WMU-Cooley Law School hosted a Bar Panel Discussion on June 15, featuring five graduates of the law school who recently passed the Florida Bar Exam.
During the event, the panelists discussed a variety of topics, including how to study for the exam, prep courses, simulation days, and the value of having a professor mentor to help students prepare for the exam.
“The Florida Bar exam is very passable, but requires a dedicated, focused commitment,” said WMU-Cooley Law School graduate and panelist Jim Johnson. “Studying for the bar exam is a marathon, not a sprint. Like a marathon, be sure you can go the distance, and prepare not only for the content, but also simulate and undertake the conditions of the bar exam.”
Karen Smithman, Esquire, who moderated the panel discussion, shared: “It’s important to be prepared for every possible subject on the bar exam because you never know what subject will be on the test. I suggest taking a few bar classes when you are in law school. Family Law, Florida Evidence, Constitutional Law, Civil and Criminal Procedure are all testable on the bar exam and can be too much to learn for the first time when studying for the bar. Higher GPAs often correlate to a higher possibility of passing the bar – presumably because it means you learned it well the first time and now you only need to review.”
Smithman explained studying for the bar is a strenuous marathon, and can affect one’s mental health.
“Taking regular exercise breaks, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet are essential for releasing tension and stress. Our brains need intermittent breaks to absorb the complex exam information and our bodies need time to recoup from the intense preparation,” she told the group. “If you are working, try reducing your hours while preparing for the exam, if possible. Otherwise, deferring to the next bar administration is another option if you feel you need additional time to prepare. Also, lean on your family and friends to help – bring you food, run errands, clean the house — whatever you need to help you focus on studying.”
Smithman also advised reviewing hundreds of multiple choice questions, practicing using a mechanical pencil bubbling in the answer sheet, doing full bar simulations – two back-to-back days of testing, and building up your testing endurance. She encouraged students to use their bar prep program, follow their advice, and visit the Florida Bar website to find, write or issue spot as many essay exams as possible.
“You don't want to sit down and do 100 multiple choice questions in a three-hour block for the first time at the bar,” Smithman said. “Treat bar prep like a full time job – create a study schedule that works for you and put in the hours. This is not a time to procrastinate and put it off until the last couple of weeks. Bar prep is primarily a solo activity - it is very tough going even for the most successful law students. Keep your head down, stay in your seat and digest every single thing you can until the big day.”
One of the most important pieces of advice Smithman shared with the group: “Having a positive mental attitude on exam day. If you walk into the bar exam feeling like you’re going to fail, that mindset will carry through with you for the entire duration of the exam. Walk in there knowing you’ve got this – because you do.”