The National Jurist recently published an article written by our very own Corporate Counsel, Maggy Mahalick! She shares her own bar prep experiences as well as tips on how to survive the stress leading up to the exam.
The bar exam is meant to be overwhelming. Remember that. It’s a test designed to weed out those who cannot cut it. The exam tests you intellectually, physically, and psychologically. Your entire academic career comes down to those two days. Bar examiners put this pressure on you intentionally to see how you perform under these conditions.
Recognizing that fact already puts you one step ahead of everyone else.
Three days before my exam, I awoke covered in hives that had erupted across my skin overnight. I ended up in the emergency room that day instead of the library. As it turned out, I have an allergy to certain metals which was exacerbated by extreme stress. I did manage to recover in time to sit for my exam and pass.
What I realized afterward was how easy it is to get overwhelmed by this test. My advice for those studying is not to let the test overtake you. It will be stressful; it’s supposed to be, but you can find small ways to be smarter than the exam.
Use All Your Resources
You are not the first person to study for this exam. You are not in this alone. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel for everything. Save yourself time and energy by using resources that are already out there for you.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (“NCBE”) has countless free and paid resources on their website alone. They provide a sample of past Multistate Essay Exam (“MEE”) questions, along with the analyses of the correct answers. They also provide a limited number of sample multiple-choice Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”) questions with the correct answer choices for free. They provide more questions with answer explanations for a fee.
You can also sign up for a bar prep program that uses past retired questions from previous bar exams. The NCBE licenses these questions out to some companies to use instead of simulated questions. Real questions will give you the idea of what the exam will look like and feel like. AdaptiBar uses licensed questions that our legal team meticulously maintains and updates to match the current format of the exam. We pair our questions with adaptive technology and performance tracking stats so that you already know how you will perform before you walk into the exam.
If you like using flashcards but don’t have the time or patience to make your own, there are several websites that provide online flashcards for you as well as websites that allow you to make your own deck online. For example, AdaptiBar has a set of online flashcards that you can add your own notes to as you study.
Direct Your Study
It’s very easy to get overwhelmed when you start to think of the mountains of material that could be covered on the exam. There is more material than you could ever manage to get through, let alone retain. Remember that just because all that material could be tested, it does not mean that it actually will be.
The NCBE puts a subject matter outline on its website which breaks down what areas of law will be tested within a subject. The outline also gives a distribution of how much each subtopic is tested in proportion to others. Let this outline be your guide.
For example, in Evidence, 1/3 of the questions will be on “Relevancy and Excluding Relevant Evidence,” while only 1/6 of the questions will be from both “Privileges and Policy Exclusions” and “Writing, Recording, and Photographs” combined.
This means that you’ll get roughly 9 “Relevancy” questions on the exam but only 4 or 5 from both “Privileges and Policy Exclusions” and “Writing, Recording, and Photographs” combined. If you’re struggling in Evidence or short on time, you now know that you should focus more on your study efforts on “Relevancy” over other areas that are much less prevalent on the exam.
Use Your Time Wisely
Many students have an urge to just dive right into bar prep. Avoid this urge. Jumping right into practice questions will only frustrate you and waste time. Instead, start off by reviewing substantive materials. Once you have refreshed yourself on the concepts, begin answering questions. Starting with a knowledge base allows you to more accurately evaluate your performance.
If during law school you focused on Criminal Law or you received the CALI Award for your Torts class, these may be areas that don’t need as much of your attention. Trust yourself on subjects that you know. Your time is limited. Instead, try focusing on subjects you are struggling with.
Don’t be afraid to customize your study plan or integrate technology to help you. Know your own study habits and your strengths and limitations. Don’t get in your own head. Save time where you can. Put in the hard work, and you can be smarter than this exam.