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New Study Reveals the Secrets to Bar Exam Success

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Two years of research into the key variables affecting bar examination outcomes has shown – to the surprise of absolutely nobody – that the more you study, the better you do.

But a deeper dive into the report reveals that not all exam prep is equal, and that students with law review or law journal experience perform better.

Those findings are from a report from the New York State Board of Law Examiners and AccessLex Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to improving legal education.

“Some factors identified in the report as influencing first-time and second-time bar passage, such as the amount of time spent studying, were obvious,” according to AccessLex. “Other factors, such as the fact that there was little connection between the number of elective, bar-tested subject courses taken and first- or second-time bar exam passage, were not. Also of note, candidates who reported greater satisfaction with their law school were more likely to pass the New York State Bar Examination on their first or second attempt, even when controlling for other factors such as LSAT score, law school selectivity, and participation in a law journal, mock trial, or student organization.”

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6 Key Factors for Bar Exam Success

Following are the six key factors for bar exam success, as shown in the NY State Board of Law Examiners/AccessLex Institute study and excerpted from this article in the ABA Journal by legal writer Debra Cassens Weiss:

  1. Burning the midnight oil. The more time spent studying, the better the outcome.
  2. Studying strategically. “In focus groups, second-time candidates said they made better use of their study time by tailoring their bar prep activities to fit their learning styles and address specific areas where improvement was needed,” according to the ABA Journal.
  3. Making law review or writing for your school’s law journal. This is more significant than class rank or LSAT score.
  4. Managing your time wisely. “First- and second-time test-takers who ran out of time on the multistate bar exam were less likely to pass,” per the ABA Journal. “Also, first-time candidates who reported running out of time on the multistate essay exam were less likely to pass. A few focus group participants said they wrote as much as possible on the earlier questions to earn more points, leaving inadequate time for later questions.”
  5. Remembering what you learned in Evidence 101. Doing well in corporations and evidence courses was predictive of exam success.
  6. Being employed and financially secure. “Law school debt and unemployment after the bar exam were negatively associated with first-time bar passage. Those factors may be having an influence because of bar candidates’ anxiety about finding a job and starting loan repayment.”

Sources: AccessLex and ABA Journal

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