The bar exam is tomorrow. Stop reading this blog. Stop searching the internet for last minute advice and essay predictions. You have put in a lot of work, and you need to have confidence that it will pay off.
Make sure you have what you need to get into the exam, including your seat ticket and photo ID. Make your lunch. Then go do something to get your mind off of the bar. Your brain really needs the break.
I’ve heard from a lot of people in the past day or so who are very concerned because their practice MBE scores are going down. Unfortunately, this is very common. It does not mean that you are forgetting everything, or that you are going to fail the bar. It happens to plenty of people, and they go on to pass.
There are a number of potential reasons for this decline, but the important things to remember are 1) you’re in good company, and 2) you’re still going to pass the bar.
Keep pushing forward. Try switching the source of your MBE questions. Try focusing on essays. You want to see as many fact patterns as possible, so read through several essays every day, issue spot, and read the model answer. You can even copy down the model answer if that helps you learn.
Be active. Don’t just read and re-read your outlines. Talk, write, test yourself.
By now, your bar company’s lectures are over or coming to an end very soon. That often leaves bar studiers uncertain about next steps.
Your bar review company will give you a schedule that you can follow, if you feel like it works for you. Most people tweak the schedule, and do not strictly follow it. This period of time, like all of bar study (and life in general, it seems), is all about balance. You need to balance memorization and practice. Some days that might mean 50/50 memorization/practice, while other days it might mean spending 70% of your time on memorization and 30% on practice. It depends on what you think you need.
Memorization takes time. Sometimes bar review companies underestimate how much time needs to be spent on this task. Make sure that you keep two things in mind as you memorize: 1) in order to be effective, you must be active with your memorization, and 2) it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Many people make the mistake of passively reading through outlines and thinking that means they’re memorizing. Studies show that reading is actually a pretty terrible way to memorize. You want to be more active – write things out, say things out loud, test yourself, walk around while going through flashcards, teach the law to your cat. There are many ways to be active with memorization. Figure out which ways help the material stick in your brain and do them.
Unlike your law school professors who expected to see rules on your exam in the manner you discussed them in class, the bar grader doesn’t know what you have in your outline or on your flashcard. People are learning the rules with variations in language. That should be comforting to you. If you have those rules that just won’t stick perfectly, but you understand the concepts, and can write generally about them, that will be enough. Don’t get hung up because the way you remember the rule isn’t exactly what you wrote on your flashcard. If you’ve got the concept, move on.
In terms of practice, you want to simulate exam-like conditions as much as you can. That means having practice MBEs, essays, and MPTs printed out in front of you. It means paying attention to your timing. It means doing two MPTs back to back at least twice. It means doing six essays back to back at least once. It means doing 200 MBEs in one day, at least once.
That said, if you are doing your regular daily practice and come across an issue in an essay that you can spot, but for which the full rule hasn’t stuck yet, it’s still ok to look up the rule. You want to practice with the correct rule so that you don’t end up memorizing the incomplete or incorrect rule you put down in the haste of a practice essay. You are still in learning mode. Every piece of practice you do will help you learn something that you can use on exam day. You are not in exam mode until exam day.
ractice will help you memorize as well, so schedule practice essays on subjects that you haven’t looked at in a day or two. Do mixed MBE sets to train your brain to switch subjects rapidly.
Don’t forget to build in time to take care of yourself. Eating, sleeping, exercise, and fun, are just as integral to a study plan as memorization and practice questions. You need to be in good shape for exam day.
First of all, don’t panic! Many people, if not most people, bomb the practice tests. It’s just practice. It’s not the real thing. It can be very valuable, if you stay in learning mode.
The key now is to learn as much as possible from the experience. Pay attention to which sub topics you struggled with. Notice when you answered several questions in a row incorrectly and see whether it was a lapse in focus, or if you let a difficult question break your confidence and infect the next several questions.
Make note of how you felt at different parts during the day. What distracted you? When did you get hungry or tired?
This score is not dispositive. Keep studying and stay focused on learning. Your score will improve significantly from now until exam day as you learn more, memorize more, and practice more. You’re not in exam mode until the day of the exam.
To get the most out of your post-exam review, you may want to review your score and study strategy with the bar support folks at your school.
It’s February! That means you have about 3.5 weeks left. Seeing the word February on your calendar can create anxiety, but it doesn’t need to. You are almost done, and that should bring some sense of relief.
You should pivot shortly to memorization and practice mode (from learning, creating materials, and practice mode). You may be worried about finding time to do more than you have already been doing. If you’ve been studying 10 hours a day, there is no time in the day to ramp up. That’s ok. The truth is that you don’t necessarily need to spend more time. You won’t be spending time watching lectures or making study materials.
If you haven’t put in the time, however, you really have no time to lose. You need to step up your game immediately. Make sure that you are doing some form of practice every single day – MBEs, essays, or MPTs. Ideally, you’ll do more than one type of practice every day because you don’t have as solid of a foundation of practice as you would like to have.
You also want to make sure you have a solid plan for what you will use to memorize. If you haven’t been making study materials, make sure that what you have from your bar review company, or the materials that were passed down from a friend, will actually work for you.
Make no mistake, February is intense. Whether you’ve been on top of your game or not, it is natural to feel more pressure in February. But remember that you are only human and there is only so much that is humanly possible to do. You still need to take breaks. You still need to eat well, exercise, sleep, and have some fun.
You’re almost at the finish line! The light at the end of this tunnel should provide you with the motivation you need to get through the final weeks!
Don’t get lost in the daily grind of just going through the motions to check things off of your bar company’s to do list. Make sure you take the time to reflect on each task after you have done it. It’s not enough to say “oh, I got that wrong, I don’t understand mortgages at all.”
You want to dive a bit deeper. Ask yourself why you got a question wrong. Was it because you didn’t know the doctrine? Ok, what are you going to do to make sure you learn the doctrine? Did you put that rule into your outline, or on a flashcard?
But chances are, you’re also getting questions wrong for test-taking reasons, not doctrinal reasons. Pay attention to those reasons too. Look for patterns, such as reading the question too quickly and missing something key, or reading too slowly and over-analyzing or adding something in that isn’t there.
Every day you should think of 2-3 takeaways – general lessons that you learned and will take forward to the rest of bar prep. Think globally, beyond each individual question. Use those takeaways to change how you approach future questions. Reflection is how we grow.
Many of you will have a practice MBE coming up soon (or it may have already been scheduled). You may decide to skip it because you don’t feel ready. Don’t. It’s a good idea to do it.
Take the practice MBE to practice the MBE. Don’t take it to determine how you will do on exam day. You haven’t memorized everything yet. This isn’t the test.
But it is still a valuable experience. It’s important to feel what it’s like to do 100 questions and have to do 100 more. It’s important to take away some lessons about test-taking and stamina. Pay attention to how you feel and how focused you are at various points during the exam. Notice when you are distracted, tired, anxious. Notice your timing as you move through the exam at various parts in the day.
When you review your answers, notice when you answer several incorrectly in a row. Was that because one question was difficult and it blew your concentration for the next several questions? Was it because you were tired or hungry and you need to build in a snack, drink of water, or quick trip to the restroom to reset your focus?
Remember that if you get anxious, you can close your eyes, take 3-5 deep breaths, and reset. It will only take a few seconds and can save you a lot of wasted time and mental energy.
Also pay attention to specific topics and subtopics that you struggle with. That can help you figure out what to prioritize in the last couple of weeks, and what you might need to let go of.
If your bar review company rents out a space for the exam, go to it. It’s important to be around other people and distractions in order to simulate exam day.
Remember, even though it’s a mock exam, you’re still in learning mode. Use this experience to learn as much as you can about taking the MBE.
Bar applicants often second guess themselves on MBE questions, and choose the wrong answer over the right answer they picked originally. It’s important to recognize this pattern and interrupt it.
Make note of how often you pick the right answer and then second-guess yourself and choose the wrong answer, and figure out whether this is a big problem for you.
If it is, make a pact with yourself that you will only change an answer if you can articulate a reason (in IRAC format) why you are changing it. This means that you can’t change an answer just because you think another answer choice looks prettier, or the question must not be as simple as it seems. You can only change an answer if you missed something, or forgot something, the first time.
You applied to law school with a dream. You wanted to be an attorney. Something pulled you towards a law career. Something was important enough for you to spend countless hours studying for the LSAT and writing and re-writing your personal statement. Remember WHY you embarked upon this journey in the first place. Hold on to that.
Bar study can be tedious, monotonous, and demoralizing. There is always more to do than can be done in a day, and every practice session can feel like negative feedback. The world is going on without you. There are concerts and protests, marches and picnics in the park.
Unfortunately, this is all part of the process of bar prep. But when you get down and feel like it’s not worth it, when you feel like you would be making more of a difference if you were out there organizing now, instead of inside studying, remember why you came to law school. Remember why you are doing all of this, sacrificing so much and working so hard. Remember all of the people who would love to be in your position – given the opportunity to be in a safe place studying, on the cusp of obtaining a law license.
This is a short period of time in a long life of service. It is all worth it in the end. Always keep your end goal in mind. Keep your dream alive.
You can’t know absolutely everything that is testable on the bar exam. But, you can (and will) know most of it.
Most bar companies will give you big outline books. You don’t need to know everything that is in those outlines. You also have your lecture notes. Focus on those. The bar companies will give you the most important (most heavily tested) material in lectures. It won’t be absolutely everything, but it will be enough. Spending a lot of time outlining from, or trying to know everything in, the big outline books is not a good use of your time.
You will also learn new rules through essay and MBE practice. This can be very anxiety-producing for bar studiers. However, it is all part of the process, and you’ve got to trust the process. Take what you learn from your practice and add it to your lecture notes. That will be what you memorize from.
Strong students find it particularly stressful to not know exactly what you will be tested on. But, this isn’t a law school exam with a closed universe of testable material. The universe for the bar is enormous. There will be something you don’t know. But, that’s ok. You will still pass.