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In 2018, fewer than 75 percent of people who took the bar exam passed on their first try, according to the American Bar Association. This is a lower percentage than in 2017. In fact, pass rates for first-time exam takers have been falling since 2013. 

If you want to be in the elite group of people who pass the exam on their first try, preparedness is key. Everyone has different studying techniques, but here are a few tips that can help you as you’re finding your perfect study plan.

How Many Hours Should I Spend Studying?

For average law students, 400 hours of study time is recommended in preparation for the bar exam. Half the time should be spent memorizing and learning the law, and the other half should be spent completing practice questions. 

When planning the total amount of time to spend studying, don’t overestimate yourself. If you struggled in law school, you may need to dedicate more time to your studies. The same is true for people who are taking the exam a few years after graduating from law school. It never hurts to spend more time studying than you may need. 

When Should I Begin Studying?

This can depend on your own schedule. If you’re studying full-time (40-50 hours per week), you should begin preparing at least 9 weeks before the bar exam. If you have a job and other responsibilities that cut into your studying time, you may need to start studying 20 weeks before the exam. 

What Topics Should I Focus On?

Spending the proper amount of time studying won’t be effective if you’re studying the wrong material. Make sure you focus most of your time on the topics that are questioned more frequently in the exam. For example, you should spend more time looking at criminal procedure than pretrial procedure because there are likely to be more questions about criminal procedure. Here is a great breakdown of topic frequency

Which Study Materials Should I Use?

When studying, it’s best to make sure you’re referencing questions released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. Many commercial courses write their own questions instead, which doesn’t prepare you as well for the bar exam. 

As for your style of studying, do what works best for you. If you learn by memorizing flashcards, take the time to create and study them whenever you have a spare moment. If you’re more of an interactive learner, find a study group so you can interact with the material in a different way. Regardless of how you study, make sure you’re actively learning with each hour you spend looking at material instead of mindlessly floating through your study time.

If you prepare early and properly, you should be well on your way to passing your exam. Best of luck!