Prepping for the Bar Exam Performance Test: How to Beat the Clock

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 05, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

'Time's up.'

Like a death sentence, those words await everyone taking the bar exam. So when time expires, will you?

This article is about how to beat that relentless taskmaster -- the clock that winds down to the last minute of your bar exam life. Ladies and gentlemen, you may start now:

100 Hours

Blake Masters, a Stanford law grad and tech entrepreneur, passed the bar after 100 hours of preparation. So by his clock, you have plenty of time.

Like taking the exam itself, the key is to budget the right amount of time for each task. In most states, including California this year, that means preparing for a 90-minute Performance Test.

In the universe of bar exams, that is the least amount of time of any test section and suggests the least amount of prep time. Masters said he spent a "few hours" reviewing the format, rather than studying the law because "PT's test skills that can't be learned or improved quickly."

Time Tested

While 100 hours may be cutting it short, there is wisdom in recognizing the inherent limitations of a test. In a two-day exam, the PT accounts for only 12.5 percent of the exam.

In other words, 90 percent of your time -- and a corresponding amount of points -- are allocated to the multi-state and essay exams. It infuses a timeless limitation into the PT.

"There is no opportunity for reflection, research, reconsideration or redrafting," according to FindLaw's Vikram David Amar.

Finishing on Time

Mary Campbell Gallagher, writing for the Lawyerist, says the partner's memo provides the answer for success on the PT. While the test package will include a factual statement and legal authorities, the partner's memo sets the boundaries of your task.

"Nothing is more damaging to your grade than to drift away from the instructions and hand in a work product that does not respond to the Partner Memo," Gallagher says.

She recommends dividing the test into parts and timing each part. After reading the material, go back and re-read the instructions and the partner memo, and then start writing on a schedule.

"Controlling what you write according to the minute hand on the clock is the only way to make sure you will finish," she says.

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