15 Tips That Helped Me Pass the CA Bar Exam

Everyone who wants to practice law in the US has the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads — the Bar Exam. You need to know this: you will pass, but you have to be well-prepared. Here are some tips that helped me pass the Bar Exam on my first try.

1. Fear helps you study

Fear is not a mind killer, leverage your fear and make it work to your advantage. I have found that fear of failure is rather helpful in studying for the Bar Exam as it helps you fight procrastination and stay motivated. Not only does it make you study more, but it also makes you review everything you are not 100% sure about.

2. Start studying early

Right before the exam you will feel that just 2 more weeks of extra study would save you — so start studying as early as you can!

3. Follow a schedule

You can come up with your own schedule, but I would recommend to follow the one provided by your bar prep course.

4. Study for 500 hours

Here is an obvious one: study for a lot of hours every day. The amount of material is so voluminous that when you finish reading the outline, you don’t remember what was in the beginning. The only remedy is review. Read, reread, and practice for as many hours a day as you can. Be prepared to study for about 500 hours to pass the bar exam.

5. Study your own way

Seek advice and tips, but it might be a good idea to study in a way that has worked for you for years. For instance, if you have never used flash cards before, it might not work for you and you will just lose precious time.

6. Mnemonics are key

Come up with mnemonics for all the rules with several elements. It will save you time on the exam and ensure you cover everything in your answer. Here is a Criminal Procedure example: ESCAPIST stands for warrantless searches exceptions (Exigent circumstances, Search incident to arrest, Consent, Automobile exception, Plain view, Inventory, Special needs, Terry stop). While your bar prep course will provide some mnemonics, you’ll have to come up with most of them yourself.

7. Cram for the last few weeks

You will feel overwhelmed as you will constantly be forgetting what you’ve already read — it is ok, during the last 2–3 weeks you will be reviewing everything and will see that you actually remember a lot. Those final weeks before the exam are crucial for your success, as whatever you read then you’ll most likely retain until the exam, so be prepared for a cram.

8. Concise notes for last-minute study

Prepare concise notes with the toughest rules and all your mnemonics for a quick review just before the exam.

9. Overprep for the MBE subjects

Study 10 times harder for the MBE subjects. Not only do you need to know them in more detail, but you’ll also have to deal with them twice (usually at least 3 of the essays are on the MBE subjects).

10. You can learn a lot from model essays

Write as many essays as you can and compare them with model answers. There are specifics you need to know for essay writing, which you will find in model essays. For example, you should begin every Contracts essay with stating whether UCC or common law applies, and those are easy points. Also, the types of essays repeat; I have seen most of the types of the essays I had on the exam during my prep.

11. State the complete rule

When you are writing essays, state the whole rule even if you see only one element of the rule that will apply. Again, easy points.

12. Get used to MBE tricks

There are a lot of tricks on the MBE, and practicing MBE questions is crucial. By doing practice questions you enhance your ability to deal with tricky questions where you do not know the answer, and there will be lots of those.

13. Organization is key

Organizing information in your head is essential for writing a good essay: some people memorize checklists, others read short outlines many times, and remember the order in which the material is presented to use it for essay writing.

14. Stay active

Keeping a high energy level is crucial as performing some sort of physical activity every day helps your brain grasp the material faster. Sports should not necessarily be a break from your studies. While running you can listen to lecture recordings, and I recommend adjusting the playback speed to cover more material, especially when you are reviewing. At first it can be difficult to listen at a x1.5 speed but after a while you get used to it, that’s a fact.

15. Don’t drink much during the exam days

Last but not least: don’t drink much on exam days, especially MBE, as a restroom break can take away those precious points you need for passing.

Good luck! You can make it!

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