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The Most Common Mistakes Students Make When Preparing for the Bar Exam

Bar Exam

Preparing for the bar exam can be a stressful experience, especially if it’s your first time. But sometimes, taking the bar exam again can feel worse, even anxiety-inducing. If this is you right now, the first thing you want to do is try to breathe deeply and calm down.

The second thing you want to do is repeat to yourself: everything in life comes with trial and error. Even if you fail (again), it’s not the end of the world; take some time to move past it. 

The third thing you should do? Study smarter and avoid the mistakes you made the first time (or the mistakes other students made before you).

Luckily for you, the World Wide Web is full of helpful information on how to best approach the bar exam. Take this blog post, for example: if you continue reading and decide to absorb the information we share, you’ll successfully avoid making the five most common mistakes when preparing for the bar exam.

Blindly Following a Prep Course

One of the biggest but also most understandable mistakes many students make is blindly following a prep course without tailoring it to their learning style.

Keep this in mind: all prep courses are designed to be comprehensive, which is obviously a good thing, but they’re also very generic. You know how you learn best, whether that’s through visual aids, practice problems, or discussion, so take the structure of the prep course and adjust it to suit your needs.

For instance, if you learn concepts better through visual aids, supplement your studies with charts and diagrams. If you like interaction, consider forming a study group. The key is to make the course work for you, not the other way around.

Not Having a Consistent Study Schedule

Having a smart, consistent schedule when studying for the bar is extremely important. What do we mean by smart and consistent? While it might be tempting to study sporadically or to try cramming closer to the exam date (more on that later), this approach is more often than not counterproductive.

Instead, what you want to focus on is creating a manageable, consistent study schedule, one with regular study periods – and breaks. Studying in shorter, consistent intervals is more effective than long, irregular sessions. In other words, space it out: if you have 20 hours to spend on a particular part, it’s better to study it for five hours each week for four weeks than to cram all 20 hours into week four.

Not Using Real MBE Questions

This one should be obvious: you need to practice with real Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) questions to familiarize yourself with the format and style of the actual exam. But unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for students to end up relying on “fake” MBE questions due to a commercial bar exam course they selected.

This is why it’s essential to verify that your bar-prep course includes or recommends real MBE questions to maximize your preparation. When selecting the bar exam course, make sure it provides access to a comprehensive bank of real MBE questions.

You should also consider how well the course aligns with the specifics of your jurisdiction; for example, if you’re in Utah, you want to familiarize yourself with the Utah bar exam format.

Cramming for the Exam

Ah, cramming, the most universally made mistake among students preparing for any exam, the bar included. While it might be tempting to leave most of your studying for the last couple of weeks, trying to learn or review a massive amount of information in a short time can only lead to mental fatigue and poor long-term retention.

It’s best to start studying well in advance and follow a steady, cumulative approach. Regular review sessions can go a long way in helping you reinforce knowledge and build confidence before the exam. 

Ignoring Essay Practice

While multiple-choice questions are a significant part of the bar exam, it’s important to also practice essay questions. Essays test your ability to apply the law to various scenarios, so they show not only your knowledge but also your analytical and writing skills, making them extremely important.

Still, many students make the mistake of focusing solely on the MBE section. You want to practice writing essays the right way: write them out fully in a timed setting so you don’t freeze or run out of time during the exam. As a bonus, practicing essays can help improve issue-spotting, organization, and the clarity of your arguments.

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