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Finding Ways to Make Studying for the Bar Less Terrible


I’m back to do another post on what it’s like studying for the bar exam. I’ll try to make this one a bit more practical (compared to my previous hissy fit about the whole concept). So here are some of my reflections.

1. Your LSAT score will predict your chances of passing the bar

The bar exam tests your knowledge of the law by largely making you apply it to novel scenarios. This requires a helluvelot of reading comprehension. They seem to go out of their way—much like the LSAT folks do—to make questions challenging to read in the first place. So it’s not very surprising that LSAT scores correlate very well with bar passage rates. Here’s a post from the folks at US News on the topic.

What does this mean? Well, if you go to law school with a median LSAT (that’s about a 152), you should expect the bar exam to be fairly difficult. On the other hand, if you scored very well on the LSAT—say with a 160 or above—you should have a much easier time with the bar exam. And if you’re in the 170+ range and you’re failing, you are doing something incredibly wrong.

2. Some tips on memorizing the law

I’m taking the New York bar exam, which means I’m taking the Uniform Bar Exam. And that means I have seven areas of law to memorize for the multiple choice section (by far the most important section) and another six for the essays. That’s a lot of law to learn. Here’s what’s been working for me.

I watch my bar prep course’s lectures for each topic and then I read the condensed outline. This takes about 3 to 6 hours per subject. Instead of taking notes the traditional way, I input all my notes into Anki, my favorite flash card app. If you’re struggling in your bar prep, a flashcard app is an absolute must, and Anki is the best one out there. From there, I review my flashcards as they come up in the app and I take a lot of practice multiple choice questions. Every week, I’ll try to review all my previous multiple choice tests. I’ll mostly focus on the questions I missed, but I try to look at all of them.

I don’t like the “study plan” my bar prep course uses, so I just follow my own. For some reason, they think it’s okay to go a few weeks without reviewing something you’ve learned previously. That’s a very good way to forget everything you learned before and waste time having to relearn things.

3. Prepping for the bar exam isn’t as hard as law students make it out to be

Law students love to exaggerate how difficult law school is. They do the same thing with bar prep. I have friends who are isolating themselves and making it known that they have no time for anything but bar prep, even though they killed it in law school. That’s embarrassing. It shouldn’t be that hard to score above the 30th percentile for someone who went to one of the best law schools in the country, and did very well there to boot. But law school students are infamously risk averse (read: terrified of everything) so it’s not surprising.

And with that, I’m off to review my multiple choice tests. Best of luck to everyone studying for the bar exam.