This article addresses the approach that I used to prepare for and pass the Iowa bar exam, while practicing as an Attorney at Law in Illinois.  I though I would provide this information, in case it might be of use to others who are juggling work/family and the need to prepare for a second state’s bar exam:Background information

I took and passed the July 2009 Illinois bar exam, and worked for the Federal Government until February 2010.  I then left the Federal Government to work for a small firm in the Quad Cities area (IL/IA border area).  Since my new firm is located on the border of IL and IA, it has clients from both states, and I was encouraged to get licensed to practice law in the state of Iowa as well.  The firm agreed to pay for my bar preparation materials, and to allow me to take a week off (with pay) before the bar exam to study.

My bar exam study approach

I signed up for BarBri’s Iowa Summer 2010 self study program, which was an upgraded version of the self study program that I had used in Illinois the previous year.  BarBri shipped the books to my house, and provided the lectures (video and audio) via an iPod/iPad application.  BarBri also provided its StudySmart software, which is used to practice the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) questions on the computer.

Beginning about 2 months before the July 2010 Iowa bar exam, I began studying.  I spent about an hour a day, first reviewing the lecture outlines and then watching the lecture on my iPad.  During the lectures, I would often check my email, write a blog entry, etc.  This is in contrast to the total attention that I paid to the BarBri lectures when preparing for the Illinois bar exam.

Two weeks before the bar exam, I upped my studying to about 3 hours a day, continuing to first read the BarBri outlines and then watch the lectures on my iPad.  I also began writing one practice essay per day, and also started doing about a dozen of the StudySmart MBE questions each day.  Although I had elected to transfer my MBE score from the IL bar exam, meaning that I would not need to take the MBE during the IA bar exam, I still found the StudySmart MBE preparation to be a useful way of reinforcing the blackletter law in my mind.

One week before the exam, I began to study about 12 hours a day.  I finished the lectures about 2 days before the bar exam, and spent the last two days re-reading the BarBri outlines.  I also reviewed the flashcards that I had prepared for the Illinois bar exam.  I did not do any of the practice Multistate Peformance Test (MPT) questions that BarBri provided, nor did I turn in any of the practice essays for BarBri to grade.

Taking the bar exam

I found the July 2010 Iowa bar exam to be much less stressful than the July 2009 Illinois bar exam.  The essay questions seems to be easier, and I was much more relaxed throughout the test.  I had a minor problem with the exam software (it initially refused to open for the afternoon essay question session) but a SofTest employee was able to fix it just seconds before the exam started.  After the exam, I also had trouble automatically submitting the answers from my computer to SoftTest’s servers, but that problem was also remedied in time.

Getting my results

On September 14, 2010, I repeatedly checked the Iowa bar exam announcements website until the results were posted in the late morning.  I downloaded the .PDF file which contained the names of those who had passed (and the confidential exam numbers of those who had failed), and searched for my name (entering just my first and last name in the search field). My name did not appear in the document, and I had the sinking feeling that I had failed.  I then searched for my confidential exam number, but that too did not appear in the document, indicating that I was not among those who had failed.  Finally, I searched for just my last name, and found that I was indeed listed among those who had passed (it turns out that Iowa lists applicants by their full names, so by excluding my middle name from the first search, I had caused myself a few seconds of unnecessary worry!)  Always the multi-tasker, I was on the phone with my boss as I got my bar exam results, and informed him at the end of the conversation that I had passed.  I then informed my fiancé and friends/family, and then my coworkers in the office.

Although I was certainly happy to have passed the Iowa bar exam, it was no where near as exciting as passing the Illinois bar exam.  I suppose this is to be expected, since passing the Illinois bar exam meant the difference between being a lawyer or not, while passing the Iowa bar exam simply meant that I could practice in another state.


I found that preparing for the July 2010 Iowa bar exam was considerably easier than preparing for the July 2009 Illinois bar exam.  I spent considerably less time preparing, and did not feel nearly the same degree of stress.  I suppose that is to be expected, since I had already memorized much of the same material for the Illinois bar exam, and also because the stakes were not as high on this 2nd state bar exam as they were on my first bar exam in Illinois.  So, to those considering taking a second state’s bar exam, I would say “go for it.”