How to avoid the 3 biggest mistakes first-time bar exam takers make

Ashley Heidemann is the owner and founder of JD Advising, a law school and bar exam prep company offering services ranging from LSAT tutoring and application assistance to bar exam tutoring, courses and seminars.


The July bar exam is approaching. If you are taking the bar exam for the first time, be sure to avoid these top three mistakes that first-time bar exam takers make. 


Mistake #1: Not memorizing the law  

Many first-time bar exam takers spend their days attending bar exam course lectures and answering practice problems. Unfortunately, they do not take any time to memorize the law.  This leads them to answer questions incorrectly and get frustrated when their scores do not improve.

The bar exam tests the details and nuances of the law. So, in order to answer questions correctly, you have to commit the rules of law to memory. Therefore, after you attend a bar exam lecture, be sure to actively review the rules of law until you have them memorized. If you do not memorize the rules, you will not be able to apply them to questions. And you will get frustrated when you answer questions incorrectly. Save yourself time and energy by making it a habit to actively review your outlines prior to answering multiple-choice questions and essay questions. 


Mistake #2: Making flashcards for everything

Flashcards are not a bad study tool. However, it is virtually impossible to make flashcards for every area of law in the short amount of time you have to study for the bar exam. Do not get into the unhealthy habit of trying to convert all of your outlines into flashcards. This is a common mistake that first-time bar exam takers make.

If flashcards help you, use them for specific areas of law that you have trouble with (e.g. hearsay exceptions, or elements of intentional torts). Then, spend time actively reviewing your outlines. This is a much more efficient use of your time. 


Mistake #3: Not using released multistate bar exam (MBE) questions

The third mistake that many first-time bar exam takers make is that they do not use released MBE questions. Instead, they rely on multiple-choice questions distributed by their commercial course. Many commercial courses make up their own MBE questions rather than using questions that have appeared on past bar exams.

The best source of questions are the released questions. Released questions will best prepare you for the format of the MBE as well as how the substantive law is tested. You can find these in the Strategies and Tactics 6th Edition, the Adaptibar online program, or using online practice exams from the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ website.


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