Thursday, May 7, 2020

Less Might Be More -- For Success on the Bar Exam (and in Life)

I once had a teacher tell me to never read good books. Never ever. And why not?

Because if I spent my time reading good books (or doing good things), then I wouldn't have time left to read the really great books (or do the really great things of life).  

That's a lesson that has never left my side.

In bar prep, I'm convinced that too many are trying to do too much, and, in the process of doing good tasks, they aren't doing the great things that are really important for success on the bar exam.  Let me be frank. You don't have time in bar prep to do good things.  But, you have plenty of time to do the really great things, the things that produce fruitful learning.

With that in mind, here's a few tips:

  • Do less reading and more pondering the law, how it works or doesn't, and what it means to you as a person.
  • Do less note-taking and more puzzling through problems to learn the law.
  • Do less testing and more practicing, feeling free to work problems over slowly, reading them out loud if you'd like, as you develop confidence and competence in your own voice as an expert problem-solver.

That's just a few suggestions.  

But, rather than hear it from me, a teacher, I thought I'd share the wisdom of a recent successful bar-taker in that person's own words.  After all, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words (but the wise words from the heart & mind of a recent bar taker -- who wants to share with YOU what she/he learned through re-taking the bar exam -- is worth a priceless fortune).

Advice for First-Time Bar Takers:

  • Practice way more than you think! If you are wondering whether you should watch a lecture or do a practice question, do the practice question.
  • Let go of memorizing everything. It is impossible. Learn what your weak areas are and spend more time with those subjects.
  • You will feel like you know nothing until approximately the last week of bar prep. Somehow, magically, it does come together. I promise.
  • Do all the bar prep practice tests.
  • Think really hard about who you want to study with. This is not the time to do something different from how you handled law school.
  • Come up with a plan and stick to it. The bar prep calendar is really helpful for this. Decide how many practice questions you want to do everyday and do it. But if you are starting to burn out, be OK with taking breaks. It's a marathon!

Advice for Fresh Start Re-Takers:

  • First, I am so sorry that you have been dealt this card. There is no question that it hurts. Take care of yourself and do things that make you happy.
  • As you begin planning your next round of bar prep, make sure to work with the law school to identify the weak aspects of your exam answers. This will help define ways you can “work smarter” instead of “work harder.”
  • Also work with the law school to identify new ways to study. It might be changing up your study tool or how you review your answers. For me, studying ALONE the second round vastly improved my scores. I think studying alone boosted my confidence because it required me to look up answers to my own mistakes. I also stopped comparing myself to friends.  
  • Ditch the bar prep lectures. Use that time to practice WAY MORE MBE and MEE practice questions. I probably tripled the amount of practice questions I did during my second round of bar prep.
  • Log your progress. I was way more intentional about compiling lists of rules I kept missing on MBE questions. This helped me to keep track of weak areas so I could spend more time learning the law in specific subjects.
  • Spend timing thinking about any testing anxiety you might have. Adding mindfulness meditations to my study plan helped a ton!

That brings me back to the start of this little essay.  How do you know what are the really great books to read (or the great things to do)?  That's were wisdom comes in.  Reach out to a person you trust, on your faculty or staff or from a colleague or mentor who knows you as a person from head to toe.  The advice that I've shared in this blog is from such a person, who, although he/she doesn't know you, knows you, because she/he has cared enough to share with you the lessons learned through the process.  So, you have a friend who is rooting for you (and that includes me too!).

(Scott Johns)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2020/05/less-might-be-more.html

Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink

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