Home Stretch – Bar Exam Crunch Time Advice

First, thank you to everyone who responded to the survey/poll! Apologies for my delayed post, but I realized making the last day of the survey before my post the day of the big game was foolish, so I allowed for more responses through yesterday. The results are below:

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I am going to start with the easiest two groups first:
To the 6.9% of people that were at 85% or higher whether you hit it on January 31st when I first put the poll out or February 5th: I have no advice for you other than to continue practicing and reviewing. To be honest, I am in awe of you for reaching that percentage with four weeks to three weeks to go until the exam and you should be proud and feel good about going into the exam, because you killed it.

To the 31% who are on track: You are in an excellent position, you have likely hit your prep company’s pass percentage statistic or will shortly, and are on pace to finish probably a week ahead of time, if I recall correctly (obviously this is a generalization, a 20% range is fairly large). You have done enough to clearly see where your strengths and weaknesses are, so take advantage of any free time, either after you hit your goal percentage (theoretically everyone wants to hit 100%, but I think generally speaking we can agree hitting the pass statistic is satisfactory and also it can be borderline impossible to hit 100%) or simply when you are not doing the end of your bar prep assignments, hit those weaknesses. If you are not good at MPT’s for example, perhaps listen to a lecture again or go through an outline or read an example and sample answer from a prior exam or exams. As I have mentioned before and will discuss below, there are different ways to pass the UBE depending on your strengths, where you focus, and so on. However, you too should be entering the exam comfortable with the percentage completion you achieved.

To the approximately 27.6% who are or at the time of answering were between 45 and 65%, keep calm and study on. You still have 20 days to hit your par company pass statistic and bear in mind that you do and will remember more on test day than you think you do now. Trust me, you will be surprised. With that said, if possible continue on your program while targeting your weak areas; for example, instead of completing a multiple choice set, if you are not doing well on your essays or certain essay-only topics, opt for a practice or graded essay on the topic.

For the roughly 34.5% who answered either 25-35% (which was a typo, the 3 was meant to be a 4) or “Not talking about it,” either because you are 1. uncontrollably nervous regardless of how much you completed; 2.  Didn’t fall into a range because I had a typo; or 3. Feel as though Bar Prep has messed you up or confused you more or you just had a lot of circumstances arise that prevented you from studying, some tips:

  1. Depending on which company you have, you probably have had lecturers tell you that the Bar Exam is not a law school exam. They mean this predominantly regarding the standard (it is one of minimum competency, rather than a fight for the A+), in some circumstances, the form some questions take, MPT’s, and so on, do not let that undermine your confidence – the bar exam IS still like a law school exam/exams, or it was when I graduated a few years back. Multiple choice questions? Still “Pick the BEST answer.” Essay Writing? Still IRAC format (or some people use CRIAC or IRAirac, whichever) and still use headings as appropriate, still apply the rule to the facts at hand, etc. MPT’s? First year legal writing, you did memo’s and/or briefs and so forth. Since then, you have (presumably) worked in the field, honed your skills with your experience and your continued academic work. You know how to formulate a rule, you know how to write persuasively or objectively and the indicators for each. In other words, in some ways the Bar Exam is like or tests on skills you already developed in law school. My suggestions would be to enter the exam with your head held high and at the very least, you know it will be or has been a learning experience. But as the saying goes, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
  2. Think about Different Ways to Slice the Cheesecake: Sorry, I was going to say pie or pizza but cheesecake feels more up my alley tonight. But as I have discussed before, the exam can be “sliced” different ways and logically speaking if you know your weaknesses and strengths, you still have time to tailor your studying method to one. For example, if you hate and do not get or do well on MPT’s, focus on “the Big 7” or the MBE topics and the MEE topics and get in as much practice and review as possible on both. Issue spot, do practice question sets, do practice essays and then compare them to sample answers. You can even buy last July’s Bar Exam Essay Questions and model answers with their grade breakdown from the National Conference of Bar Examiners study aid store for $20.00 and instant access via a downloadable file. If you want to see how the examiners grade or how answers are structured, I would recommend doing this. Note: The MBE and MEE account for 80% of your score; you can theoretically pass the exam if you kill those portions. The same is theoretically true if you are uncomfortable with MEE essays or a particular topic but like or are good at MPT’s – the MBE and MPT portion account for 70% of your score, and it would be nearly (I mean, you would have to try..) impossible for you to get a 0 on every MEE essay. Further, it is reasonable to assume that the interactions between some of the MBE topics and MEE topics and a review of past UBE’s that at least 10% (2 MEE essays or – more likely – possibly 4 hybrid essays) of your MEE score will come from MBE topics.
  3. Know the Bar Exam “Rules” cold: You should know by now that, for example, in criminal law assume common law applies unless stated otherwise, know that you are to assume pure comparative negligence unless otherwise stated, etc.
  4. Use different study techniques and tools and talk to other people – not about how far they are, not about who got what done, but just the law – auditory and conversational learners in particular can benefit from doing so.
  5. Invent mnemonics, acronyms, phrases etc. that work for you if you do not remember the short cuts, songs, phrases, acronyms, or songs that your bar prep program used. For example, some of mine: Specific Intent Crimes are a CATS BAFFFLER. Yes, I threw in an extra ‘f’ and yes, that is a silly memory device, but it works and I remember it (specific intent crimes are Conspiracy, Attempt, Solicitation, Burglary, Assault, First Degree Murder, Forgery, False Pretenses, Larceny, Embezzlement, Robbery). Need another example? I studied General Intent crimes in MKRIB (General Intent Crimes are Manslaughter, Kidnapping, Rape, False Imprisonment, and Battery.
  6. Take advantage of supplemental materials you have/purchased that are simpler to understand (for you) or are shorter and more concise if you are feeling the pressure with 20 days to go.
  7. Regardless of the above, practice, practice, review, and practice more. If actively interacting with material helps your recall, then by all means make your own diagrams or flowcharts, miniature outlines in a sequential format, and so on. Don’t stop there either. Write down side notes or things you recall in margins, color code things, highlight – anything that works for you and keeps you engaged with the material.

Finally, if you have other questions, remember you are not alone. There is a facebook group consisting of law students, bar examinees, and attorney’s that you can join/be invited to, you can comment or reach out to your bar prep company or a supplemental company, you can comment here, on twitter, on facebook – these days, communication is definitely not an issue. I may be uploading more materials but at this point I am not sure how useful doing so would be.

In the event that you find my tips terribly unhelpful, simply keep doing what you already know works for you. In the event that we (person to person) do not speak prior to the exam, I wish you all the best of luck and encourage you to go into the exam as optimistically and confidently as possible!

Bar Prep Tips: Why You Should Not Panic Yet

Whether you were sick, caught up in the holiday spirit, traveling for the holidays, or otherwise were unable (or unwilling) to stay on schedule for Bar Studying, there is a chance you may be a bit panicky upon resuming your study schedule. While the degree of panic likely varies with how far behind you fell, it is not time to panic yet and to do so this early on could well have an adverse impact on the resumption of your studying.

  1. Assess what you missed and draw up a schedule: Rather than constantly checking your schedule of assignments and getting anxiety over those which you missed, take an inventory of sorts of the assignments and their types and plan a schedule that will get you caught up in a reasonable amount of time. DO NOT make an unrealistic schedule; set achievable goals. Otherwise, your stress levels will likely increase if you do not meet your goals.
  2. Determine what you NEED and look to the MBE: Did you miss a major MBE topic? If so, prioritize the MBE topic over a non-MBE topic. Why? The 7 MBE topics constitute 50% of your exam score and are also fair game for essay testing and often provide a foundation for topics reserved for the essay portion (Example: Contracts and Property are foundational for Trusts/Wills/Secured Transactions; Constitutional Law and Civil Procedure are foundational for Conflicts of Law, etc.). In UBE jurisdictions, that means MBE topics can account for 50% up to –  arguably -65% [Note: I know the actual math would be 80% if tallying the MEE and MBE portions, but it would be irrational to think that the 6 essays will be strictly or only on the MBE topics, but I can foresee potential for 3 essays or the equivalent of 3 essays in terms of points, such as in “hybrid” essays covering more than 1 topic]. In theory nailing down MBE topics should also help with studying and understanding essay topics such as Trusts, Secured Transactions, and so on.
  3. Are you a “pro” on the/a topic you missed? If you look at the topic(s) you have missed and find that you took them during law school and feel fairly comfortable with them, rather than spend a lengthier amount of time reading those outlines, try merely reviewing the mini outlines/ final review outlines/ study sheets, or whatever shorter outline your bar prep company provides. This will save you time and allow for you to move onto lectures and practice questions faster. If there is something you do not remember or are confused about, take note of it and look in the longer outline later.
  4. Ensure you have a support system: First, if you are looking for a supportive environment or area where you can talk to other examinees/law students/graduates and so forth, message me and I will add you to a group on facebook with over 1,000 members. Next, make sure that the important people in your life understand as best they can that you cannot be disturbed or pressured into taking time off of studying due to the important nature of the bar exam and if not all of them understand, try to communicate solely with those who are supportive of your current and temporary situation.
  5. Shameless self promotion: If there is something that my materials cover and you find them helpful, please make free and liberal use of them. More contracts will be uploaded soon, but if there is a specific subtopic or even a subject you would like me to create or post materials for, contact me and request it.
  6. Mind over Matter: Remember, you are fully capable of passing this exam; you survived law school and finals and probably at least one grueling internship or placement or clinic, etc. Do not let falling behind for a bit make you question your ability to pass – there are still nearly 2 months left!

Feel free to peruse my website for other tips and tricks (more/updated posts will be coming), and look for an updated product review for Studicata tomorrow – the app has features that I had yet to discover when I first published my review and I find them helpful, hence the updated review.