February 2016 Bar Questions Are Online

Georgia’s Office of Bar Admissions has posted the February 2016 questions online here: Ga. February Bar Essays and MPTs. It is well worth your time to read through them so you have a better idea of what you will see on the actual bar exam. They have not yet posted sample answers for the February questions, but you can see sample answers for earlier bar exam essay questions and MPT questions going back as far as 2000. The New York Bar also has past questions and sample answers but the most recent ones they have posted are from July 2015.

No matter where you are taking the bar, make sure to look at the actual past bar exam questions that most jurisdictions make available. At this stage, you may not be ready to tackle them by doing practice answers but the more familiar you get with them by reading them over, the easier and more effective that practice will be when your bar course assigns you to do some (or you’re ready to do some on your own). Actually doing lots of practice MBE questions and writing out practice essay and MPT answers can mean the difference between passing first time and not. And make sure to think carefully about the “call” of each question; practice reading those closely, so you have more confidence that you know what the bar examiner actually wants to see in your response. Fight for every point!

What to Do for the Next Seven Weeks

By now, you should have started your bar review course, whichever one you chose. Your best chances of success come from a steady routine of scheduled, systematic study and work, for 48-60 hours per week. That means 8-10 hour days, six days a week, starting now if you’re not already in that routine. Here’s what Profs. Michael Hunter Schwartz and Denise Riebe recommend for this stage, in their terrific book “Passing the Bar”:

  • Do at least 34 MBE practice questions every day, striving to get your timing down to less than two minutes per question;
  • Do at least two essay practice questions every week;
  • Do at least one MPT practice question every week if your state administers the MPT or another “performance” test;
  • Master doctrinal law for three subject areas (for the MBE plus the essay topics) every week;
  • Refresh your learning of at least two subject areas every week;
  • Take a ten-minute scheduled break every hour; take a break every evening if you’ve met your daily goals (and you should schedule daily goals for yourself every week to accomplish the practice questions above);
  • Take off one day/week if you’re up to date on your daily and weekly goals.

My additional advice: use all feedback mechanisms your course offers, including practice questions, practice tests, turning in essay question answers in time to get feedback, etc. The bar exam is harder than you may expect, but it rewards “sweat equity”, i.e. putting in the time as if studying is your fulltime job.

Also, get your brain and body used to being alert during the hours when you will take the bar exam. Now is the time to reset your body rhythms if you aren’t already a “morning person”. Establish the habit of getting up by 7 a.m. or so and getting to work on your bar study before 9 a.m. If your brain thinks it shouldn’t be awake until 11 a.m., why would it suddenly do so on the days of the bar exam, when you need it to be in top form? Try to go to sleep by midnight every night so you get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. More and more research is showing us that sleep (or lack of sleep) directly affects learning, retention and retrieval of information. Yes, I know it’s the summer, but you will have many other summers when you won’t be studying for a high stakes professional licensing exam, and there’s always August. This will be over sooner than you can imagine!

Congratulations to February Bar-Passers!

We just got the pass list for the February Georgia bar exam, and other states’ results are starting to come in. Congratulations to the 31 Emory Law grads who passed the Georgia bar in February! Those of you who will take it in July — take heart! You too can do this.

Shown above, with permission: Al Haidar, December 2015 grad, at his swearing-in.

Practice (Questions) Makes Perfect, or at Least a Pass

I hope you all had a pleasant Memorial Day weekend! By now, most of you have started your bar review classes. If you have NOT started yet, you need to start NOW. Eight weeks from tomorrow, you will be finished with the bar exam! Some of you will be finished eight weeks from today! To make sure you will succeed and pass on your first try, the next seven weeks are crucial and doing practice questions is an important key to success. One analysis last year showed that students who did 2000 practice MBE questions scored 13 percent higher on the MBE. That can mean the difference between passing and not, so why leave it to chance?

Similarly, practicing with essay questions (actually writing and submitting answers to your bar review company in time to get meaningful feedback) is very valuable. No amount of reading the material and model answers can prepare you, or show you where you have gaps, as well as writing out your own answers and getting feedback in time to adjust and improve your approach. By practicing, you will also build up familiarity with the format and the look and feel of bar exam questions, which will reduce mental stress and allow you to engage more quickly and effectively with real bar exam questions. It’s a little like riding a bike; doing it over and over makes it more automatic each time you try.

If you want to practice with actual MBE questions written and tested by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, you can buy them directly here: MBE Online Practice Exams. But ask your bar review company first whether they have licensed use of those questions and will provide them to you as part of your course in addition to the ones they draft themselves.

You Graduated. Now What?

Emory Law Commencement 2016 led by Professor Richard Freer, by Frank Chen.

Congratulations — you graduated and you earned a law degree! BUT … you don’t get to practice law until you pass the bar. Sooooo … it’s time to really focus on getting ready for success on the bar. Even before you start your bar review course (and start listening to Professor Freer again!), here are some suggested actions to take right now, from the excellent book “Pass the Bar”, by Riebe and Schwartz:

  1. Develop a written bar preparation schedule for yourself that includes:
    1. Time to review bar review outlines
    2. Time to attend bar review classes.
    3. Time to master or recall the substantive law.
    4. TIME TO DO PRACTICE QUESTIONS.
    5. Time for sleep, exercise and relaxation.
  2. Make sure you have sent all bar-related paperwork in by your state’s deadline: check here: National Conference of Bar Examiners. E.g., in Georgia you must file separately to take the exam, with separate paperwork, once you have been certified as eligible through the Character and Fitness process. Deadline to do so for the July bar is June 1!
  3. Contact all the people who are important to you, explain how crucial it is that you pass the bar exam and how much time it will take you to get ready, meaning you will be less available to them — i.e., at least fifty hours/week.
  4. Do at least one thing you enjoy that you won’t have time to do once your bar review course starts, until the end of the bar exam.
  5. Remind yourself frequently of your strengths and how they will help you pass the bar exam.
  6. Any other planning ahead you need to do for things like housing, meals, childcare, pet care, other obligations.

Stay in touch and let us know how it’s going! And congratulations again on your achievement in earning your law degree!

Photo: Frank Chen, 2016.

Managing Your Time on a Multiple Choice Exam (MBE!)

As you may have found during law school, it can be very challenging to plan and manage your time on a long multiple choice exam over a few hours — and yet that is exactly what you will need to do to maximize your success on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). As a reminder, the MBE is the day-long, standardized, multiple-choice exam that you take in two sessions, morning and afternoon, of three hours each. Here is the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ description of the MBE:

The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions: 190 scored questions and 10 unscored pretest questions. The pretest questions are indistinguishable from those that are scored, so examinees should answer all questions. The exam is divided into morning and afternoon testing sessions of three hours each, with 100 questions in each session. There are no scheduled breaks during either the morning or afternoon session.

Yike. And your MBE score is very important; a high score can compensate for some weakness on the essays, making the difference between passing first time or not; and it may be transferable to another jurisdiction if you need to be admitted in another state (note: not all jurisdictions accept transferred MBE scores; you must check with specific jurisdictions).

Law School Academic Support blog to the rescue! Here is a very clear and helpful blog post about how to use a “time chart” to manage your time on a long multiple choice exam: Time Management on Multiple Choice Exams. As you do practice MBE questions this summer, I recommend learning how to create and use this kind of time chart to stay on track.

Take Notes by Hand for Bar Review

Planning to take a bar review course this summer?  To increase your chances of success, you should: 1) take notes, whether you take a course in person or by video or online; and 2) take those notes by hand. More than one study has shown that students who take lecture notes by hand (instead of on laptop) retain, retrieve and use more information more efficiently, especially when it comes to higher order thinking and using that information to solve complicated, conceptual problems. Read all about it at NPR‘s website, and in the publication Psychological Science.

Critical Information If You Will Take the New York Bar

If you plan to take the New York bar exam this summer, you should know by now that New York has moved to administering the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). As part of that change, New York will also require bar applicants to take an online exam in New York law. This week, the New York Board of Law Examiners updated information about that with study materials, test dates and registration details. It is very important for you to review all of this information, here: New York Bar Exam.

Subjects Tested on the Georgia Bar Exam

The Georgia bar exam is a two-day exam. Some parts are written by the National Conference of Bar Examiners; the essay questions are written and graded by members of the Georgia Board of Bar Examiners and their attorney assistants. For details on the Georgia bar exam dates, deadlines and logistics, visit their website: www.gabaradmissions.org.

Day 1: Two 90-minute Multistate Performance Test (MPT) questions in the morning and four 45-minute essay questions in the afternoon.

Day 2: Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), a 200-question, multiple choice exam.

SUBJECTS TESTED

MBE Subjects: Constitutional Law, Contracts/Sales, Criminal Law/Procedure, Evidence, Federal Civil Procedure, Real Property, Torts.

Georgia Essay Subjects: Business Organizations; Commercial Paper; Family Law; Federal Practice and Procedure; Georgia Practice and Procedure; Non-Monetary Remedies; Professional Ethics; Trusts, Wills and Estates; plus all MBE subjects. More than one subject may be tested in a single essay question.

Multistate Performance Test: Practical questions using a file of instructions, factual data, cases, statutes and other reference material supplied by bar examiners. Examinees are asked to draft a written work product, such as: a memorandum to a partner; a judicial opinion; contract provisions; a letter agreement; a letter of advice to a client, etc.

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam: The MPRE is taken separately from the bar exam and it is offered in March, August and November. A scaled score of 75 on the MPRE is required for admission to the Georgia bar.

MBE Scores Drop Again, to 33-Year Low

The ABA Journal reports:

The mean scaled score on the February administration of the Multistate Bar Examination fell to 135, down 1.2 points from the previous year and the lowest average score on a February administration of the test since 1983. The number of test-takers was up 4 percent from last year, from 22,396 in 2015 to 23,324 this year, according to Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which developed and scores the test.

February scores are typically lower than July scores, Moeser said, because July test-takers tend to be first-time test takers, who generally score higher on the exam than repeat takers. She said the results, while “a bit disappointing,” are not a surprise. “We believe we’re in the middle of a downward trend that is likely to continue for at least a couple more years,” she said.

The multistate bar exam, a six-hour, 200-question multiple-choice test, is administered as part of the bar exam in every state except Louisiana. The July 2015 results were also down 1.6 points from the previous year, to 139.9, its lowest point since 1988.

Doing well enough on the MBE to pass the bar exam first time is a learned skill that improves with practice. If you didn’t do one of the practice MBE diagnostic tests and workshops we offered this spring, you can still come by the Office of Academic Engagement and Student Success to pick up a test and administer it to yourself.