Studying for the Bar Exam: Establishing a Routine
To those of you just start prep, I wanted to tell you something I wish someone told me when I was sitting where you are this time last year. I took and passed the July 2019 UBE in New York, and passed the FL bar in February 2020, so I felt like it might be helpful to share with you what worked for me in studying for both.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
For all the lectures and review questions, the start of bar prep can feel somewhat structure-less, with the onus for how to organize all the information you’re being bombarded with left to you, the student. Whether you’re starting a 12-week program for the September bar or the 8 week program for the July bar, the emphasis of this first week should be the same. Believe it or not, the most important thing you can do this week has nothing to do with actually learning the law. That’s because right now, the most important thing for you it to form a routine. The bar prep companies provide you with all the tools you need to pass, an the easiest way to best put these tools to work early on is by developing consistency in your study habits.
For me, that meant working out in the morning, driving to the library, shutting off my phone and watching the subject lecture of the day (at 1.5 speed, of course) from 10am-1pm. At 1 pm, I would grab lunch, answer text messages, and go for a walk, and just generally unwinding before I dove back into reviewing my materials and doing practice questions at 2pm. When it was all said and done, I would work from 10 am until 6pm or 6:30, at which time I would sign off completely for the day. That meant when I went home, I was completely done thinking about the law until the next morning. I believe that keeping this time to unwind is ESSENTIAL to preventing burnout as bar prep progresses and you slowly begin to lose your mind and start reciting rule statements to yourself in the shower.
I’m sure some of you will have earlier or later starts than I did, but in the early going the only thing that really matters is just that you establish a routine that you personally feel comfortable with. Bar prep is doable for everyone, but single biggest challenge you face is doubt, both in yourself and in your ability to master the copious amount of material necessary to pass. By establishing a routine early, you can remove any doubt in your mind as to whether you put the work in. Of course, there’s still much more to be done in the weeks ahead—lectures to struggle to stay awake for, rule statements to memorize, practice questions to slog through—but for now, do what you can to set yourself up for success come exam time.
I also recognize that forming a routine has been made all the more challenging by the fact that many of your are quarantined with your families or roommates or significant others. But, if anything, I think this makes the need for routine all the more important. Think of your routine like your security blanket. It’s the thing you can fall back on whenever you feel like you’re not where you need to be study-wise or when you’re feeling hopeless about the test. And the end of all this, you’ll at least be able to point back to your routine, whatever it is, and tell yourself “I did the work.”
And this doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up about a day where you’re just feeling too burnt out to do a full eight hours. The Bar Exam is a marathon and not a sprint, so treat it accordingly and remember to be kind to yourself throughout the whole process.
Good luck to you and I hope this helps!