What I Did Differently When I Took the Bar Exam Again

Now that most states’ bar exam results are out, I am hearing a lot of good news and bad news. Some of my friends are happy to share that they have passed the exam, and others are sad to report that they have failed the exam. One of my friends asked me, “What did you do differently the second time around?”

Since lists are clear and concise, I will discuss the answer to this question in the form of a list.

What I Did Differently When I Took the Bar Exam for a Second Time

  • Forget Barbri’s study schedule. It doesn’t work for everyone. It drove me crazy so I created my own schedule that worked for me.  For me, studying just one or two topics a day was better than studying many topics without any level of mastery before moving on to the next thing. I felt like I needed to “get it” before I moved on to the next topic. I started studying early, and I would spend anywhere between 1 and 3 days per topic. That way I had plenty of time to fit all the topics in, and I was able to study them all in depth to the point where I felt like I “got it.”
  • When you get your score back, if MC is higher than Essay, or vice versa, don’t neglect the format you did better on. For example, if you did poorly in the MC, don’t only study MC on your second time around. Clearly, put emphasis on your weak format, but don’t let your stronger format by the wayside. Too many times I have heard of other test takers who failed a second time because when they went to re-study, they only studied the area they were weakest in. Essentially, their score flip-flopped, and they still failed.
  • Create an Error Log. I created an error log in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Every time I got a multiple choice question wrong, I would write down the area of law, the subtopic, the rule needed to answer the question, and an explanation as to why I got the question wrong.  This is a tedious task, but it is important because journaling your wrong answers helps you to fully understand why you got it wrong. If you know why you got a question wrong, you won’t get it wrong twice. You will spot it right away and know exactly what answer to look for.
  • Make flash cards. I was never a flashcard person. I was never that person who made flash cards and studied from them. Flash cards always seemed stupid and a waste of time. But I wanted to pass in this jurisdiction and I was not too proud to try something new and different. I made flash cards every day for questions I would get wrong, and I also made flash cards for good rule statements I wanted to use in essays. I reviewed the flash cards in the evening while sitting on the couch with my husband. He would run through them with me and it was nice to have a study buddy. I looked forward to it every evening. The flash cards were great for all those stupid little things you need to know for criminal law (M’Naghten, MPC, Irresistible Impulse, Durham). I always kept screwing those up before but the flash cards helped a lot. 
  • Try the Kaplan MBE questions. I feel like after I started doing the Kaplan MBE questions, I really started to see a jump in my MBE score. They’re worded differently and they get you to see a different side to the questions. If you have already spent your life savings on Barbri, go on craigslist or ebay and try to find an old Kaplan MBE set rather than sign up for the entire program. Also, you could check your law library. Some schools keep old bar prep materials lying around.
  • Read every essay in the book. In the last week and a half before the exam, I spent a lot of time with the Barbri essay book. I would sit on the couch for hours and just read essay after essay. No outlining, no writing, just reading. I read through each essay and model response. I must have read almost every single essay in the book. If you go through each essay, at least in this minimal manner, you will see every “trick” they try to put in there. Nothing will really be a surprise once you hit the exam. I picked up a lot of great canned rule statements this way, and I would copy them down on flash cards to review later. 
  • Create your own outlines based off of the lecture handouts and the Conviser. I hate creating outlines but really it’s the best way to internalize the knowledge. You pick up so much just by organizing all the information yourself. I never understood evidence. In fact, I almost failed it in law school. By the time I finished compiling that evidence outline for the bar, I felt that I finally got a grasp on the topic. Even if you don’t have time to review the outlines you create, the act of creating them is the act of studying and memorizing the material all in one.