Tuesday, September 10, 2019

How To Pick The Best Bar Prep Course



Hey, friends!

This is a post that I've been wanting to make for awhile, ever since I picked my bar prep course last fall. However, I decided to hold off on making a post because I didn't want to be that person that advertised my methods for picking a bar prep course and then subsequently failed the bar. Can you imagine? Luckily, I got the news back recently that I PASSED THE BAR EXAM! Thus, I am starting my series on the bar exam and all things about it. And when it comes to the bar exam, I was trying to think of what would make sense to post first and I figured, why not talk about picking a bar prep course? So here we go!

Know Your Options

This might seem obvious, but the first thing that you need to do when picking a bar prep course is to know your options. Of course, there are the commercial course available. You've probably seen student representatives tabling at your school trying to sell you a course since first semester 1L. Barbri, Themis, and Kaplan seem to be the main courses available. Quimbee, AdaptiBar, BarMax, and other companies also offer courses, although they seem to be less popular. 

Another option is checking with your school. A lot of schools offer bar prep courses, either during the school year or for the summer after 3L. Sometimes these are meant to be comprehensive, sometimes these are meant to be a supplemental tool to another full, comprehensive course. A lot of the time, these are either free or included in tuition, so definitely check with your school!

Lastly, there is a self-study option. You can gather books, materials, and your notes from law school and study on your own. I'll be honest, I don't know a lot of people who do this because it's a lot harder. You have to be extremely disciplined, and there's something to be said for getting instruction from someone who knows what they are doing. 

When to Buy

This was a question I struggled with - when is the right time to buy a bar prep course???

Well, truth be told, if you are buying a commercial course, it is cheaper to buy early. But you don't necessarily have to make a decision and purchase a course 1L year. To me, that's far too early. So when I say you should buy early, I mean second semester 2L through first semester 3L year. For me, I purchased a course in October my 3L year. I got a good deal, and it allowed me time to think through my decision and not commit to something I didn't want too early. It seems like most law students choose a course around this time.

How to Decide

The hardest part about picking a bar prep course is probably actually deciding which one you want to get. And truth be told, the right choice is different for each person. You're probably thinking "But Bailey, just tell me which course is best!" But the truth is, I can't. Because what worked best for me might not work best for you. So instead, I'll tell you some things you can do to help you decide!

  • Most bar prep companies (at least the three major ones - Kaplan, Barbri, and Themis) offer a free MPRE course. When you take the MPRE, I recommend trying out the free course and seeing which ones you like. The bar prep course will likely be similar (at least in format) to the MPRE course, so it's basically a free trial.
    • I can't emphasize this option enough. I took the MPRE three times - twice using one course, when I failed. Third time I used another course - increased my score by 30 points and passed by a huge margin. Took the bar prep course from the company I took the passing MPRE course with and I passed. 
  • Look at your budget and consider costs. If you've started looking at bar prep courses, you know that they can be pretty expensive. Obviously, at the end of the day, it's worth paying for something that can be integral to passing the bar. But, that doesn't mean you should throw out your whole budgeting plan to pick a top course. If you have a firm paying for your course, this might not matter. If you're going into public interest or a clerkship, a cheaper option might make a big difference.
  • Ask your friends who just took the bar what their honest reviews of the courses they took are. Ask what they like, what they didn't - not just general thoughts. Some people may want a course that focuses more on writing practice, others may need more multiple choice help. Some may want to be in a more guided course, others may want more freedom. Ask lots of questions.
  • Lastly, ask student reps and the companies themselves. Obviously, this information would be a little more biased because at the end of the day, these companies are trying a product. However, it might help you get answers you need. 

Then, take these considerations and weigh them. You might have a clear answer, or they might all sound the same to you. Truth be told, if you take a course and honestly put effort into doing the work you will probably pass the bar. They are all good courses. So don't let it stress you out too much. 

Which Course Options to Pick

Another thing you might have noticed is that once you pick a company, you have to pick a course. Some companies offer in person classes, some offer live stream classes, and others offer fully self-paced online classes. When it comes to choosing which of these options you want, my biggest advice is to know yourself and your study habits.

Do you want flexibility with time? Maybe an online only option is great for you. Do you want a bit more structure in your day to keep you on track? Maybe go with an in-person class. A combination of both? The live stream class might be best. Think about whether you want to be social, whether you want to study at home,  and what structure has previously worked for you in the past.

For me, I wanted something scheduled in my day to keep me on track. I originally chose an in-person class, but that class unfortunately got cancelled and I switched to a live stream class. This was great for me. I had class from 8:00 a.m. to noon daily, and then spent the afternoons and evenings on my study activities like practice questions, essays, and reading. However, I had a friend who travelled a lot in the summer and needed flexibility, so she chose an all-recorded option.

Just consider your lifestyle, study habits, and summer plans!

Supplements?

The last thing I want to address is whether you should get any sort of bar prep supplementary tools in addition to a course. When it comes to bar prep, you can get a number of different study aids in addition to commercial bar prep courses. As if spending literal thousands of dollars on a course wasn't enough. So you might be wondering whether or not you should also pick up one or two of these supplemental tools.

To be honest, I did use a supplemental tool. I used an MBE outline set from Crushendo. These were audio and written outlines that helped me supplement the materials I had from my bar prep course. It was nice to have something written differently for subjects I didn't understand, or to be able to play the audio outlines when I was cooking dinner or working out.

I know several people swear by buying a set of commercial flash cards. The Critical Pass Cards seem to be a favorite, with Kaplan flash cards trending right behind.  While I love flash cards, I chose not to get these because part of why I like flash cards is because actually making them helps me learn. However, I know people SWEAR by these.

So, I would recommend getting a supplement of some kind. It's nice to have information that is written differently than the way your bar prep course has written the information, and it's especially nice to be able to change up your routine. However, if you can't afford an extra tool, do not stress about it!


Overall, you have to choose the bar prep course that is right for you - and that means something different for everyone. However, most of the commercial courses out there are pretty good and I am sure you will do fine with whatever course you choose. 

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