Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

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conch republic
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Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby conch republic » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:45 pm

Graduated in May 2011 below median. To study for the July bar, I bought a set of barbri books and the online QBank from Kaplan PMBR, but I didn't take any classes. I walked out of the exam knowing that I'd passed.

After my experience, I think that spending $2500 on a barbri course (or even a few hundred on a Themis course) is a waste of your money. So I'm here to tell you that if I can self study, you can too.

ITT, I'll take any questions you have about self studying and try to convince you that you can do it and pass the bar exam.

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I.P. Daly
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby I.P. Daly » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:55 pm

conch republic wrote:Graduated in May 2011 below median. To study for the July bar, I bought a set of barbri books and the online QBank from Kaplan PMBR, but I didn't take any classes. I walked out of the exam knowing that I'd passed.

After my experience, I think that spending $2500 on a barbri course (or even a few hundred on a Themis course) is a waste of your money. So I'm here to tell you that if I can self study, you can too.

ITT, I'll take any questions you have about self studying and try to convince you that you can do it and pass the bar exam.


What bar exam did you take?

Could you elaborate more on how you structured your study schedule and how you went about studying?

Geist13
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby Geist13 » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:02 pm

What sort of materials were you able to get your hands on? Were there lots of practice exams etc.? I'm interested in this, mostly because I find the idea of paying Barbri to hold my hand a little repulsive. However, it does seem to be a tried and true method. The difference between passing the bar and not passing the bar is easily worth $2500, I would think.

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conch republic
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby conch republic » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:29 pm

I.P. Daly wrote:What bar exam did you take?

Could you elaborate more on how you structured your study schedule and how you went about studying?



I took a flyover state with a traditional pass rate hovering between 60-75%. My state weighs MBE and essays about equally, so if you score really well on one of those sections, you can slack on the other one. I don't know my MBE score, but I suspect that I dominated it and wrote mediocre essays. As that was my strategy from the beginning: I spent about 80% of my study time working on the MBE.

There are two barbri MBE books: a fat outline of all six subjects, and a thinner book called the "Conviser Mini Review" or CMR. That book, the CMR, has all the information you need to kill the MBE, so most of the time I studied from that. If there was a particular area of law that I didn't quite understand I would refer to the fat outline book, but I think that only happened 3 or 4 times.

To practice MBE questions, I started with the ones in the barbri books, and then moved onto the Kaplan Qbank. For each subject, the barbri books have six sets of questions; you should never do the 5th or 6th set, as they are ungodly difficult and will merely destroy your confidence. Instead, you should do sets 1-4, and then switch to Kaplan's questions. The Qbank is great because it records statistics on exactly which subjects and areas you are weak on, so then you can go back to the CMR to relearn whatever you're weak on. At an absolute minimum, you should do 1,000 practice MBE questions to get ready for the bar.

I focused so much on the MBE, that the essays were kind of like an afterthought. I outlined the state subjects, wrote a couple practice essays, outlined a couple dozen answers, but that was about it. For the performance tests, I literally just looked at a couple old questions the day before that part of the bar. (For those unaware, the performance tests are closed-universe essays where you are given an assignment, caselaw, statutes, and any factual materials needed to write an answer. They are set in a fictional state, and you are not expected to know any law for them.)

For an excellent overview of why you should seek to maximize your MBE grade, see http://www.lawschooldiscussion.org/index.php?topic=4010818.0

**One caveat: some states don't grade the same as mine. Instead, they require that you get a minimum MBE score and a minimum score on the state-specific portion. (SC and FL are like this, I believe.) If your state is like that, then obviously a strategy of maximizing your MBE score is not going to be optimal.

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conch republic
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby conch republic » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:38 pm

Geist13 wrote:What sort of materials were you able to get your hands on? Were there lots of practice exams etc.? I'm interested in this, mostly because I find the idea of paying Barbri to hold my hand a little repulsive. However, it does seem to be a tried and true method. The difference between passing the bar and not passing the bar is easily worth $2500, I would think.


You can buy used barbri books on ebay. If you can't find them used, barbri will sell you a new set without making you buy the class...although they don't like to advertise that, and they will charge you a pretty penny.

I did lots and lots of MBE practice questions (see above); for the state essays, I only really practiced a handful, but I looked at most of the questions and model answers that were available from past administrations.

Barbri gets people to pay $2500 with the promise of passing the bar (and the subtle insinuation that you'll fail without them), but the truth is you can pass it on your own. The bar exam is nothing more than a law exam, which you've been taking for three years now. The differences are 1) it tests multiple subjects, 2) it doesn't test as much depth as your law school exams, and 3) it's easier to prepare for because you can access thousands of practice questions and you know exactly what material they'll be testing. The dirty little secret that barbri doesn't want you to know is that if you put in enough time, you will be guaranteed to pass. It doesn't matter if you study on your own, watch barbri lectures, or do another prep course...the ONLY thing you have to do to pass is put in enough hours of work.

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I.P. Daly
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby I.P. Daly » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:50 pm

conch republic,

Awesome, thank you for the response!

Based on your post, is it correct to deduce that you don't think audio or video lectures are a necessary or important part of bar prep?

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conch republic
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby conch republic » Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:27 pm

I.P. Daly wrote:conch republic,

Awesome, thank you for the response!

Based on your post, is it correct to deduce that you don't think audio or video lectures are a necessary or important part of bar prep?


You know how you learn the law. Are you an audio/visual learner or someone who learns better by reading a book? I believe the answer to that question will tell you a lot about whether self-studying will work for you.

For what it's worth, I'm more of a book learner. And I'd heard from older students that the barbri lectures varied in quality from superb all the way down to a guy standing at a podium reading the outline. I know a couple students who stopped going to lectures after the first week and just studied from the books. And I think even the people who stuck with the lectures throughout the summer would concede that they did most of their learning from the book material. It is my opinion (gained from standing on the outside looking in) that barbri's lectures are just a time for all the students to come together and know that they are on the same track and pace as everyone else.

Also, the Kaplan Qbank came with audio lectures covering all the MBE sub-subjects. They are pretty dry, but a couple came in handy when I took a long road trip and listened to the areas of law that I was testing poorly in.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 12:15 pm

I have no vested interest, and I took BarBri, but the lecturer's outlines themselves may have been one of the most valuable parts ot Barbri. The books don't really tell you what is likely to be tested versus what isn't. Maybe that is the bulk of the value for BarBri - the lecturers telling you they KNOW X will be on the exam, so know it inside and out, while Y hasn't been tested for 10 years, so skim it.

That said, having gone through it, I bet I could have self-studied using just the barbri books. The Barbri online part that tells you your strengths and weaknesses was also very helpful though, but you could run that sort of analysis yourself if you really wanted.

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thesealocust
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby thesealocust » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:20 pm

I shall definitely be self-studying out of philosophical objection to the test-prep industrial complex.

A big motivator is that the prep companies seem to instill a lot of fear and paranoia that I don't need in my life. Was this your experience having friends and colleagues in prep courses? How did your schedule / ability to have flexibility and free time and calmness during the summer compare to theirs?

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conch republic
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby conch republic » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:37 am

NotMyRealName09 wrote:I have no vested interest, and I took BarBri, but the lecturer's outlines themselves may have been one of the most valuable parts ot Barbri. The books don't really tell you what is likely to be tested versus what isn't. Maybe that is the bulk of the value for BarBri - the lecturers telling you they KNOW X will be on the exam, so know it inside and out, while Y hasn't been tested for 10 years, so skim it.

That said, having gone through it, I bet I could have self-studied using just the barbri books. The Barbri online part that tells you your strengths and weaknesses was also very helpful though, but you could run that sort of analysis yourself if you really wanted.


I maybe should really made it clear that I only used the barbri CMR to learn the basic MBE material, after that I used the feedback from the Kaplan PMBR to figure out what areas I needed to pay attention to. (There is another company that sells an online question bank similar to Kaplan's, but I forgot their name.) That really helped me hone in on the areas that I needed work, and Kaplan's questions mirrored the proportion of questions from each area of law that would appear on the MBE.

That being said, I don't think that you should spend very much time trying to game the MBE by guessing what areas of law are more likely to be tested. I think your energy would be better spent trying to master as much of the MBE material as you can. I say that because, as pointed out in that LSD link above, there is a point where each additional question you get on the MBE provides you an exponential rate of return on your scored scale. (In other words, it's just like the LSAT: it might take two correct answers to move from a 160 to a 161, but it may only take one correct answer to move from a 173 to a 175.) If you can get up into that part of the curve, then you will demolish the MBE, and you could literally make up law on the essays and still pass the bar. And getting to that level is not very difficult--you just have to do enough practice questions.

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conch republic
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby conch republic » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:47 am

thesealocust wrote:I shall definitely be self-studying out of philosophical objection to the test-prep industrial complex.

A big motivator is that the prep companies seem to instill a lot of fear and paranoia that I don't need in my life. Was this your experience having friends and colleagues in prep courses? How did your schedule / ability to have flexibility and free time and calmness during the summer compare to theirs?


Absolutely, this really hits the nail on the head. I took the barbri midterm at the same time as the people in the class, but at that point I was way ahead of them on MBE prep (and way behind on essay prep). However, the barbri midterm seemed to test on the most esoteric points of law, and I think they did that to really scare everyone. For example, I was getting about 65% correct on the Kaplan online questions (which are generally acknowledged as more difficult than the real MBE), but I got something like a 53% on the barbri midterm and felt like shit, even though at that point I probably knew the stuff well enough to pass already.

Most of my friends in barbri constantly felt behind. My understanding is that they assign you a massive amount of work each week and track how much of it you completed. I only heard of one person who was at 100% in early July. Most people said they were down in the 60s. My belief is that their primary objective is to scare people into doing the work. And if that's what you need to pass the bar, then it may be worth buying the class. I, however, was scared enough of failing that I forced myself to work (more so as the summer went on) and effectively overcame my normal lazy/procrastinating ways.

My goal at the start of summer was to work 40 hrs/week. (And if you do that from early June through the bar exam, you WILL pass. Guaranteed.) Of course, those first weeks were like 1 hr/day of work, and the weeks right before the bar exam were like 60 hrs of intense studying...which was really not that much different than my friends in the class.

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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby starrynight62 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:13 pm

I am totally intrigued by this. If you (or anyone who knows) is still around, a few questions:

(1) If I understand you right, all you used were the Kaplan QBank and the two Barbri MBE books, plus your own materials for the state essays?
(2) The Barbri MBE books are identical for every state, right? If I am taking, say, the Ohio bar, I could buy someone's California Barbri materials?
(3) How did you get access to the "Barbri midterm"? Is that included in the two books you mentioned?

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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:27 pm

Great thread. It may help to remember that the bar pass rate in many, maybe most, jurisdictions is above 75%. (California is probably the lowest at 65%, but many test takers are from non-ABA accredited law schools.)
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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thesealocust
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby thesealocust » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:46 pm

I also studied without a course (used a $99 baroutlines.com course for NY) so I'll add my two cents:

The $99 course is much shorter than BarBRI or Kaplan (my roommates were in those two so it was easy to compare) and consisted of ~30-40 hours of audio lectures (covering MBE subjects and NY subjects) plus a long, nearly comprehensive outline for each MBE subject and each NY subject (including NY differences for subjects common between the two). On top of that it had tons of MBE questions with answers in an online databank.

The materials were - as they described upfront - a "defensive" approach designed to focus on the most frequently tested topics then an overview of nearly all topics including less frequently tested ones. No bar review course is comprehensive and no student can study every potential topic/rule subrule that could be tested - no matter how you prepare you'll see stuff on the exam that isn't familiar.

To supplement that I also used the essay questions and real answers posted on the NY bar website, which were incredibly helpful, and I believe may have left me better prepared for some essays than the people doing BarBRI or Kaplan.

starrynight62 wrote:I am totally intrigued by this. If you (or anyone who knows) is still around, a few questions:

(1) If I understand you right, all you used were the Kaplan QBank and the two Barbri MBE books, plus your own materials for the state essays?
(2) The Barbri MBE books are identical for every state, right? If I am taking, say, the Ohio bar, I could buy someone's California Barbri materials?
(3) How did you get access to the "Barbri midterm"? Is that included in the two books you mentioned?


(1) That would probably be enough.

(2) Yes, the MBE is the same in every state and preparation for it is likewise the same. In fact, everybody in the country will take the MBE on the same day - with state essays/MC questions the day or two before/after depending on the state.

(3) Just FYI there are lots of sources of MBE questions. You can buy old ones from the company that produces the MBE, you can buy old MBE books from Kaplan/BarBRI/Themis on ebay or locally, you can buy books just designed to teach to the MBE, and the company I used (baroutlines.com) has a bank of hundreds of MBE questions.

CanadianWolf wrote:Great thread. it may help to remember that the bar pass rate in many, maybe most jurisdictions is above 75%. California is probably the lowest at 65%, but many test takers are from non-ABA accredited law schools.


Yep, and if you add some extra caveats (foreign vs. U.S. takers, first time vs. repeat takers, takers at decent (tier 1ish) schools vs. takers at all schools) you'll find that many jurisdictions are really sporting 90%+ pass rates within your population.

68% of the people who take the NY bar pass it - but 82-85% of first time takers from U.S. law schools passed, and from my school each year well above 95%, sometimes as high as 99-100% pass.

starrynight62
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby starrynight62 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:57 pm

Awesome, thanks. From hearing feedback from people who have taken Barbri, I'm pretty convinced this is the way to go for me. I'm almost certain that I would just end up self-studying with the Barbri materials even if I enrolled in the course.

I'd totally appreciate hearing any additional thoughts or advice on this topic!

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iShotFirst
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby iShotFirst » Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:16 pm

Not sure if this thread is still active at all, but:

I am self-studying for the bar exam (Florida). I planned to gather many different types of material to help in my study. This is my plan:

Barbri books + essay advantage, CMR
Kaplan Qbank + Audio lectures
Baroutlines.com Books + audio lectures
http://www.paullawbooks.com book

I am thinking that having the different books can help me because they will each approach the subjects from slightly different angles. Would I be better served by just focusing on one set of materials or is this a good strategy?

TheGreatFish
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby TheGreatFish » Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:23 am

iShotFirst wrote:Not sure if this thread is still active at all, but:

I am self-studying for the bar exam (Florida). I planned to gather many different types of material to help in my study. This is my plan:

Barbri books + essay advantage, CMR
Kaplan Qbank + Audio lectures
Baroutlines.com Books + audio lectures
http://www.paullawbooks.com book

I am thinking that having the different books can help me because they will each approach the subjects from slightly different angles. Would I be better served by just focusing on one set of materials or is this a good strategy?



I self-studied for the CA bar and passed. I purchased a few different study materials, but in the end I only used the CMR. Most of the books will have essentially the same information, but presented in different ways. It's mostly about picking your preference. If you have the money, get a few different books, find the ones that you like the best, and stick with them. If the Barbri books are presenting the information in a way that's easy for you to absorb, then there's not much need to dive into the Kaplan materials. Definitely take a look at the Conviser Mini Review. If you wanted to, you could probably pass with just that one book.

Don't neglect the performance test section if the Florida Bar has one.

_crystal_m
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby _crystal_m » Sun Jan 20, 2013 6:51 pm

How did you study for the essays and PTs? This is my second time taking the ca bar. I scored excellent on the Mbes but really low on essays. (50-65s across the board)

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iShotFirst
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby iShotFirst » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:39 pm

TheGreatFish wrote:
iShotFirst wrote:Not sure if this thread is still active at all, but:

I am self-studying for the bar exam (Florida). I planned to gather many different types of material to help in my study. This is my plan:

Barbri books + essay advantage, CMR
Kaplan Qbank + Audio lectures
Baroutlines.com Books + audio lectures
http://www.paullawbooks.com book

I am thinking that having the different books can help me because they will each approach the subjects from slightly different angles. Would I be better served by just focusing on one set of materials or is this a good strategy?



I self-studied for the CA bar and passed. I purchased a few different study materials, but in the end I only used the CMR. Most of the books will have essentially the same information, but presented in different ways. It's mostly about picking your preference. If you have the money, get a few different books, find the ones that you like the best, and stick with them. If the Barbri books are presenting the information in a way that's easy for you to absorb, then there's not much need to dive into the Kaplan materials. Definitely take a look at the Conviser Mini Review. If you wanted to, you could probably pass with just that one book.

Don't neglect the performance test section if the Florida Bar has one.


Thanks for the advice, I think I'll continue with my plan above then.

TheGreatFish
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby TheGreatFish » Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:32 am

_crystal_m wrote:How did you study for the essays and PTs? This is my second time taking the ca bar. I scored excellent on the Mbes but really low on essays. (50-65s across the board)


I hardly studied for the 6 CA essays. There's just far too many possible issues that can be tested. There's no way to be completely prepared for everything, and I found the studying to be a very inefficient use of time. You could spend weeks trying to memorize all of the rules for torts, contracts, etc., and you might not even get a question on one of those subjects.

I spent most of my time focusing on the MBEs and the PTs. Putting significant time into these sections can give noticeable gains, which can easily make up for your essay scores.

For the PTs, you want to figure out your time management plan and then practice applying it over and over until you can stick to it. All of the information you need to write a great answer for the PTs is right in front of you. The challenge is getting the answer down in the 3 hour time limit. If you can set up a plan that you can stick to every time, you should be able to do fairly well. If you haven't developed a time management plan already, there are a lot of websites that give sample plans and advice for tackling the PTs. Just perform a search on google.

If your only problem is with the essays, you may also want to consider the possibility that your writing skills are deficient. If you think that might be the case, you may want to look into general writing help. I knew a lot of people in law school who knew the law very well, but had a difficult time getting a decently written answer down on tests. There are a lot of resources online that can help improve writing, and quickly too. The Elements of Style is a handy book for improving writing skills that can be found here: http://www.bartleby.com/141/

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Gamecubesupreme
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby Gamecubesupreme » Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:13 pm

Where is a good place to purchase all the required materials for the bar?

Does Amazon carry them?

TheGreatFish
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby TheGreatFish » Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:26 pm

Gamecubesupreme wrote:Where is a good place to purchase all the required materials for the bar?

Does Amazon carry them?


You can find study materials on Amazon. I managed to snag a full set of used BarBri books from Ebay for $150. You can find good deals like that if you start looking early.

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iShotFirst
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby iShotFirst » Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:28 pm

Any tips on how to make a study schedule, or resources around the web? I got my materials and now am overwhelmed by seemingly dozens of books. I am terrible about making study schedules for myself so Im hoping there is some external guidance available.

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thesealocust
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby thesealocust » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:27 pm

iShotFirst wrote:Any tips on how to make a study schedule, or resources around the web? I got my materials and now am overwhelmed by seemingly dozens of books. I am terrible about making study schedules for myself so Im hoping there is some external guidance available.


Put everything away until June.

TheGreatFish
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Re: Taking questions on how to self-study for the bar.

Postby TheGreatFish » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:55 am

iShotFirst wrote:Any tips on how to make a study schedule, or resources around the web? I got my materials and now am overwhelmed by seemingly dozens of books. I am terrible about making study schedules for myself so Im hoping there is some external guidance available.


BarBri puts out a sample study schedule that you can probably find on google if you look hard enough. If you have a friend taking BarBri, ask them to scan a copy.




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