What’s The Best Strategy To Prepare For The Bar Exam?
We get this question often. The answer isn’t as exciting as you may think: it depends on who you are and where you are coming from. Did you just graduate from a top law school and are taking the exam for the first time with two full months off to study? Or is this your second or third attempt at the bar exam and you have a job and a family to worry about?
If this is your first time taking the bar exam and you have all summer to prepare, as long as you are committed to studying diligently, you might as well consider saving some money and going for the cheaper of your bar review options. Students typically pass in order of their GPA at graduation (e.g., students in the top 25% of their class are far more likely to pass than students in the bottom 25%), so if you did well and went to a decent law school, you are likely to pass regardless of which bar review course you purchase, and buying a more expensive course will not give you much of an advantage, if any (especially when just about everyone takes the same course).
But what if you are graduating from a law school that is not so highly ranked or you are not at the top of your graduating class?
Now you have to consider your choices carefully because you are in a group that is more at risk of failing and you want to do everything you can to give yourself a competitive advantage. Doing what everyone else does won’t give you that leg up and since the exam is graded on a curve, you need to do what you can to be on the right side of it.
Let’s analyze the options an average first time bar exam taker will likely consider:
The biggest bar review courses may seem like a safe bet, but are they really?
All of these major bar review companies simply review the law and give you a lot of practice questions, but they do not actually improve your odds of passing the bar exam.
What does this mean for you? If you are towards the bottom of your class or in a law school with below average bar passage rates, you may be in trouble if you simply select one of these big bar companies. Students in this situation usually need something extra to give them the points they need to pass. What is this something extra? It is connecting the dots between giving you information and having you do hundreds of practice questions. The connection between the two is teaching specific exam performance strategies that will increase your scores as you practice them on questions from each section of the bar exam.
Here’s a tip: If you are taking the MPRE before the bar exam as most students do, check out and sample some of the MPRE courses available from the different companies. This is will give you a good idea of what bar preparation for that company will look like. Here’s our free online MPRE program for you to check out and compare.
If you are in the unfortunate position of having already taken the bar exam and failed, then you face a different challenge than a first time taker. Retaker bar pass rates across the country are significantly lower than first-time takers; almost always lower than 40%, and there are many reasons why. Many retaker students do not have the time off that they did the first time and trying to juggle studying all over again and working full time or part time is difficult. Many retakers may have to skip at least one exam before they sit for the test again, which means their substantive knowledge of the rules may have faded. There is also the psychological pressure that builds on retakers as well, from the insecurities associated with their first failure and from the pressure for many who have jobs that are allowing them “one more try”, or the loss of their job. What’s worse is that the more times you fail, the more likely you are to fail the next time. And of course, some retakers still have the same specific test taking problems that caused them to fail the last time they took the exam.
For retakers, the very worst thing they can do is simply take the free or discounted redo that their first time bar prep course offers. This is almost always a mistake; the only time this would ever work is if the student really just did not study the first time around. In that very rare case, perhaps it makes sense to redo the same course. But if you did at least a fair amount of studying the first time, redoing the same preparation you did before will almost likely get you the same results (yes, we know this sounds like common sense). So retakers need a different approach. Because retakers are such a diverse group in terms of the different reasons they were unsuccessful before, they need a more individualized approach. This is why our Retaker Course includes a flexible, customizable schedule and includes one-on-one tutoring with our experienced bar exam tutors.
And for LL.M. students or foreign attorneys trying to take the bar exam in the U.S., they face their own specific challenges, from having to take the bar exam in their second language to a lack of experience with multiple-choice exams, as well as possibly having to study independently in their home country, without the support of study groups or any type of in-person instruction. Plus, they have the same pressures and challenges that American students’ face. The LL.M. student, just like a retaker student or a student who graduated from a law school with lower pass rates, will greatly improve their chances of passing if they enroll in a flexible course that connects the dots between knowing the law and applying that law to a multiple choice question or an essay fact pattern by teaching specific strategies and tips. In addition, one-on-one tutoring can be a huge help to the individual LL.M. student by providing guidance with their study schedule and addressing gaps in knowledge or weaknesses in their performance.
As a bar exam taker, you have your own unique strengths and weaknesses. What may have worked for your friend in law school may not work for you and vice versa. Make sure you do your research and try to find a program that you think will be a good fit for you and whose teaching style matches your needs. If you actually believe in the methodology behind the program you are taking it will be that much moré effective for you.
And if you have any questions about studying for the exam, or what type of preparation would best fit your learning style and your schedule, just email us at [email protected] for guidance or give us a call. We are happy to help you pass the bar exam.