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Studying for the Bar Exam - How to Be Prepared

April 3, 2024
5 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 10/20/23

Whether you are an aspiring or current law student, you are probably also thinking of studying for the bar exam. This article provides some tips and advice on best practices to prepare for the bar. 

Student sitting on bed with laptop studying for bar exam

The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is a standardized test that evaluates anindividual’s skills and knowledge to ensure they are prepared to practice law. Most bar exams take place over the course of two days

Passing the bar is extremely important if you want to pursue a successful career in law. However, this is no small feat. The bar exam is known for being a challenging test that requires intense preparation and knowledge. 

You may have a lot of questions about how and when to start studying for this important exam. Continue reading for some helpful tips and answers to commonly asked questions to help you prepare.

Bar Exam Preparation Tips

The American Bar Association hosted a webinar with new lawyers who shared their tips and advice on preparing for the bar exam, which includes maintaining a balanced study schedule and reaching out for help when you need it.

There are some states that are notorious for having difficult bar exams. Here are some other tips to help you with preparing, studying and passing the bar exam. 

Start Preparing Immediately

You should start preparing for the bar exam during your first year of law school. All the information you learn throughout your degree is important and will come in handy. How you perform throughout the courses and tests of your JD will also be a good indicator of how much bar exam preparation you need. 

Find What Style of Studying Works for You

Develop an effective study routine that works for you and allows you to retain as much information as possible. Make the most of your study time. As the USC Gould School of Law says: study actively, not passively.

Eliminate Distractions When Studying 

This goes hand in hand with finding an effective study style and routine. Reducing or completely eliminating distractions while studying will help you maintain your focus and get the most out of your time studying. 

Practice Diligent, Continuous Review

Plan out a study schedule that will work for you and allow you to continuously and consistently review your study materials. Don’t jam all your studying into a few days or the first few weeks of studying. 

Female student studying diligently

Keep Class Notes and Other Materials 

Keep all your notes and assignments for study guides, reviews, and potential topics that may show up on the exam. Keeping well maintained notes makes it is easier to go back and find certain topics to review, and it also reduces time spent looking for study materials. 

Utilize Your Materials Effectively

Don’t spend tons of time making fancy study materials! Many students make the mistake of spending hours on flashcards that are not effective. 

Set a Schedule for Studying That Works for You 

St. Francis School of Law recommends studying an average of twenty hours per week. Make sure you plan a schedule that actually works for you and allows you to continue your studies and other obligations. If you overwhelm yourself or are disorganized, it will most likely negatively affect your studying habits. 

Utilize Campus Resources

Be sure to take advantage of the resources available to you on campus, such as student clubs that may host peer-led study sessions or even a bar review course. 

Memorize and Understand 

Here are some suggestions that may help you memorize for the bar exam:

  • Read notes and materials out loud: Some people memorize better through auditory means, like listening and reading out loud.
  • Rewrite definitions and key information: Having a solid understanding of legal doctrine, definitions, and concepts will especially come in handy for the essay portion of the bar exam.
  • Rewrite outlines from memory: Rewriting outlines from memory can help gauge how much you have memorized, and is also a good tool for rereading notes and information.  
  • Create charts, tables, and other visual guides to help you organize and memorize information: Some people are visual learners, and engaging with material in different ways can also help solidify your understanding and memorization. 
  • Study with friends and test each other: Studying with friends and testing each other on the material can help you memorize, and test how much material you have already memorized.

Trying these tips will ensure you are practicing both memorization AND understanding of the materials as you study. Try them out!

Complete Online Practice Tests 

The American Bar Association recommends taking multiple practice exams. This way, you can track any improvements and progress you have made, and also time yourself on how long certain sections take to complete. 

Female student working on laptop

Do Research on Past Essay Questions

One major advantage when going into the bar exam is to have an idea of what to expect, so you are not thrown off guard. Identify any patterns or similarities in past essay questions to potentially focus on, or at the very least be aware of. 

Identify Your Weaknesses and Areas for Improvement 

While studying, you will most likely notice areas or topics that you are struggling with more than others. Identify these, and set up a plan to strengthen your understanding on topics you may not be as confident with. 

Take Breaks and Practice Self Care 

While continuous review and study will increase your chances of success on the bar exam, make sure to take breaks and rest. Cramming all the information and burning yourself out will reflect in your performance on the exam. 

Eat Well and Sleep Well 

Make sure you are eating well and getting enough sleep while you prepare for the Bar Exam. It doesn’t matter how much studying you do if you show up to your bar exam exhausted and burnt out. 

Taking care of your physical wellbeing is important when it comes to doing your best on the bar exam. It will also mean you are present and actively engaging with your materials and information while you are studying!  

When To Start Preparing for the Bar Exam

The National Jurist states individuals who are studying for the bar exam full-time (that is, 40 to 50 hours a week) should begin studying at least nine weeks before taking the bar exam

For those who have other obligations, such as school, work, or family, St. Francis School of Law recommends studying for at least 15 to 20 weeks before the exam, dedicating 20 hours per week.  

However, you should start gathering materials, using bar exam study guides, grasping legal knowledge, and determining when to start bar prep as soon as you begin your degree. Your JD is essentially preparing you for the bar exam! 


Here are some answers to frequently asked questions in case you have more questions. 

1. How Many Days a Week Should I Study for the Bar Exam?

St. Francis School of Law suggests studying at least 20 hours per week if you start studying 15 to 20 weeks before the bar. If you start studying closer to the bar exam, you should study at least 40 hours a week. 

How you split up this time is up to you; you should plan a study schedule that works for you and meets the recommended study hours per week. 

2. How Do You Memorize for the Bar Exam?

There are various methods of memorization that you can try, and you can pick the one that works best for you. Using methods such as studying with friends to test each other and creating charts from memory are useful ways to test and practice your memorization.

Preparing for the bar exam is a long process, and you don’t have to cram everything in all at once. Trying to study too much too quickly will most likely mean you will memorize less. Take your time and make sure you’re comfortable with a specific set of materials and knowledge before moving on. 

3. How Long Does It Take To Prepare for the Bar?

So, how long does it take to study for the bar? It takes a long time to prepare for the bar. Most sources recommend studying for 400 to 600 hours to prepare for the bar exam. How you choose to schedule these hours is up to you! 

If you like to study in shorter bursts, start studying earlier to spread out your study time. But if you prefer to study for longer periods of time, then you can start studying a few months before the bar exam. 

Make sure to keep in mind other obligations you may have when planning out a bar exam study schedule. If you have a job and other commitments, starting at least six months before the exam is probably your best bet. If you are not working, or have no other commitments, starting three or four months before the exam will probably be sufficient. 

4. How Do You Prepare for the Bar Exam?

The biggest piece of advice that will help you in the long run is: start preparing as early as possible. Cramming most of your studying at the last minute greatly decreases your chances of successfully completing the bar exam. It can also lead to a lot of stress and anxiety overall. 

There is so much information to learn, understand, and memorize; the more you are on top of it all, the better. The earlier you start, the more time you have to prepare, organize, and schedule in study time. 

Preparing earlier can also ease general anxiety and stress about taking the bar exam. Going into the bar exam feeling confident and prepared is key in performing well. You likely know more than you even think you do! 

Get Ready for the Bar Exam With Juris

Preparing for the bar exam can be overwhelming. Luckily, you don’t have to do it on your own. Juris Education is here to give you a helping hand! 

Juris offers personalized Bar Exam training with experienced UBE tutors to help you perform your best on the exam. We’ll help you with studying for the bar exam, increase your score, identify what matters the most, and work with you to make sure you’re confident in your knowledge. 

If you begin your bar exam preparation early and utilize the resources available to you, you will find the task much more manageable. Good luck!

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