Early Bar Prep: Should You Study Early for the Bar Exam?

Some bar takers wonder if they should study early for the bar exam (ahead of the traditional 10-week schedule), whether…

  • They’re waiting for results,
  • They got their bar results and want to retake the exam,
  • They have a full-time job to juggle at the same time, or
  • It’s been a minute (years to be exact) since they’ve graduated law school or have taken the exam.

While there are benefits to studying early, there are many traps to doing so. There are benefits to simply waiting until study season is in full swing before deciding whether or not to study for the bar exam. But as always, bar prep is personal.

Let’s discuss all of this—who early bar prep is right for and the best way to study early and effectively—so that you’re making the most of your time and energy.

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What to Do in the Weeks Leading up to the Bar Exam

Not really sure what’s working in the weeks leading up to the bar exam? Or what you should be doing?

If you’re taking a bar review course like Barbri, Themis, or Kaplan, then first make sure that you’ve been using it correctly (and that it hasn’t been using you to fill up its completion meter). Sometimes they don’t make clear what you should be doing to be prepared by the end of it all, other than the endless lectures and review sessions they make you sit through.

It’s like you aren’t feeling as confident or ready as you feel you should be after all that time spent. Studying for the bar exam can be a grueling process, so it’s important to have strategies in place to help you stay focused and motivated — and most important — make progress.

What should you be doing to make sure you’re really preparing enough for the big day? Here’s a framework to help you in the weeks leading up to the test:

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You Need a Study Plan: Why You Should Make Your Own Bar Prep Study Schedule

The only thing I remember from law school is my negotiations professor saying this in class randomly:

“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”

It’s so true. Is bar preparation worth doing? Then it’s worth doing right.

We know that we must enjoy the process (not merely fixate on the goal of passing the bar) for sustainable momentum.

Just as what’s enjoyable is personal, bar prep is also personal. Your study plan and schedule are personal.

Sample 4-week study schedule for bar prep

Sample 4-week study schedule from Passer’s Playbook. This should be a template that’s flexible to YOUR needs and without strict hour-by-hour timing.

After all, you’re the “dean of your own studies.” You’re ultimately responsible for learning the material as well as the skills to apply the material.

You might be working while studying for the bar exam. Maybe you have every day free for bar prep and don’t want to blow this opportunity. Or maybe you only have the first 6 hours of your day free while the kids are in school/Zoom classes.

There are a million ways you could approach this which can’t be captured with a unified master calendar. There is no one-size-fits-all bar prep study schedule. This alone is reason to abandon the cookie-cutter plan and create one that works for your situation.

Like why spend more time on Torts and less time on Evidence if that default autopilot setting doesn’t make sense to you?

Great, but where do you begin?

You may be lost and not sure where to start heading from here. Like you ran into an unfamiliar part of town and your phone dies (which is why I finally got a car charger after months of denial about how good my phone’s battery actually was).

Like the Titanic, going in the right direction is more important than how hard you go.

So here’s a first reminder that will narrow down your routes and simplify the sudoku of choices…

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Planning a Bar Prep Study Schedule (Quick Overview)

Wondering how to plan and begin your studies for the bar exam? The order in which to arrange the subjects? What a study schedule could look like?

I like to recommend this general approach. You’ll go through at least 3 cycles:

  1. MBE subjects, and then optionally essay-only subjects
  2. All subjects (you can repeat this more than once)
  3. Final crunch (1-2 weeks max)

More details below.

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How To Start Studying EARLY For The Bar Exam

Daniel Garrett writes in with a guest article on how to start studying early for the bar exam. Daniel provides expert tutoring for the California Bar Exam and the Uniform Bar Exam at BarWinners. Stay until the end for a special offer to work with Daniel.

If you plan on taking the bar exam several months out and want to get a jump start on your studying, there are a few key areas to focus on as you begin your studies in earnest.

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