How to Make a Bar Exam Study Schedule | 5 Tips with Examples

Studying for the bar exam takes as much time and dedication as a full-time job. Some students are able to study full-time, while others have responsibilities that only allow for part-time studying. Either way, everyone must ask themselves three questions: What should I be studying? When? And for how long?

There is an overwhelming amount of material to cover, so efficiency is key. Luckily, many people have successfully studied for the bar exam, and through our decades of experience, we've learned what works and what doesn't. Below are 5 tips on how to make a bar exam study schedule and examples to use as templates for your own.

5 Tips for Making a Bar Exam Study Schedule

Before you do anything, apply for your bar exam. If the filing period hasn't opened, you should still read through the eligibility requirements, gather all necessary documents, and see if you qualify for any kind of grant or financial aid. Next, you can start putting together a schedule.

1. Determine start and end dates

Plan on roughly 400 hours of total study time. We recommend that students studying full-time begin 8-10 weeks (40-50 hours/week) before their exam. Those with extra responsibilities (e.g., job, children, etc.) should start studying as much as 4 months out (16-25 hours/week).

2. Schedule a major review(s)

Keep in mind that your end date shouldn't be the day of your exam. Leave 3-4 weeks to review difficult subjects and take mock exams. For example, if you're studying for the July exam, aim to complete your lecture videos and begin your focused review by July 4. You may even want to schedule a mini-review in the middle of your studies to consolidate what you've learned.

3. Choose weekly goals

Students studying full-time should plan to study at least one major Multistate Bar Exam (MBE®) subject per week for 7 weeks. If you're studying for a longer period, simply double or triple the number of weeks you spend on each subject. Don't neglect studying Multistate Essay Exam (MEE®) subjects, practicing essay questions on frequently tested subjects, and simulating performance test tasks if your jurisdiction administers them. If you follow your bar review course schedule, you will cover every subject that might be tested on the bar exam, but if you are customizing your schedule, make sure you do not neglect any subjects.

If your jurisdiction has a state-specific component as part of its bar exam, add 2-4 subjects per week and stack them with MBE subjects with similar material. For example, you could study Criminal Law and your jurisdiction's Criminal Law Distinctions during the same week.

Your study schedule should revolve around three things—understanding the law, memorizing it, and applying it.

4. Break it down by day

Research shows that your brain goes through 90-minute “attention” cycles. As you move through these ultradian cycles, you shift from being very alert to less alert and back to alert again. While studying in 90-minute chunks is optimal in general, everyone has a unique rhythm. Pay attention to your attention.

Use the Pomodoro Technique to find your attention sweet spot. Set a timer for 25 minutes, remove all distractions, and focus solely on studying. Take a five-minute break, and do it again. Continue doing this while adding time. Push yourself a bit past your comfort zone if possible. Eventually, you'll find a good way to chunk your study sessions, but you can continue breaking down large chunks (60-90 minutes) into smaller chunks (15-25 minutes) with mini-breaks (3-5 minutes) in between.

While you should ultimately do what works for you, here is an example study schedule based on ultradian rhythms:

9:00 - 10:30 Lectures, outlines, and reading
15-minute break
10:45 - 12:15 Lectures, outlines, and reading
1:15 - 1:45 MBE Practice questions
15-minute break
2:00 - 3:30 MBE Practice questions
4:30 - 6:00 Practice essays or performance tasks
15-minute break
6:15 - 7:45 Practice essays or performance tasks

5. Adapt as necessary

Staying committed is important, but sticking to a rigid plan that isn't working does more harm than good. You should routinely analyze your strengths and weaknesses. If you keep getting Evidence questions wrong, but Civil Procedure is becoming relatively easy, trade a day or two to study what's more difficult. If your schedule is too hard or too easy, change it up. Continue to fine-tune your schedule all the way up to the exam.

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Bonus tip — Get a personalized bar exam study schedule

Themis + UWorld will generate a personalized study schedule for you, including clearly defined, achievable goals for each study session. We provide an overview of your monthly, weekly, and daily assignments. Each day, all you have to do is sign in, select your daily schedule, and complete the assignments. Don't waste time planning when you could be studying; let us do the leg work. Get your personalized bar exam study schedule today.

Overview of one month of Themis Bar Review's course schedule
Overview of one day of Themis Bar Review's course schedule

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