Taking the bar exam in another state? Strategies I used on my second bar exam

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SamFarkusBy Sam Farkas,
BARBRI curriculum architect and instructor

I took, and passed, my first bar exam in Florida several years ago.

When I was considering taking the bar exam in another state (Georgia), I seriously questioned whether I was up for it. I felt this way even though, through my role at BARBRI, I help students prepare for success on the bar exam every day.

I invariably recalled the stressful and angst-ridden few months following  law school graduation when I invested every moment in my bar studies. This time around, I had many more responsibilities and time constraints.

As I began studying for the bar exam though, I realized that the skills, knowledge and grit that I had cultivated over the past few years impacted how I prepared for my second state bar exam.

Ways in which I approached studying for my second bar exam differently:

I treated the bar exam like a client

Every minute matters. Most of us have learned how to maximize efficiency by putting every minute of available time to good use. Moreover, many of us are well practiced at juggling multiple client matters throughout the day, moving seamlessly from one task to the next.

I treated my second state bar preparation like a client matter and decided how much time per day I could spend on it. I kept track of my time and moved on when I needed to work on something else. Where I could, I filled breaks in my day with some focused study. A half an hour of review during my lunch break or answering practice MBE questions on my mobile device while waiting for an appointment were great ways to maximize what limited time I had to devote to studying.

I maximized efficiency

To make the best and most efficient use of my limited study time, I had to determine which subjects deserved the most effort and prioritize my study accordingly. I found, like most of you likely will, that I had developed a very sophisticated understanding of a few areas and a better understanding of many additional areas of law since my first exam.

All subjects are not necessarily treated equally on the exam based on jurisdiction; therefore, I evaluated which subjects required a more in-depth review and prioritized those over other subjects that required (or deserved) less time. The benefit of a BARBRI prep course is that we’ve already figured out that weighting for you.

For me, and I believe for most, familiarity with the subject and the amount of time I needed to dedicate to learning the rules in a subject dictated the best method of study, and it was a little different for each subject. Sometimes I relied more on the lectures during my daily commute and other times I really needed to review written materials.

I played to my strengths

The bar exam is a test of legal problem-solving. Sure, knowledge of the law is important, but well developed legal problem solving skills, strong reading comprehension skills, and sheer endurance will take a person very far on this exam.

As licensed attorneys, we have spent our professional career sharpening these skills and are adept at breaking down even the most complex of problems. Luckily, legal problems on the bar are much more straightforward and simple than what we encounter in practice.

In practice, I am accustomed to studying the law through the context of actual legal problems. Therefore, when preparing for the exam, I strengthened my knowledge of the rules by frequently working practice problems—both multiple choice and essay.  I also made good use of the model answers to reinforce my knowledge of the black letter rules.

I kept the big picture in mind

Above all, I maintained my focus on the goal: passing the exam, which I did.  The bar exam is a test of minimum competency. Expertise and specialized knowledge are not required for success. I had already passed the bar once and am already a licensed attorney. Sure, I may have had to learn some state-specific law or brush up on the common law majority rules, but mastery of every rule— or even every subject—was not necessary! I just needed to earn enough points to get a passing score.

If you find yourself contemplating another state bar exam, always know that BARBRI is here for you.

Check out BARBRI Bar Review alumni courses.

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