Everyone (seriously, everyone) has an opinion on the bar exam: what to do, how to study, what to study. With countless, sometimes conflicting ideologies, it is easy for a bar examinee to get bogged down. Ultimately, though, knowing what not to do can be as important, if not more important, than knowing what to do.
The Number One Mistake: Passive Studying
The act of passive studying is the most detrimental practice of bar exam prep. Simply going through the motions of answering hundreds of questions and reading outlines is not going to get you over the proverbial hump.
Have a game plan
When approaching your studies, you need to have an achievable game plan that helps you attack your weak areas. The areas where you are stronger require less studying than the areas where you are weaker. This may seem like common sense, but what we have seen is that a majority of students do not approach their studies in this manner. Nor do they take into account how often each subtopic appears on the exam. To help create your game plan, first use AdaptiBar’s detailed, subject performance statistics to pinpoint the areas where you need to most work. Then, spend a majority of your time studying those specific areas, focusing even further on the most heavily tested subtopics (e.g. Negligence). Rely on your comprehensive program’s unabridged outlines to teach yourself the subject or subtopic’s nuanced, finer points.
When it comes to answering questions, quality is better than quantity
At AdaptiBar, we see users who will run through 50, 75, 100 questions per day. That strategy can be fine, in moderation and if you have time, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Furthermore, drilling questions just to get through them all is not the most effective way to study. While you need to be able to remember and recall the information you learned, it is also critically important to learn the topics you do not fully understand.
We usually recommend that AdaptiBar users answer between 25 and 40 questions per day. However, that is only if you are able to mindfully and critically review the answers, go over the concepts the question addresses, and analyze the rationale behind the answer.
With the AdaptiBar program you always have the option to go back (Performance > Past Questions) and review the questions that you already answered. Do not let the few minutes immediately after you answer a question be the only time you see those answers. Make time to go back and review, especially the questions that you answered incorrectly.
Write things down
Instead of passively reviewing the legal topics that the bar exam tests, the best practice is to sit and write essays. Studying with an outline or reading text off of a screen is a start, but to master the act of essays, you must actually practice writing essays. Take a stab, learn from your mistakes and try again.
Another critical act of active studiers is taking notes. Taking notes is especially important if you are a visual learner, but everyone can benefit from this practice. Writing down the concepts and thought processes that you learn is not just another way to drill the ideas into your brain, but it’s also a record that you can refer back to down the line.
For the aforementioned reasons, the act of passively studying is the most serious no-no of bar prep. There are other tips to follow (some of which are available on the AdaptiBar blog) but, if you only remember one thing, make it active studying.
After all, you are putting in hours upon hours of studying, you might as well do it right.