It’s been a long journey, but you have finally arrived at the last barrier to becoming an attorney. Law school was likely one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far but with a fail rate of about one in four, the bar exam is going to be an even bigger hurdle. With some states charging up to $1,500 per exam attempt and putting a limit on the maximum number of attempts, there is a lot of incentive and pressure, to pass the bar exam on your first try.
With this in mind, it is vital to prepare properly for the bar exam. But where do you start? It seems like a daunting task to prepare for an exam that is going to test you on years worth of knowledge and volume upon volume of theory, substance, and process. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled our top tips to help you pass the exam on your first attempt.
Prepare With An Actual Prep Course
This may sound obvious, but they help much more than you realize. They often carry a significant cost with them, but the insight into the test process, format, and exposure to simulated test questions can be worth their weight in gold. There are five major benefits to taking a bar prep course, they are:
- Structure. A prep course offers a study timeline that is paced and structured so that you can stay on schedule and cover all the material needed to pass. They often include countless study materials, and even homework and practice questions to assess your progress.
- Prepared study materials. While you can prepare your own study materials, resources, and outlines, it is common to lose yourself in these without proper organization and progression. If not organized properly, the overlap and occasional contradiction of the material can leave you less confident than when you began. Also, the prep course will ensure that the information is complete, and not missing anything pertinent.
- Personal accountability. If you have a habit of procrastination or distraction, a prep course can save you untold frustration, time, and expense. A formal prep course will help you maintain accountability. You will be given assignments and tasks to be completed and submitted for grading.
- Resources. Another great benefit of a prep course is having access to more resources for questions and feedback. If you are preparing on your own, or even with a study group, you may eventually come to a concept or other material that just needs to be explained by someone who can clarify things more effectively.
- You are far more likely to pass. With the number of materials at your disposal during the course and the ability to ask questions and receive feedback on assignments and essays, you are far more likely to be on track to pass on your first try. This amount of organized preparation can lead to much more confidence on test day, which can make those six hours a lot more bearable.
Talk To Attorneys That Have Passed
By now you likely have some friends and acquaintances that have already passed the bar and are practicing. You may have made friends in law school that were on track to test before you, in which case you can speak with them, and ask them about their experience when you hang out. Friends will be an invaluable source of information. You may be devoid of friends who are practicing, if this is the case it may be worth your time to meet with a local attorney or two and offer to buy them lunch in return for letting you pick their brain about the bar exam.
Memorization Can Be Crucial
While a number of popular preparation courses do not place an emphasis on memorization, it can be a vital skill to leverage during the bar. Take some time daily to memorize your bar exam outlines. This may seem obvious, but many first-time test takers are not efficient with their time due to poor outline memorization. You should memorize one outline per subject, and not try to combine or cross-reference several different outlines. This will save you immeasurable frustration and wasted time later on when you try to navigate your outlines.
Staying calm as test day approaches can be an incredibly difficult task, but it is also one of the most important. While it is a costly mistake to fail the bar, there is a lot of wiggle room, and 65% is considered a passing grade. No firm or potential client is going to pull your score and turn you down if you only pass by a slim margin. Do your best, and if you score a 70%, you are no less an attorney than someone who scored a 90%.