Once bar review classes have finally come to an end, it is natural for students to wonder how best to use their remaining study time in the absence of a structured daily class schedule. How much should you study? What should you be studying? How will you know if you are ready to tackle the exam?
The first thing to do is to get organized. You need to take a hard, honest look at yourself, at the work you have already done, and assess your progress. Through your daily practice sessions, you should have a good idea of what your individual strengths and weaknesses are so that you can identify the subjects where you will need to direct your focus. Now is not the time to avoid revisiting subjects that you find confusing or tedious, but the time to take control and build confidence so that you will be able to handle anything the examiners throw at you.
Once you know which subjects will require more review, create a realistic plan of action. 10-12 hours of studying per day is optimal, but it might not be right for you, so think about how you have studied up to this point and how much time you can actually devote to bar preparation before becoming physically and mentally exhausted. When you have decided how long you can reasonably study each day, you can begin to schedule specific tasks that will be best suited to your particular needs.
Try to schedule study time at the beginning and the end of your final study plan to address the subjects where your performance requires improvement, while plugging in slots for maintaining your skill level in those subjects where you are stronger throughout your remaining study time.
Practical application of your knowledge is the key to heading into the exam with confidence, so prioritize practicing every component of your state’s bar exam under test-like conditions. Schedule time each day to do mixed-subject sets of MBE practice questions under timed conditions. Make sure to also allot time for attempting timed essay questions and for reading and outlining essays in as many subjects as you can.
Another good thing to do is to practice different exam tasks at different times of day so that you can gauge how your performance changes depending on whether it’s morning or afternoon. Your accuracy and speed might decrease as you tire, so you might want to consider planning for strategic rest breaks during the exam. For example, you could plan to complete the first 66 MBE questions in a session then take a brief bathroom break just to stretch your legs and clear your mind, or write half your essays and then take a quick breather before launching into the rest of the questions.
If timing is an issue for you, the final study period is the time to craft strategies for ensuring that you will be able to stay on task and complete every question before the clock runs out. You should be able to answer MBE questions at an average rate of 1.8 minutes each, or 33 per hour. You should also hew closely to time allotted for each essay. For the MEE, give yourself no more than 10-15 minutes to read and outline your answer and devote the remaining time to writing the essay. For the MPT, spend no more than 45 minutes reading and organizing your materials and the remaining 45 minutes completing the task. Make notations of your start and end times in the margins of your question book or answer sheet so that you don’t lose track of the time as you work.
Above all, remember that you will never achieve complete mastery of every subject by test day, and that is not the bar examiners’ expectation. Your goal is simply to demonstrate that you can think like a lawyer and deserve to be awarded that license to practice law!