Time is one of your most valuable assets while preparing for the bar exam, and the 10ish weeks that you spend studying will be over before you know it. With that in mind, here are a few ideas on how to optimize your bar prep study time.
Make a Study Plan
Most of you have probably signed up for a commercial bar prep course, which means you already have a study schedule designed to keep you on track. A study plan is an excellent starting point, but don’t be afraid to adjust that schedule to accommodate you. For instance, if you’re working while studying, you may want to start studying a bit earlier or plan on doing a lot more of the “heavy lifting” on weekends.
The most important thing is creating a comprehensive and realistic study plan you can stick to. I knew I would burn out quickly if I tried to study more than eight to 10 hours a day, so I followed advice suggesting that I treat bar prep like a 9 to 5 job. You know yourself best, so come up with a bar prep study plan that works for you.
Improve Your Study Environment
By now, you probably have a particular room or area where you like to study, whether it’s your bedroom or the kitchen table—and you’re about to spend a lot more time there. Research shows that a clutter-free workplace makes you more persistent and efficient in your learning, so take some time to tidy up your designated study space. This effort is a small yet beneficial step you can take to help make the most of your study time.
Also, mix it up if you can! Studying in different locations (even just moving to a separate room or heading outside) can increase your concentration and retention. Your brain makes connections between what you’re studying and the background sensations you’re experiencing at the time. Changing locations forces your brain to make multiple connections with the same material, thereby improving your learning.
Your day-to-day comes with distractions, such as watching television, checking text messages, and browsing social media. All these distractions can make bar prep even more challenging, so you must take steps to minimize distractions (and maximize productivity!). You can achieve that in the following ways:
- Use the “do not disturb” setting on your cell phone. Doing so will filter notifications or calls during set hours, with exceptions for specific contacts (like parents or kids).
- Take a break from social media. Many of my classmates deactivated their accounts during bar prep.
- Use an app that keeps you focused by blocking social media or limiting how long you spend on certain apps or websites each day.
- Turn off your cell phone, if possible, or keep it in a different room while you study.
Set Boundaries With Friends and Family
Let your friends and family know that you will be studying for the bar exam and that this is your number one priority (for now—it will all be over soon!). Unless they’ve studied for the bar exam or some other high-stakes exam, they may not understand why you can’t grab dinner, participate in a video chat, or hang out every weekend. Be prepared to enforce any boundaries you put in place.
Allow Yourself to Take Breaks
You know that time is a valuable asset, and you may fear that taking a break will undermine your progress. But research shows the opposite. Taking regular breaks (I took a 15-minute break every 90 minutes) can help keep you focused and increase your productivity. Remember that you’re doing yourself a favor when you let yourself take breaks.
If you’re still struggling with the idea of stepping away from your studies (you’re not alone), there are ways to alleviate that stress. For instance, maybe you’re planning on having dinner with a friend. Many of my classmates reviewed flashcards or answered MBE® questions while they waited to be seated. This habit helped them enjoy their break without worrying about lost time. As always, do what works for you—and remember, you’ve got this!
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