Two Biggest Fears of a Bar Exam Taker

“I need to know all the law first!”

What were those three years of law school for? Never mind.

There’s this strange concern in the atmosphere floating around.

A concern that if you don’t know it all, then you won’t be prepared to solve the problems… The thought that all you need to do well in practice or even the bar exam itself (!) is to know it all…

So you sit there, fold your arms, and wait for osmosis. A passive approach. Maybe your soulmate will fall out of the sky, too.

And then when you finally flip open that essay after weeks of becoming a know-it-all…

You stare at the blank page.

In front of you, a blank canvas ready to be filled but only reflecting a harsh stillness.

The cursor blinks at you, urging you for your next order.

Cold sweat squeezes out of pores you didn’t even realize you had on your body.

“…”

You decide to hit the books and videos again. Maybe you just need to know more… Maybe you’ll get ’em next time…

You’re mostly grasping the material, but then when you take a practice exam it’s like everything you know is out the window.

WTF? Why didn’t it work?

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How to Maintain Motivation and Momentum While Studying for the Bar Exam

You’ve seen all the euphoria from people who passed the bar exam.

You’re probably “inspired” and “motivated” when you look at success stories, case studies, and accounts of people who excitedly announce they passed the bar exam.

When that happens, we say things like “if they can do it, so can I” (true). Or “I needed this today.”

Today? That’s some “new year, new me” type energy. I’m not letting you off the hook like that.

Anyone can desire to pass the bar. Anyone can fixate on the goal and tell everyone they want it. It’s not gonna happen just because you said it.

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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.

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 a ship, let’s try to head toward the right direction toward clear waters rather than use speed or force right now.

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

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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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Not Passing Hurts MORE than Struggling Now! How Drew Used Pain to Efficiently Pass the CA Bar Exam (While Working Full Time)

I collect every bar exam success story. Sometimes I post unique stories in a small vault of success stories. Other times, I screenshot and put them in a big folder.

Once in a while, I get a reflection that I want to feature front and center.

Drew passed the 2021 February California Bar Exam (Attorneys’ Exam with essays and PT only) on his second attempt while working full time and as a father to young children.

He really hit the nail on the head about the experience of a repeater—and what first timers should heed—from the initial underestimation of the exam, the uncomfortable resistance to actually trying to solve the problems, to his essay answers evolving into a more organized format. 

I didn’t want to waste Drew’s very organized thoughts (and lessons for new bar takers) by letting them archive in my inbox like the many other reflections I get. His message had a lot of parallels to what I and many other repeaters have gone through, and what I encourage my readers to do.

Here’s what he did differently…

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