Studying for the February 2011 Bar Exam

Welcome to those of you who are beginning your quest to pass your state's bar exam in February 2011.  If you would like a quick summary of my thoughts about how to pass the bar, please review my Quick Start Guide.

For those of you preparing for the California Bar Exam, after you read my Quick Start Guide, I suggest reading the California Bar Exam Primer.  I remember reading this while studying for the California Bar, and it helped a lot.

Good luck!

[Photo: Hermes]


Gifts for the Bar Exam Student

Is someone close to you about to start studying for the bar exam? Maybe that special person has already started studying for the bar? If you are wondering what sort of gift (holiday, birthday, anniversary...) to get that person, here is my list of the best gifts for bar takers.


This gift costs nothing. When people are studying for the bar exam, they never feel like they have enough time. This is especially true for people who are in a relationship or who have family obligations (e.g., finding time to play with the kids). So, if you can give the bar student some extra time, please do so. Offer to do grocery shopping once a week for them. Offer to walk their dog. Offer to clean their house or mow their lawn. Any mundane and repetitive task you can take care of once or even a few times will be greatly appreciated.

Bar Prep Course

A lucky minority of bar examinees have had their bar prep course paid for by a law firm. The majority of bar takers have to pay for this themselves, often by taking a loan at high interest. If you have the money (at least a thousand dollars or more), buy a bar prep course for the bar taker. Obviously, you should ask the bar student which course he or she prefers before you pay for it, but the obvious choice is BarBri (which costs several thousand dollars). Other options include MicroMash and Rigos. For MBE (that's the multiple choice portion of the bar exam, in case you didn't know) preparation, PMBR and Adaptibar are good choices, and they cost much less than full-blown bar prep courses.  [And, if you purchase Adaptibar after clicking on my affiliate link, you can save $50!] You might also offer to pay for a couple hours with a one-on-one tutor (range $50-$150/hr).

Bar Prep Books

If a complete bar preparation course is out of your price range, why not buy a book or two for your bar examinee? One very highly-recommended book is Scoring High on Bar Exam Essays: In-depth Strategies and Essay-Writing That Bar Review Courses Don't Offer, With 80 Actual State Bar Exams Questions and Answers, by Mary Gallagher. Bar exam essays can be quite different from law school exam essays, and this book helps put it into perspective. Also helpful with essay writing is What Not to Write: Real Essays, Real Scores, Real Feedback, by Shah and Gill (there is also a California and New York edition of this book).

For the multiple choice portion of the bar exam, Strategies & Tactics for the MBE, by Steve Emmanuel is the clear leader

Board Games

Yes, there is actually a bar exam board game. It is called, not surprisingly, Passing the Bar. Everyone who plays it seems to like it. In fact, this might be a game to give to a law student in the second or third year of law school as a way to keep bar exam topics fresh in the mind. The questions themselves are geared toward MBE topics, and you can even buy a set of additional questions.

Mental Preparation

As I have written about elsewhere (here and here), the bar exam is a test of one's ability to endure stress as much as it is a test of knowledge. In fact, I wrote a book about how to reduce bar exam stress and anxiety that you might want to give as a gift:  Bar Exam Mind:  A strategy guide for an anxiety-free bar exam

You might also consider getting you favorite soon-to-be lawyer a copy of a Bar Exam Mind Audio Program.  One is all about visualizing bar exam success; the other is about using affirmations to pass the bar exam.

You could also treat your bar student to a spa day, an in-home massage, or maybe even a aroma therapy session. You can also just take them out for round upon round of drinks!

If your favorite bar student prefers quiet contemplation, you might get them a copy of Daily Reflections For Bar Exam Study: An Inspirational Companion For Law Students And Experienced Attorneys Taking The Bar, by M. G. Groepler.

Celebratory Dinner

When the bar exam is over, people want to relax. Promise your favorite bar examinee that you will take him or her out for a night of good food, good friends, and good booze when the bar exam is over. You will be eternally loved.


If humor is more your style, why not give the bar student Law School in a Box: All the Prestige for a Fraction of the Price. When they see that they could have gotten a law school education for about $10, they will laugh until the tears come. For some people out there, The New Yorker Book of Lawyer Cartoons is a good gift. Finally, for the future lawyer who can laugh at himself or herself and also wants to read a little cultural analysis at the same time, you cannot go wrong with Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture, by Marc Galanter.


It is best to close this list with the best gift of all: understanding. People who are studying for the bar exam tend to be stressed. Some people can handle stress well; others become a bit grumpy. Try to understand and forgive them. This is not a license for the person to mistreat you or act like a jerk 24 hours a day. But, try to give a bar student a break if he or she snaps at you once in a while for some unexplainable reason. Just, give them some space and know that it is the stress talking.

[Photo:  mmlolek]


Locating Self-Study Bar Exam Materials

If you are interested in studying for the bar exam on your own without taking a professional prep course, you should start looking for used bar prep material when bar exam results come out in your jurisdiction.  As I post this, people in most states have received their results.

As more and more people get the good news that they passed the bar exam in their jurisdiction, they will be more than willing to part with their prep materials.  Although some people will burn them on a pyre and chant devilish incantations while drinking heroic quantities of alcohol, many will try to make a few bucks by selling them.  So, now is the time to start looking on craigslist and all4jds to buy used bar exam materials.  Usually, you can get bar prep material for 50-75% off the list price.

Also, if you have some friends who just passed the bar exam, ask them if they will give you their prep materials.  In their euphoric state, they may not realize they could sell the stuff for a few hundred dollars.

[Photos:  Neal.'s & Dominic's Pics]


Twitter and the Bar Exam

In a prior post, I wrote about how I think blogging while you study for the bar exam is a bad idea.  It serves at best as a distraction and at worst a time-sucking, anxiety-producing endeavor.

Twitter, on the other hand, seems like a very useful tool.  It requires very little effort to set up a Twitter account.  You do not have to post any tweets ever if you don't want to, so you can lurk and soak up information with no need to reciprocate.  You simply set up your account, using your real name or an alias, and then start following people who interest you. (For a detailed guide for Twitter newbies, check out this informative post.)

Now, just like blogging, you can get sucked into the Twitter-sphere (Twitter-verse?) and waste huge amounts of time, so you should set some parameters for its use when you are studying for the bar exam.  Such as:  no reading Twitter except  in the evenings after you have finished studying for the day.  (If you have lots of will power, you might check Twitter during your lunch break, but don't lose track of time!)  Although Twitter has made its reputation for the immediacy of information transfer, there are ways you can be sure not to miss anything.

First, you can follow people who offer bar exam study tips.  One of the best that I have seen is @emanuelbarprep.  These tips are everything from quick nuggets about tested topics to links to more extensive blog posts.  I sometimes post these sorts of tips as well.  You can follow me at @barexammind.  If you know of good people to follow, please share in the comments below or send me an "@ reply" from your Twitter account and I'll retweet it.

Another great way to get information is to search hashtags.  If you are unfamiliar with a hashtag, it is using the # symbol before a word.  Then, you can use the Twitter search on the Twitter home page to find all posts with that hashtag.  During the bar exam, the two most popular hashtags to follow are #barexam and #barbri.  Other hashtags include #MBE and the symbol of your state + "bar", such as #cabar [california bar] and #nybar [new york bar].

Third, Twitter is a great way to blow off steam.  If something or someone is bothering you, you can tweet about it.  Releasing that stress if very helpful to having a positive frame of mind while studying.  Just be careful not to say anything you will regret later. Check out some great tweets HERE and HERE.

Finally, if you find that you enjoy Twitter, it is great to use for marketing and networking once you become a lawyer.  By connecting with others in the legal field during your bar exam studies, you will already have a jump on the competition.

[Photo:  rosauraochoa]
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