Practice, Make Mistakes, Learn

The end of commercial bar prep lectures means the start of focused review and practice. It does not mean the start of memorizing your outlines, nor does it mean you spend 90% of your time reading outlines, making flashcards, etc. You need to spend at least 50% of your study time doing practice questions. Off note. No outline. Using only your brain.

For MBE questions, this isn’t too tough because you’ve already taken a practice exam without your notes/outline. Essay questions are another story. This is because, for multiple choice questions, your brain only needs to recognize the material, but for essays your brain has to produce it. This is a slightly different skill that you need to develop. The way to develop the skill is to… practice. The first couple of essays might be awful but that’s ok. We learn from mistakes, oftentimes better than from our successes.

Go into this stage of bar prep with a growth mindset. Expect to make mistakes so you can use them to improve. Don’t wait to practice when you think you can do it *right.* Practice with the goal of learning how to do it right. mistakes


Bar Exam: 2 Week Action Plan

Bar Exam Action Plan

  • Make sure you know where the exam site is, how you’ll get there and commute time.
  • Assemble what you need to take with you to the exam:
    • Laptop and cord
    • Ziploc bag with: photo id, admission ticket, pens, approved water bottle
    • Lunch money (if you choose to purchase)
  • Double-check list of permitted and prohibited items and make sure you adhere to it.
  • Plan what you’ll wear:
    • Pro tip: dress in comfortable layers so you can adjust for warm/cool.
  • Continue to review subjects:
    • Read through outlines or flashcards and identify confusing areas of law.
    • Paraphrase rules from memory, write an example and a non-example.
    • Create a one page outlines and test to see if you can write it from memory.
  • Practice for performance (test conditions):
    • no outlines
    • mixed MBE, randomized essays
    • follow time limits
    • stay within character limits
  • Get your body and brain on bar exam time:
    • Go to bed at a reasonable hour (before midnight) and get up at 7 or 8am.
    • Be at your study place by 9am and work for a solid 3-4 hours, take a 1 hour lunch break, then get back to studying for another 3-4 hours.
    • Take 30 minutes each evening to review your daily progress and plan what you’ll do the next day.
  • Develop a “panic plan” for how you will manage stress during the exam (e.g., take deep breaths, count to 10, recite your confidence mantra, get a drink of water, etc.).
  • Plan how you will celebrate the end of all your hard work after the exam is over.
  • Write down at least three reasons why you believe you’ll pass the bar exam. Hang it up on the fridge and look at it every day- remind yourself you can do this.


Bar Exam: Practice for Performance

It’s the end of January and the bar exam is three weeks away. Don’t panic. You think you need more time but you don’t. You are right on track. Besides, you have got to be ready for this to be over. Can you imagine having to study another week or two? No thank you. Commercial bar prep lectures are (almost) over so it is time to shift from practicing how to learn to practicing for performance. The bar exam tests two things: (1) knowledge and (2) skills, so your preparation should reflect this. Stay the course and keep moving forward. Remember, you haven’t just been studying for 6-7 weeks. You’ve been preparing for three years and the past several weeks have solidified the foundation you need for the exam.

Practice for Performance.

All the information is in your brain (really, it’s in there) so you’ve got to practice using it and focus on the skills tested. That means answering questions using your brain and not your notes or outlines. This seems daunting but it’s time and the longer you wait the more dependent you become.  You’re never going to know everything but your brain is amazing so give it a chance.

It’s like learning to ride a bike- you start out with training wheels    but at a certain point you don’t need them. You think you do but you really don’t. You see other people riding two wheelers and think maybe you can do it but you are scared. You might fall. Finally your dad/mom/grandma/sibling gets tired of it and takes those training wheels off. You are so scared. You make that person promise to hold your bike and not let go. They say, “sure thing,” and give you a push. You wobble a bit, maybe even fall, but you get up and do it again and then… you are riding a bike.

Do you really want to be like this guy?

Going off-note is scary and, like riding a bike, initially you will wobble and maybe fall. The first few attempts will be ugly. You will struggle. You will see issues but not be able to pull the rules out of your brain. You will miss issues because you are so busy wishing you could look at your notes. You will curse me and want to yell at me- how dare I believe in your abilities or think you can do this. That’s fine. I can take it. Push through and give it some time. I know you’ve put the work in and I know you can do it.

If the thought of going cold turkey is too much, you may taper but not for long. You may use notes/outlines as a resource (there if you need it) for the next few days, but on Feb 1: NO. MORE. NOTES.

Want more information about what to do when commercial bar prep lectures end?  Check out this post on the Bar Exam Wizard for some ideas on what to do.