Preparing for the bar exam is usually daunting and stressful. Focusing on what you need to do every day will bring you to the level of preparedness you need to succeed on the first try.
The bar exam requires memorization of the law and the ability to apply that law to a new set of facts in multiple choice questions and in essay questions. Some states include a style of question called performance tests. These performance tests require no memorization. Your preparation focuses on practicing that style of question.
Memorization is much more than reviewing material over and over again. In order to truly memorize the law for the bar examination, you cannot rely on pulling a couple of all-nighters reviewing the material and rely on your short-term memory. The bar exam just has too many topics, all of which include a significant amount of material. Instead, you must put more of the information into your long-term memory in order to recall it later on the exam. Memorization first requires a complete substantive review of all topics. As you do that review of each topic, you take that material and put it in the fashion you best memorize from. Some people memorize by using flashcards. Others make mind-maps or make their own outlines. Some use a variety of techniques for different topics. It truly is whatever works best for you.
What is critical is that you are making your own materials and not relying on what someone else has done, including what a commercial provider gives you. Through making your own materials, you are beginning the process of embedding that material into your long-term memory. Later, as you review your materials in a more rote repetition mode, you are sorting through your long-term memory to see if you can recall it.
Practice questions cannot only assess where you are in your memorization of material, but can also be the means by which you memorize. After you have begun making your own materials, take practice questions open book. That means you will look through your materials to discover the rules that apply. You will be studying that sub-topic more in-depth, further encoding it into your long-term memory. You may decide to add additional rules to your materials. Then, review the model answer and autopsy your answer. Did you not know the rule? Did you not identify the issue? Take those rules and add them to your materials. If they are already in your materials then highlight them. The next time you review your materials, your mind will stop for nano-seconds and that will help further encode the rules.
Clearing the Last Hurdle: Mapping Success on the Bar Exam spells out how to develop your game plan for tackling bar exam preparation and provide strategies and tactics for how to answer essay and multiple choice questions. This book is not meant to be your only source of material for the substantive law. Use in conjunction with your commercial provider’s course.