Tips for Success on the Bar Examination

The following tips are drawn from discussions with bar examiners, graduates who have taken the bar, and bar prep professionals,  and from readings in the extensive literature on bar preparation and passage. We present them as a guide to your thinking.

  • Take Law School Seriously.  While obvious and perhaps a bit paternalistic, this tip emphasizes the strong correlation between law school performance and bar passage. While our law school (like most law schools) does not teach to the bar exam, our required courses cover many of the topics that are tested on the bar examination and your knowledge of those topics (as well as how to study well and manage your time effectively) is an important factor in shaping bar performance. Study hard and do well in law school and you will greatly improve your likelihood of success on the bar exam.
  • Take The Bar Exam Seriously.  If you don't pass the bar exam, you cannot practice law. Furthermore, in most jurisdictions, two to four out of every ten exam takers will fail. This is serious stuff. You want to be sure that you take the steps necessary to pass, beginning with the first week of law school. 
  • Checklists.  We have prepared year-by-year checklists of the steps needed to prepare yourself for the bar exam.  Please read them carefully.
  • Plan Ahead.  As explained in the checklists, find out the admissions requirements for your state (Information on requirements in each jurisdiction is available at the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.) Find out what is covered on the bar exam in that jurisdiction, how the exam is scored, and the percentage pass rate (General information is available here. State-specific information is available from each jurisdiction's website). Take elective courses in at least some of the subjects that are tested on your state's bar exam and not covered by our required curriculum. Prepare to study hard for the two months prior to the bar examination. Save enough money both for the bar review course and for living expenses during that period, so that you will not have to work (or can take time off from work). Inform your family that you are not free for a month's vacation immediately after you graduate. Tell your best friend not to get married in the six weeks prior to the bar exam.
  • Take A Commercial Bar Preparation Course.  A commercial bar review course is an important part of bar success, and you place yourself at serious risk if you attempt to take the bar exam without taking one. Over 95% of bar takers take such courses, and those people are your competition.  Studies of those who have failed a bar exam have shown that a significant percentage of them have not taken a commercial course.  There are a number of excellent courses, several of which are noted here While the School of Law does not endorse any particular course, we hold information sessions each fall at which we introduce students to the staff of the different programs.
  • Treat Preparation For The Bar Examination Like A Job.  For the two months or so before the bar examination, treat bar exam preparation as if it were your full time job, punching the clock on a nine-to-five (or other regular) basis. Because bar exam preparation requires full-time attention, you should take time off from your job if you are employed and minimize, to the extent possible, family and social responsibilities in the weeks prior to the exam. Arrange appropriate child care during this period if you have children. While acknowledging your and your family's needs and incorporating these needs into your schedule, you will need to limit family demands and responsibilities.
  • Schedule Your Time.  Commercial bar courses will recommend a schedule of study, usually of around 8 hours per day. Try to develop a schedule that will work for you, and then stick to it. Some people have success by scheduling their lives down to the hour, with time blocked out for review, 1-2 hours doing practice exams and 1-2 hours doing multiple choice questions, and some blocks of down and family time. In the two weeks prior to the exam, most people double the amount of time on practice exams and questions.
  • Keep A Positive Attitude.  The bar exam is much like a marathon in that you will need to tap reserves of energy, determination and concentration. You can and will succeed, but only if you are focused and prepared. Your preparation will give you knowledge and confidence that will support you through the difficulties of the exam. Don't let other people's voices or the voice inside your head discourage you from your goal. Steer clear of negative people and those who may try to lure you away from your bar preparation work. Be positive; you can do it.