How to cram for the bar exam

Two week bar exam cramming schedule:

[CAVEAT:  You should not put off studying for the bar exam until the last minute.  If you do, the odds of passing plummet to very low levels.  However, if you do need to cram, try the following techniques; they will probably help.  This schedule assumes you have only 14 days to study for the bar exam.

Cramming for the bar exam will be very stressful.  Be sure to incorporate positive visualization and affirmations at the beginning and end of each day.  Try to stop studying at least two hours before your bedtime so that you can “turn off” your bar exam brain and get some good, restorative sleep.]

Day One: get copies of subject outlines for your jurisdiction’s bar exam.  These can be outlines prepared by a professional bar prep service (such as BarBri) or outlines made by a sympathetic friend who has been studying for the bar exam for the past few weeks.  Skim all of the outlines in 2 hours or less.  You have just reviewed all the subject matter in 2 hours.  Next, go back through each outline with a yellow highlighter.  Highlight all tests, elements or torts and crimes, and multi-part definitions.  The idea is that you are highlighting what you will put on your flashcards.

Day Two: enlist someone to make flashcards for you.  You may have to pay them.  Show them how to translate your highlighting into flashcards.  While this person is making flashcards, read through the outlines for the subjects you find most confusing.  Try to understand them as well as possible by the end of the day.

Day Three:  if your flashcards are ready, review them all day long.  Review by subject  If they are not ready, start writing flashcards.  They must be completed by the end of the day.

Day Four: get copies of practice essay exams and at least some sample answers.  Read at least three questions and answers for each subject area.  If you can’t get enough samples from your own jurisdiction, go to the California bar’s website and read through past sample questions and answers.  The idea with step four is simply to see what issues and fact patterns can get tested.  Make note of anything that you see tested repeatedly and be sure to learn those areas well.

Day Five: get copies of practice performance tests.  Read though at least three performance test packages and answers.  Again, if you can’t find these for your jurisdiction, read those available on the California bar site.  Just be aware that most jurisdictions only have a 90 minute performance test, whereas California has 3 hours.  So if you are outside of California, your answers won’t have to be quite as detailed.  Practice writing one performance test. 

Day Six: spend a day reviewing flashcards.  Review by subject.  Give you brain a chance to learn related topics.

Day Seven: get a hold of MBE questions.  If you can’t find a used PMBR or BarBri book, pay the $400 to use Adaptibar [click here for $50 off Adaptibar's regular price] or something similar.  You could also buy BarMax’s MBE App if you have an iPhone or an iPod.   Spend three hours doing a simulated test, and then three hours understanding all the answers you got wrong.

Day Eight:  review all flashcards for non-MBE subjects.  Review all day long.  Consult outlines if you need clarification or additional information about any issue.  Stop after 10 hours.

Day Nine:  pick four non-MBE essay topics at random; make sure you have sample answers to the questions you choose.  Write practice essays under timed conditions.  Compare your answers to the samples.  Figure out why you left out what you did.  Take the rest of the day off.

Day Ten:  review MBE subject flashcards all morning.  After lunch, do 25 MBE questions for each subject as follows:  Do 25 questions, review answers, understand what you missed.  Move on to next subject.  After you have gone through all 6 subjects, quit for the day.

Day Eleven:  read through all outlines again.  Try to pick up on any nuances you missed when reading through them on Day One.  Review flashcards if you have any extra time.

Day Twelve:  do a practice MBE test of 100 questions under timed conditions (i.e., complete the test in 3 hours or less).  Review any missed answers.  Review MBE flashcards for the rest of the day.

Day Thirteen:  review flashcards for all subjects for half the day.  Read through essay questions and outline, but don’t write answers.  Compare outlines with sample answers to see if you failed to spot any issues.  Figure out why you didn’t spot the issues; don’t miss them anymore.

Day Fourteen:  determine the 5 main sub-areas that are the most difficult for you (e.g., subject matter jurisdiction, specific intent crimes, hearsay exceptions, etc) and focus on learning those areas.  Stop studying at 5:00pm and try to relax.

Day Fifteen:  Take the Bar Exam.

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