If you’re taking the Virginia Bar Exam in July 2016, there are a few very practical steps you need to be deciding on. I’ve tried to offer some advice on these things below.
Reserve a hotel near the Civic Center in Roanoke for the July Virginia Bar Exam.
If you don’t live near Roanoke, you must find a place to stay. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express located at 815 Gainsboro Rd, in Roanoke. I was very happy there because it was only a very short walk across a parking lot to get to the Civic Center where the July Virginia Bar Exam is administered. Traffic getting into and out of that parking lot was terrible for many people who stayed too far away to walk. Another very close option is the Econo Lodge Civic Center, and the Days Inn Civic Center. I found that booking.com had good prices on the hotels in Roanoke (but all the hotel rooms will be expensive on the bar exam dates. Usually they are around $125 – $199 per night, per room).
Pick your bar review program.
Many people choose Barbri, Themis, or Kaplan. All these options are perfectly good and reasonable choices. What controls your success the most is not which study program you pick. Many people overthink this decision. The major reason you will succeed on the Virginia Bar Exam is that you are going to be diligent about completing the syllabus on your program, honest with yourself about your progress & abilities, and you’re going to focus on the most efficient study methods.
Warn your family and friends.
Before your actual bar prep begins, you should warn your family and (non-law student) friends about your study schedule. Communicate to them when your bar review program begins and when it ends. For those close to you, designate a particular day of the week and time when you will call them to talk for a few minutes. This will give you a good break and help you maintain connections to the world beyond the bar. It will also help set expectations for others so that when you turn off your phone, they’ll understand.
Consider your weaknesses.
Look at your law school transcript and identify your weaker areas. Look for classes you struggled in or didn’t take at all. UCC is commonly one that students didn’t take in law school and that must (and can!) be learned exclusively during your bar prep time. But to be able to do this, you need to make an honest assessment of your own knowledge and skills. You’ll use this knowledge to make strategic decisions about your bar review time.
Brush up on learning.
There are some very specific techniques to maximize your bar exam study. You can read up on these things now so that you have a good idea of the most efficient study methods before you even start bar review. But let me give you this hint: The most important part of bar study is not watching lectures and filling in the outlines. As a matter of fact, some students may be able to skip an entire lecture or two and still do quite well in that subject area. This comes down to knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, and knowing the best study methods for bar exam material.
I’ve written more on testing yourself using scientifically proven methods and published this list of some of my favorite bar study tools.