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Passing The Bar Exam: 10 Tips For Success!

Updated on July 21, 2016

You've made it! Your last law school final has been written. You have walked the podium, received your degree, and will now be on deck for repaying that mountain they call student loans. One final obstacle to surpass: The Bar Exam.

Throughout your law school education, you've seen the pass rates and heard the harrowing tales of battling the two-day monstrosity. After passing the Pennsyvlania and New Jersey Bar exams, I've compiled a list of tools, tricks, and tips that will help you get into the proper mindset and attack this test with confidence.

1. Starter Pistol at the Ready: No matter how light your workload is at the end of your final year of law school, you will be drained at the end. The summer session of the bar exam is scheduled towards the end of July. There is a great temptation to take a month off and appreciate life for a bit. Time flies. This is particularly an issue for individuals that are taking an online course or studying without bar review programs. You need a concrete start date. Write it in a calendar, on a wall, or tattoo it on your arm if you must. Give yourself a week or two to breathe, but once that date arrives, crack open the books and dive in. Indulge too much and face the sort of time crunch that will leave you a mile behind your competition.

2. Set a Schedule: This is in line with the previous tip. When I studied for the bar exam, I woke up at 8:00am, went for a run, ate some breakfast, and started studying no later than 10:30am. I would study until 6-6:30pm. Make no mistake, this is work. This is the most important job that you have because it is the greatest obstacle to you getting a job in law. Discipline will play a very large role in passing this exam.

3. Attend the Lectures: Whether you are physically attending lectures or you are watching them online, having somebody there to read the material adds another dynamic to absorbing the content. You will also have a worksheet to fill in as you follow along and outlines to study from. Just because the outlines have all of the material that you will need does not make the lectures obsolete. The lectures will also bring your attention to sections that are tested most often on these exams.

4. MBE: This is the 200 question multiple choice concoction of pure evil that you will tackle on the second day of your two day-exam. The best way to do well is very simple; practice until you can know the answer before you finish reading the question (Though on the actual exam, read the questions completely). Doing practice problems serves two purposes. First, you will learn the material through reviewing your answers, particularly to questions you answered incorrectly. Second, you will develop an ear for the format of the questions. Personal tip: Do 60-100 multiple choice questions per day. Make sure to do a good portion of the mixed topic tests.

5. Essays: Law school should have already done a good job preparing you for this portion. You will follow the IRAC format that you have become so familiar with and will encounter fact patterns similar to your first-year tort final exam. My advice is to get at least 2 or 3 responses graded by the bar review staff. Listen to their feedback. If you are properly answering the question in terms of format and structure, the most important skill to develop beyond that is issue spotting. Accordingly, I recommend that after your structure is polished, don't spend the bulk of your time writing full essay responses. Read the sample fact patterns and jot down the legal issues raised. Beyond that, simply learn the law.

6. Simulation: Make sure to simulate the bar exam for yourself at least twice. That means, doing the essay portion of the exam on one day, followed by 200 multiple choice questions on the second day. Have a timer ready so that you work with the proper time constraints.

7. Time management: The bar review courses will tell you how much time to spend on each essay question, performance test, and the MBE questions. When you study, abide by these constraints. When you first start the bar exam, time will seem endless. When you actually start writing, you are praying for the clock to freeze.

8. Focus On Your Weaknesses: Doubtless, there will be plenty of areas that you are excelling at, but there will be those that leave you feeling less than satisfied. If you are scoring perfect scores on torts and are getting shafted by property law, you need to adjust your time allocation in terms of studying time invested in a subject.

9, Don't Burn Out: Throughout my time studying for the bar exam, it became a point of pride for some people to prove that they are sacrificing more than their peers to study. As important as it is to have a start time, it is just as important to have a cutoff point where you can unwind. I studyied till around 6:00pm. After that, I went out, worked out, played some video games, met up with friends. Showing up to the bar exam on the verge of a mental breakdown will not win you any points. Know when to buckle down, but also know how to unwind.

10. Never, Never, Never Look Back: The worst thing that I saw other exam takers doing was going to their outlines during the lunch break and reviewing their answers. Let me save you the suspense, you will not answer every question completely and correctly. You will make mistakes and miss issues. Psyching yourself out at halftime will not be beneficial. In fact, any time you hear someone reviewing the preceding portion of the exam, walk away.


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