By Carson King
Updated: January 6, 2021
“Make your life a masterpiece; imagine no limitation on what you can be, have or do.”
– Brian Tracy
If you have only ten days to pass the bar exam, you need the best study techniques available.
I’ve spent the last week—or 168 hours—diving into the most obscure places on the internet to write this blog post. Okay, I didn’t spend every moment of the past week on this blog post (you really should have a life beyond the internet) but you get the picture.
This is a Titanic of a blog post (of which hardly 2% of you will read fully) with the eight best tips gathered from hundreds of books, videos, and online resources.
To save your (already limited) time, here is a table of contents. Good luck! :-)
1. Understand why people fail
“You learn more from failure than from success. Don’t let it stop you. Failure builds character.”
Why will 25% of your classmates fail the bar exam?
While it’s not rocket science, some of the reasons might surprise you.
They lost track of time
The MBE is a mammoth. Sprawling twelve hours over the course of two days, the possibility of “running out of time” doesn’t cross many student’s minds.
But when you do run out of time, it bites. Hard.
- Use a timer on practice questions to strengthen “muscle memory” for the 102 seconds for each question
- Perfectionism will slaughter you on the MBE. Come back to tough questions later
To be exact, you have 108 seconds per question. It’s advised, however, you spend 102 seconds (1 minute 42 seconds) on average for each question.
Imagine studying twelve hours a day for the last month, and still failing. Well, this is the reality of students who don’t realize that their study is (in fact) counter-productive. Passive, distracted, and shallow study has sent thousands of students to an early grave.
Ineffective study includes:
- Mindlessly reviewing notes
- Distracted learning
- Massed practice (repeating phrases over and over again extensively)
More than anything, the bar exam is a blanket exam—a heavy, wool blanket that stretches from Constitutional Law to Torts. Digging too deep in one area (while it may feel good in the moment) leaves you vulnerable in other areas.
You are as strong as your weakest link.
- Give time to each of the six sections of law
- Focus on the most important categories. MBE (50% total grade) → MEE (30%) → MPT (20%)
Whether it’s memorizing every single rule of law, or dabbling in the outskirts of judicial theory, unbalance in your study efforts can seal your defeat before you ever step into the testing hall.
Neglected personal wellbeing
You probably don’t believe it could “happen to you,” or even that it happens at all. Destruction in this category, however, is arguably the most dangerous, as it impacts ALL areas of your life.
- Bad sleeping habits
- Unhealthy foods
- Poisonous mindsets
- Lack of exercise
- No nurturing of meaningful relationships
All the items above can become great harbingers that hasten your way to studential success. When neglected, they will do more than end your judicial career.
And if you do fail . . .
What happens if you do fail? You’re not alone! Numerous celebrities including Hillary Clinton and former President Franklin D. Roosevelt failed the bar exam.
2. Scrutinize your study habits
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
– Albert Einstein.
The most disappointing failure on the bar exam comes from thinking you’ve “prepared well” for the Ragnarok.
So for your last 10 days, you hella-better be studying right!
The difference between success and failure is the difference between deep study and passive study. Passive learning is of the devil and has you “think” you’ve learned something, while in reality you haven’t. These include:
- Re-reading passages over and over again
- Highlighting excessively
- Mindlessly skimming notes
The above are shallow, fake, and a great “illusion of mastery.” Most students don’t realize you even could study in a damaging way—but the science is there.
The more you use what you learn, the more you learn.
Active study has three essential keystones:
“Bunching” information together saves grades. As one learning Korean, the importance of connecting information is monumental. Sites like this have enormous lists of ‘grouped’ information. Find similar bar exam sources.
This is a collaborative advantage.
Keep in mind:
- Randomize the order of the “bunch.” Instead of learning apple, banana, pear, coconut in Spanish 10x, constantly mix it up
- Group things in similar categories
- Connect information via mind-mapping
Similar to companion planting (where certain plants grow better together) “interweaving” takes the random strands of information and transforms them into mastery.
Undoubtedly the most feared method, self-quizzing has been vastly underestimated. Few understand how to properly self-quiz themselves at all, and fewer actually do.
The resources available to prove the benefits are overwhelming. Look here, here, and here.
As the Testing Effect states, one hour of testing is more effective for learning than one hour of studying.
“Instead of studying for your tests, test for your tests.” – Me
For the bar exam in particular, there are hundreds of websites and books chirping around with practice questions. Take advantage, do some research, and do the one thing you’ve never done: self-quiz!
A “fresh mind” is the beginning of a “fresh life.” By reviewing things on a regulated, organized basis, you set yourself up for future success.
Review the material . . . then wait for your brain to start forgetting it. When your brain has to work hard to remember the information, it makes the connections in your brain stronger. It will stick longer in your mind if you wait a day between study sessions instead of reviewing the same flashcards for three hours.
3. Delete the unessential
“It’s not the daily increase but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
– Bruce Lee
We mean it. Literally.
If you really only have ten days—or 240 hours—before the bar exam, you REALLY need to throw the crap out of your life.
- Delete social media from phone
- Fill your calendar (sorry friends!)
- Unplug TV
- Avoid toxic thinking
Make room for the things that truly matter.
4. Use the holistic approach
“Brilliant things happen in calm minds. Be calm. You’re brilliant.”
We start with the mind.
The science is clear and overwhelming: meditation is incredibly beneficial. There is no short supply of millionaires and billionaires who say that meditation is the “most important thing they do each day.”
If Bill Gates, Will Smith, and Steve Jobs all meditated, you can too.
Meditation isn’t the only tool along our “intellectual frontier.” Along with affirmations and visualizations, you can truly enhance your life.
I’m not here to convince you if meditation is “good” or not. Check here for further evidence.
Rather, the point is to introduce you to study meditation. While all meditations will be beneficial, this one will directly improve performance in the classroom. When done before homework and test-work, you’ll be going into the battlefield with the sharpest sword: the sword of your clear mind.
Words have energy. This energy affects everything. Positive words increase performance.
When you say an affirmation with belief, depth, and emotion, you infuse more energy into those phrases. If Jennifer Lopez and Oprah Winfrey find time for daily affirmation, why can’t you?
Here’s some to get you started:
- Today is a great day to learn something new
- I enjoy expanding my mind
- My mind is sharp and focused
- I’m becoming smarter every day
- I’m here, I’m alive, and I feel great
Try saying these at least 20 times to yourself, before each assignment or test. With only ten days left, it’s paramount that you focus on success. Affirmations are a 100% MUST in your cramming study-schedule.
5. Hunker down
“You get what you focus on, so focus on what you want.”
– Steve Mehr
This should be painfully obvious.
You’re not leaving!
At the beginning of this ten-day study sprint, there are a few matters to take care of immediately.
- Shop for all your food, commodities, and essentials for the ten-day span
- Cancel everything else on your calendar
- Delete the unessentials
Embracing the mindset of an apocalyptic survivor (and only going outside when absolutely necessary) is the first step. Of course, you still should:
- Walk around for fresh air
- Enjoy well-earned relaxation time
- Drink plenty of water (people with a water bottle nearby drink more water than those who don’t)
Focus your energy. Defeat the bar exam. Emerge victorious.
6. Be the architect of time
“Now, reality can be whatever I want.”
It’s time to create your battleplan.
Bring together the elements
- Responsibilities (school, church, etc)
- Necessities (hygiene, eating)
- Tasks (homework, study)
- Relaxation (rewards for tasks)
Keep these in mind and in balance. By planning relaxation time AFTER your homework, you’ll be more motivated AND focused.
Plan the essential
School. Classes. Hygiene. Religious activities. Understand what time you CAN’T change.
Plan for the MBE
This is YOUR time to do something great with. Once you establish how much time you have a day (four, eight, or ten hours—whatever it may be) it’s your duty to “slot” those hours into study times. We suggest:
- Work for 25 minutes, follow with five-minute break
- Work for 50 minutes, follow with ten-minute break
- Mix the categories around, so you’re not studying Constitutional Law for five hours straight
- Be smart!
Sometimes in dire situations, we pull out our egos and say, “I can study all day! This is going to be great!” while in reality, our bodies physically can’t. Even the most ambitious driver in the world can only go as far as the gas in the engine will go.
Set rewards and some time to relax.
Mix things around. Go study in the library, and don’t eat Ramen all day.
7. Remember the insane power of accountability
“It is not what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”
There are many great techniques to help you achieve your goals. This is among the highest-rated.
Committing your goals to someone else can increase your “chance” of doing it by 95% . . . Which is HUGE. Humans are social animals, and by leveraging this powerful “animal” instinct, you can make huge progress.
Habitshare is a universal app that is AMAZING with both creating habits and sharing those habits with other friends. Bring your law-school buddies together and witness the insane power of social growth . . . together.
8. Learn and adapt
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
– Stephen Hawking
Assuming you ACTUALLY filled up your calendar, deleted Facebook, and slotted your day with 50-minute study periods—this is the next most vital step.
It is nearly impossible that your schedule will be perfect.
If you judge your success by sticking to a potentially flawed plan, you might as well throw your IQ in the Mariana Trench. Instead of questioning your ability, question the system.
- Maybe you need more breaks
- Maybe you’d study better at the library
- Maybe you just hate law school and need a career change
- Maybe you need to write down your goals and stay accountable
The possibility of improvement is endless. The moment you limit your “epic ten-day plan” to a single stroke of genius you wrote on Day 1 and refuse to change from there, you imprison your soul from further growth.
“Find joy in the journey.”
– Thomas S. Monson
Whatever happens, you’re an amazing person.
Not everybody gets into law school, much less takes the bar exam. Just the fact that you are here reading this blog, says something about your character. You will find the most success when you enjoy the journey.
Is it stressful?
Is it crazy?
That’s part of the beauty of life, however, When you find this blog again ten years down the road, and you’re happily married and a successful lawyer, you’ll know it was all worth it.
So keep that in perspective.