Stop “Studying” and Start Learning: The Underrated Practice of Practice in Bar Prep

You’ve sat still during lectures and tried to stay awake. You’ve taken notes. You’ve read outlines. You’ve even answered practice questions.

Then nothing works. Has this happened to you?

Back in college, I gave a copy of my cheat sheet for our engineering midterm to a girl. How do you say no to a girl? Answer: You can’t.

And then she got the lowest score in the class.

It had all the equations needed, but she didn’t know how and when those equations applied. She hadn’t seen those rules applied to similar problems. She assumed that just having the rules there would be enough. (Same reason open-book bar exams would change very little.)

It’s like when someone says, “b urself” or “learn to love yourself.” Okay… what’s that mean? Could you explain that a bit more, bro? Any specifics?

Same with your “black letter law”… What does “related” mean in your rule statement?

You get a better sense of what that means in the context of examples of how that rule is used. You gain an intuition.

You’d think these rules would be plug and play, but they’re not always. Context matters. Knowing when and how to use them matters.

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Predictions for the Bar Exam (What to Focus On for Efficient Study)

Before every exam, a handful of people come out of the woodwork and shamelessly ask about subject predictions for the bar exam.

“Does anyone know the essay predictions?”
“What do you think will be tested?”
“I don’t think ____ will appear on the exam.”
“Anyone think ____ will be tested?”
“I know we’re not supposed to listen to predictions, but…”
“What are ____’s predictions?”
“Here are my MEE predictions!”

Whose speculations are you going to listen to?

If you’re like many bar takers, or if you’re a repeater, you say: “Haha of course I’m not going to rely on the predictions. I shall adequately study all the subjects. You should too!”

And then you panic and look at the predictions anyway.

Did you want me to tell you, “Aww poor baby, don’t worry. It’s normal and happens to the best of us 🥺”?

You SHOULD worry if you’re secretly tempted to rely on predictions… because this kind of thinking is entirely predictable and avoidable. Sweating about predictions is not a good place to be and requires intervention.

Also, remember when subjects actually leaked for the California exam in 2019 and people got mad over it? Do you want to know the subjects ahead of time or not? Make up your minds!

Maybe you’re too young to remember ancient history. I’ve been dealing with you people for too long.

Here’s why you should look toward essay/MEE predictions for entertainment value and morbid curiosity only (and 3 things you can focus on instead):

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Bar Prep Wisdom from Succulents

I went to a succulents gardening workshop the other day 🌱

(This is relevant to you, promise.)

I figured succulents wouldn’t wither under my care like the flowers I tried arranging before. There’s a limit to how much talent one person can have, I guess.

But there’s no limit to how much I think about bar prep because that’s what I started thinking about when I was listening to the instructor 🤦🏻‍♂️

4 relevant lessons and also photos of my bald-looking succulent bowl:

(First lesson: “You have to kill a lot of plants to be an expert.” 🤯)

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Fundamental Strategies for Passing the UBE While Working Full Time

Nat passed the 2024 February UBE on her second try while working full time. There are a lot of people working and studying at the same time these days. Times are tough!

💬 “I took the UBE bar in July of 2023. . . . Today [April of 2024], I learned that I passed the February 2024 Bar. I have been studying, waiting, or taking the bar since May of 2023. When I sat down for the bar this time, I felt calm.

It doesn’t seem like much to take the bar exam twice, but that was almost a full year of her life.

One thing to realize is that each non-pass is costly. You have to wait 6 more months to check results again.

If you retake the exam in February, you’ll be finding out whether you passed in April or May next year. That’s a haunting length of time to stay in limbo.

That’s just one reason it’s imperative to Make This Your Last Time. whether you’re a first timer or a repeater, you can learn from the wisdom of your predecessors. Especially while the exam hasn’t changed.

Like many repeaters, she realized the folly of the approaches she used the first time.

💬 “I thought I was supposed to do that as I had done it last time.

So she tightened up her approach and did what was helping her learn. She was always pivoting and correcting course instead of being stuck along one path (like many Passer’s Playbook users).

💬 “I would find myself saying things like ‘this is passive learning, why are you doing this?’ and I would change how I was doing it.

Her motivation? Not taking the bar exam a third time (aka making this her last time).

💬 “My drive for passing? I didn’t think I could take it a third time, I didn’t want to tell people I hadn’t passed AGAIN, and I wanted to keep my job.

Nat shares a lot of strategies in her story. I’ll break down the key ones. See if you want to try using them.

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Busting 4 Myths of Memorizing for the Bar Exam

Many bar takers are obsessed with the idea of memorization for the bar exam.

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

Panic mutates into paralysis.

They think, “As long as I memorize this perfectly, I will be set for the bar exam.”

They end up holding a bag of theoretical knowledge they don’t know how to use, neglect the performance test in the process, and end up with a score that’s not terrible but not great either. After all, they still memorized everything enough to stumble through.

This is a common thought process, especially for those starting out. This may seem to be a safe approach, but it’s actually reckless.

Maybe that’s why people are excited about the possibility of open-book bar exams in some states. I eagerly await their realization that it’s not just about having access to information—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 for the bar exam—but not at the expense of learning. Memorizing is simply 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.

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

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