How to Prepare for the Bar Exam
In order to prepare for the bar examination, or any intense, all-or-nothing test, you need to pay close attention to how you practice for the test. You cannot simply spend hours passively studying the material and hope that you will perform well when you take the real test. Instead, you need to be sure to practice.
Start with Mini-Tests
After you have studied your bar preparation materials for a few weeks, you will have a basic grasp of the material to be tested as well as how that material will be tested (i.e., essay format, MBE format, etc.). Now, it is time to start your practice tests.
To begin with, you should use mini-tests. A “mini test” is a brief test of your knowledge on a single subject or subtopic. Examples of mini tests include: reviewing flashcards containing the elements of intentional torts, outlining a response to an essay question, writing down everything you can remember about subject matter jurisdiction, doing 20 criminal law MBE questions, or writing a full-length answer to a single essay question.
You can use mini-tests throughout your bar exam preparations, but they are vitally important during the first weeks because they allow you to practice for short periods because the majority of your time during these early stages should be devoted to studying and memorization. After each mini-test, you review your results and learn from any mistakes you’ve made.
Full-Blown Practice Tests
A few weeks before the bar examination, you should do at least one full-length practice bar exam. The purpose of doing a full-blown practice test is to ensure that you are able to focus for a complete testing day. This is a difficult task. Since you have recently graduated from law school, your ability to focus should be strong, but taking the bar exam is like having four final exams on each day for two or three straight days. It is qualitatively different than a law school examination.
Many bar preparation courses have a full-length practice exam built into their schedules. If your bar preparation course does not, or if you are studying on your own, be sure to make time for a practice test. In most jurisdictions, this means spending a full day writing multiple essays and a performance test under timed conditions and a second day doing 200 MBE questions under timed conditions.
However you take a full-length practice exam, take it seriously. Give it your full effort and see how you respond to the intensity of the bar exam process. This will expose your strengths and weaknesses and enable you to focus your studies during the final weeks leading up to the bar examination itself.