Three Ways to Make the Most of Your Bar Exam Studies

by Ashley Heidemann

When it comes to the bar exam, quality beats quantity. In other words, how well you study beats how long you study. Don’t get me wrong, setting aside several hours to study is important. However, the amount of time you spend means very little if you do not spend it using effective strategies that ensure you retain the maximum amount of information possible.

As a bar exam tutor, I always start my sessions laying out study strategies for my students to follow during their bar exam preparation. The following three study strategies will help you make the most out of every minute you spend studying for the bar exam. 

1. Actively review your outlines using multiple senses.

Many students try to learn their bar exam outlines by reading them multiple times; however, it is much better to actively review them. This allows you to concentrate on the material, understand it, and remember it.

How do you actively review your outlines? Color-code them. Draw diagrams and pictures. Invent mnemonics. Repeat information out loud. Explain it to a friend. Quiz yourself and quiz others.

Actively reviewing your outlines allows you to make more cognitive connections with the material. This, in turn, makes the material more memorable and easier to recall on the actual exam.

2. Learn from your mistakes.

Students tend to practice answering several multiple choice questions at once and then rush through the answers without really understanding why they got certain questions correct and others incorrect.

The purpose of practicing multiple choice questions is to learn from your incorrect answers so that you do not repeat your mistakes. Perhaps you did not know the law well enough. Or it might be because you misread the fact pattern or did not carefully review all of the answer choices before selecting one.

The best way to make sure that you learn from your mistakes is make it a habit to answer just a few questions at a time and set aside a good chunk of time to review the answers. Be realistic about the fact that if you take the time to follow this strategy, you will not be able to answer every single practice question available — and that’s okay. Answering 3,000 practice questions will not help you if you ultimately do not learn anything from your incorrect answers.

3. Sleep. Exercise. Take Breaks.  

Your brain and body are not separate entities. They are intimately connected. Taking care of your body will help your brain perform at its best. Make sure to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. The brain encodes and files away the material you learned while you are sleeping. If you have ever struggled with material one day only to wake up and know it perfectly after a good night’s sleep, you know this to be true first-hand. If you deprive yourself of sleep in order to study more you are not doing yourself any favors because you simply will not remember what you reviewed. Exercise, take breaks, and take time to make yourself healthy meals. All of these habits help make your brain healthier and help you to retain more information.   

In short, make sure that you avoid the temptation to stay up until 3:00 a.m. to read through all of your bar exam outlines, rush through 200 multiple choice questions, and barely glance at the answers just so you can check something off of your list of things to do. Your time will be much better spent using the above strategies. 

 

Heidemann is a bar exam and law school tutor. She graduated Number 1 in her class of over 200 students at Wayne State University Law School in 2011 and scored over a 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam. Her website can be found at www.excellenceinlawschool.com. 

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