5 Last-Minute Study Tips for the Bar Exam

Female student studying

Let’s get this out of the way: You can’t cram your way to passing the bar. It takes months to cover the sheer mountain of material, not to mention added time dedicated to mastering techniques like essay writing.

If that’s why you arrived here, you’ve come to the wrong place. Instead, this blog is meant to help you answer the question, “How do I get over the finish line?”, as test day approaches.

Hopefully, you take something away from reading. And if you’re already practicing these five tips, then you can confidently say you’re doing everything you can.


1. You see the light at the end of the tunnel, so empty the tank.

You've watched the lectures, you've written the essays, you've done the MPTs, and you've completed the multiple choice questions just as they've instructed along the way.  Now is not the time to take your foot off the gas pedal.  Instead, do what you have to do to survive down the home stretch.  New exercise regime?  New diet?  New best friend?  All options for AFTER the exam. 

In the last few weeks, quality time absorbing the material matters most.  So if that means you have to secretly snack on a sandwich that you stuffed in your bag the night before and fuel yourself on a strange mix of coffee and Diet Coke, keep doing it.  Whatever it takes.   Take an exercise break here and there to keep the blood flowing, but know that the best way to combat growing anxiety about passing the bar exam is to know the material better than the rest of the people in the room.  So keep studying.

In the final weekend, you can re-calibrate and start to transition from law-sponge to exam conquerer, focusing less on any particular subject than on getting mentally prepared to go in and take the test.  At that point, you'll know you've done everything you can and that there is no exam they could throw at you that anyone else can pass and you can't. 

Do something physical to get out any extra tension, and head to bed as soon as you're ready to fall asleep.  Rest before the test will help your memory.


2. Handwrite the concepts you're struggling to remember

It’s proven. Writing notes by hand helps you retain material better than typing them, according to Scientific American.

Still, laptops are the norm in modern lecture halls, and you may prefer the more modern method of note-taking. And that’s okay. Just know that moving difficult concepts from your screen to paper can help you hone in on them.

If you're looking at a list of the five elements of a cause of action and can only remember three, scribble them out three times on a sheet of scrap paper.  That will help cement them in your memory and keep you focussed as you dig through pages and pages of notes.


3. Balance is key

The last two weeks of studying are one last opportunity to go back over all of the material, while focussing on any problem areas you may have as well as those topics you expect to see show op on the MEE.  That final review can save you when they test you on something no one ever expected.

But don't ignore your skills.  Keep practicing MBE questions on a daily basis to reinforce the concepts you're learning, and keep practicing MEEs.  If you've committed serious time to the MPT in the two and a half months leading up to the exam, you probably don't need to write any in the last week.  However, if you're under-prepared on the MPT, get in some last-minute practice.  Remember, the MPT is 20% of your overall score and can make up for weaknesses you have in other areas.


4. Get back on a (relatively) normal sleep schedule

Somehow in the months leading up to the test, you may have gotten in the habit of staying up later and later in order to get in more practice for the exam, but now your regular routine has you turning out the lights at 3:30 a.m. and waking up at noon.  

Remember, both days of the exam start at 9:30 a.m., so start setting your alarm for 6:30 a.m. for the two weeks leading up to the test.  Make sure your brain is ready to function at its maximum capacity by the time the exam starts.


5. Think positively.

Don’t just tell yourself you’re brilliant. (But you are!) Don’t just remind yourself that you’ve got this. (But you do!) Getting into a positive mindset takes more than digesting platitudes or inspirational phrases.

That said, here’s one to consider: Worry about what you can control, not what you can’t. Think about that in regards to the bar exam. You can’t control how difficult the test will be. You can’t control what questions you’ll see.

But you can control, and have controlled, your preparation. That’s something to emphasize. Then, “I’m nervous for the bar exam” becomes “I’m ready for the challenge.” “I need to pass” or “I hope to pass” becomes “I’ve put in the work to pass.”

It’s a subtle change, but one that might make all the difference for you come test day.

About the author

Pieper Bar Review

For over forty years, Pieper Bar Review has taught students the legal concepts and skills necessary for success on the bar exam, and reinforced students’ knowledge through thought provoking examples and bar exam questions. The proof that the Pieper teaching method works is found in the success of our former students – now present-day attorneys. Learn more

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