BAR PREP: TIPS TO PERSONALIZE THE PROCESS
Whether you are a recent J.D. or a bar exam re-taker, this article is for you! For many preparing for the bar exam is an overwhelming and daunting experience, but it does not have to be that way. Let’s discuss how you can make preparing for the bar a manageable experience by personalizing the process.
1. YOUR PREPARATION BEGAN DAY ONE OF LAW SCHOOL
Your final hurdle to get that Esq. after your name is a rigorous and challenging test. This is as it should be. It is a great distinction. However, it is important to remember that since Day One of law school you have garnered important skills preparing you for this challenge.
You have spent countless hours as a student: reading and interpreting case law to sharpen your analytical mind; memorizing black letter law; synthesizing case briefs and lectures to carefully crafted outlines or flashcards. You have used the IRAC or CIRAC format to organize your written exams, and you are now a pro at legal research and writing.
Most importantly, in law school you learned how you study and retain information best. Let this knowledge about yourself be of service to you as you begin to prepare.
2. PERSONALIZE YOUR BAR PREP PROCESS
Since you know what works best for you in terms of studying and retention, employ those same strategies in your bar preparation.
Often students enrolled in a traditional bar review course try to follow the program to a “T.” Definitely use the course as a guide, but empower yourself to tailor the learning process to you. For example, if you are told to outline, but outlining is not how you synthesize and retain material best, then do what works for you. Maybe you prefer using flashcards, making mind maps, re-writing concepts? You get the gist. Whatever it is, do not be afraid to do what helps you learn most effectively and efficiently.
To that point, in addition to knowing how you learn best, you also know your test-taking history. Do you ace multiple choice exams or are they a struggle? Do you feel most comfortable writing or not so much? Take this into consideration as you begin to apply the law to practice problems. Practice skills to improve your weaknesses, but do not discount the power of building upon your strengths . Remember, the results are most often a combined and scaled score so that you can pass by striking a balance between the various parts of the test.
3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
The first phase of your bar prep will largely consist of learning the law. You might read outlines, watch videos, and synthesize the material. Of course, legal rules and theories are important for success on the exam.
However, application and practice are also vital components for success. In fact, there are many great resources that the National Conference of Bar Examiners have made available such as actual past bar exam questions including ones given on the MBE, MEE and MPT. When you practice, be sure to thoroughly review the provided answer explanation. This will deepen your understanding of the law as it is applied to the questions, and also help you learn and even become a master of the test.
Lastly, should you need guidance on the exam, do not hesitate to ask. You are not the first person and will not be the last to take the bar exam. Seek out a friend, mentor, professor or a tutor — remember, you don’t need to go it alone. I wish you much success as your bar prep journey begins!