If taking the bar exam is difficult, then preparing for it can seem daunting, overwhelming and darn near to impossible.
lexisONE has compiled the best advice around for taking the bar.
Duquesne University Law Dean Rear Admiral
Donald J. Guter, Judge Advocate General Corps, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
"Law students should be prepared to put their lives on hold from the
time they graduate law school until the day they take the Bar Exam.
I spent every day behind a closed door with no interruptions
preparing for hours and hours until I couldn't take it anymore. I'd
give myself Sundays off and would spend that time outside clearing my
head, exercising and taking a break from it. Finally, three days
before the Bar Exam I stopped studying altogether and used that time
to rest, clear my head and mentally prepare for what was ahead. I'm
glad to say that it worked and I passed the Bar Exam on my first try."
David Jaffe, Associate Dean of Students, American University Washington College of Law
"I can think of tons of useful tips in preparing for the bar, but here is one that is less considered by a number of our students: Practice
handwriting. The majority of law students have been using a computer since college if not earlier, and both the penmanship and the muscles used to write clearly, quickly, have deteriorated.
I suggest that students take notes in one at least one of their final semester classes by hand, and/or to keep a journal. I also advocated for "speed-writing" in the build-up to the exam. Although some jurisdictions are permitting or testing computer-based exams, they are still much in the minority."
Paul DeGroot, Assistant Prosecutor, Passaic County, NJ
"My advice in preparing for the bar exam would be: First, take a bar review course and follow their schedule I recommend PMBR for the Multi and BAR/BRI for the general. Second, do not do study groups, they are a distraction and waste time (typically you end up in a "bull" session or get wrong answers. Third, do not waste time taking voluminous notes during the review lectures do, however, highlight and briefly supplement the guide that is given. Fourth, set a schedule, ex. 9-5 for 6 days a week for 6 weeks, and 9-9 for the last two weeks (if you are able). Fifth, do not cram the night before the exam, just lightly review because if you don't know it by then you never will. Sixth, go in the exam confident. Seventh, spend the money and get a motel room near the exam center you don't want to be stuck in traffic etc. And finally, try to eat, sleep and relax most people pass."
Danielle Caminiti, Assistant District Attorney, Kings County, NY
"I would like to think that all roads lead to Rome in terms of review courses, and that there is NO substitute for good, old-fashioned studying for coming home from review course, writing your notes over, working on weekends, timing yourself, practice essays, etc. I treated studying for that exam as though it was my job for a few months. I was determined to not take it again in February. I basically had no social life for a couple of months, but so what? It was so worth it."
Mark Pruner, VP Marketing, RD Legal Funding, LLC
"When I was preparing for the bar exam, one of the instructors who actually had graded the papers in previous years said that the graders didn't really care about writing style or even insightful analysis, they just wanted to see that you knew and could identify the primary issues in area. So what I did was to make an outline showing the major factors in each area (this is particularly easy in torts). When the area came up in a question, I wrote the factors for that area down on a piece of scrap paper and then discussed each factor in turn in my answer. What this did was reduce each area to 1 - 3 pages of material, which was much easier to remember, particularly with some mnemonics and it made the exam look much easier. My answers weren't great literature, but I passed both state's bar exams and didn't panic knowing I could write something on any subject."
Deborah Schneider, co-author of "SHOULD YOU REALLY BE A LAWYER?" www.shouldyoureally.com
"Here's the best piece of advice I received about preparing for the bar exam, and what I always advice law students:
Accept the fact that you cannot possibly learn all the material the bar exam
covers, and focus on the basics. Law students tend to worry about what
they're not doing, and it distracts them from their studies. Don't worry
about all the possible prep work that you could be doing, break your studies down into small, manageable pieces, and focus on one at a time."
This article was originally published in 2005 on lexisONE®. All rights reserved.