How should you really practice for the bar exam? “I keep practicing, but I’m not improving”

So you want to pass the bar. You’re super serious about it.

You pore over your outlines, trying to make sure you have a grasp of all the rules. There are still other subjects to review. You don’t think practice will be productive unless you “get” the theory.

It’s all so overwhelming.

But you did it. You can focus on practice now that you’ve had a good solid review of the core subjects first. You’ve been doing a few MBE questions and looked at a few essays already, but now it’s time to buckle down and get to writing those essays (you’ll get to the PTs… later).

After all, they said to “practice practice practice.”

But something’s wrong…

No matter how many times you do it, every essay is a mystery.

The blank-page syndrome is giving you irregular heartbeats and making you break out into a cold sweat.

You keep picking the incorrect answer choice on your MBE questions. The prospect of grading your work makes you want to lie down on your bed instead.

Here’s why you’re stuck and what to do to get unstuck:

Observe the “10-40-40-10 rule” of bar preparation.

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Myth of Memorization on the Bar Exam

Many bar takers are obsessed with the idea of memorization.

Understandably, a lot of students naturally panic and have concerns with it. I think it comes from a place of insecurity. There’s a LOT to remember after all.

Panic mutates into paralysis. They rely on theory. They say, “As long as I memorize this perfectly, I will be set for the exam.”

Maybe. That approach isn’t going to work for most people. It’s not the point. But this is a common thought process, especially for those starting out.

That may be why people are excited for the open-book bar exam (like in Nevada). I eagerly await the test takers’ realization that it’s not just about having access to knowledge but whether they can use it properly. Removing the memorization requirement doesn’t really change the exam. In fact, it will probably hurt if you’re wasting time looking things up.

It’s not that I’m ragging on memorization. You should memorize. It’s table stakes. Everyone’s doing it. It’s a minimum requirement. Just a cost of entry. So you do want to start memorizing as early as you can. 

I want to point out what bar students miss when they get tunnel vision around memorization. Don’t miss the forest for the trees:

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Memorizing for the Bar Exam: 5 Ways to Remember and Recite the Rules

There’s this weird phenomenon where you meet someone new and then 1 second later it’s impossible to remember each other’s names.

If I didn’t care about them 10 seconds ago, I’m not gonna care about them all of a sudden as if they were my newborn (whom I’d name Genghis (Hahn) so I don’t forget).

But what can I say? It’s impressive, for that exact reason, when someone actually remembers your name in conversation without having to say “sorry what was your name again? I’m so terrible with names hahahahaha.”

One of the themes I advocate is to focus more on “big wins” and needle movers. Not spending an ungodly number of hours exhausting yourself with lectures, flashcard arts and crafts, or endless memorization.

However, memorizing (or more directly, remembering) is still an unavoidable base requirement for succeeding on your essays and the MBE.

And the fact is, your bar exam requires you to remember a LOT. The typical brain is made for processing data but not so much for forcing discrete information to be inscribed into your memory forever.

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