Michigan Bar Exam The First Time

One and Done: How To Pass The Michigan Bar Exam The First Time

If you’ve never encountered the Michigan bar exam before, you may unclear about how the exam is structured, what is tested, and how to properly tackle bar exam preparation. In previous posts, we’ve covered the format of the Michigan Bar Exam and provided a full list of topics tested on the Michigan Bar Exam. If you are still unfamiliar with the exam structure or topics tested, check out these articles first!

If you already know the basics, you’re probably still wary about (and perhaps dreading) the months-long process that is “bar exam prep.” There are lots of ideas out there about how best to get through this process, but only a few of them work.

True, there may not be a “one size fits all” approach to preparation for the Michigan Bar. But there are wrong ways to prepare, and there are certain things that everyone must do in order to pass the Michigan bar exam the first time around.

How To Pass The Michigan Bar Exam The First Time

1. Know What Doesn’t Work 

When we talk with new students who have previously taken the bar exam and failed, we always ask them this question: “Was there anything about your approach to bar exam that, in hindsight, you would’ve changed”?

Here are the most common responses:

“I think I had the wrong mindset. I just didn’t take it seriously enough.”

“I had no method or plan. I didn’t really feel like a schedule was necessary, so I just sort of went through the material.”

“I didn’t know the law well enough. I did a ton of practice questions and reviewed the answers. But I didn’t do much memorizing.”

These are the wrong ways to prepare. Now, let’s learn about the right way.

2. Mindset Matters

Tell yourself there isn’t a “Second Chance” so you can mentally prepare to be successful on your first attempt at the Michigan bar exam. After running the gauntlet of graded, high stakes exams throughout law school, some students mistakenly breathe a sigh of relief when they hear the bar exam is pass/fail and can be taken multiple times. Whether these students realize it or not, they’ve already begun a process that will end in disappointing results on the Michigan bar exam.

That’s because bar preparation is all about mindset. Everyone who takes the bar exam encounters moments of fatigue and frustration—times when it’s tempting to take your foot off the gas and coast to the finish. At these moments, unsuccessful students tell themselves “no need to push through, it’s just pass/fail”; or “it’s alright, I can always take this again.” This sort of mindset, while it certainly lowers stress levels, leads too many students to approach the bar examination as if it were some gussied-up driver’s test.

Then, they fail.

To pass the Michigan bar exam the first time, your mindset at the beginning of and during bar exam preparation is key. The right mindset for bar exam preparation will come more readily if you tell yourself the following:

            There is no taking the bar exam a “second time.” This is the only time I can take this.

This might seem like a crude “mental trick”—but it works! Just imagine if, in law school, you could’ve re-taken every exam you encountered—would you have put in your best effort upfront? No, of course not. Likewise with the bar exam—for you, there is no second time.

Give the Michigan Bar everything you have, the first time around.

3. Make A Schedule and Stick to It

Of course, merely having the right mindset isn’t going to be enough for the Michigan Bar Exam the first time. You also must figure out how to tackle the enormous amount of material tested on this exam.

Before you set out on your bar exam prep journey, you need a map. That’s where your study schedule comes in handy. At its most basic, your study schedule must include the days and times that you plan on studying each subject on the examination. We’ve covered the specifics of creating a Michigan Bar Exam study schedule in an earlier post.

It’s critical to make this schedule at the beginning of your preparation. By doing so, you give yourself a full picture of just how much material you need to cover. You’ll see that, for some topics, you may only have one day to review and memorize. If you do not do this upfront, you run the risk of spending too much time on subjects early on, and having to cram for—or worse, completely forgetting about—other subjects.

After making this schedule, you must discipline yourself to stick with it. If the day calls for studying Real Property in the morning, and Civil Procedure in the afternoon, you do that. If you’ve given yourself a half-day off, you take that time off. It’s this sort of discipline that separates students who pass the Michigan bar exam the first time and those that do not. Get it right the first time!

4. Memorize the Law

Once you’ve adopted the right mindset and put together a proper study schedule, you need to study for the Michigan Bar the right way. A common error we hear from students who fail the bar the first (or second) time is that they “studied” by doing hundreds—in some cases thousands—of practice questions, without bothering to memorize the law.

To pass the Michigan Bar exam the first time, you need to be precise and accurate in your recitation of the law. Essays are scored not on how well you write or how many “interesting” points you make, but rather on how closely your rule statement and application matches that in the Examiner’s answer. Similarly, the multiple-choice portion of the exam (the MBE) frequently includes incorrect answer choices that slightly misstated the correct legal principle. You will fall victim to these choices if you do not know exactly how to state the right legal rule.

If you’re eager to learn more about memorization for the Michigan bar exam, check out our Bar Exam Memorization Tips and advice on how to tackle bar exam outlines.

Conclusion: Make the First-time the Only Time You Take the Michigan Bar

To pass the Michigan bar exam the first time, you must have the right mindset, stick to a proper study schedule, and memorize the law. Still, taking the Michigan bar exam for the first time can be an overwhelming process.

Fortunately, you don’t need to tackle the Michigan Bar Exam alone! See what our students have said about J.D. Advising’s Michigan Bar Exam Course and sign up for a Michigan Bar Exam Prep Course today!


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