Study Smart for the Bar Exam and MBE®

Student learning how to study smart for the bar exam and MBE

The bar exam is the last hurdle between you and a successful legal career. Here are some tips on how to study smart for the bar exam and MBE.

Learn About Your Exam

The first step to success is understanding how you will be tested. Does your jurisdiction use the UBE® or a state-specific exam? What percentage is each portion of the exam worth? What is the passing score? You can answer many of these questions by reviewing the Bar Admission Guide written by the NCBE®. 

Next, determine which subjects are tested on each component of the exam and which are the most frequently tested topics within each subject. Make sure that your studies cover the areas that make up the most significant portion of available points (most commercial bar review products do). This practice will maximize your chances of success. 

Make a Plan

Intense practice makes for easy games. Your success on the bar exam depends on your level of preparation, and your level of preparation depends on your study plan.

Set Your Study Hours 

Start by determining your overall timeframe. Most bar prep programs require 10 to 12 weeks of intensive study but consider if you need more study time or if you’ll be working under a tighter schedule. Next, determine how many days per week you can study. Personal circumstances will dictate how much time you can devote to bar preparation, so be sure to factor in work, family obligations, etc. Once you map out your study schedule, share it with friends and family, so they know your availability and can respect your study time. 

Include Time for Self-Care 

Breaks are important! Incorporating a few 30-minute breaks into your daily study schedule will help you process information and heighten your potential for success. Use that time to grab a healthy snack or exercise. Both will refresh you and help you regain your focus. 

Optimize Your Study Time 

Although most bar prep programs have set study schedules, you can adjust the time you spend on each task to optimize your studies. Everyone learns differently, so it’s essential to understand what works best for you. Consider whether you retain information best by watching lectures, reading, or practicing. If you’re a “practice makes perfect” kind of person, spend most of your time answering practice questions. If you learn better by reading, review your outlines first in the morning when your mind is still fresh. 


Now that you’re familiar with the test, you know your strengths, and your study schedule is in hand, it’s time to execute your plan! 

Adapt, Adapt, Adapt

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you keep reading the same outline but struggle to retain the information, adapt! Create flashcards and have someone quiz you—answer practice questions on that subject. Try teaching the difficult concept to a friend. Don’t continue to use a strategy that isn’t working. 

Prioritize as You Adapt

As you move through your bar prep curriculum, you are bound to struggle in certain areas. Be prepared to adapt when you meet these obstacles. Consider whether the concept is heavily tested on the bar exam. Don’t waste precious hours trying to master the rule against perpetuities when it’s unlikely to appear in more than one question. On the other hand, focus on strengthening areas that will net you the most points! Answer practice questions, create a flowchart, or use any other study method to help you understand and remember the rule. 

Trust the Process, Trust Yourself. 

Don’t talk yourself out of the correct answer by letting in creeping doubt about your knowledge. The UWorld MBE QBank allows students to track how frequently they change correct answers to incorrect ones. This feature, along with our detailed explanations, gives you the ability to see where you went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If doubts about your abilities do creep in, remind yourself that bar prep is the result of a long series of successes. You got to where you are by being a strong test-taker. Bar prep is only a temporary discomfort before you accomplish your ultimate goal. So, put your head down and do the work, while trusting yourself and the process.

We hope you enjoyed these tips to study smart for the bar exam and MBE. Best of luck with your studies! 

If you are prepping for an upcoming MBE® exam and want to ensure you are thoroughly prepared, click here for our FREE trial.

MBE®, UBE®, and NCBE® are registered trademarks of The National Conference of Bar Examiners® (NCBE). NCBE does not endorse, promote, or warrant the accuracy or quality of the products or services offered by UWorld Legal.

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