By: Mitchell McFee, Esq., Manager, Student Engagement, Helix Bar Review

Preparing for the bar exam can be a daunting task, one that requires you to make a lot of decisions – from choosing a jurisdiction, to selecting an exam prep course, to answering bar application questions – the list goes on! And once you’ve figured all that out, graduated law school (congrats!), and are ready to study – you’re still not done. It’s time to consider how to best approach bar prep, a process that you’ll tackle largely on your own.

One way to get in the proper mindset and start off on the right foot is to think about your study space. While you will often hear that you should stick with the study habits that worked best for you in law school – if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! – upon graduation, the place or places you previously used for studying may no longer be options for you. You may also realize that your tried-and-true law school study space isn’t conducive to the time and focus you need for successful bar exam prep.

So, while you are creating your plan of action for bar prep, consider a few things that will help you select the perfect study haven(s) to fit your personality.

1. Solo vs. Group

For some, studying with or around peers is a great way to maintain motivation and have accountability throughout your study period. If you’re staying near your law school for the period before the bar exam, studying in the law library and with a group from your cohort may be a good option for you. If you live further away from your classmates, organize online study sessions with friends to review and keep each other on track.

For others, studying with a group can be distracting and create additional stress. If this sounds like you, find a private space in your home or office or a study carrel at the local library to provide the focused space you need.

2. Quiet vs. Background Noise

How do you best focus – in complete silence or with white noise, music, or the hubbub of your surroundings? If the sound of silence is your friend, studying at home or in a quiet space like a library may be the right choice for you. Perhaps even add some noise-cancelling headphones to completely block out the sound and zone in on the studying.

On the other hand, if a background hum helps you focus, locations like a coffee shop or the student lounge at your law school may be great options for you. Create playlists of music that will motivate and inspire you. Get creative and try a few places in your early days of studying so you can find the spot that works best for you!

3. Consistency vs. Flexibility

Are you able to remain consistent with your study schedule from day to day or will you require flexibility with where and when you study? If you like to stick to a routine, having the same dependable study space might help you stay on track. Creating an organized area with all your study materials in one place can signal to your brain that you mean business when you enter the space and help you to stay focused and on schedule.

On the other hand, if you are studying during breaks on-the-job and at night, or are only able to hit the books when your kids are at school or sleeping, it is important to find ways to adapt to your circumstances. Set yourself up to be able to study anywhere. If you can, utilize your bar prep program’s mobile features or create study aids you can print and take with you on the go, like flashcards, charts, diagrams, or condensed outlines. This way you’ll always be ready to study! (Shameless plug: Helix Bar Review’s comprehensive courses are all designed for mobile viewing and can also be easily accessed using the Helix app.)

And here’s the best part – if you really want to optimize your study space for long term retention of the material, research shows that it might be best to mix it up.

  • Study the same material in different locations – some quiet, some filled with ambient background noise.
  • Listen to peaceful music sometimes, and study in silence, others.
  • Participate in group sessions and study on your own.

This way, your brain will assign lots of different contextual cues to what you’re learning and won’t need to re-create your perfect study space to recall the rules on exam day!

That said, you will still need to prepare for the conditions you will be testing under. So, as exam day approaches, make sure that you set aside time to practice in areas with various noise levels, in areas with different temperatures, on paper, and on the computer according to how your jurisdiction administers the exam. Most importantly, make sure to complete practice questions and written assignments under timed conditions. Preparing for all the variables you may experience on exam day will help eliminate stress and set you up for success.

While your study environment may be the last thing on your mind as you embark on bar exam preparation, brainstorming a list of locations and planning your space now will help you to hit the ground running on day one of your study schedule in a comfortable, personalized environment that keeps you focused and on task.

Ready for more? Check out our other blog posts to keep up your bar prep and licensure momentum!