Preparing for the Bar Exam & Dispelling Some of the Myths

While the April 30 application deadline to sit for the bar exam has come and gone, if you did apply for the July 25-26 Michigan bar exam you may be a bit stressed out and anxious considering it’s just a few weeks away – completely normal feelings, by the way. What’s the best way to prepare, and are there any myths that you shouldn’t believe?

First, a few tips before you actually dig in and begin studying for the bar exam – preparation.

Create a routine and study schedule. Where and when you study can be dictated by a lot of things depending on your career, whether you have a family or children, your work hours, etc. What’s critical is that you figure out a routine that empowers you to make the most out of your study time. Some receive a schedule with the course for bar prep, but many can’t adhere and have to create their own schedules. If you can study in a quiet place with few distractions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., great. If not, maybe 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. split shift will work. Figure out what works best for YOU in your situation, and how you can gain the most from your study time.

This brings us to one popular myth: For the two months you’ll be studying, you can forget any kind of social life or working. This depends on the situation, but with the many online courses and bar review programs available today on the Internet, studying at your own convenience is possible. This isn’t to say you can go out every night with friends or work 8 hours a day 5 days a week, but you can have at least some semblance of a life.

That anxiety and stress we mentioned earlier? Do away with what you can, and manage the rest of it. Even the smallest things can stress you out, such as paying your bills or finding time to grocery shop. Delegate as much as you can to friends or family members willing to help out, and learn techniques to help you quell your anxiety. Anxiety can lead to a negative mindset, a very bad thing. Anxiety is a state of fear, so find techniques that work for you whether it’s using affirmations, meditation, deep breathing, running, or reading books that specifically address mindset and taking the bar exam.

Another myth: The MBE is the most important section of the test, and all you need to focus on. The MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) is important, but all parts (in Michigan, there is an essay component and the MBE) contribute to your overall score. In some states there may be additional sections and by focusing solely on the MBE you may not accumulate enough points to pass the exam. A balanced performance is what will ensure you pass the bar exam, so don’t study only for the MBE section.

Your mantra should be diligence, and focus is critical. Studying for long chunks of time is essential, so be diligent in your effort to study for four or five hours and taking a short break every hour. NEVER let yourself get distracted by texts, television, background noise, or even websites or social media if you study online.

In the same vein, avoid over-studying. What you don’t want is to become burned out or “hit a wall,” so maintain a steady pace and don’t even try to go 10 weeks studying 12 hours a day – it will impair your ability to absorb and learn what you’re studying.

Practice tests are important, and will reveal to you what you really understand while helping you in the various sections of the exam regarding how to put your knowledge in the form of an essay or multiple choice format while also helping you complete tasks within the allotted time set by the state bar. Should you take practice tests? Absolutely, unequivocally YES.

Anyone who has ever applied and sat for the bar exam knows it is a grueling and tedious process that essentially changes nearly every aspect of your life for two or three months. Is it worth the time, effort, and endless hours studying? Absolutely, if you’re passionate about practicing law.

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