Thursday, June 5, 2014

How do I study for the bar exam?

Bar Review companies are specialists at delivering programs that give students a comprehensive view of the rules that will be tested on the bar exam.  However, bar review companies are not always experts on instructing students on the best ways to study that material.  I find that this disconnect contributes to some of the stress that accompanies bar preparation. 

“Studying” does not always come easily.  Some students have had mostly open book exams and/or papers in law school; while others never figured out the best way to study.  Thus, I have included a few ideas for bar students to explore as they consider how to study for the bar exam.

  • Consider your learning style.  If you are visual, use flowcharts, diagrams, or pictures.  If you are aural, record yourself explaining the law and reciting the rules or talk out the material with a friend.  No matter what your learning style, align your learning preferences to your study methods.
  • Use your bar review materials.  Review the outlines, checklists, on-line programs, flashcards, and any other resources that your bar review provider includes with their program.  And, go one step further and specifically ask them how to best use those resources in light of your learning style or individual needs.
  • Quiz yourself.  The best way to see what you know and what you do not yet know is to quiz yourself. One way to do this is to carve out time to sit and write from memory everything you remember about a subject or component of a subject area.  Then assess your gaps in your knowledge.
  • Repetition.  It may seem like a waste of time, or a waste of paper, but repetition is a proven method to increase memory.  Whether it is repetitively writing the rules, speaking the rules, or listening to the rules, this method will help you grasp the vast amount of material tested on the bar exam.  Using spaced repetition (more in upcoming post), will greatly increase memory retention.
  •  Test yourself (different than quizzing yourself).  Essay writing and MBE practice are both forms of studying.  By placing yourself in a simulated testing situation, you will learn test taking techniques, but you will also learn the law as you work through the questions.  This type of active engagement with the material will help you learn and retain the rules.

Studying can happen in many different ways depending on one’s learning preferences and individual needs.  Discovering the most efficient and effective way to study is crucial to successful bar preparation.

(Lisa Bove Young)

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