumping and release endorphins to burn off some of the stress you’ll feel.

When you take care of yourself, you’ll have less time to study. But, the time that you spend studying will be more effective.

  1.  Take Full-Length Practice Exams

During your last 3 or 4 weeks, take full-length practice exams. Think of the bar the way a runner thinks of a marathon. Muscle building and stretching are important to prepare the body, but if the runner hasn’t actually made an effort to run for long periods of time, they will not be ready.

So, just because you know how to answer all of the questions in your study materials in a flash doesn’t mean that you will be ready for the mental marathon that is the bar. Practicing will prepare you for the amount of time that you have to remain focused. It will also give you an idea of how long you should be spending on each question or essay.

The bar exam is one of the most difficult exams out there. Make sure you are prepared with quality study materials, a good schedule, and plenty of time to practice.

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