After sitting through your bar review lecture, you look at your outline, essay book, MBE questions, and ask yourself, “What should I study first?” Although, it’s very good to experiment to find what works best for you, here’s a look at what method I used that worked for me. I ended up evolving from one method to another. I’ll tell you what that was and why I evolved, after learning the hard way.
First, let’s look at all the possible options you could study for each subject:
What could you study?
Let’s say you are in the process of learning torts. You could do any of the following:
1) Go to a class lecture
2) Review class lecture notes
3) Review the conviser outline (or whatever outline you have)
4) Do MBE questions
– Timed or untimed
– Review MBE answers, only incorrect or all answers
5) Do practice essays
– Only Outline or full essay
– Timed or untimed
– Review model outline or model essay
– Redo essay
Bar Exam Prep Method #1 – Less Effective
At the beginning of my bar exam prep, what I usually tried to do was the following, in this order:
1) Review outline
2) Go to class lecture
3) Review class notes
4) *Do untimed/timed MBE questions
6) *Do untimed/timed essay & outline
7) Repeat steps 1, 3 – 5, in whatever order and to what extent I felt necessary.
*I would review sample answers after I did each set of questions
This system is not bad, but here’s why it wasn’t the most effective method for me:
Doing steps 1 and 3, on their own, was a HUGE waste of time. It would often take a LONG time to do, I didn’t get much value out of it, and I would be drained by the time I got to the MBE and essays.
Not only do outline and class lecture notes take hours upon hours to complete, rarely did I feel I could perform essay or MBE questions better as a result of all the time spent.
Remember, EVERYTHING YOU STUDY SHOULD BE HELPING YOU DO BETTER ON ESSAYS, MBE’s, AND PERFORMANCE TESTS (if applicable). After all, that is what you get tested on, not how well you memorized rules. If what you are doing is not making you better as a result, change tactics.
Here’s an example of what I did that really put me behind:
During the end of the first couple weeks of bar exam prep, we spent three solid days in class reviewing contracts, going through at least 100 hypothetical questions. Afterwards, I decided I was going to put everything else on hold and get contracts nailed down. I went back over each and every single hypothetical, until I had it clear in my mind what the answer was. I set aside all my other topics, essays, and MBE’s, and spent an entire three days, yes three days straight reviewing those hypos until I felt I had contracts down cold!
Excitedly, I cracked open my MBE book to begin taking contract multiple choice questions. After the first five questions, I almost started crying. I only got one right answer! I didn’t know anything! I finished the set of multiple choice questions and failed it harder than the Detroit Lions 0-16 season. As you can imagine, a sort of panic set in my mind. I had spent three days reviewing ONLY contracts class lecture notes, fallen way behind on everything else, and I couldn’t even pass the MBE.
Maybe I would have better luck with the essays? I cracked open the book, and my heart dropped when I realized I could answer absolutely nothing. This was a big turning point in my bar exam prep. I had been only slightly behind in my studying up to this point. Afterwards, I fell WAY behind, and I would never catch up (good news is I still was able to pass!).
The point of the story is the following: Only reviewing notes, attack sheets, and outlines won’t get you anywhere. You MUST do actual practice essays and actual multiple choice questions under timed conditions to prepare you to pass the exam. Use lecture notes and the outline for reviewing where you went wrong in your practice exams.
I’m not saying DON’T do review your outline or class lecture notes. Do it! But only do it in a manner that is going to help you on the essays and MBE’s.
Here’s what I mean:
After you take a practice essay or multiple choice, REVIEW YOUR ANSWERS. When reviewing your answers, you will probably see lots you did wrong. Then, go back over your outline and class lecture notes to see exactly what you did wrong and how you can fix it next time. Many times, if you just review the model answer, you will actually be told the relevant rule and how it applies, so you don’t even need to go back to your outline or lecture notes anyway. Still, go review them if you feel the sample answer doesn’t give you all the info you need. The info you need would be the amount where you can knock out a perfect answer if you saw that same question again.
So, here’s the method I adopted toward the end of my bar prep that saved me lots of time, energy, and advil expenses.
Bar Exam Prep Method #2: More Effective
1) Go to class lecture
2) *Do untimed/timed MBE questions
3) *Do untimed/timed essay & outline
4) Repeat steps 2 & 3 in whatever order and to what extent necessary
*Review each answer after each set of questions, using outline and lecture notes if necessary
But, how can I do practice exams if I haven’t looked at the rules yet?
I know this is what you’re thinking. I thought it as well.
The first MBE and the first two essays, you will probably know absolutely nothing. At least, that’s how it was for me, without fail. I looked at each essay for the first time and stared blankly. I barely knew enough to spend ten minutes writing an essay, let alone an outline.
That is ok!
This is how you’ll learn. Ill go full depth into preparing for practice essays and MBE questions in a later post. Dive in, do the practice, review the model answer, learn your mistakes and dive in again. By the third essay, you’ll have a good hang of things and by the fourth you should be knocking out passing answers!
Although, this technique worked for me, the most important thing to do is to DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU. During law school, if you have been the ‘write-an-outline,’ or ‘rule memorizer,’ and it has worked for you, keep with your method of reading and memorizing rules before taking an essay. That is totally cool. This is your bar exam and your prep. Do you what you feel is right for you.
As always, best of luck in passing your bar exam.
“This name appears on the pass list.”