Should I study for the bar exam early?

By Ashley Heidemann

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.

So you’ve decided when you are going to take the bar exam. The next question to ask yourself is “When do I need to start studying?” The answer to this question will be different for each person. Not all bar exam takers prepare the same way, and everyone has different life circumstances that affect how much time they have available. 

Most commercial courses will begin about 2-3 months before the bar exam. However, many takers wonder if they should start studying before that. Are you a person that could benefit from an earlier start?  Here, we cover some of the factors you should consider!

Your law school success

One decent prediction of success on the bar exam is how well you did in law school. If you finished toward the bottom of your class, it is probably a good idea for you to begin studying earlier than your peers. Although the bar exam is different from a law school exam, both still require you to understand and apply the same concepts. If you struggled with learning or applying the law in law school, then some extra practice will be beneficial!

When reviewing your law school success, place the greatest emphasis on how well you did during your first year. The subjects you learned as a 1L form the core of the material tested on the bar exam. Knowing the MBE subjects (civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts) can help you pick up a lot of points on the exam since they show up on both the multiple choice and the essay portion of most state exams. These subjects also formed the core of your first year curriculum. So if you struggled with them during your first year, early bar prep may be for you

Your previous exposure to bar exam subjects

You should also think about how much exposure to the other bar exam subjects you had during law school. It is possible you haven’t been introduced to many of the other subjects that may be tested on the bar exam. If you are unfamiliar with some of the more highly tested subjects, then it is a good idea for you to start your bar prep earlier. It might take you a little longer to get comfortable with a subject you’ve never seen before.

Your past success on standardized tests

By the time you get to the bar exam, you’ve most likely taken many standardized tests over the years.  At this point, you’re well aware of how you tend to handle them.  Standardized tests are a unique beast, and some people just instinctively test well. And others do not.

If you are someone who struggled with standardized tests in the past, then starting bar prep early will be useful. Starting early will give you the extra time to learn the strategies that will help you succeed on the bar exam.

Your work schedule

One final factor to consider is how much time you have during the week to study. If you plan on working full time while preparing for the bar exam or if you have other full-time obligations, then it would be a good idea to start studying earlier. It absolutely is possible to pass the bar while working or tending to other obligations, but it does mean you have to be more conscious of how you are using your time. Many students with full-time obligations find it helpful to study for the bar exam early.

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