Effectively studying for the bar exam requires distinguishing essential concepts from the trivial.
When people fail the bar exam, one of the most common explanations is the failure to distinguish between what’s important and what’s not. This can be a disastrous trap during bar prep.
You can’t know everything
The stark reality is that, within the time constraints you have for bar prep, it’s impossible to know everything that’s covered in a standard bar prep course inside and out.
There are hundreds of pages of subject matter outlines you’re tasked with knowing. All of that content can, theoretically, appear on the bar exam. But only a fraction of it actually will, particularly on essays.
The problem is that most bar prep courses cover everything. That's not wrong -- some of these issues do pop up on the bar exam. But if they arise, it's infrequent, like one or two MBE questions. Conversely, key concepts arise repeatedly on the MBE and essays.
In short, you should focus most of your bar prep on key concepts, which will be tested repeatedly.
Key concepts are the issues you spend weeks learning about in your core law school classes. Think about big-ticket concepts like easements (in Real Property), negligence (in Torts), or personal jurisdiction (in Civ Pro).
These are the areas you need to make sure you have hammered down inside and out. Critical Pass Flashcards are designed to cover all of these key concepts.
Non-essential concepts are those you see in bar prep that you never learned in law school, or that your professor breezed over. Think about discrete concepts like profit-a-prendre (Real Property), privilege of arrest (a defense to intentional torts), or quasi in rem jurisdiction (Civ Pro).
Is it possible that these issues could come up as a bar exam question? Maybe. But likely? No.
Why it matters
Key concepts come up everywhere, on the MBE and on essays, and they appear repeatedly. The more trivial, discrete issues may come up once on an MBE question, one that most people are unlikely to get right anyways.
So, you may as well focus on the areas you know will be tested over and over.
There is no way you’ll get through the bar exam without having to confront key concepts like easements, negligence, and personal jurisdiction.
Conversely, it’s easy to pass the bar exam without knowing a thing about profit-a-prendre, privilege of arrest, or quasi in rem jurisdiction. Why? Because chances are you’ll see at most one of these things come up, and if you miss that question, it’s fine because you’re not leaving any points on the table when it comes to the key concept questions.
The big takeaway
It is natural to get intimidated during bar prep by all of the information that can theoretically appear on the bar exam. If you approach bar prep with the mentality that you have to know all of it, you’re putting yourself at a deficit.
Quite simply, you can’t know everything with the time you have to study, at least not competently.
So put yourself in charge by controlling what you can control. And what you can control is mastering what you know is likely to be on the bar exam: the key concepts. If you can master all of the key concepts, you’ll be in great shape for the bar exam.