12 Best Tips for Working and Studying for the Bar Exam: Are you planning on working and studying for the bar exam at the same time? You are definitely not alone. We have a lot of students each administration that take on these two challenging tasks! You are probably aware of the difficulties of working and studying for the bar exam–feeling tired, burnt out, sleep deprived, and not having much time to do anything else! It certainly poses a challenge, but it is definitely possible to do both.
In this post, we will outline our 12 best tips for working and studying for the bar exam. These are time-tested tips from many of our students who have successfully worked while studying for the bar exam.
12 Tips for Working and Studying for the Bar Exam
1.Talk to your boss and make sure you are on the same page with your work schedule.
If you are asking for time off, or if you want to notify your boss you cannot stay late or work on the weekends, have that conversation ahead of time. We generally recommend that you tell your boss that you are studying for the bar exam so that they understand this. If your boss does not know what the bar exam is, explain what it is and why it is so challenging.
(Note, we have had some students whose bosses “retaliate” if they say the are studying for the bar exam — perhaps because the boss is afraid that the employee will leave if they pass. If you are worried about this, then it is a personal call whether you tell your boss. The vast majority of students that we work with have bosses that are understanding of the bar exam study process — and of the fact that their employees will need extra time to study!)
2. Make a bar exam study schedule.
You should aim to study every day. This does not mean that you cannot take time off. Read this post on how to make a stellar bar exam study schedule that is tailored to you.
3. Start studying early!
If you are working while studying for the bar exam, we recommend you start a month earlier than traditional bar exam prep courses. (Note: This is just our general recommendation. If you did stellar your 1L year of law school, you could likely get away with starting later. If you really struggled your 1L year of law school and you need to work 50 hours a week, you should probably start even earlier than a month before the traditional bar prep!)
4. Figure out where and when you’ll study. If possible, study early in the day!
Life does not pause as soon as you begin studying for the bar exam. One thing that many of our students find helpful is to study early in the day. There are very few distractions at, say, 5:00 AM. You can generally study distraction-free with a big cup of coffee and get a couple of solid hours in at (what you may discover) is your best time of day!
If that sounds terrible to you, then consider blocking off time in the afternoon or evening where you can eliminate distractions to study.
The important thing is to consider both where you will study (at home? at a library? early at your office?) and when you’ll study (in the morning, afternoon, or evening) ahead of time so that you have a true game plan!
You should also sign up for a bar exam course that is friendly to those who work. Check out our Uniform Bar Exam full service course here if you are interested in a super-efficient course that meets in the evening online, to make it especially convenient for those who work full time. We also have a Michigan Bar Exam full service course you can read about here.
5. Take time for breaks.
An advantage of starting to study early is you can schedule breaks without feeling too guilty. If you do not schedule breaks, you will burn out! Take some time off every week. Some students take Saturday mornings or evenings off. Some students go on long walks (or eat long brunches) on Sundays. Have something to look forward to every week.
And have something to look forward to every day. It can be thirty minutes of television, a glass of wine, a hot bath, whatever. The challenge of working full time and studying will otherwise take quite a toll on you if you do not take care of your mental health!
6. Study Smart.
Use efficient materials. It is worth it to get the best materials for your state exam. Don’t skimp on quality because the better your materials are, the more time they will save you. Time is by far your most valuable asset.
We provide the absolute best multistate bar exam (MBE) and the most tailored multistate essay exam (MEE) and multistate performance test (MPT) materials around. Many of our students work full time and utilize our services because our outlines are so good and so tailored to the exam that it saves them countless hours. (Learn more about our Uniform Bar Exam full service course here and private tutoring options here. Note we also provide seminars for UBE states and Michigan, and other very useful material!)
Looking to study on your own? Some of the BEST material for the essay portion of the bar exam is our book of MEE one-sheets if you are in a Uniform Bar Exam state (or one of the 40 states that administers the MEE!).
In addition to outlines, use real MBE questions—these are the best MBE questions! And, use actual past essay questions (rather than questions a commercial course invents!) This is the smartest way to approach bar prep. And if you are working full time, you don’t have time to waste on anything else!
7. Tell others around you that you are studying.
Some people like to avoid telling others they are studying for the bar exam in case they fail. However, it will likely make your life much easier if you tell your friends and family and coworkers you are studying. This explains why you are not spending your lunch breaks with them or all weekend with them.
8. Seek help!
This goes hand-in-hand with the last tip. If you have responsibilities like childcare, chores, or other tasks you usually take on, ask others to help you! Tell them you are going to start studying and that you want to have a plan in place to dedicate as much time as you can to studying. See if you can get family members or friends to help. Or pay for help – your time is by far your most valuable resource during bar prep!
9. Take care of yourself.
You should not deprive yourself of sleep, exercise, or nutritious food! Taking care of yourself will help you focus. It will help you concentrate. You will be able to learn new material better. And you will also be able to recall and recite information you have already learned.
Some people worry if they make time to exercise, for example, they will lose time to study. But this does not have to be the case. You do not have to exercise for hours (or even drive to a faraway gym to exercise!). You can go on a thirty minute walk or run right outside your house. Or lift weights for 15 minutes in the basement. You will find that it invigorates you and makes a big difference in how well you are able to focus!
10. Be creative about when you study.
Some of our students bring their outlines to work and memorize them during lunch breaks. Or they download Adaptibar on their phones and do multiple-choice questions in between meetings. Others ask their bosses if they can stay late at the office (or come in early) so that they do not have to go home and be distracted.
Every minute counts if you are working and studying for the bar exam! And every minute adds up! If you are the type of person who can study in short bursts, it is worth it to carry some kind of bar prep materials with you wherever you go!
11. Think critically about whatever assignments you are given.
If you are doing a commercial course and have 100 things to cross off your to-do list, think about what you truly need. If you are working and studying for the bar exam, you cannot blindly follow a to do list. You have to make sure it is truly helping you! Do you need to write out full essays or can you get away with bullet pointing some? Do “amps” truly help you? Thinking critically about what you are doing and making sure you are spending every minute effectively is crucial.
12. See if you can take time off work.
Whether it is one day a week or the two weeks before the bar exam, see if you can negotiate a lighter work schedule with your boss.
As mentioned above, some employers look unfavorably upon their employees taking the bar exam because it means (if you are in a non-lawfirm job) that you may leave or (if you are working at a law firm) that they will have to promote you or pay you more! However, hopefully your boss can have some understanding that this is a personal goal of yours that you need or want to accomplish.
If you have any of your own tips for working and studying for the bar exam, please feel free to share them below!
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