Skip to content

Dean Kulwin's Tips for Bar Study

Posted By Kevin R. Johnson, May 27, 2010

Senior Assistant Dean Hollis Kulwin recently sent this e-mail to the Class of 2010.  I think it's definitely worth sharing on this blog!

Best of luck to our Bar Exam takers!!


Dear Class of 2010,

Congratulations once again on your graduation!!  Now that you're studying for that "little summer test," I wanted to share a few study tips which, hopefully, will be helpful whether you're studying for the California bar or elsewhere.  And, of course, if I can be of help over the summer, or even if you'd just like a "pep talk," please don't hesitate to contact me.  And don't forget that Professor Randon and our wonderful faculty are here for you too!

Best wishes,


BE CONFIDENT.  You've graduated from an excellent law school and completed a rigorous program of study.  Each and every King Hall student is well prepared to handle the demands of the legal  profession and the bar exam.  Each one you has the ability to pass the bar exam the first time you take it!

DECIDE THAT YOU WILL PASS ON YOUR FIRST TRY.  It's natural to have doubts and fears.  However, one of the surest ways to fail is to think "I'll just use the first time as practice" or "I don't have a job yet, so this doesn't matter."  What you'll do with your law license after you pass the bar is temporarily irrelevant.  What's important is to decide that you will take the bar exam seriously and pass the first time.    A common statement from students who fail the bar is "I wish I'd taken bar study more seriously the first time-if I'd studied harder and partied less, I would have passed because that's what I did the second time."  Don't be that person.

TAKE BAR STUDY SERIOUSLY.  Make your best effort to complete the assignments that your bar review course gives you.  Stack the odds in your favor by doing the readings and the practice exercises.  

EMPHASIZE ACTIVE LEARNING.  In the next two months, you will have to memorize numerous rules and definitions of elements of rules.  Don't spend most of your time simply reading your bar review course outlines.  This is "passive learning," which is not particularly effective for retention.  Engage in "active learning."  Annotate your outlines and take practice exams (including practice MBE questions and practice Performance Tests) under exam conditions.  If taking practice tests under timed conditions is too scary at first, start with untimed practice tests and work your way up to timed ones.

BE REALISTIC.  The bar examiners require competency, not perfection.  Commit yourself to learning as much as you can without expending unnecessary energy worrying about your inability to master every iota of the study material.

PACE YOURSELF.  Don't overdo the studying.  Instead, look at the bar exam as a full-time job.  Plan to spend 40-60 hours per week at your studies. 

BE GOOD TO YOURSELF.  Take some time off and relax.  You'll find that you study more efficiently if you take regular breaks.  Plan those breaks as part of your study schedule.  Rest is crucial to maintaining the sharp mental edge necessary for success on the bar exam. 

TRY NOT TO MAKE MAJOR CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE.  Change causes stress, and you want to avoid adding stress during this already tense period.  Try to avoid any unnecessary significant life changes for the next two months.  This is not the time to go on a diet, stop smoking or start a new relationship.

THE DAY BEFORE THE EXAM.  Try to avoid studying the day before the exam.  After all, having already put in two solid months of studying, one additional day is not going to add significantly to your  knowledge.  Instead of studying, take the day to relax.

TAKING THE EXAM.  Manage your time and remain calm.  Don't panic if you don't know everything.  No one does.  Remember -- the exam is testing for competency, not perfection.