IV. Stay on Target: Creating & Following a Bar Exam Study Schedule Via a Bar Exam Study Calendar

When first sitting down to study for the bar exam, staring at a rather large pile of review materials, one will ask . . . Where do I start? Any commercial bar review will have schedules for lectures or in-class activities, but they often do not provide you an individualized, personalized schedule based on your schedule, availability, or other conflicts. We can unequivocally state that an indispensable component of your bar review should include a comprehensive, individualized study schedule. By comprehensive, we mean a schedule that creates daily objectives/assignments from the first day of your review up to the first day of the exam. The following method to create an effective bar review study schedule is, of course, just that--one method, among many, to organize your bar review.

A. A Bar Exam Study Schedule: A Calendar-Based Schedule

To organize your bar exam study schedule, we suggest using a calendar-based template and entering assignments/goals for each week and day of the bar review. With the proliferation of online and computer-based calendaring programs, creating digital versions, which can be constantly updated and revised, is an attractive option.

The basic premise of the bar exam study schedule we suggest is to review all substantive materials during the first six weeks to obtain a solid understanding and working knowledge and then utilize the last two weeks to memorize materials in anticipation of the exam. Sample essays, MBE questions, and performance tests are vital components of the review. During the first six weeks, by religiously completing sample essays, MBE questions, and performance tests, while critically evaluating the results, you can simultaneously improve important test-taking skills and reinforce legal concepts and principals, making the memorization period less painful. Of course, you could extend any bar exam study schedule increasing the number of weeks for either the review or memorization period.

B. Weekly and Daily Goals for Your Bar Exam Study Calendar

Using the calendar-based template, at the beginning of each week, we suggest indicating the topics/subjects to be covered for that week. Typically, we suggest reviewing a subject for three days (2 topics in six days), with the seventh day (usually Sunday) reserved for "catching-up." Some subjects may take less than three days (e.g., trusts), while other topics may take a bit longer (e.g., real property). Adjust the schedule to your progress, with the goal of making it through the materials by the end of Week 6. Pushing off assignments, or believing you might catch-up later, often results in what we would call “the bar review freak-out.” This phenomenon typically occurs around week 4 or 5 of your bar review, when the prospective bar examinee realizes you cannot just “pull an all-nighter” to effectively prepare for the bar exam. A bar exam study schedule, YOU ACTUALLY USE goes a long way in avoiding the bar review freak-out.

During the first six weeks of our suggested bar exam study schedule, we suggest daily assignments consisting of entries designated “Review,” “Essays,” “MBE ?’s,” and “Catch-Up.” "Review" means just that, reviewing the topic to understand, or learn, all concepts, ideas, and principles. It is during these sessions that you should create those tools to aid memorization, as discussed below. One day per week, during the first six weeks, is designated “Catch-Up.” If, for some reason, you have fallen behind on the schedule during the week, use this time to get back on schedule. Additionally, we have found this day to be a good time to review all the outlines/flashcards made to that date, trying to keep the materials fresh in your mind. This weekly review method is easier than learning a subject in week 1 and waiting 5 weeks to look at it again. We also suggest using entries in the bar exam study schedule indicating "Essays," and a corresponding number, which are used to practice exam essay writing with freshly reviewed subject matter. While you should not always write out full-fledged answers during these sessions, we have found reviewing essay fact patterns for issues and outlining answers very helpful. Then, compare your results with a model answer to see whether your issue spotting or outlined answers are on target. You should, however, strive to write out at least one essay during these sessions. There is no substitute for writing out a full, complete answer to an essay question. During the first six weeks, our suggested bar exam study schedule also includes daily, or almost daily, entries for “MBE ?s.” Practicing MBE questions on an almost daily basis on the subject you are currently reviewing (when reviewing MBE subjects) serves a two-fold purpose. First, it increases your comfort level, and endurance, in completing MBE questions, knowing the goal at the end is to comfortably complete 200 MBE questions in six hours. Second, subject-specific MBE questions aid in reinforcing just reviewed concepts under exam conditions.

We designate the final two weeks of our bar exam study schedule "memorization," as discussed below in Part VII. During the memorization period you should not be learning new concepts, or reviewing materials for the first time. We have found using actual, past exams for each subject to be especially helpful during this time. Additionally, this part of your bar exam study schedule should be very flexible based upon your comfort level and/or familiarity with individual bar exam subjects or portions of the exam.

C. Obtain a FREE Bar Exam Study Calendar

With the above planning principles in mind, we encourage you to consider our free Calendar Solutions, which provide a calendar-based bar review study schedule template and extensive, detailed Guidelines for the following jurisdictions (select link below):

With an individualized bar exam study schedule in hand, you can begin the actual, substantive portion of your bar review.