It’s likely that when you tell people you’re getting ready to take the bar exam, their reactions are nothing short of priceless—usually they include a horrified expression and some type of encouragement that sounds more like, “Better you than me.” So when you add that you are also working while studying for the bar, those reactions are even more entertaining.
Certainly if you can avoid working during those months before you take the exam, you’ll be better off. But a work-free schedule doesn’t guarantee a passing score, just like working while studying doesn’t guarantee failure. Some people simply cannot take time off, so don’t get discouraged if you’re in the same boat. Knowing what material to review and how to do it proficiently, as well as following through on every task, is more important for you because you won’t have the luxury of studying whenever you want.
Studying for the bar and working—whether full-time or part-time—is anything but easy, yet plenty of people manage to do it and pass. So, consider these seven simple, but very helpful, suggestions:
1. Do NOT Wait Until the Last Minute
This advice is probably the first thing you hear whenever people offer you study tips, but it cannot be stressed enough. The exam is the final hurdle keeping you from becoming an attorney. Don’t jeopardize your chances of passing by procrastinating before the bar, especially when you have only a limited amount of time due to your work schedule. Don’t wait until your bar review course starts, either. You should begin studying beforehand to make sure you have enough time to learn what you need to know.
2. Follow a Schedule
Adhering to a strict schedule is critical whether you’re working while studying for the bar. But if you have to work, it’s even more crucial to create a firm study plan and stick to it. You need to map out how much time you will commit to studying from day to day. The best way to ensure that you follow through is to write out a schedule or have some other type of to-do list, whether it’s on paper or through a study app. If you let assignments slip through the cracks, catching up might seem impossible, which will only lead to anxiety and self-doubt as the exam day approaches.
3. Create a Study Nook
If you didn’t have your own study space during law school, it’s not too late to designate an area in your home just for bar preparation, away from the distractions that can compromise your productivity. Then you can just concentrate on the task in front of you.
4. Keep Your Boss in the Loop
Keeping the lines of communication open is key, so inform your boss early on about when you’re going to take the bar. Maybe you will be able to cut back your hours or use some vacation or personal days during your study months, most importantly for those last couple of weeks before the exam.
5. Study in a Group
Some people are more productive studying by themselves than in a group, so this tip doesn’t apply to everyone. But it’s worth trying at least once just to see how it goes. Not only can studying in a group help you better grasp the information you have to review, but it can also keep you motivated because you’ll have other people to support you and offer advice during this stressful time.
6. Take Care of Yourself
Studying for the bar alone is exhausting. Add being employed on top of that, and it’s more than likely that you’ll become mentally and physical drained during the process. Make sure you take care of yourself. This isn’t college, so don’t pull any all-nighters or binge on unhealthy foods that will only make you feel more sluggish. When you fail to look after yourself properly, you increase the possibility of getting sick, which will only hinder your bar preparation.
7. Don’t Feel Guilty for Taking a Break
Sometimes, taking a mental health break is necessary. It doesn’t mean you’re not doing everything you can to pass the bar—just that you’re taking care of yourself. There’s no in sense staring at pages of notes if the information is not registering in your memory, so don’t be afraid to get up, clear your head, and then get back into the material. Or if it’s late and you’re not making progress, don’t be afraid to get some sleep. You’ll just have to be honest with yourself and listen to your body. You won’t have enough study time to take a break or go to sleep early every day, so know when to push the extra mile or ease off the gas and regroup. You’ll have an easier time determining when to take time off if you’re enrolled in a full bar review course because the instructors can advise you, especially since they know many students who have had to master work-study situations like yours. And like you, they want you to pass.