Getting and staying organized is a major part of studying for the bar. Without putting a plan into place, you may not study as much as you need to, and the sacrifices you make will still leave you short of a passing score. To make sure you get past the exam in one shot, you’ll want to stay on top of your responsibilities and make the entire preparation process less difficult and overwhelming.
Here are some important steps to take when getting ready for the bar exam.
1. Apply on time
Make sure you apply to take the bar exam on time. If you plan on taking the UBE (Uniform Bar Exam) in New York, the deadline to register for the February exam is November 30th while the deadline for the July exam is April 30th. If you don’t sign up by the appropriate date, you’ll have to wait to take the test, or end up having to travel to another UBE jurisdiction that accepts later applications like Alaska or Washington D.C.. Additionally, if you are looking to request test accommodations should do so at this time as well. Your request for testing accommodations in New York must be “received” not postmarked by November 30th and April 30th for the February and July exams, respectively.
2. Sign up for a bar review course
While most law students “just know” they should sign up for a bar course, few appreciate how important they are for keeping you organized and getting you prepared. A bar review course makes sure that you go over everything you need to know for the exam. You’ll not only review thematerial you don’t remember or have trouble with, you’ll also get back up-to-speed on the concepts that have always come easily to you so that the smaller, essential details you’ll need are there in your memory when you need them on the test. There will be days when you’re studying the harder concepts that you wish you could take an extra day or two to learn them, and a bar course will force you to move forward. That’s one of the more underrated benefits of a bar review course. You’ll be forced to move on, and therefore get through everything, well in advance of the exam date so that you’ll have a strong foundation in all of the material and then have time to go back over the difficult concepts and fine tune the details.
A bar course will also get you familiar with the format of the exam, start developing your exam skills earlier than you would on your own, and introduce you to the time pressure of the exam. Success on the bar exam is less about writing the best answer the bar examiners have ever read to a particular question than about writing the best answer in 30 minutes so that you have time to address the other questions.
For instance, Pieper has been offering top bar review courses for the past 40 years for New York bar exam applicants. Not only do students have the opportunity to listen to informative lectures, but they’re able to take practice tests and participate in workshops to help improve their writing skills for essay section of the exam and process of elimination skills for the multiple choice section. Now that New York has adopted the UBE, Pieper’s bar exam services are available to UBE students from all over the country.
3. Set aside study time
Most likely, studying for the bar isn’t the only thing on your plate. Still, it’s going to have to take precedence or you’ll be back at it six months later. Setting aside designated study time will help you stick to a routine. This way, no matter how busy you are, you’ll always have time to study. The “typical” student studying for the July UBE (who has no employment or family responsibilities) routinely spends six to eight hours a day (including class time) studying in May, eight to ten hours per day in June, and ten to twelve hours per day in July as the exam is around the corner. If you know you’ll be juggling other obligations, start planning now to open up as much as your schedule as possible. Talk to your employer, call in favors from family and friends, and free up as much of your schedule as you can. Study time is essential to your success on the exam.
You should also take into consideration where you should study. Having an office space somewhere in your home would work as long as there aren’t any distractions nearby, such as a TV (and turn off your facebook!). Going to a quiet section of the library is a great option as well.
4. Mentally prepare
There’s an incredible amount of material to cover when studying for the bar exam and the bar examiners can you on any of it. It can be both physically and mentally exhausting at times, so just remember that you’re going to get through it all as long as you stay on track with preparation. This is why it’s important to sign up for a bar review course. It will keep you on schedule and ground you when you feel like the amount of information is overwhelming. Plus, you’ll be around people who are in the same situation as you and have teachers available to help guide you when you’re struggling.
5. Get to work
Once you get organized, start studying for the bar immediately. Procrastination is ineffective and will ultimately cause you tremendous stress. By spreading your studying over the course of two-and-a-half months, you won’t feel as overwhelmed. In addition, going over your notes in sections rather than all at once will help you retain more information because you focus on less material each study session.