2020 bar exam study strategies webinar: Key takeaways

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[ Makenzie Way, 2020 Law Graduate at the University of Pennsylvania ]

In my effort to start preparing for the bar exam, I decided to watch the BARBRI Study Strategies Webinar (Summer 2020 Bar Exam: Short, Long & Longer-term Study Strategies). I highly recommend it, especially with so many states changing when they’ll administer the bar — from those staying “on schedule” in July to others moving as late as October. Here’s a summary of what I learned from BARBRI President Mike Sims, who presented this exclusive webinar.

The first steps you should take

If you haven’t already, log in to BARBRI and take the Bar Review Baseline. This test consists of 70 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately two hours to complete. It’s important because it 1) provides an early example of what the MBE is like, 2) helps ISAAC, the engine that runs BARBRI Bar Review, to customize your bar prep assignments and 3) shows you where you currently rank within MBE topics (be sure to take a moment to learn all about the bar exam curve on the BARBRI website).

If you haven’t already, order your BARBRI books and/or reach out to tech support to update your testing state location if there have been changes. Note: if you’re taking the UBE in a different jurisdiction than originally intended, you do need to update your testing location if you want your prep course to be specialized, however you do not need to re-order your books.

How to approach your daily schedule

Your BARBRI bar prep homepage and daily Personal Study Plan (PSP) assignments are customized and curated by ISAAC, your Intuitive Study Assistant and Coach. This engine that runs BARBRI Bar Review calculates, based off of your testing location, the number of hours per day that you need to study to be thoroughly prepared for the bar exam.

The daily hours schedule that appears on your PSP takes all seven days of the current week into account. This does not, however, mean that you need to study for that exact amount of recommended daily study time, every day. You can determine the effort you put in based on how you feel about your progress and percentile rank in certain areas/topics. While you should probably continue your bar prep over the weekends, ISAAC automatically adjusts the daily study hours required/recommended based on the amount of work you have already completed and logged. (That’s important – be sure to log your completed assignments.) So, for example, if you study for two hours instead of four hours on a Sunday, the left over hours of uncompleted assignments will be a part of ISAAC’s algorithm. Your PSP on Monday will have automicatically updated your recommended study hours for the new day as you head into a new week.

If you’re taking a September bar exam, it is not recommended that you wait to begin studying until the 10 week mark before the exam. Rather, you should start studying earlier to make the amount of work remains more manageable. Likewise, if you are taking the September bar exam but will begin working beforehand, try to front-load your studying and remember the magic number – 400 hours of bar prep.

It’s also recommended that you take at least one day off during the weekend – provided you maintain your study schedule and meet your projected daily hours throughout the rest of the week. Also, leave time to take care of yourself to avoid burnout. Make time to work out, meal prep and just unwind.

Your PSP and BARBRI Simulated MBE

The BARBRI bar prep course is set up to help you acquire knowledge and then learn how to apply it. In doing this, you’ll notice that your study schedule is arranged so that you begin with a plethora of lectures and multiple-choice questions before moving into essay assignments and the BARBRI Simulated MBE. It’s important that you aim to complete all of these assignments and leave time to review them as well.

Midway through the course, your PSP will prompt you to take the six-hour BARBRI Simulated MBE. Taking the Simulated MBE is one of the most important thing you can do to pass the bar exam.

All assignments, tests and quizzes – including the BARBRI Simulated MBE  – are graded on two separate scales. First, you will receive the traditional “percentage of questions correct.” More importantly however, you will also receive a “percentile score.” The percentile rank compares you against other bar preppers, showing you where you sit currently on the bar exam curve. BARBRI recommends that you aim to be in the 40th or higher percentile.

Other important considerations

If your bar exam is rescheduled, ISAAC will update your PSP. You don’t need to do anything.

If you are unable to get a seat to write the bar exam, your BARBRI materials will remain available to you until the next bar exam offering at no additional cost. And ISAAC will update your study schedule accordingly.

If, due to the uncertain times we’re currently in, you are strongly opposed to, or uncomfortable with, sitting for the bar exam, BARBRI will allow you to transfer your BARBRI course to the next bar offering at no additional cost.

If you are now planning to sit for the UBE in a different state than the one you plan to practice in, you must remember to transfer your score and budget for the transfer fee (generally, the transfer fee is the same as the application fee for the state). You will also need to complete both state’s character and fitness applications. You do not need to write the bar exam twice if both states are UBE states. However, you should keep your employer informed as to your bar plans.

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