How To Successfully Study for the Bar Exam

How To Successfully Study for the Bar Exam

Lee Burgess, Esq. is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, a resource for law students that demystifies the law school experience, the Bar Exam Toolbox, a resource for students getting ready for the bar exam. 

I got an email from a bar studier today asking if it was okay, when studying full time for the bar exam, to work until 6:30 each night and then spend time with his family. He was worried that wasn’t going to be enough preparation to successfully study for the bar. I am so glad he wrote to me because that is just not the case!

I think the most successful way to prepare for the bar exam is to treat it like a full-time job.

How many hours a week can you study, really? 

I remember when I was studying for the bar exam, there were folks who were constantly telling me how they were in the library until 11:00 every night (when it closed). They thought I was crazy because I left at 6:30 every day. Know what? I still was able to pass the exam while spending time with my significant other, seeing friends, and catching a movie every now and then.

I think it is important to be realistic about how many hours one can actually studyeffectively in a given week. I would argue that most of us can’t productively study more than 45 to 50 hours a week.

That would mean studying each day until the early evening and half a day on Saturday. You would also take Sundays off (another critical element to effective bar exam preparation is taking breaks). If you think of it, that is a full-time job and then some. That is a huge amount of work in a given day.

But why isn’t more, better? 

At a certain point there are diminishing returns when it comes to studying for the bar exam. Hours logged in the library are not the same as effective study hours.

Unless you are a night owl, most of us aren’t going to do our best work between 8:00 and 11:00 in the evening (sure, I might have done amazing work late at night when I was 21, but I am not 21 anymore and neither are you). So is it really worth it to log those extra hours, just because? (Now, if you are a night owl, you might want to adjust your schedule to start later and end later.

But remember—the exam starts in the morning, so you need to get used to getting up and starting to think and write effectively first thing!)

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