How much time do I need to study for the bar exam?
August 28, 2007 10:26 AM   Subscribe

How much is too much bar exam preparation?

I'm considering sitting for the Arizona bar in February. I have previously taken and failed the Florida Bar in 2004 and while I don't want to practice full-time, I need this license for well...closure.

My game plan to date is as follows:

From Nov. 1 to Jan. 1, I'd like to follow the schedule laid out in I know. You want a link. I just haven't figured out how to do that.

At that point, I would sign up for Babri. The winter class begins, I believe, Jan. 6 and runs through Feb. 11. I'll be working pretty much full-time up until Feb. 1st. I say "pretty much" because I work for my parents and wouldn't have an issue saying "I'm not coming in this week because I'm studying." I can't do too much of that but my work schedule isn't set in stone.

Since the exam is really a test of short-term memory, I'm wondering if I might be better served simply doing Barbri or using November to January to read up on MBE tactics (It's what felled me.)

Hive mind?
posted by notjustfoxybrown to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The BARBri class will be really helpful. Make sure that you have time each night to do the homework though. The class is useless if you don't do the homework immediately. I'd take it early, so that you can know where you stand and then perfect techniques til the real class.
posted by k8t at 10:32 AM on August 28, 2007

Dear NJFB:

In true law school fashion, let me answer your question with a question: how often would you like to take the AZ bar?

IMHO, bar exams are no fun (I suspect you feel the same). As such, I'm of the camp that thinks that it's difficult to prep too much, unless said prep actually impairs your bar performance. But if you're doing the bar exam schedule, and then going Barbri, you should be okay. Notwithstanding my snark above (intended for humor purpose only!), your schedule sounds like the schedule of someone who passes the AZ bar.

Best of luck,

posted by deejay jaydee at 10:43 AM on August 28, 2007

If the MBE was the problem, practice should hopefully make perfect (or at least passing). For me the best help for the MBE was the fat BarBri book of practice tests and the PMBR.

With the practice tests, make yourself sit down and do them every night for the last 5-6 weeks in a semi-controlled environment. For example, one night do 30 criminal law questions in 30 minutes (or however long you'd have during the bar), sitting down at a table, with no television or music, and with a separate answer sheet for marking down your answers. Honor the time limitation. Then grade yourself and figure out why you got wrong what you got wrong. The next night, move to a different set of questions, and as you get closer to the exam do mixed questions. I think BarBri has easy, medium, and hard questions. Start easy and build up.

For PMBR, the 2-day (maybe it was 3, I don't remember) course starts features a simulated MBE, which is nice, and walks you through the trick questions you can expect. There were a bunch of the tricks on our MBE, and with PMBR it was pretty easy to spot several of them. They also give you a practice book, which is handy.

Remember that the DMV can force amish people to put reflector thingees on their buggies so long as the state has a compelling safety interest (or something like that). Good luck!
posted by AgentRocket at 10:55 AM on August 28, 2007

Dear NJFB:

I am of the camp that it is way possible to over-prepare for the bar exam and work your mind into some kind of overly anxious state where it can't function on any high level. So here's my prep mantra: don't study a lot, study smart(*)

Request your score copy from Florida and determine whether it was primarily the MBE or the state essay portions that felled you. If state portion, do BarBri PLUS their extra-special essay writing sessions, and as said correctly above, DO ALL THE HOMEWORK SAME DAY. If MBE, do BarBri PLUS the PMBR(**).

While studying: stick to an exercise schedule and eating schedule that keep you taking healthy, mind-restoring breaks. Make sure you do practice tests under exam conditions (i.e. timed, without TV on, etc.). If you want to be as OCD as I am, you could make a little chart for your practice tests that show where your score is now and how it improves over time - because watching that Advanced Crim Procedure score creep up (even 1 point at a time) is a good confidence builder. Actually, I turned it into a little game for myself where I could have one margarita for every such and such score increase, or one break to play with the dog, or I could read real estate listings (my method of distraction) again, if I self-scored a good score on an essay.

Personally, I would not start studying until BarBri begins. I think if you start in November, you are really going to be killing yourself by the time prep really gets into high gear. You'll be impatient, exhausted, tired, and, well, it would be way too much for MY system to bear. Of COURSE you want to do everything you can and prep well, but you have to be sane on Game Day.

Good luck, and stay tough, you can do it,

Bunnycup, Esq.
(Admission Pending September 2007)

(*) Of course you're going to study a lot, but quality is way more important than quantity.
(**) Disclaimer: I didn't use PMBR because I was working full time while studying for the bar and didn't have time, but I know what it is and how it's supposed to help. My suggestion is based on reports from friends.
posted by bunnycup at 11:11 AM on August 28, 2007

OK..What if I did a Strategy and Tactics MBE workbook, say, in December, and then do Barbri? I guess I just don't feel like six weeks of Barbri is enough. Then again, they are the experts.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:35 AM on August 28, 2007

Maybe in December you could read If I Don't Pass the Bar I'll Die: 73 Ways to Keep Stress and Worry from Affecting Your Performance on the Bar Exam, or something similar.

Or, another thing you might spend December doing is simply analyzing your prior scores and seeing what your WORST area is, and reading a scholarly book about it. Before I took antitrust, I read a legal scholarly book about antitrust law, and it ended up being one of the few classes in law school where I managed an A+. So if you just SUCK at Constitutional Law, just read a book about it. Keep your brain tough and thinking legally, but not killed. The caveat on that, of course, is that the bar exam tests such an odd set of skills and "real world" is not always useful. But if you do anything in December, I would just be really focused and spend say no more than 10 hours a week lightly reviewing your worst one or two areas.
posted by bunnycup at 11:45 AM on August 28, 2007

I've taken three bars, and passed two. I failed Arizona. Here's what I've learned:

1. You need to study in a planned fashion. It's good to know what you will be studying each day. I would suggest making a schedule of what subjects you will study each day.

2. Practice makes perfect. I think BarBri is the way to go. I would say that you need to get old bar exams or bar exam questions for Arizona and do as many as possible after BarBri ends. For MBE, do as many problems as you can in the book. I would also recommend the Strategies and Tactics for the MBE. I used this book and found the mnemonics and techniques immensely helpful.

3. In the last week before the bar, ramp it up. In the last week before the two other bars I took, I upped my studying from 10-12 hours to 13-15. It's hard but necessary. I also tried to simulate the bar exam. I would take one day and spend 6 hours on essays, taking breaks when they would be given at the exam, and acting as if I was really taking it. This helps when you get to the real exam, since you know what it will be like and you can relax.

4. For MBE, write down the right answers. For all the MBE questions I missed, I wrote down the correct answer and the explanation for it. I would review this list each Friday afternoon. My rationale was that I had missed it on the question, so I probably didn't know that concept as well as I needed to. Worked like a charm.

5. Rest on the day before the bar. I got to the hotel two days early for the second and third exam I took. Day 1 was spent cramming subjects I had trouble with. Day 2 was spent doing some light review in the morning and then taking the afternoon and evening off. Go see a movie, call a friend, watch. Anything to get your mind off the bar.

6. After the first day, study your MBE's. Don't take the night off after the essay day. Be sure to study your MBE subjects. I also studied during the lunch break on each day. It's just smart.

If you need any more advice, send me an e-mail . My addy is in my profile. Good luck!
posted by reenum at 12:23 PM on August 28, 2007

P.S. If you're working, start doing light prep in November. Start studying seriously once BarbBri begins.
posted by reenum at 12:24 PM on August 28, 2007

Thanks, reenum. The one good thing for me is that I actually live just six minutes away from where the exam is administered so no worries about trying to get a good night's sleep in a hotel room. I will probably email you to find out what kept you from passing Arizona when you passed two others.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 12:32 PM on August 28, 2007

no amount of preparation is too much, but the best preparation is reading the bar review outlines, not going to the lectures, because you can absorb information much faster by reading it than by listening to someone. i just read those suckas over and over again before passing in california (on the first try) in 1980.
posted by bruce at 12:38 PM on August 28, 2007

I have taken three bars and have failed one. When I failed the first bar, I realized I didn't take it seriously enough. I took a BarBri class but didn't do much else. The MBE is what got me, as well.

The second time I took the same bar, I studied for about 10 hours a day for around a month. I kept a study schedule, but to be honest, I didn't always stick to it. However, I made sure I was studying something every day and not messing around, like I did before. I also took A LOT of practice exams, especially for the MBE (if you can get your hands on the BarBri computer program, I think that would be very helpful!) I did not take BarBri, again, but instead studied their books and the notes from their class. If you can find someone that has these notes and books, I think that is more beneficial than actually sitting in the class. If you have at least a few weeks to study full time, you should be okay, I think.

I also found that writing notes on a big flip chart really helped. For some reason, I was able to remember things that I wrote really big. :) I guess I could visualize what I wrote better? This was especially helpful for the essay portion.

Best of luck to you!
posted by emilyv at 2:20 PM on August 28, 2007

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