For accreditation, the ABA mandates that law schools offer particular core classes pertaining to the areas of law tested on the bar exam. To adhere to ABA guidelines, law schools will typically require law students to register for at least five of these classes prior to graduation. Although core classes focus on the same material, their titles, credit allocations, and the amount of classes provided, may vary by institution.
There are seven primary subjects that the bar exam tests for: civil procedure, contracts, torts, constitutional law (both I and II), criminal law (which includes criminal procedure), evidence, and real property. As demonstrated by this list, the majority of classes that law students must take to sit for the bar are mandated during 1L year.
There are, however, additional courses law students must take to complete the ABA curriculum for the remainder of their 2L and 3L years. Again, though they may vary by title or institution, the list is generally similar across all law schools and consists of: Administrative Law, Comparative Law, Conflicts of Law, Constitutional Law II, Corporations, Criminal Procedure (both I and II), Evidence, Family Law, Federal Courts, Federal Taxation, International Law, Jurisprudence, and finally, Trusts & Estates.
Depending on your institution’s graduation criteria, there may be certain classes on this list that you must enroll in, but, if not, the choice is usually left up to the student to select which ones to take. While it is possible to review old bar exams to predict what material is tested most often, there is always the risk that the exam topics may change for the following year. Instead, focus on topics that interest you and that you can excel in grade-wise. If you are struggling to choose between some of them, check out some of our tips below to maximize your potential for succeeding both in law school and on the bar exam.
Concentrate Exclusively on Bar Material
Register for courses that explicitly state in their descriptions, tested on bar exam. Despite the numerous courses offered to complete the ABA’s graduation requirements, not all of them are tested on the bar exam. This may seem like an obvious tip, but sometimes scheduling conflicts or specializing in niche areas of law will preclude you from taking only bar subjects. Strive to stay the course by selecting from the following: Commercial Law, Constitutional Law II, Corporations, Criminal Procedure (I or II), Evidence, Family Law, or Trusts & Estates.
Reflect on Weaknesses
Before choosing, read your law school’s descriptions for each of the core classes offered and think about the material that will be covered in those classes. Are there any topics in which you are truly struggling? Ask yourself this: Could I teach myself this subject or would I be better off having a professor explain it to me? Narrow down your list by selecting the classes that you feel you need extra guidance in and are also tested on the bar exam.
Pursue the Heavy-Weights
There are two courses that are continuously touted as extremely important to take during law school: Corporations and Evidence. Unfortunately, not only are these two classes usually worth four credits apiece, but Corporations involves accounting and Evidence is notorious for being one of the hardest courses in law school. Both are tested on the bar exam, so it might be helpful to be compelled to study them for an entire semester, as opposed to having to cram and teach yourself on your own. This will also save time when you begin studying for the bar, since you will simply need a refresher and not an entire new lesson, on these two dense, but crucial, areas of law.
Seek out courses that complement each other. For instance, if you are interested in practicing corporate law, then you may want to take Corporations and Federal Taxation. Alternatively, if you are interested in studying International Law, you should consider taking Comparative Law. Oftentimes, law students are left assembling how various components of the law become integrated. By registering for classes with overlapping legal foundations, it ensures a complete understanding of how one sector of the law fully operates, which will provide a student with a stronger grasp of at least one major legal discipline, as opposed to fragmented learning, i.e., simultaneously studying family law and administrative law.
As we’ve previously noted, try and weave some of the core classes into your 3L schedule. The closer you take them to the bar exam, the more likely you will remember the material. Also, if your GPA was lower than you desired after 1L, taking classes that interest you during 2L can help bolster it. Lastly, by 3L you are a pro at navigating law school, so connections between seemingly disjointed classes will become more apparent, which will serve you well as a study technique for bar preparation.
In sum, these are just some suggestions to hopefully make choosing core classes easier as well as prepping for the bar exam less stressful. While it is in your best interest to take some of the courses that are tested on the bar exam, it is not necessary, so long as you fulfill the ABA (and your law institution’s) core graduation requirements to sit for it. If you prefer enrolling in courses pertaining to your future legal career interests, that choice is up to you, but do keep in mind then that you will have to learn specific bar exam material on your own.
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