Saturday, December 14, 2019

Time for the Holiday Break and . . . Bar Prep

Jack Frost is nipping at the door, at least in some places.  Mall parking lots are packed.  The line to see Santa is 100 people long before he even arrives.  Christmas lights shine throughout the skies.  The holiday season is here, which also means it is February bar prep time.

The February bar exam is a unique test to prepare for.  Our students only have 9 weeks between the last final exam and the bar exam, but summer takers have 10 weeks.  The shorter time combined with the holidays makes the exam harder to prepare for.  My experience is the key piece to successful bar prep is completing the vast majority of the assigned work.  BARBRI recommends at least 400 hours of studying.  Kaplan, Themis, and other bar prep companies are similar.  I usually recommend approximately 500 hours.  Examinees who start prep slowly won't get to those numbers.  Below are a few tips to get off to a great start and complete enough work to be ready for the bar exam.

  1. Make a schedule.  Spend time writing down how many hours you have available each day and how many hours you will study.  Add all of the hours up.  Make sure you can get above at least 400.  If not, rework your schedule.
  2. Setup a meeting with your Academic Support Professional.  Bring your schedule and talk about the schedule in that meeting.  Bar prep requires both class wide and individual instruction.  The class wide instruction will be your bar prep course.  Most of the companies have programs that adjust to your performance, but your unique circumstances could change what you should do.  The best person to help with that is at your law school.  Hopefully, you worked with your ASP person throughout your tenure at law school and can talk about your circumstances.
  3. Start studying before Christmas.  I know many people want to travel or take time off after finals.  I tell summer takers that bar prep starts the Tuesday after graduation (1 day off for our Sunday graduation).  Winter takers should have the same philosophy and start before the holidays.
  4. Take time off for Christmas, but limit the time off.  Everyone needs time off during bar prep.  Take a couple days for Christmas, then get back to studying.  Family and friends will complain about not seeing you for many years.  They will also say the holidays are meant for family.  I understand, but you should be selfish with time from now until the end of February.  The exam date is set, and you only have so many hours between now and then.  Use the hours wisely.
  5. Take New Year's Eve night and New Year's Day off, but get back to studying the next day.  

February bar prep is difficult because the timing is shorter.  No one should tell you to not take time off.  The critical component to success is getting back to studying.  When striving for something (exercise, weight loss, changing habits, etc.), far too many people have a day off and never get back on track.  Treat each day as a new opportunity to be ready for the bar.

(Steven Foster)

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