Can You Master the Bar Exam in Just Three Weeks?

Betteridge's Law suggests that if an article’s title is posed as a question, the answer is “No”.

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Can you master the bar exam in just three weeks?

As I explored in the first article in this series, the bar exam industry is flooded with deceptive marketing that feeds our worst study habits. We want to believe that we can conquer the bar exam in several weeks of casual study. We want to believe that we can predict the essay questions based on an analysis of previous years' topics. We want to believe that milkshakes are good for us…the truth hurts.

Companies and individuals sell bar exam rituals, two-week study schedules, and my personal favorite: essay topic predictions. As Sturgeon's Law dictates, ninety percent of it is bunk. When you analyze any of the tips, tricks, or “secrets” to the bar exam, the first thing you realize is that most of it is either utter nonsense or hilariously obvious. I found one article that began with the following tip:

“1. Register for the bar exam.”

Apparently, Nostradamus is in the bar review business. Talk about necessary and indispensable. The trouble begins when the advice seduces you into thinking that you do not have to commit intense dedication to your studies. Unfortunately, you must pay the troll before you can cross the bridge.

After criticizing the use of tips, tricks, and silver bullets to acing the bar exam, it's only fair that I offer my own seven foolproof secrets to approaching the bar exam:

1. Take your exam on a laptop. You can type faster than you can write and your hands won't cramp up as if in full rigor mortis. But be mindful of Murphy's Law: if your laptop can crash in the middle of the exam, it will. Do everything in your power to avoid technological issues, such as ensuring the computer doesn't update and restart in the midst of the exam.

2. Don't worry too much about your sleeping and eating habits. A lot of this is beyond your control. Some people just simply can't eat or sleep normally under the intense pressure of the exam. Just accept it. If you worry about it, it will cause you further disruption, which will cause more stress, and you will soon enter an incurable, infinite loop of hangry sleeplessness.

3. Disconnect. Pareto's Law tells us that twenty percent of our effort yields eighty percent of our results. In the bar exam context, this means that we waste a lot of our time during our studies because we aren't actually studying. Refreshing Facebook a thousand times will give you a good sense of how much better your friends' lives are for the ten weeks of bar prep, but it won’t give you the edge you need to pass the MBE.

4. Emulate excellence. The sample answers provided in your bar review courses do more than show you the correct answer. They show you how to formulate a correct answer. When it comes to legal work, borrowing is key. In fact, you will learn in your future practice as a lawyer that it is absolutely crucial to success. Who is more likely to be sued for malpractice: the attorney who writes a will from scratch, or the attorney who uses a tried and true template? (The answer is both, because clients are cray cray.)

5. Accept that failure is a possibility, and you will be more likely to pass. I couldn't find a name for this “law,” so I will call it “Gandalf's Law.” Stop worrying so much about passing the exam. The pressure that you feel is only as real as you believe it to be. You will perform better on the exam if you have a clear and calm mind. You shall pass.

6. Read the call of the question before you read the fact pattern. It's much easier to identify the pertinent issues if you already know which direction the examiners want you to go. For example, if the call of the question is “How should the judge rule on the defendant's Motion to Suppress?” then you already know that you need to discuss, inter alia, the Fourth Amendment.

7. Register for the bar exam.

This the second article in the series, Which Way to (Pass) the Bar?, by Jaime Molbreak.
If you missed her first article, Maximize Your Bar Exam Essay Score In One Difficult Step, you can find it here.

Jaime is an attorney and graduate of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She is the Virginia Director at Themis Bar Review. Since joining Themis in 2011, Jaime has helped thousands of students successfully prepare for the bar exam in jurisdictions nationwide.

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