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Study strategies: 4 study tactics for the bar exam

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Student Studying for the Bar Exam

Studying for the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE, or the bar) exam to become a lawyer is never an easy feat. Keep reading to learn a comprehensive list of tools, tricks, and techniques to help you prepare to get your best score possible on the bar.

Tip #1: Find a preparation program that works for you

The most important way to prepare for the bar exam is to allow yourself enough time to study, and to create a set schedule to do so. While some prefer to use physical prep books (from authors like Emanuel Bar Review, JD Advising, and Matt Racine) that contain hundreds of MBE multiple choice questions, others may prefer a regimented Bar prep course, or a combination to help guide studying. One great resource is Bar Hero, a free review and preparation guide.

The website is easy to use, fun, and interactive. Some of the traditional bar review prep courses include Barbri, Themis, and Kaplan, three of which you can never go wrong with. After learning skills and practicing questions, another great way to stay on top of repeating content is to use flashcards. This can aid with long-term memory rehearsal, can be especially beneficial for visual learners, and is a method to use when studying on-the-go.

Websites like Critical Pass and Quizlet are amazing resources for MBE flashcard sets. For auditory learners, most flashcard websites have the option to play the cards with sound as well.

Tip #2: Use state bar websites to your advantage

When looking for free past Multistate Performance Test (MPT) items, short answer, and essay questions, your respective state bar’s website can be extremely helpful. In addition to providing past exam questions and prompts, the state websites provide very useful instructions and pointers to take into account when writing your essays. Some of these pointers include:

  • Carefully read the question and the “call of the question,” or what the question asks you to do.
  • Pay attention to the facts presented without assuming additional facts.
  • Include more than a mere conclusion when asked to explain the answer fully.
  • Respond to the “call of the question” and stay on track.
  • Practice writing in complete sentences and composing paragraphs.
  • Organize your responses, and answer subparts, if any, in the order asked.
  • Strive for clarity and good communication in writing.
  • Avoid lengthy or unnecessary discussion of general or extraneous matters.

Tip #3: Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals for studying

After you have narrowed down your preferred prep program and methods of studying, it is important to set goals for yourself to make the time spent studying feel less overwhelming. While some of the aforementioned programs make following a regimented schedule a part of the process, for those that are studying on their own, it can be beneficial to make their own personalized study schedule written down in a similar fashion.

If your main goal is to pass the bar, goals with specific, measurable actions should be set within certain time frames. These goals can be daily (like getting through one module of an online course), weekly (like mastering one topic), and/or monthly (like perfecting your work on a whole section of the test). The last thing you want to do is procrastinate and not leave enough time for storing all the content in your brain at once.

By taking these steps, when your exam comes around, it will not seem so daunting.

Tip #4: Avoid distractions and stay off your phone

While it may seem self explanatory, if you look at your phone’s screen time, you may be surprised to find that you spend a large amount of the day on your phone. Although it can be beneficial to take 15-20 minute breaks between studying, spending too long with technology not related to studying bar material can have negative consequences.

Some people find it beneficial to delete social media applications and other time-consuming distractions off of their phone entirely to avoid too much time spent away from their studies. While it may be hard to adjust to at first, spending time away from social media and other distractions can allow more deeper thinking, improved focus and concentration, better memorization, and more time devoted to learning important material.

With all studying, the most important thing to keep in mind is to practice smart. Take some time to think about the ways in which you learn the best and most efficiently, and then try and apply that to your studying using the methods and strategies above. Work methodically through the practice material rather than rushing through, and make sure to go back to the problems you got incorrect to understand why. After the content has been mastered to the best of your ability, practice your timing on mock exams so that you are as prepared as you can be when the day of the Bar exam day comes.

Last but not least, take breaks when you need them!

After following these tips to the best of your ability, you will be well prepared for the next step in becoming a lawyer.

Chuck Boyk Chuck Boyk is the founder of Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC. Chuck is licensed in all Ohio courts and the Eastern District of Michigan in Federal Court. His firm is one of the most prominent personal injury firms in Northwest Ohio. Chuck and his firm are highly involved in the community through philanthropy such as their annual Bikes for Kids, their Veteran Scholarship, and the Boyk Hope Challenge. He resides in Bowling Green, Ohio with his wife and four children. Chuck enjoys running, taking care of his dogs and horses, and watching his children play sports.