5 Important Bar Exam Study Plan Tools

michigan bar exam, civil procedure mbeDuring bar preparation, reviewing outlines and answering MBE questions can be tiresome and monotonous. Some students may be looking for certain tools that help promote active learning, and allow for retention and comprehension. In order to keep your mind sharp and things fresh, integrating different learning tools into your bar exam study plan is crucial. So, here are five tools to develop your own bar exam study plan.

5 Important Bar Exam Study Plan Tools

1. Color-coding

Color-coding can make you a more efficient thinker. In preparation for the bar examination, you will face pages and pages of monotonous text. In order to break it up, and encourage brain stimulation, color-code your notes to highlight key issues.

Additionally, make sure to keep your color-coding consistent throughout your studies so that you don’t turn your notes into a coloring book. Create a system for your coding. For example, highlight rules in yellow and definitions in pink. This type of strategy will help you visually separate this information. It is a simple, yet effective, tactic to help keep your notes organized, which also aids in mental and physical recall. It is also a great way to actively review material!

2. Lists and Checklists

A list can be more effective tool in terms of getting the “bigger picture” of the law. For example, a list of non-hearsay and hearsay exceptions would be more efficient than making an individual flashcard for each rule. Checklists that pose questions, and a step-by-step analysis of the law are also useful because they provide an easy and structured approach for identifying issues on the exam.


  • Is the statement relevant? (Apply 401 test)
  • Is this statement admissible?
  • A statement may or may not be admissible if it is hearsay.
    • Is the statement hearsay? An out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted?
      • Is the statement being offered for some other purpose other than the truth?
        • Nonhearsay, does it fall into one of the non-hearsay cateogories?
    • If it is offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, and is hearsay, is it still admissible?
      • Does it fall into one of the hearsay exceptions? If the statement does fall into one of the hearsay exceptions, is it still inadmissible because the probative value is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice? (Apply the 403-balancing test)
      • Does it fall into the catchall exception?

3. Tables and flow-charts

Tables and flow-charts are incredibly useful and effective visual learning tools. The simple act of putting together a table or flowchart is a great way to learn an area of law.

For example, make tables for the elements and defenses of crimes, remedies and damages for contracts. Differentiate between which tests to utilize in which instances. Tables and charts help make the material more accessible and straightforward.

Below, for example, is an example of a table for murder. Murder is important on the MBE (there are 3-4 questions on homicide!) and it is tested heavily in most state essay exams. A neat table can make it more comprehensible and more memorable.  murder chart, homicide chart, multistate bar exam

4. Mnemonics and Acrostics

We love creating mnemonics and acrostics. They are great memory devices and help make learning fun. They are especially helpful when you  struggle with retaining all the elements of a certain aspect of law. If mnemonics are not your thing, other strategies such as visual cues or songs may be useful. It is important to utilize the tools that work for you.

5. Self-Talk

I (Lauren) spent a lot of time in the library during my preparation for the bar exam.  I noticed lots of students talked to themselves while they studied. They silently mouthed the words of their notes and nodded to themselves. It was as if they were teaching and explaining things to themselves. At first I was hesitant to try it. I thought I would look like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, muttering to himself incoherently. I quickly dismissed these thoughts, embraced my inner Gollum, and was pleasantly surprised to find this tactic wildly effective.

Scientific research shows the positive effects talking out loud has on memory retention.  Self-talk helps organize and clarify your thoughts, as well as improving comprehension and retention. I urge you to give it a try!

We hope you find these tips beneficial! Remember that with the right bar exam study plan and strategy, you will be able to study capably and successfully.

This post was written by Lauren, a JD Advising essay grader and associate!

Ashley-Heidemann-Profile-382x356Ashley Heidemann scored over a 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam in February of 2011. She, as well as a team of tutors offer private one-on-one tutoring for bar exam students nationwide (including tutoring for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). She also offers small-group courses and seminars for the Michigan bar exam.  Please click here to contact her company, with any questions or to set up a tutoring session.