Should You Work During Bar Prep

Some individuals HAVE to work during bar prep. If you are in this group, keep reading because you need to see that it is possible but will require top-notch scheduling and time management. However, if you do not have to work but are considering it, you definitely need to keep reading. This is for those of you who worked during law school and it was fine. In fact, it was great. You had no problem with the work-school-life balance. You can totally work part-time while studying for the bar exam.

There is one small problem with this mindset: The bar exam is not law school. Preparing for law school exams is easy. In law school you could choose classes based on the professor, get to know that professor and what he or she expects on the exam. Even if you created your own outlines, you probably relied on outlines from people who already took the class. At the most, you prepped for exams in 4-5 subjects, had an entire semester to take in information, are tested on one subject at a time, can prepare for each single-subject exam one at a time, and the exams are often open-note or take-home. The bar exam is nothing like this.

Preparing for the bar exam is a 10-week, full-time commitment.The bar exam is closed-universe and tests 12-14 subjects at once over a 2-3 day period; you only have 10 weeks to learn the material and the skills; you don’t know what, how, or when something will be tested.  In spite of the differences, you still think you can work while preparing for the bar exam. I hear this from students all the time. The conversation usually goes like this:

Student:  I can work part-time during bar prep because I’m better when I’m busy.

Me: That’s great. You need to devote 40-50 hours a week to bar prep.

Student: No problem. I’m working now and have four classes. 

Me: Super. But to be clear, that’s a minimum of 40 billable hours: on-task and studying.

Student: Yeah, yeah. Sure. I’m only going to work part-time, 20 hours a week.

Me: Awesome. Just to make sure, can we do the math?

Student: Math?

Me:  Yes, math. Let’s start with the limited resource of time. There are 168 hours in a week. This is what we have to work with so let’s break that down into chunks of time. To make it simple, we’ll have you work in the mornings and study in the afternoon. Again, we’ll keep it simple and do 6 hours a day, 7 days a week. That gets you to 42 billable hours a week, slightly above the minimum.  

Then we sketch out a typical daily schedule:

Typical Workweek: Monday-Friday

7am: get up, shower, dress, breakfast, get to work.

8-12: work

12-1: leave work, eat lunch, maybe change clothes, commute to study location, set up lecture materials.

1-4:30: watch bar prep lectures (3 ½ hours a day is standard).

4:30-5:30: exercise, break, give your eyes a rest from staring at a computer screen for 3 ½ hours.

5:30-8 do assigned bar prep work.

8-9: go home, prep/order, eat, clean-up dinner.

9-12: watch tv, hang out with friends, read for fun, talk/text, social media.

12: go to bed.


This doesn’t seem too bad, right? Assuming you are on-task 100% of the time, you will have no trouble doing things like eating, exercising, socializing, and getting plenty of sleep. It’s true this example schedule does not account for anything like doctor, dentist, counselor appointments, but that shouldn’t be a problem because you’ve got 3 hours of free time every day. Easy to find time for other things.

The weekends will be even better because you only have to study 6 hours a day. Since you are already putting in 10 hour work/study days during the week, 6 hours will be easy. You can sleep til noon! Of course you won’t do that but you can sleep in.

Typical Weekend:

9am: get up, shower, dress, eat, get set up to study or commute to study location.

10-1: do assigned bar prep work you didn’t get to during the week.

1-2: eat lunch, stretch, take a break, etc.

2-5: do regularly assigned bar prep work.

5-bedtime: free time! This is plenty of time to do things like work out, socialize, do laundry, basic cleaning, go to the grocery store, get gas in car, get a hair cut, etc.

Note: If you go to church, make sure to either get up earlier or add two hours to the day as you’ll need time to dress, commute to and from church, change into study clothes.


This weekend schedule also assumes that you will be 100% on task for those 3-hour blocks of time. But that shouldn’t be a problem because you will disengage from all distractors and not need to take any unplanned breaks. This schedule doesn’t sound too bad, right? You can do this every day for 10 weeks.

Again, assuming you are 100% on task for the 42 hours of study time, you have 25-35 hours of free time every week. You can do whatever you want. Go to the dentist, clean your apartment, binge-watch something on Netflix. What’s really great is that your time is flexible so if something comes up, all you have to do is adjust your schedule accordingly. For example, if you don’t want to study one weeknight, you can move those hours to Saturday or Sunday and just put in a full day then. If you have plans to go out of town for the weekend simply add 2 hours of studying to each day during the week. Or if you are attending a friend’s wedding, if it’s in the evening, you are good to go because you can get 6 hours of studying in easy, especially if you get up earlier. And if you’ll need to sleep off the celebrating, you can just study Sunday evening.


One and Done


The bar exam is the final step to becoming a licensed attorney. You want to pass the first time so you can actually practice law. If you don’t have to work, then don’t put this at risk. If you still think working during bar prep is a good idea, get a copy of the detailed bar study schedule from your commercial bar prep company. 40 hours a week will get you through 70-75% of the material. If, after seeing the sheer volume of material and assignments, you still think working and studying is a good idea, go talk to the bar support person at your law school. Let that person help you create a structured schedule that will keep you on track. Once you fall behind (and you will), it is extremely difficult to play catch-up.

This was a really long post because deciding to work during bar prep is a huge decision and it should be an informed one. Make the decision that will best help you achieve the goal of passing the bar exam.

-KSK

Bar Exam: One. More. Week

The good news is that you only have one more week until you get to take the bar exam. There is no bad news. Two things to focus on:

Family & Friends: You might think you’ve done a great job holding things together and acting like you’re fine. You have not. Your friends and family are not dumb but they do love you so they’ve gone along with the charade. Now is the time to get in the shower, put on some clean clothes, and remind these folks how much they mean to you. Don’t wait until after the bar exam. Making the time now means a lot more than when it’s convenient for you. It’s been about you for awhile.


Get into the Bar Exam Zone: 9-10 weeks ago you started the final leg of a lifelong journey. You have crammed thousands of pieces of material into your brain. You haven’t learned everything but you have learned enough. I’ve been telling you that you can do it, telling you to trust yourself and your abilities. Now is the time for you to start believing it. It’s time to get into the the zone.  Check out this blog post for some tips on how to stay in the zone. Don’t have five minutes for that? Check out the 30 second video version.

-KSK

Study for the Bar Exam by Taking a Break

Lily Pads

Six weeks of studying. Six weeks of watching video lectures, taking notes, reading outlines, answering multiple choice questions, writing essay responses, working through MPTs, reviewing flash cards…

What do all these things have in common? They involve sitting. You’ve basically been sitting 40+ hours a week for six weeks. This is not good. Why? Because sitting is the new smoking. Researchers have found that sitting more than six hours a day will greatly increase your risk of an early death. Yikes.

Ok, so 10 weeks of sitting probably won’t kill you but it sure isn’t extending your life. You’ve only been sitting for six weeks but don’t pretend that your back, neck, shoulders, aren’t stiff. When you go to stand up, you creak and groan like a 90 year old. You probably feel more lethargic and less motivated to move. You may be accountable for your bar studying but you’ve stopped being accountable for your movement.

It’s amazing how, when you are aware of what you are doing in the moment, it is easy to see how the little things can lead to major changes.

You may not stop studying for the bar exam. But you should take breaks and move.

Try a little office yoga.

Take a five minute walk around the block or building.

Vacuum one room in the house.

Have a mini dance party to one song (don’t even pretend you don’t already do this).

Get up and MOVE.

-KSK

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for the MBE: Do & Review

The Multistate Bar Exam. AKA: the MBE. 200 multiple choice questions on seven subjects. Almost every jurisdiction requires it so you can’t avoid it. And with more and more jurisdictions adopting the UBE, which weights the MBE 50% of your total bar exam score, you better learn to love it.

multiple-choice

Everyone has advice about the “best” way to prepare for and do well on the MBE. However, be wary of  strategies that involve gaming the system or require little effort. The best way to do well on the MBE is the same way to do well on an essay exam: Know the material, practice the process, assess your performance. Assessing your performance does not mean looking at your score. It means figuring out HOW you got that score and WHY you missed particular questions.

This is not fun and it takes time. But it works. That is because time reviewing should equal time doing. What is the point of doing 17, 34, or 100 MBE questions if you don’t take the time to review? Reviewing means more than reading answer explanations. This is important but it only addresses one aspect of the test, the substance. You also need to review your process: the analysis you engaged in that lead you to choose a particular answer choice.

One way to review your analysis is to keep a log as you answer MBE questions. Write down your thought process as you eliminate and choose different answers. Again, this is not fun and it takes time. But it works. You’ll notice patterns in how you approach different questions and different topics. Are you missing Property questions because you don’t understand Property or because you don’t like reading the long hypo and get lost in the all of those facts?  Figure this out and you’ll be able to correct yourself adjust your process.

Want more on how to do well on the MBE? Check out this post  on how to use IRAc and this one for general strategies.

-KSK

 

 

The Weekend Before: Time to Taper

Law school has conditioned you to study hard right up until it’s time to take the exam. However, this is not a law school exam. This is no 3 hour test where you’re allowed to use highlighters, wear watches, drink coffee, eat snacks. Those were the good old days. This is the bar exam. Endurance is important. You’ve been studying for 10 weeks and you are tired. You’ve probably had trouble focusing this week, each day getting worse than the one before. This is totally normal. Your body and brain are sending you a signal so listen and get some rest between now and Tuesday so you can be focused and energized for the exam.take the first step

This weekend try to have a “normal” couple of days. Put in a little study time, but also sleep, rest, watch tv, go out to dinner, interact with other people. Eat something healthy: carrots, apples, broccoli, anything that comes directly from nature. Go easy on the alcohol, soda, coffee, and energy drinks. Instead, re-hydrate with water.

  • Stop cramming. You can’t learn all the law and you don’t need to.
  • Stop obsessing over your MBE scores. It won’t help and you’ll be fine.
  • Stop trying to get a perfect score on every essay. It won’t happen and it’s not necessary.
  • Stop doubting yourself and your abilities. You are ready for this.

Trust me but more importantly, trust yourself- you’ve worked hard, you know the material, you know what to do and how to do it.

-KSK

 

 

 

Take the Practice MBE and Expect to Fail

 

Many of you are taking a simulated MBE today. You’re going into it with a mindset similar to how you felt about exams your first semester of law school: “I just want to pass. I’ll be happy with a C.” For most of you, grades came out and you did pretty well, better than you hoped for. Even if you didn’t do well, you didn’t quit. If you had, you wouldn’t be studying for the bar exam right now. It’s human nature to do things like this- failure happens but no one likes it. When you fail, it’s easy to want to give up. Planning to fail is called “failure expectation” and it actually helps you maintain confidence. Even if you do poorly, you are prepared for it and it doesn’t kill your motivation. The rationale behind this is that we learn from our mistakes often better than from our successes.

So prepare for the simulated MBE with a “failure expectation” plan. Aim for a realistic score like 50%. Then come up with a back up plan if you score under this. If you score higher, you can move forward but even if you “fail,” you have a plan to reach your ultimate goal. Giving up is not an option and neither is whining about it. Know what you will do to keep yourself moving forward.

-ksk