How to Pass the Bar Exam: 10 Study Tips That Actually Work

| Learning

how to pass the bar exam feature image of a young lawyer holding a law bookAfter over a decade of helping law school graduates with passing the bar exam, I’ve got a list of tips you don’t want to miss.

Why? Because the bar exam tips you’re about to discover simply work.

In fact, one of my students even found time to study Spanish on the side thanks to tackling the law in the optimal ways I suggest.

So if you’re ready for all the best tips law students need to get past this mission critical exam, here’s what I suggest:

Read everything on this page, take notes and do not hesitate to ask questions.

Chances are you won’t have seen some of these tips before, especially since I’m going to share with you some incredible mnemonic tactics too.

That way, you can remember everything about the law for the long term and become a high-paid professional of extraordinary value to the clients and communities you serve.

Let’s dive in!

What Do You Need to Score to Pass the Bar Exam?

Bar exams differ from country to country. Everything about them is subject to change, including the fees involved when sitting to pass the bar.

Sometimes these changes place more emphasis on legal skills – which is actually a good thing. Firms and clients will want you to be as skilled as possible.

Other changes have to do with the actual practice of the law, which means your analysis and application may be heavily tested.

As of now in the USA, the test is scored out of 400 points. Many states require a score of 65% to 70%. Though in some states it may be higher, such as 72% in California.

No matter what, it’s important that you inform yourself of the necessary score in your region. And check exactly what you’ll be tested on, which usually comes down to your ability to:

  • Read and brief cases
  • Understand legal principles
  • Perform analysis and apply the law to situations of fact

There may be more depending on your region, but it probably won’t involve less than that. When it comes to points, here’s what I suggest: Even if you can score as low as 65% and still pass, why not go for a higher grade?

With the bar exam tips to follow, you certainly can.

study your personal rhythms

How to Study for the Bar Exam

As we go through this list of what you need in place to pass the bar exam, there’s no order of importance.

Each point will make a huge difference to your success. For that reason, it’s important to understand and make use of each.

One: Sign Up For A Bar Review Course

Although it can seem like an unnecessary expense, here’s the reason by taking a bar review course is so critical:

The people who put them together specialize in spotting patterns based on regions. They’ll get you a head start on what is most likely to be on the exam in your region.

They’ll also help you practice multiple choice exams on topics like Civil Procedure, assuming they’re still being given in that form.

Finally, they often have decent mnemonic devices you can use. In a moment, I’ll show you how to strengthen them and come up with your own for even better long-term memory of legal information.

a woman is going to write with a pencil

Two: Practice Reading, Briefing & Analyzing Cases/Statutes

Knowing how to read fast without missing out on key details is important to success as a lawyer.

As you read, prepare briefs and write your analysis frequently.

You’ll also want to practice:

  • Memorizing the name of the parties, including where they are from
  • Remembering how the parties got to the specific court they’re trialing in
  • The stakes of the case

Always strive to understand the big picture as you read. Identify the most significant legal issues first, but also general legal issues.

For this reason, you cannot skim and scan. Reading for the details and spotting fact patterns is critical to passing the bar and becoming a world class lawyer.

There is a spot for skimming during the bar exam itself, however. We’ll get to that later.

Three: Know the Game Behind the Game

According to the Bar Examiner, the upcoming changes include:

A third question type, not yet released, is modeled on the current Multistate Performance Test, which requires examinees to demonstrate their ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in realistic situations, completing legal writing assignments appropriate for a newly licensed lawyer.

This suggests that you need spend as much time as you can actually practicing these skills. Writing is only as good as your analysis, so it’s important to follow as many cases as you can.

learning the law

But what I mean by “knowing the game behind the game” is also about why all of these changes keep taking place. Some theorize that they keep making these exams tougher not so that you’re better prepared for the practicalities of law in the real world. It’s because each new successful lawyer begins to compete with established lawyers already in the field.

This kind of “scarcity” thinking exists in many fields, but is especially large in the law. For this reason, it’s important to keep your wits about you. Prepare to be the best because you want to be the best.

A rose and white colored clock against a white wall. Finding the best time to learn Spanish will be up to you.

Four: Allocate Time For Different Kinds of Questions

As you take practice tests, and during the bar exam itself, you’ll notice that some questions are weighted differently. You definitely want to pay attention to this so you aren’t spending huge amounts of time on questions that aren’t as heavily weighted as others.

However, there’s a bit of trap in this. You also need to read the questions and ask yourself:

  • How debatable are the issues?
  • Is there a high likelihood of liability? (If so, this can save you time in answering)
  • Are damages involved? (These may take more time to explore and explain)
  • Does the question require more organization of your analysis?

Five: Find the “Call of the Question”

Although it’s not good to skim and scan when learning the law, you can save a lot of time by looking for what a lot of law professors call “the call of the question.”

The most important parts of any question are usually found in the last 2-3 sentences.

You still need to read the whole thing, but scanning for these can help you better decide how to allocate your time during the exam.

Six: Read Carefully And Use IRAC

Every word is significant in the law, including the bar exam.

A simple model to follow when reading and starting to organize your answer in way that avoids missing critical details is IRAC:

  • Issue recognition
  • Rule
  • Application
  • Conclusion

The more you think about this model as you read the questions, the more you’ll succeed.

write out what you memorized

Seven: Outline Before Answering

Many people make the mistake of caving to the time pressure and start writing immediately. Avoid doing this.

Writing a simple outline will help you use the IRAC model every time as you present your analysis.

Outlining is especially helpful because it helps you think through the issues. You’ll make sure you aren’t missing anything, but also discover how to present them in the most logical order.

Eight: Use Plain English

Although it is possible to use legalese like “heretofore” and “forthwith,” it’s generally not a good idea. Legal Writing in Plain English is a great resource that comes with useful exercises.

Make sure to avoid filling your answers with fluff and skip providing long and windy wind ups. You do not have to write about how interesting the case is, or how many issues it presents. Just get into it.

Nine: Avoid Clean Cut Conclusions

The law is as much about opening doors as closing them. Yet, a lot of people write their IRAC conclusions with stunning certainty.

Instead of writing “done and dusted” conclusions, you should write something more like:

The defendant may not have broken the law on my analysis. But if he has, he may have the defense of not having received his Miranda warning in the proper manner, if at all according to State and Federal law.

Writing conclusions like this will show your examiner that you truly understand the law in the fullest possible light.

Ten: Be Aware of When You Don’t Have to Write a Conclusion

There are some scenarios in which conclusions aren’t required. For example, if you’re dealing with contract law, you’ll have an “offer and acceptance” model to follow:

  • Legality of object
  • Capability of parties
  • Consideration
  • Assent

Powerful Memory Tips for Passing the Bar Exam

I promised I would share some memory tips and a success story from one of my best students.

Let’s get into them. Some involve mindset. Others involve mnemonics.

I’m confident you’ll find them all useful.

Avoid Self-Defeating Behaviors

Please don’t take this study tip as a detour into “self help territory.”

The fact of the matter is that many people sabotage their success by eating foods that are bad for the brain.

Or they rob themselves of much needed sleep and exercise, leading to epic bouts of brain fog.

Another self-defeating behavior is taking on too much at once. I once helped someone who was taking summer courses for an MBA at the same time he was prepping for the bar.

Certainly, this is possible, but it was a struggle in this person’s case because they also insisted on partying.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, David Matthew took the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass and had this to share in his testimonial:

David S Matthew Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass Review Portrait“Since graduating, I’ve used the MMM to:

  • Pass the Bar and become a licensed attorney
  • Acquire several more professional certifications
  • Learn Spanish (Muy bien!)”

The point is that you can take on more. But you need to perform a bit of “know thyself” and manage your time. You also need to pick and make use of optimal study places.

That’s where the rest of the tips are of critical importance, so please keep reading.

Optimize Your Memory

David was intrigued by the art of memory, but more importantly, he took action to learn it.

To do that, you need to master a small set of skills:

These simple systems are the basis of my bestselling book, How to Learn and Memorize Legal Terminology.

How to Learn and Memorize Legal Terminology book cover in an ipad

It’s very simple to get started. Most people can learn all of these memory techniques in a weekend or less.

Use Anki & Flashcards

Although most of my students find the Memory Palace approach superior to flashcards and Anki, you might find them useful.

The trick is to make sure you base your cards on questions. You want them to trigger your recall, not put you in a perpetual game of rote learning.

We know this is true thanks to research in what memory scientists call active recall.

Basically, when you use these learning tools to create puzzles that you need to solve, you will form memories faster. It just how your memory works, without exception. The only problem can be that in life, as in law, some people think they are exceptions to this rule.

But they are not. Not even if they have photographic memory.

Explain Briefs to Imaginary Judges

Raw memorization is not the same as raw understanding.

It’s important to spend time practicing the skills – which recent and looming updates to the bar exams around the world have shown.

You can practice your memory and your insight at the same time by mentally going through case facts and explaining them to a judge of your own invention.

Because you have so many possible areas of the law you need to understand, you can go through various issues alphabetically be building a Memory Wheel for them.

You can them mentally rotate around briefs that you explain to your imaginary judge for:

  • Administrative law
  • Agency
  • Bankruptcy
  • Constitutional law
  •  Ethics
  • Corporations
  • Damages
  • Domestic relations
  • Equity
  • Federal jurisdiction
  • Insurance
  • Labor law
  • Municipal law
  • Property law
  • Etc.

This form of practice is especially important because more than one topic can appear in a single question.

Beyond Bar Exam Tips

So, what do you need to pass the bar exam?

Time, common sense, critical thinking and a razor sharp memory.

If you need more help, get my FREE Memory Improvement course:

Free Memory Improvement Course

It will take you through the foundational skill of the Memory Palace technique.

Many thousands of lawyers have used it before you. And many thousands more will use it after you.

The question is:

Are you going to protect your mind and memory from distractions?

And are you going to optimize everything by spending a weekend or two learning memory techniques?

I hear the gavel falling and it sounds like the verdict is in – make it happen!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy