The Bar Exam Isn’t All About the Law
That’s right! The bar exam isn’t all about the law.
This statement may surprise you. After all, you’ve been spending hours a day studying the law, reading about the law, making outlines about the law, and overall preparing for an exam that tests you on your knowledge of what? The law.
Of course, it’s undeniable that the law is a huge component of the bar exam. But in reality, it takes a whole lot more than simply knowing the law to achieve a passing score. Consider the following key elements of the bar exam, then incorporate them into your studying to ensure that you perform your very best on exam day.
You’re given a set amount of time to complete each portion of the bar exam. If you are unable to do so, it is impossible to pass. For this reason alone, timing is arguably just as important as your knowledge of the law on testing day.
Steps to improve your time management skills:
- Time yourself. It is essential that you track your timing performance as you answer practice MBE questions and essays to refine your internal timing. You can do this by recording the time it takes you to answer a fixed number of questions in a notebook or an Excel spreadsheet. Keep in mind that you will have 1.8 minutes to answer each MBE question and roughly 30 minutes per essay on exam day. Or, with AdaptiBar, you can simply check your ‘Timing Performance’ and ‘Timing Analysis’ charts under the ‘Performance’ tab to keep track of your timing performance.
- Make a list of everything you would like to accomplish at the beginning of each day. Then, pick 1 or 2 small tasks from the list that can be finished in 30 minutes or less to cross off first. Once those tasks are completed, you can move on to the bigger and more time-consuming items on your list, knowing that you have already made steps in accomplishing your goals for the day.
- Give yourself a deadline. It’s always easy to put off studying for “just one more day”. However, this procrastination-driven mindset should be avoided at all costs to keep productivity high throughout your studying. Start by giving yourself a set time by which you should complete each day’s activities. For example, commit to answering 30 MBE questions by 3p.m. Then, if you follow through on your deadline, reward yourself for your accomplishment with a few minutes of free time…you deserve it!
Consistency has a variety of definitions when applied to the bar exam. For example, you must remain consistent with your studying in order to convert information into your long-term memory. Just as well, you must be consistent with your timing and performance while taking the bar exam in order to pass. Fortunately, all components of consistency can be refined before exam day.
Ways to practice consistency while studying:
- Stick to a routine. How consistent is your study schedule? Select a reasonable time that you will begin and end studying each day, then commit to it. Doing so will ultimately help you complete your bar prep, form positive study habits, and train your mind to focus on the law for an extended period of time.
- Perfect your time management. Use the tips listed above to refine your internal timing so that you are able to answer questions more accurately, more consistently.
- Always study actively. You are wasting your time studying if you are passively answering MBE questions or reading over your outlines. One key to consistency is repeatedly practicing positive study habits so that, over time, you begin to perform them without a second thought. To actively study, continuously monitor your strengths and weaknesses, take notes while watching video lectures, and make sure that you know why you answered a question right or wrong before moving forward.
MBE questions and essays can be wordy. In fact, there can be so much information crammed into one paragraph, it can be difficult to sort through all of it and focus on what the question is really asking. Thus, a large portion of the bar exam is being able to identify central components of a question or essay in order to provide the best answer possible.
How to better identify key concepts:
- Study your flashcards. Perhaps one of the best ways to identify key concepts is first to identify key words, which can oftentimes be found in the flashcards you use for bar prep. Study these consistently to gain a general understanding of some of the key words that may appear on the upcoming bar exam.
- Read the full question. This doesn’t mean that you have to take the MBE at turtle speed! Rather, you should take the necessary amount of time at the beginning of each question to ensure that you fully understand the situation and what the question is asking. Otherwise, it is far too easy to miss critical information that will cost you points and a better score on the exam than you could have achieved otherwise.
- Know your terminology. Do you know the difference between assault and battery? How about pretrial motions and summary judgment motions? It is important that you are able to distinguish similar law concepts from each other on the bar exam so that you do not end up second-guessing yourself. By consistently studying and firmly grasping basic law definitions, you can rest assured that you will remain calm, collected, and confident on exam day.
On the bar exam, especially the essay portion, you will frequently be given a simulated situation and asked to find the best solution to resolve that case. Then, you must be able to simplify that information, find a resolution, and convey it in a way that shows your grader that you can make sense of general law principles. This is the core to breaking down information, and it is an essential skill to refine before taking the essay portion of the bar exam.
Tips for breaking down information more effectively:
- Focus on spelling and grammar. Sure, you’re not tested on your ability to use English properly, but if you misspell legal terms or use them incorrectly, it may give your grader the impression that you don’t know as much about the law as you really do. Take some time to brush up on your spelling and grammar skills before taking the bar exam as a simple solution to this issue.
- Stay organized. It may take longer than anticipated at first, but you will save time, energy, and frustration in the long run by creating an essay outline before you begin writing. Also be sure to start a new paragraph whenever you move from one point to the next, and double-check that your answer contains all information that the question is asking for.
- Write simply. Any grader would say that they would rather see a short, clear, and concise response to an essay question than a long one that rambles on about various principles and attempts to “show off” one’s knowledge of the law. Keep it simple and stick to the essay prompt. Not only will this help you write like a lawyer, but it’s also a great way to maintain favor with your grader.
Knowing the law is undeniably important in passing the bar exam, but remember that it isn’t everything. The bar exam is also about time management, consistency, identifying key concepts, and breaking down information. Good luck as you prepare for the upcoming bar exam.