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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“What’s the BEST resource for preparing for the bar exam?”

I know it’s a hellscape out there in bar land 🧯🔥 Everyone claims to be the best supplement for bar prep.

Exam questions get more complex the more you look at them. There are too many damn options for supplements. And this vicious cycle is like a whistling kettle getting louder.

No wonder I get questions like these:

“Hello, do you have any tips for passing the bar? Sent from iPhone”

Idk check the website and sign up for my emails. I’ve been writing about this for 7 years. But sometimes I’ll bite and answer this vague kind of question.

“Do you have tutor recommendations? Should I get a tutor?”

Sure, but just consider how far you’ve taken your self-study efforts on your own and your real reason for seeking outside help. I have nothing against investing in your success for the right purpose. 

“What’s the best course/platform/material for bar prep?”

Like people, nothing is 100% at everything. I may have suggestions that fit your situation, but remember that the tool itself won’t help unless the wielder uses it properly.

OK, coming back down to the streets now…

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Good Essays Are the Easiest to Grade: How to Get the Big Points on Your Bar Exam Essays

Here’s a pop quiz:

Can you tell which of these essays scored higher than the other? Take a look at these excerpts, and take a guess. Why did you pick your answer?

Essay A
Essay B
(Here’s the essay question for context)

Before I reveal the winner, can I just say how this shows how subjective essay grading is?

Graders are people. They have biases like we do. They get tired. They’re not consistent. (Yeah, they’re actually not reptilian robots 😲)

The winner is…

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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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