Updated June 27 2021. Originally published January 15 2020
The key to passing the bar is simple in theory, difficult in practice: Do everything in your power to prepare for it. That includes taking a bar review course and spending countless hours studying material, taking practice tests, and analyzing your progress.
Students get there in different ways. Some prefer studying alone. Others like the camaraderie of a group. Coffee shops might be your venue of choice, or maybe it’s the local library.
No matter what your preferences are, though, you will have to spend a good amount of time reviewing material at home. And when it comes to maximizing the efficacy of those sessions, you’ll need to create a study space that works for you, because the process is unlike anything you’ve gone through before.
What Your Study Space Should Look Like
Let’s eliminate some options, to start. Your bed isn’t a study space. Nor is your couch with the TV blaring. You need to be focused when you open your laptop, books, and notes, and having distractions nearby won’t help in that regard.
Ideally, you’d have a desk or home office to use for dedicated bar review work. If those aren’t available, get a little creative. Grab a corner of a table, and when it’s time to study, make it your own with books. Just make sure there’s enough space for a laptop, notebook, and papers, in addition to your review materials.
You just want to know that when you sit down, you’re there to study.
Now, once you have your spot picked out, you can start to optimize it. That begins with lighting. Natural sunlight can do wonders for your studying. It provides an energy boost and can lighten your mood. It also adds extra motivation to get outside as a reward for your hard work. So, if you can set up shop near a window, do it.
But if that’s not an option, a small lamp is the next best thing. LED bulbs are energy efficient and can isolate small areas with light. When you’re burning the midnight oil for a long study session, you’ll be glad you have a lamp nearby.
You’d love to have an ergonomic chair, one that supports good posture and is comfortable, to boot. That’s not realistic for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with a typical office chair—so long as you get up from time to time. By now, it’s well known that extended sedentary periods can have adverse effects on your health. Even if you’re in the zone, make it a habit to get out of your chair every few hours to stretch.
Better yet, set up a standing desk. You could purchase a lightweight one, but a stack of magazines and/or shoeboxes suffices. Just make sure you have a yoga mat or soft rug to stand on. The option will get you out of your chair and add much-needed breaks to your longer sessions.
Having a designated space, good lighting, and solid seated and standing options will go a long way in setting you up to prepare for the bar exam. But you can still customize your study space to fit your personality. For example:
Add small plants to your desk or surrounding area. They look nice and may have health benefits, such as a reduction in stress. If nothing else, bar prep is stressful.
Keep pictures of family, friends, pets, and other loved ones nearby. Bar preparation can get lonely, especially during those long sessions at home. Having little mementos around you can keep those important people close to your heart.
Light candles (assuming they’re permitted). The flickering wick and sweet aromas lift the ambiance of the room, while adding a calming presence.
Get a pair of noise-canceling headphones. They’ll help limit outside distractions and enable you to soundtrack your studies, no matter your musical preference.
Now that you have your home study space set up, open those books and get started. Keep in mind that part of successful bar preparation is finding what works for you. Yes, you should maintain good habits (waking up and going to sleep at the same time, eating three meals a day, mixing in exercise regularly), but you should also remain flexible.
If you’re not feeling as productive as you’d wish, change up your scenery. Switch the playlist you’re listening to or go without music altogether. In the end, passing the bar is the only thing that matters, and finding a studying groove is the best way to achieve that goal.
As a first time bar exam taker, if you don't pass the Uniform Bar Exam after completing Pieper's Full Bar Review Course, you can re-take our next course for free!
Pieper Bar Review teaches students the legal concepts and exam skills necessary for success on the bar exam, and reinforces students’ knowledge through thought-provoking examples and bar exam questions. Pieper’s courses do more than teach the material to students. They enable students to master concepts as they are tested so that students can excel within the time constraints of the exam. The proof that the Pieper teaching method works is found in the success of our former students—now present-day attorneys—and we encourage you to speak with as many of them as you can.