How Long Should I Prep for the Bar Exam?

By Carson King
Updated: January 12, 2023

When should I begin preparing for the bar exam? If this is your question, you’re certainly not alone!

According to Crushendo’s Bar Prep Study Plans, those studying ‘full-time’ should plan on spending about 40 hours per week on bar prep in the eight weeks leading up to the exam, and those studying ‘part-time’ should begin early.

However, as nice as it would be to have some cookie-cutter answer that applies to everyone, the truth is that part of the answer also depends on YOU. Everyone is different, with different learning speeds and needs. Whether it’s a full-time job or a handful of children, your answer must specifically apply to you and your life.

So, as you decide when to begin bar exam prep, here are some helpful tips to consider:

Begin passive preparation

Before you begin your study crusade to pass the bar exam, there are plenty of things you can do. For example, getting all your affairs in order is a great use of time. If your apartment lease is going to expire during your bar prep time, figure that out now. In short: You want to juggle as few balls as possible during the bar prep period.

Put yourself in a position where your ‘only’ worry is the bar exam. Not leases, jobs, food, family drama, etc. Automate everything as much as you can. Stock up on toilet paper and establish a cleaning schedule. Give your social circle a ‘heads up’ that you’ll be going into pseudo hibernation. Think deeply about how you can prepare everything in advance.

Select a bar exam prep course (now)

Selecting a bar prep course is also an important part of your passive preparation, as it is certainly better to buy a course a few weeks in advance, compared to scrambling together a moment to buy a $1000+ course you’re unsure of. Leave no space for regret and doubt by researching and purchasing a course that fits your style before your study period.

While researching, you might consider:

  • Comparing costs
  • Seeing whether a course has a an unlimited/limited access period
  • Checking bar prep reviews and ratings
  • Looking at how much time the bar prep will require of you

For many, bar prep courses are the key to passing the bar exam, thus it is vital to spend time researching options so you can make an informed choice. You also want to remember that often, bar preps specialize in different sectors. For example, Crushendo excels with its outlines, full audio capabilities and mnemonic flashcards that make it easy for you to study anytime, anywhere; others have enormous textbooks to help get the job done.

Be smart and choose the bar exam prep that best fits your style!

Spaced learning is simply better

This isn’t some global secret—scientists have known this for a long time. Think of this analogy: your brain is a sponge, and the water is information. Your job is to soak up this information as much as possible. If you suddenly dump all the water over the sponge, it’s going to keep very little water—this is cramming. On the other hand, if you slowly, and methodically pour the water over the sponge, it soaks it up far better.

Even though the amount of water (information) is the same, the way you ‘soak it up’ can be the difference between passing or failing the bar exam. While cramming has a temporary purpose, it won’t be much help in the bar exam. Nobody ‘accidently’ passes this behemoth.

Rather, focus on the science that can help you pass. For example, the ‘Spacing Effect’ is a great way to increase your odds. Discovered in the 1800s by German researcher Hermann Ebbinghuas, the spacing effect states that people who space out their learning over time–like 30 minutes a day, compared to massive study sessions–have an enhanced long-term memory that allows them to perform better. It’s a simple lesson, but with an enormous impact: Don’t delay your study. Start early and give your brain time to digest everything. Remember: Even if you CAN study a full eight hours a day, it may not be as effective as a more spaced out, six hour daily study.

More time, less stress

The bar exam is stressful enough . . . and panicking from lack of time is a great way to get a heart attack! When planning out your study schedule, remember to be flexible and lenient. The truth is life isn’t fair, and it doesn’t care about how ‘perfect’ your calendar may appear, things will come up. So, give yourself space for emergencies, miscalculations, and unforeseen challenges. Playing ‘catch-up’ with your study schedule, turning 8-hour study sessions into 11-hour rushes, is destructive. Instead, don’t stress, plan ahead, and give yourself the flexibility of time.

The verdict

Scientifically speaking, the sooner you start regularly studying, the more likely you’ll pass. That being said, it’s not always possible. Life is a minefield of responsibilities. Obligations at work, school, church, and family may prove insurmountable. If so, don’t fret. It’s alright. Plenty of people have passed with these ‘modified’ routines. Either way, embrace yourself for a mental marathon. Studying earlier (or later) comes with its own challenges, and may interfere with other responsibilities. Whatever the case; analyze your needs, remember the science, and make an effective plan.

If you’re still stressed trying to figure out how you’ll manage to do it all, check out Crushendo–I promise you won’t regret it! With its easy-to-understand audio law outlines, flashcards, mnemonics, and practice questions, Crushendo can be the difference between passing or failing the bar exam, all while keeping your sanity–here’s how.

Carson King law school blogger for Crushendo

About the author

Carson King is a content writer, author, and globetrotter. He’s volunteered internationally through various organizations and written for numerous corporations. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.

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