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The Varieties of Bar Review Methods

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

Unless you're an autodidact (and it's highly likely you're not), you'll need some help studying for the bar exam. This help usually comes in the form of a bar review course that costs thousands of dollars. That seems expensive, but trust us -- you don't want to take the bar exam more than once.

So what are the varieties of different bar review methods and courses? Here's the lowdown.

Little Boxes on the Hillside

There are three nationwide bar review companies: BarBri (which has become synonymous with bar review just like "Kleenex" is synonymous with facial tissue), Kaplan (formerly PMBR), and Themis. Each one will desperately attempt to convince you that it's the best, but really, they're all basically the same in terms of curriculum and most of the add-ons.

The catch is that while BarBri and Kaplan offer both classroom and online courses, Themis is exclusively an online course. Some people prefer the convenience of watching videos at any time, at any speed, while others need the pressure of having to go to a physical location to rouse them to action. Still others just can't pay attention to a video; they need a live person to keep their focus.

As we've said time and again, use whatever method works for you.

It's All About the Essays

Every bar review course will have gazillions of MBE questions at their disposal, but the key to a good review course is essay grading. You, as a person who's never taken the bar exam before, can't grade your own essays. You just don't know what a good essay looks like and what the bar examiners want to see in an essay. That's where your test prep company comes in: Usually, they've hired people who are former bar essay graders or who've been trained by former bar essay graders.

Pick the bar review course that offers you the most essay grading for the lowest price. Some courses will offer to grade as many essays as you can write, while others will give so many for free, then make you purchase packages of essay-grading opportunities. Also consider that your law school may offer essay grading programs.

Practice Makes Perfect

Whichever bar prep company you select, it should also offer at least one full-length, real-life bar exam. The bar is three grueling days of six hours of testing each day. You want to get an idea of how that's going to affect your performance before you actually take the exam. In other words, don't let the bar exam itself be the first time you sit down for the full 18 hours of testing.

Aside from that, practice as many multiple choice questions, essays, and performance tests as you can in the meantime. Pay particular attention to timing so that you don't run out of time. These are also considerations that your bar review course should take care of.

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