Improve Your Chance of Bar Success; Persist!

By now, any initial burst of energy you might have had when you started your commercial bar review course has likely worn off. You have probably done a good amount of work already, and your enthusiasm is flagging. Or, you haven’t really engaged with your bar review course yet and you’re behind in the assigned work, but you hope you can cram for the bar (hint: you really can’t). I hope these simple statistics will motivate you to get engaged and stay engaged, to improve your chances of passing the bar this July. These are school-specific statistics:

If you complete less than 70% of your bar review course, your odds of passing the bar are less than 60%.

If you complete 70-100% of your bar review course, your odds of passing jump to 91%.

Many of you are taking courses that allow you to track your progress in completion against what has been assigned, and/or the average of how much other students in the course have completed. Remember that the latter data includes students who started the course but have stopped doing it for any one of many reasons, including that they have decided not to take the bar exam at all, so they have stopped studying. That average completion rate is somewhat misleading and is irrelevant to your own odds of success, as it does not reflect the work completed only by students who fully intend to take and pass the bar this summer on their first attempt. Also, because the bar exam is not graded on a curve (it is scaled, which is different), you should not gauge your chances of passing based on just staying a little ahead of other enrollees’ average completion rates.

You should remain focused on doing the work your course has assigned, steadily and daily. Your goal should be to complete, simply, 70-100% of your course before the end of the last week of the bar study period, and make sure you have also done even more practice questions than your course may require. Do practice essay and MPT questions offered by your course, and submit them in plenty of time so that you can get and use meaningful feedback on those, if your course offers feedback. It won’t help you to submit practice questions just before the cut-off for whatever re-take option your course may have. Even if you get feedback, it may not come in time for you to make meaningful changes in your approach.

It also won’t help you to generate slapdash practice answers just to meet the guarantee requirements. Do your best to generate substantive answers to all such practice questions, and assess where you need to improve, based on feedback or self-assessment, then do more practice questions and try to incorporate any necessary changes. Even if you get positive feedback on your practice answers, keep doing them, because the more you do, the more automatically you will be able to generate strong written answers on the real bar. And that is a big help when you take a two-day exam!

Now is the time when persistence counts in your favor: think perspiration, not inspiration. Focus on effort, not enthusiasm. (You may be past being able to muster much enthusiasm for bar study by now — I know I was!). Plan your study time to build in breaks; I often recommend studying one subject or doing one task for 60-90 minutes, take a ten minute break that includes getting up and moving, then study a different subject or do a different task for 60-90 minutes. Take your next ten-minute break, and switch subjects or tasks again — including going back to the first subject if you wish. Just keep alternating like that for your whole day of study. It’s the change of subject combined with a short break that helps your brain persist. Grit, persistence, resilience — those will carry you over the finish line.

Practice Questions and Another Free MBE Diagnostic Assessment

Some of you have let us know that you’d like to try more practice bar questions. Some of the printed materials available for doing practice questions for bar study, in addition to your commercial bar review course, come from www.rigos.net. That company also offers a free, online MBE Assessment, which consists of 30 multiple choice MBE-type questions to be done in 60 minutes.  After you complete the exam and submit your answers, you get a summary of your results for each of the six MBE subjects. You also receive a detailed description of answer rationales to the questions. This is a timed assessment, which can help you get an idea of the timing you must master for the MBE.

If you’d like to try it this weekend, go here: Rigos MBE Assessment. Remember, practice makes perfect — or if not perfect, better. Other resources for additional practice on MBE questions are available at www.ncbex.org; the Emory Law library also has copies of two editions of Emanuel’s Strategies and Tactics for the MBE, now most recently in its sixth edition. Each one contains 200 actual, released MBE questions from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the same ones you can buy online from www.ncbex.org.

Remember to do practice essay questions also, and some MPT practice questions. Sometimes student believe (or are told) to focus mostly on the MBE. While the MBE score is essential to bar success, and it takes lots of dedicated effort and time to memorize everything AND get used to answering MBE questions, Emory Law students should be able also to gain needed points on essay and MPT questions, since you get such a thorough grounding in legal writing. Don’t overlook preparation to claim those points too, which can make the difference between passing and failing! Even if you don’t always write out full answers to essay or MPT practice questions, you should practice actively reading them (circling key facts, reviewing the “call” of the question, etc.) and outlining answers in writing. You want those skills to become automatic, which will help you a lot on the bar exam itself. You will find old essay and MPT questions on the websites of the bar admissions office of the state in which you plan to take the bar exam, for example at Georgia Bar Exam Essays and MPT Questions and Answers. Past New York bar questions and answers are here: New York Bar Exam Questions and Answers.

Getting SeRiouS with Spaced Repetition; and a discount

If you are studying for the July bar, you know by now how much material you have to master and you have probably outlined a work calendar/schedule for the next eight weeks. (If you haven’t done that yet, now is a good time to do so).  Making the most effective use of your study time is crucial. A tool that may help is available now from www.SpacedRepetition.com, a start-up that has adapted “spaced repetition” technology to be used in studying for the bar exam, especially the MBE. Its founder is a law professor, Gabe Teninbaum, and you can read about the technology and its application here, SRS Info, and here: Top 20 Legal IT Innovations 2017.

The site uses a unique algorithm to help students learn far more in far less time. “An important focus for SpacedRepetition.com is helping law students succeed on the bar,” he says, adding that thousands of American law school graduates fail the exam every year. “But it can also be used by students and lawyers in other contexts to help them retain other legal knowledge. It has applications beyond law, too, but law is the current focus.” Combining psychological research and web technology, the system is built on a series of electronic flashcards. The core content, called the Boost Deck, is written by law professors. “A student spends about ten minutes a day studying them, and for each flashcard they see, they rate how well they know each one on a scale of 1 to 5,” explains Teninbaum…

Users are projected to improve their score by about eight points on the bar. This has dramatic potential, according to Teninbaum, because “between a third and half of people who fail the bar fail by less than that margin”.

Prof. Teninbaum is offering a 25% discount to all Emory Law grads who want to buy the basic “Boost Deck”, which normally costs $99 for a year’s access. Go to the SRS website, sign up (you can try it for 7 days for free) and use the discount code emory25 for 25% off. If you have to list a “referrer”, put Katherine Brokaw or try Emory or Emory Law. You can also follow Prof. Teninbaum on Twitter: @SpacedRep.

This system works best if you use it consistently and daily, but it takes very little time; you get automated reminders when you should do more review. It could be a refreshing change from your primary study methods. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Congratulations to our February bar takers!

I just received the results for the February bar exam in Georgia, following results we already had from a number of other states. Congratulations to all who passed! We are very proud of you. We know you are glad to be finished, whether this was your first bar exam, or a repeat attempt, or you were taking an additional bar to get admitted in another state. We wish you a happy, pleasant, and restful weekend!

Congratulations, Emory Law graduates! On to the bar exam!

Dear Emory Law graduates: first and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS! You made it! You earned the law degree in which you have invested so much effort, expense, and time. That is a wonderful achievement and I hope you take some time to savor it.

Second (of course), if you plan to use that degree to enter the legal profession, as the great majority of you do, you must take and pass the dreaded bar exam. Fear not! You can do it. But like your degree, it will require effort, some expense, and time. You don’t have to reinvent strategies for success on the bar exam, either. There are many excellent sources of guidance by people like academic support staff who have been coaching law students to succeed on the bar exam the first time they take it. And if you are taking a commercial bar review course, which we highly recommend (not taking one is a known risk factor for failing the bar first time), they will spend the next two months preparing you to pass.

Beware of bar-related advice from lawyers who are only drawing on their own anecdotal experiences with the bar exam. There have been a number of statistically significant changes to parts of the bar exam like the MBE in the last few years, so anyone who took it more than a year or two ago took an exam that may have been easier than the one you will face. Even excellent advice from knowledgeable sources must be viewed in light of those changes. For example, I often recommend Schwartz and Riebe’s book “Pass The Bar!”. It is an outstanding guide to first-time success on the bar exam and it includes action checklists for each stage of bar readiness. However, it was published before Civil Procedure was added to the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). So do use it, but remember that it won’t discuss that subject being on the MBE.

Because of the changes to the MBE in recent years, my best advice is to aim for overshooting the passing score in your jurisdiction. Those who aim only to meet a passing score often fall short. It’s just not worth it! As long as you don’t exhaust yourself, there is no harm in doing more preparation than you may think you need. Again, beware of lawyers who tell you not to bother studying too much. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t pass first time, but it’s not a pleasant experience and not one we want any of you to undergo. It can mean the end of a job offer you hoped to get, so underpreparing is not worth the risk.

The good news for Emory Law grads is that there is really no reason you can’t pass first time, as long as you prepare diligently and make full use of the next two months. You are very capable students, and the bar exam is not an aptitude test — it is all about well-managed, diligent study and practice, which are completely within your own control. If you will be studying here in the Emory Law library and building, the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success will be hosting regular study breaks for you starting the week of May 21. Specifically, we are hosting a study break/bar review kick-off on Monday, May 21, with King of Pops and the King of Civil Procedure, Prof. Rich Freer, at 1 pm. Watch your Emory email and Facebook pages for details from me, Jennie Geada Fernandez 02L, and Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo! We’ll be here all summer, so you are also welcome to drop by for encouragement and coffee.

We’ll be sharing information periodically on this blog between now and the bar exam itself. For example, here is some great bar-related guidance (and post-bar guidance) from lawyer Paula Edgar, CEO of a speaking, executive coaching and diversity consulting firm in New York: Bar Exam and Beyond: 11 Strategies for Law School Graduate Success.

Once again, we are VERY proud of you and all that you have achieved. We look forward to cheering you on, toward and across the bar exam finish line!

Great Advice From Emory Law Grad!

Christen Morgan, Emory Law 16L

Christen Morgan 16L published a great post last month with some excellent advice for all law students with regard to bar readiness: Three Things I Would Have Done Differently for Bar Prep at The Girl’s Guide to Law School. Her points are valuable for 1Ls, 2Ls, and other continuing students as you consider your course selections for next year; and for 3Ls and soon-to-graduate LLMs as you continue to increase your “bar readiness” this semester and once you start your commercial bar review course for a bar exam this summer.

For more specifics on how you can choose courses to optimize your readiness for success on a bar exam if you will return to law school in the fall, and on how to manage your own bar readiness if you are in your last semester, go to the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success webpage and click on links for Bar Readiness, Choosing Courses, and Practice-Focused Academic Guidance. Some are behind tabs you will see if you scroll down the page a bit.

If you are wondering about course selection for the fall, you can also come to “Academic Advising in Practice” on Monday, March 26, during the Community Hour, when Jennie Geada Fernandez and I will give an overview and an introduction to resources and strategies for choosing courses, then follow up individually with one of us or with the relevant faculty members for additional guidance. See Monday’s On The Docket for details!

Steven Friedland on Bar Exam Readiness; Bar Examiners’ Visit on March 19

Prof. Steven Friedland, who has published books about bar readiness, has a great article in the current National Jurist: Using The “Four T’s” To Achieve Bar Exam Success. His advice is sound, especially what he says about staying actively engaged in your own learning process, and using active techniques to improve your learning and retention.

Spring break will be a great time to look again at “Pass The Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz, and see where you stand in terms of their pre-bar checklists, and the bar exam risk factors and remedies they identify. The spring semester will accelerate rapidly once you all return from spring break, and graduation will be upon you faster than you expect (yay!) — then your commercial bar review courses. Please use time to your advantage now, identifying areas that may be a challenge for you on the bar exam so you can address them sooner and more thoroughly, with less pressure.

Please remember that the Director of Bar Admissions for Georgia and one of the Board of Bar Examiners, both alumni of Emory Law, will be at the law school on Monday, March 19, at 12:15 to 1:45 pm. Usually the Bar Examiner asks students to review a specific past essay question in advance, so watch for an email about that and check On The Docket for any other details. You can find past Georgia bar essay and MPT questions, and select answers, here: Georgia Bar Essays and MPT Questions. A light lunch will be served but feel free to bring your own.

Have a great spring break!

More Planning Ahead for Bar Exam: Personal Finances

Prof. Goldie Pritchard has posted excellent advice on the Law School Academic Support blog, about how students who will graduate in May can plan ahead for their personal financial needs during their bar review period through the bar exam in late July. For the best odds of passing the bar the first time, the law school academic support community strongly recommends NOT working between graduation and the bar exam if that is at all feasible. Your fulltime job from May through July should be to pass the licensing exam you must pass in order to start your real career — the bar exam. It is hard work to prepare adequately for it; and the bar has gotten measurably harder in recent years, so ignore well-meaning advice from lawyers who say you can easily work AND prepare for the bar. Prof. Pritchard’s advice is here:

 I offer the following few suggestions for students to consider as they prepare to financially manage their bar exam journey.

 

(1) What’s my budget and what are my expenses?

• List current monthly/weekly expenses

• Take stock of necessities such as rent, apartment related bills, food, car maintenance and repair, gas, etc.

• Consider all obligations including current debt

• Anticipate Bar Exam related expenses such as Bar application fees (registration, application, character and fitness, fingerprints, criminal history records, driving record, birth certificate, credit reports, laptop fee, notary fee, etc.); MPRE (registration fee and reporting fee); Bar review course and possible supplemental bar review program; Bar exam day accommodations and necessities (hotel for 2 to 3 days; transportation to and from exam by plane, rental car, or personal car; meals and snacks for 2 to 3 days; parking; etc.); and relocation costs after the bar exam

(2) What savings?

I often hear from students: “what can I save? I am barely making it.” In response, I tell them “a dollar or more here and there that is set aside on a regular basis can amount to quite a bit.”

  • Distinguish between what you need, what you want, and what can wait. You might not need to purchase all items immediately. Strictly assess your use of money and leave credit cards alone.

 

  • Embrace couponing and other cost savings options for groceries and necessities. A few of my students started a couponing group and they have saved and shared items and coupons.  The money saved goes toward they bar exam fund.

 

  • Bring your lunch and coffee to school. Instead of purchasing food on campus, you could probably save a few dollars that you can set aside.

 

  • Consider “staycations” for spring break and save your money. When I ask students how much their spring break trips cost, it is often a good chunk of money that could go to their bar review or bar application costs.

 

  • Save monetary gifts. Birthday money from grandparents, holiday money, graduation money and other such monetary gifts can be set aside for bar exam needs or emergencies.

 

  • Be specific with those who want to support you. Family and friends are usually elated to hear about individuals graduating from law school and typically want to offer support to you in their own way.  I have had students who were very specific about their requests, asking for monetary support to assist with bar applications, bar review programs and expenses during bar study.  It is often surprising how many persons are willing to assist once they become aware of specific needs.

In addition to the above, you can talk with your student financial aid adviser here at Emory about whether you are eligible to borrow any more in your last semester under government student loan programs. There are also private “bar loans” that a number of students will use; for details, go to the link above under General Information.

Finally, mark your calendars for April 9 from 12-2pm, when student financial services adviser Maria Carthon will speak in Rm. 5B about student loans and the various repayment options available to students (including Income-based Repayment, Consolidation, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and much more),  details about when repayment begins, what happens if a student goes into repayment but then returns to school, what the latest interest rates are, and more. This session is open to all law students but may be especially helpful for those in their last semester.

Featured image from www.pixar.com; copyrighted.

Bar Success Affirmations for Next Week

To our graduates who will take the February bar exam next week: you can do it! Here are some positive affirmations shared by the Law School Academic Support blog:

Affirmations

“I am capable of passing the bar exam because I have done everything necessary and in my power to ensure that result”

“I have been given endless talents which I can utilize to tackle unanticipated subjects on my essays and tasks on the MPT”

“I have a process for tackling MBE questions and when I panic, I will go back to my process”

“I have prepared for whatever comes my way (proctor failing to give 5-minute warning, others getting sick, others discussing issues I did not identify, etc..) on each exam day”

“I will stay away from people who create additional stress until the bar exam is over in order to surround myself with positivity”

“When I panic about my surroundings on exam day, I will remember that I have done this before (completed 200 MBEs in 6 hours) in bar review and get into my zone”

“I am capable, I made it through law school and can make it through this exam”

“I was very focused in my preparation for the bar exam so I am prepared”

“I will turn my nervous feelings into productive and positive energy to maximize my performance on this exam”

“I know most of what I need to know and what I don’t know I have a strategy for”

“Every day I got better at the tasks and will be my best on bar exam days”

“Passing the bar exam is not ACING the bar exam, it is achieving the passing score and I can do that. I reject the spirit of perfectionism”

“I succeed even in stressful situations”

“Today I release my fears and open my mind to new possibilities”

“Whatever I need to learn always comes my way at just the right moment”

We wish you the very best, and success on the bar! You got this!

Bar Examiners’ Visit on March 19 — Save the Date!

If you plan to take any bar exam this summer, but especially the Georgia bar exam, mark your calendars to hear one of the members of the Board of Bar Examiners, who write and grade the bar’s essay questions, talk you through what they expect. This is a useful session to attend even if you will take the bar in a state other than Georgia. Other states do not always provide this kind of access, so this is a unique opportunity to hear in person from a bar examiner generally how to improve your chances of success.

Emory Law alumni John Sammon, who is the Director of the Office of Bar Admissions (and longtime former member and chair of the Board of Bar Examiners) and Henry Bowden, a current bar examiner, will be here on Monday, March 19, during the Community Hour (12-2). Watch your Emory email and On The Docket for more details as the date gets closer, but save that date and time now.