Bar Exam Tips

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Repetition is key

The more you read the bar review outlines, the better the material becomes ingrained in your memory. Visual abilities are intensified and recall becomes photographic. Upon every reading new matter is gleaned and understanding is heightened.

The greater number of MBE questions, essays and performance tests you take the more prepared you will be for the bar. There is no substitute for taking practice exams under test-like circumstances. This means committing yourself to three hours of uninterrupted time during which you practice essays and performance exams under pseudo-exam-stress-producing conditions. Thereafter, you should critically and introspectively assess your performance.


Read the call of the hypothetical

Before reading an exam hypothetical, begin by reading the call of the question and any instructions. Points are easily lost due to a failure to follow instructions. Do not go off on a tangent and waste time answering questions not asked. The purpose of reading the call of the question is to direct your focus when you read the facts of the hypothetical. This fosters active reading. If you read the hypothetical first you will waste time reading when you have no idea which facts are determinative for the issues and which are red-herrings. After reading the call of the question, actively read and re-read the question. Before you begin to write always re-read the call of the question to make sure that you are responding to the correct issue.


Create an outline for your answer

Outlining your answer before you begin to write compels you to organize. An outline may be as skeletal as the issues (broken down into elements), law and facts you will discuss. To comprise your outline, use IRAC. Think longer and spend less time writing. The process of reading and re-reading the question, as well as outlining, should take about one-third to one-half of the allotted time. Once a good outline is prepared you will not need to spend so much time writing. Your focus will be clear. It is also important to review your outline while you are writing and after you finish writing. The purpose of an outline is defeated if you do not use it. Under the stress of writing the answer you may forget to make important points that were originally in your outline. Lastly, if you are unable to finish your answer, the outline may serve as an answer for grading purposes.


Write a visually appealing answer

Write legibly. Organize you answer in logical sequence. Cover an issue thoroughly and then move on to the next issue. Use headings and sub-headings. The headings provide direction to the reader and demonstrate pre-writing thought and organization. Underline key words.


Use the facts

This point cannot be stressed enough. Most exam answers that fail are a result of the lack of the use of given facts. However, do not assume facts not given. Most facts provided are not red-herrings. They are in the hypothetical for a reason and you need to ascertain why they are there. Then you need to use the facts to buttress your analysis of the issues. Do not be conclusory.


Consider all sides

Every point has a flip side. When a writer draws a conclusion without considering counter-analysis, he demonstrates to the grader his lack of a complete thought process. In raising counter-points, support them factually and then refute them factually.


Be creative

Since there is no right or wrong answer there is room for creative thinking. This involves using the law and facts to support points and counter-points that may only be apparent from an in-depth reading and understanding of the law and facts of the hypothetical. This encompasses the concept of reading between the lines.


Maintain perspective

Each of you has the ability to succeed on the bar exam. Do not get caught up in how or what your peers are studying. That will only serve to distract you and bridle positive performance. You know what you need to do to succeed. Do it and enjoy learning.


Be disciplined

Preparing for the bar demands discipline in your studies. The bar exam must be the primary focus of your attention for at least two months. Avoid distractions. Do not procrastinate. While breaks are important to maintain mental attention and clarity, they should be limited in duration. Do not try to cram the night before the bar exam. Rather, it is best take time off, away from studying, and relax since you will need stamina during the exam. It is alright to briefly review some notes or flash cards at breakfast the morning of the exam. It is possible that what you review will be tested on the exam that morning and this will boost your confidence.


Do not panic

Part of exam preparation involves mental control. The more prepared you feel through study and practice, the less likely it is that you will panic. However, it is possible that something on the exam will cause you to panic. For example, you may see an issue that you think you are unprepared to address. In truth you are probably prepared to address the issue, but may only be prepared to a certain extent. Resist panic because it will inhibit your ability to recall what you know about that issue. Panic stifles. You cannot afford to allow panic to overcome you and result in failure to answer a question.


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Last modified: 11/18/05