Bar Exam Ideas

People who succeed on the bar examination tend to have certain qualities in common, in addition to passing scores. These include, inter alia:

Law Knowledge

Obviously, you have to know a lot of black letter law to pass a bar exam and get a license to practice. “Law Knowledge” is more subtle than the ability to recite long and complicated passages of law like a trained parrot. You also have to recognize the relationship between issues, both within a subject area (e.g., torts) and between multiple areas (e.g., torts and real property). Finally, you have to be able to explain how the legal result arises from a specific set of facts.

Simply put, “Law Knowledge” includes what could be more accurately described as “Legal Reasoning.” Although there are some superficial differences between various states, the written section of every bar exam in the country requires bar candidates to both recognize the issues presented and explain how the law and facts interact to produce specific answers to all the questions. Similarly, the Multistate Bar Examination requires applicants to use legal reasoning to eliminate incorrect answer choices.

Check out The Pearce Micro Review. This series of black letter law lectures isn’t as extensive as that offered by a corporate bar review course – but these short presentations are a lot more practical. These video lectures focus on the key testable issues, not the little details. The idea is to learn the law through practice, and to annotate the outlines as you learn the details.

Successful bar candidates usually appreciate how the material is tested in addition to having a broad knowledge of the law. Thus, it should come as no surprise that practice is the single most important method of preparing for any bar examination. That means working your way through thousands of MBE questions and dozens of essays. Use your practice to fuel your study! Do not devote a lot of time to studying the material in the abstract. Get into practice and learn how to sharpen your knowledge to best prepare for the task at hand – passing the bar examination.

English Reading and Writing Skills

The bar examination is a test of language skills. You have got to be fluent and sharp in order to get through a timed bar examination and pass it. Any candidate for the bar who has problems making it through the exam within time constraints should be tested for previously undiagnosed learning disabilities.

Most candidates who pass the bar exam write reasonably well. This means they organize their thoughts with care before writing, and they express themselves clearly. “Plain English” is becoming increasingly popular, and this is a tremendous development. For the bar exam, it is critically important for candidates to focus on outlining and organization. Setting up an answer with care is enormously important, and it is a skill one has to concentrate on in order to develop.

The most common mistake bar applicants make on the written section of the exam is to spend too much time reciting the law and not enough time analyzing the facts. Again, this is a specialized skill one has to practice with some dedication in order to master it.

Test Taking Technique

It is amazing how many people fail bar exams because they spend too much time studying and not enough time practicing. One can study the law around the clock for a couple of years and never learn the first thing about actually taking the exam. That’s why we present the Micro Review, with outlines you can annotate as your knowledge of the law – and the exam – becomes more sophisticated.

The goal is to pass the bar examination. You’ve got to prepare for the exam you’re going to take, as opposed to striving for some abstract notion of excellence. Follow my advice and you’re more likely to get your license.

Physical and Emotional Endurance

Preparing for and taking any bar examination takes a lot of strength. Doesn’t it make intuitive sense to think that those who are in better physical shape have some advantages over the other candidates?

Plan on being in better shape on day one of the exam than you are in the day you begin to prepare for it. Every minute you devote to your physical health is wisely spent – up to a point. If you spend eight hours a day in the gym you probably won’t have enough time to practice and study for the bar exam.

The bar exam experience is emotionally demanding, too. Suppose you’re a recent law school graduate with $190,000 of debt and a big corporate job riding on whether or not you pass the bar exam. Hey – no pressure – just relax and have fun, right? Probably not.

It makes good sense to take care of your emotional health while you’re getting ready for the exam. This is best done by planning your whole approach to preparation in advance and taking your emotional needs into account.


Luck is one idea that most bar review professionals don’t like to talk about.

It’s important to acknowledge that luck will play a role in your success or failure on the bar examination. Realistically, however, the truth is that a well-prepared candidate can have plenty of bad luck and still pass with a comfortable margin.

A knowledgeable and skillful candidate can use sharp technique to compensate for soft areas of knowledge and still craft decent answers. Sometimes a poorly prepared candidate can have great luck and bluff their way past the bar examiners, but this is not a common occurrence.


By now you’ve got a pretty good idea about how I think you should approach the bar examination. It’s like preparing for a big sporting event. You’ve got to have your law knowledge, your skills, your mind and your body in proper balance throughout the exam. Guided practice is a key to success on any bar examination.

Here are some articles about the bar exam I wrote for

What to do During Summer Vacation:  Pass the Bar Exam!

The Bar Exam is a Week Away   –   Now What?

The Bar Exam is Tomorrow    –   No Problem!

Good News:  You Passed!  –  Bad News:  You’re a Lawyer.