Prioritizing Rules to Know on the Bar Exam (and How to Dominate the Essays)

Ever wonder how you’re supposed to juggle everything in your head? How do you prioritize the rules to know for the bar exam?

If you’re a bar taker, that’s CONSTANTLY on your mind. There are just so many rules to know.

You’d love to start practicing essays but feel like you just haven’t learned enough law yet.

How are you supposed to learn all this when time is tight? How do you tackle the massive body of rules to know?

Key takeaways:

  • Learn not just the rules but also how to present and organize the issues
  • Highest-priority issues and rules are those that have appeared in the past (there are two other categories)
  • There are efficient and effective ways to hit both of the above at once
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The 3 Things You Need When Starting Bar Prep (Live Stream Replay)

“What should I know when I’m starting bar prep?”

I did a live stream with Jennifer Duclair to talk about how to take the guesswork out of bar preparation and get a better sense of direction as you start studying for your next bar exam.

It was fun! Japes and nuggets of insights were dropped, and I’m pleased with how this turned out. (Maybe I’ll do another one next year…)

Here’s me throwing Kaplan under the bus:

What to do with your schedule when starting bar prep

Here’s the recording (go to 8:12 where I talk about the study schedule shown above), along with timestamps so you can jump to the parts you’re most interested in:

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What’s the Best Way to Study for the Bar Exam WITH a Bar Prep Course?

You know me. I’m a proponent of self-studying for the bar exam.

Not just me. Many retakers who pass come back to tell me that they wish they’d abandoned the bloated courses in the first place. I hear this every year.

But that’s not the point of this article. While going solo can be effective not just in terms of cost but by virtue of its emphasis on learning, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes we want everything laid out and be told what to do.

You understandably feel lost with seemingly no other option other than a bar review course when you first start out. It’s such an important exam that you want to do it right. I’d lean towards taking a course if you’re a first timer and want a structure.

Most people start with a traditional commercial bar prep course like Barbri, Themis, Kaplan (if you’re a masochist like me), or BarMax — or even a smaller independent course like that offered by JD Advising, Studicata, SmartBarPrep, or many others.

In other words, there are many ways to study for the bar exam. They can all work. Instead of debating for days which program is the “best” and ending up undecided, worry about being a good student. 

Bar prep, at its core, is self-study. Courses and materials are merely there to support YOUR studies.

That said, let’s talk about how to pick a bar prep course and how to use it to move the needles that will help you learn.

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101 Rules for Bar Exam Preparation

Here’s a list of 101 quick bullets on preparing for the bar exam.

Your answer is probably somewhere in here if you ever feel like asking the worst questions in the world:

  • “Do you have any advice?” (only if there’s enough context)
  • “Can you help?” (can you help?)
  • “Thoughts?” (a minimalist reply seems rude but tempting)
  • “HELP!” “Let’s connect” (?)
  • Anything with more than one question mark in a row unironically

If you have the Magicsheets & Approsheets suite, you already have access to the exclusive pocket guide “17 Strategies to Get Un-stuck and Un-frustrated by the Bar Exam.”

I tried something even more straight to the point.

Why 101? I wanted to do something contrived like 100 and ended up with 1 more (say hi to your OCD for me). I’ll probably update this in the future. This is an amorphous and evolving draft. Nothing is set in stone. Things change. Things get better. Same with your bar prep.

Feel free to disagree with any point. Advice is autobiography. Advice is never one-size-fits-all. Take what you like and leave the rest.

If some rules seem contradictory, that’s where interesting things happen.

Let me know which parts you agree with, parts you disagree with, or contradictions you thought about on your own and resolved.

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

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.

It had all the equations needed, but she got the lowest score in the class. She didn’t know how and when those equations applied. She hadn’t practiced applying those rules 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.” Okay… what’s that mean? Could you explain that a bit more bro? Any supporting statements or specific examples?

Same with “black letter law.” What does “related” mean? You get a better sense of what that means by looking at examples of how that rule is used until you gain an intuition.

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

She was my gf at the time btw. Awkward! Oh well, live and learn.

And that’s what I want to talk about—learning.

“Do I really know this? Am I really becoming ready for the bar exam?”

It’s natural to question yourself at every step when preparing for the bar exam.

What people try to do:

  • Consume material to get all their “ducks in a row” first
  • Obsess over every rule and get overwhelmed
  • Collect more tools than is possible to look at and reconcile
  • Endlessly seek the “best” silver-bullet tool
  • Fill in the available time

This is when we pour our coffee, make room on our desk, organize our pens, turn on the computer… and then just stare at the words.

not practicing

How to actually find out:

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