Get the timing right
Whether you choose to go to a real class or take the class in your pajamas, Sims advises against spending 14 to 18 hours a day studying, regardless of whatever urban legends they might’ve heard. “That is neither physically nor mentally possible,” he says. Eight to 10 hours a day is enough to blow the top out of the bar exam—as long as those hours are spent actively learning. Alternating between 15 minutes of studying and 30 minutes of panicking/Instagramming your study materials/watching ‘Game of Thrones’/et cetera doesn’t count.
What’s the bare minimum a student can do and still perform well, though? “That’s almost impossible to answer because everyone comes with a different foundation of knowledge,” Sims explains. That said, he’d never advise someone to try to get away with studying for four hours a day.
It’s a tall order for people who hold jobs while studying for the bar, but Sims stresses that they shouldn’t be discouraged. “First of all, for those who are working, it is absolutely doable,” he says. “That’s the important thing to remember.” But they do need to plan on some long weeknights and hard weekends. The most helpful thing working people can do is get 12 to 14 days leading up the exam off and spend that time doing a concentrated final review.
In the midst of all that studying, Sims recommends a few off days. “You have to keep eating, you have to keep sleeping, call your mother—she’s proud of you—and if you have a significant other you still want to have after the bar exam, make some time for him or her,” he says. (If you’re looking for a passive-aggressive way to get out of your relationship, there’s your out.) “It’s cliched, but the bar exam is a marathon,” Sims says. And the best way to support someone who’s going through it is to remember that failing can keep her from making a living and achieving her dreams. It’ll give you some patience if they’re being absolutely insufferable.
Don’t let your law school grades define you
Asked if there’s a difference in the way students from T14 schools and students from schools approach bar review, Sims says he doesn’t see one. A more reliable differentiating factor is law school GPA. Top law school students tend to study with either a laissez-faire attitude or single-minded obsessiveness. On the other end of the spectrum, Sims has seen poorer law school students treat the bar with less seriousness than he’d like. But why? “I don’t know,” Sims says. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking with law school academic support professionals about this, and it’s a very common phenomenon.”
Now, imagine yourself close to the finish line. It’s a week before the big day. At this point, Sims says you should engage in a rolling review (for example, a subject a day for six days). But when you arrive at the day before the exam, it’s time to put down the books. “Don’t study,” Sims says. “Come on.” After all, if you don’t know the material by now, there isn’t much hope for you. Sit down for a good meal and get a solid night’s sleep. Tell yourself that you’ve done all you can, so now you’re going to pass the test, and that’s that. “I’ve seen people talk themselves into failing,” Sims says. Don’t be that person.
Get the timing right