Why You Should Study for the Bar Exam with a Minimum Competency Mindset

Here’s a common mistake that many test takers make when studying for the bar exam: they study as if they’re trying to get an A. 

When it comes to law school exams, and pretty much any other exam you’ve ever taken, it of course makes sense to try to get the highest grade you can. We’ve all been conditioned to make sure we know the ins and outs of a subject because, usually, knowing more leads to a better score.

But when it comes to the bar exam and studying for the MBEs, you need to throw out that mentality and adopt a minimum competency mindset.

You’ve probably heard this term before in a bar exam lecture or in other study materials, but in a nutshell minimum competency means that you study enough of the right material to pass the exam. You don’t study to try to get a perfect score in every subject; instead, you study in such a way that you know a little bit about a lot of things.

And if you think about it, it has to be that way. There’s no way to memorize every exception to the exception and every nuance of over a dozen subjects. As we've written before, the bar examiners tell you what subject arise most frequently on the MBEs--so your job is to identify those topics that you know are the most likely to get tested and to weight your study time appropriately.

Important distinction: adopting the concept of minimum competency is not a license to put in “minimum effort.” To be clear, we are not advocating that you take shortcuts or do anything less than be focused and study hard and smart. (Do you really want to risk taking this thing again?!) Instead, adopting a minimum competency mindset means that you tailor your expectations about how much of each subject you can (and should) learn and that you are deliberate in focusing your time on those aspects of each MBE subject that are most frequently tested.

If you get caught in the weeds trying to learn every detail there is to know, you’re doing yourself a disservice and approaching the exam the wrong way.

So in short: while your law school “shoot for an A” mentality is commendable and understandable, scrap it now. Remember that all you need at the end of this summer is to pass--so tailor your study habits accordingly.

Critical Pass Team
Critical Pass Team


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