Last night, I took part in a great #bartips Twitter chat (organized by The Student Appeal) about preparing for the bar exam. There was lots of good advice handed out, but one thing in particular struck me:
Much of the advice was entirely contradictory!
What’s the Best Way to Study for the Bar Exam?
Some people insisted you should study in a quiet place with no distractions, while others swore by public coffee shops (so you’d get used to distractions and still be able to focus). Some people insisted group work was the key to passing, but others found groups to be distracting and stressful. What’s best? Flashcards, flowcharts, cramming for the MBE, taking tons of practice essays? Opinions varied.
But — you know what? Every single one of these people passed the bar!
Know Yourself, Track Results, and Iterate
The key, really, is to find a strategy that works for you.
How do you do this? It’s a three-part process:
- Think about how you’ve learned well in the past. You’ve been living with yourself your entire life — you know how you learn better than anyone else does. Start off by making an informed guess about what will work best for you, and start doing that.
- Pay careful attention to your results. Just thinking about how you learn isn’t enough, however. It’s critically important to track your results, and adjust your strategy if necessary. Luckily, this is pretty easy if you’re studying for the bar exam. Are you getting more MBE questions right than you did yesterday? Great, you’re making progress! It’s harder for law school, and the essay portions of the bar exam, but it’s still possible. Set some goalposts, in terms of specific things you want to learn (all the elements of felony murder, the different types of contract damages, etc.), and see if you’re actually hitting your targets. If your goal is to study for two hours and be able to recite the elements of felony murder — can you actually do that at the end of your study session?
- Iterate. If you find you’re not hitting your goals, it’s critical to change tactics. Why spend time doing something that’s not working? If you’re listening to a lecture on substantive law, try reading an outline instead. If that doesn’t work, try making your own outline, or flashcards, or flowcharts, or whatever. You’ve got a ton of options, and different techniques are more effective for different topic areas. Whatever you do, don’t just keep trucking along using ineffective strategies, and hope for the best. Too many boats have crashed on those shoals!
You’re Running the Show
In the end, it’s basically up to you. If what “everyone” is doing doesn’t make sense to you, don’t do it! There are tons of people who follow the rules, go to all their classes, put in the typical amount of study time, and still fail the bar (or bomb their law school exams). Many others do nothing they’re “supposed” to do, and succeed.
If you experiment with strategies that make sense to you — and carefully track whether they’re working — you’ll be just fine, even if what you’re doing makes no sense to anyone else!
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Other articles you might find interesting:
- Want Better Law School Grades? Take an Iterative Approach to Learning
- How I Prepared for the Bar Exam
- Exam Prep Made Simple: Organize Your Thoughts
Do you have wacky study techniques that have worked for you? Share them in the comments!
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