Category Archives: Bar Exam

Accountability Creates Motivation: Studying for the Bar Exam, Part 3

It’s now only two months before the July Bar Exam, and everyone should be busy studying at this point. At times, it can be hard to find the motivation to study, especially when the exam date still feels like it’s far away. Your commercial bar prep program may seem a little monotonous, as you seem to do the same thing every day: watch a lecture (whether in person or online), study the outlines and supplemental materials, complete the practice questions, repeat. It can be tempting to watch TV, play computer games, or do something else when you should really be studying. Keeping yourself motivated at this time is key, and one way to motivate yourself is to establish some type of accountability system.

What do I mean by accountability? Sometimes it is easier to not focus on what we need to be doing when we feel that no one will know about our lack of progress on our studies. If your bar review course gives you the option of attending lectures in person or watching them online, attending them in person may help you to be more accountable for your studies—the people around you will notice if you are missing. It can also help to set up some type of accountability system with a friend who’s also studying for the bar exam. It may be that you just touch base with each other every couple of days to make sure you are each on track with your study goals, or you may actually schedule study sessions where you quiz each other on material that you have just finished reviewing. Another way to create accountability would be to reach out to someone in charge of Academic Success or Bar Skills programs at your law school. Explain what your study goals are and that you want to create some type of accountability system to keep you on track.

When you know that someone cares about your achieving your study goals and will know if you don’t achieve them, you will be more motivated to stay on focused on your studies. Accountability creates motivation!

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Countdown to the Bar Exam, Step 2: Creating the Right Study Environment

Photo courtesy of Apolonia/freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of Apolonia/freedigitalphotos.net

One important element of studying for the bar exam is creating the right study environment. You can have the best intentions, but the wrong environment can derail your entire study plan. One key to effective studying is a location that allows you to study efficiently and without distractions.

Here are some things to think about as you decide where to study for the bar:

What were the things that distracted you from studying when you were in law school? If you are constantly tempted to turn on the TV, then studying in your living room may not be for you. If studying in the law school library meant that you visited with friends rather than getting work done, then the same might hold true as you study for the bar. Some people prefer the background noise of a coffee shop, while others find themselves listening in to every conversation at the tables beside them. Be realistic in your assessment of what distracts you, and choose a study environment that avoids those distractions.

What do you like to do when you take breaks from studying? If you want to be able to take a short walk, then setting up your study station at the local coffee shop may not make sense—you won’t want to have to pack up your stuff every time you take a break. On the other hand, if your idea of a great break is checking your email and spending 20 minutes playing computer games, then a more public location may not be an issue. Just make sure that your study location is conducive to taking study breaks.

What space do you need to study? Some people prefer to study at a desk or table, where they can spread out their materials and have plenty of space to work. Others prefer to sit on a comfortable couch, overstuffed chair, or even the floor. Think about what type of space makes you feel most comfortable when you are studying—you’re going to spend a lot of time there.

Do you want to be able to eat or drink while studying? This is an important consideration, as many people like to have snacks and drinks available as they study. If you want endless amounts of coffee or periodic snacks of pretzels, fruit, etc., a library with a strict food and drink policy may not be the place for you. Likewise, if you are on a tight budget this summer, an expensive coffee shop may not work as well. Choose a study location that fits with your snacking habits.

Finally, do you like the routine of studying in the same space all the time, or will you need to change things up periodically? For some people, maintaining the same routine every day—studying at the same place at the same time—works best. For others, a little variety in the order and location of the routine helps them to stay focused. Depending on your own preferences, you may find that you want to change up your study location sometimes. Periodically reassess your study environment and make sure it still works best for you.

The perfect study environment is a very personal thing—experiment and find out what works best for you!

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Countdown to the Bar, Step 1: Introduction to Studying for the Bar Exam

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Congratulations to all of those 3Ls out there who have just graduated or are about to graduate! You have made it through law school! It’s a great accomplishment, and you should definitely celebrate with friends and family. It doesn’t take long though for the realization to dawn that the bar exam is looming in the distance. That’s why it’s a good opportunity to talk about how to approach studying for the bar exam.

In reality, you have learned most of skills you need for bar exam success during your years in law school. Although studying for the bar exam is a pretty intensive experience, if you continue to apply the types of techniques that contributed to your success in law school, you should be on your way to success on the bar exam as well. With that in mind, here are some suggestions as you begin the countdown to the bar exam:

First, if you have not done so already, sign up for a commercial bar review course, such as BarBri, Kaplan, or one of other state-specific bar prep courses. Most law students take a bar review course, and it’s been my experience that students who do not take one tend to not pass the bar exam. Although these courses cost a significant amount of money, that money is a good investment in your future. It is much more costly not to pass the bar and therefore not be able to practice law. You should research your options and determine which bar review program works best for you. It should be specific to the state where you are scheduled to take the bar exam, and you should consider your personal learning preferences, need for structure and discipline, etc. in deciding whether to take a course in person or over the internet. Most of these courses begin in the next week or two, so if you have not chosen a course you should do so quickly.

Second, treat studying for the bar exam like a job. Regardless of whether you take your bar review course in a classroom, view videos online, or study solely from workbooks and other printed materials, you should schedule your study time each day. Set a specific schedule for yourself, just as you would during the school year during law school. Get up at the same time each day, set specific times to go over new material or review material already covered, and set aside specific times that you will take practice exams or go over practice questions.

Third, don’t forget to take good care of yourself during the next few months as you study. It’s important that you eat well and get a good sleep every night so that your brain functions at its best and you don’t wear down your immune system. Take regular breaks from your studies, and don’t forget to get some exercise. Studying for the bar exam is not a sprint, but a marathon—you have to take care of yourself for that journey.

Stay tuned to this blog over the next few weeks, as I continue to give you tips about studying for the bar exam—let the countdown begin!

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