Building Endurance NOW for the Bar Exam

Bar studiers, as you know, the bar exam starts two weeks from today. A recent research report from AccessLex confirms some of the advice you’ve been hearing for a while now, so here’s a summary. To maximize your odds of passing the bar on your first attempt, try these in these last two weeks.

  1. Sleep about 8 hours/night. The bar exam requires endurance and persistence, which are fatiguing. Your brain is part of your body — treat them both well so they can both support your success! Adequate nightly sleep in the next two weeks is essential. Taper back your caffeine intake so you can sleep soundly on a regular schedule.
  2. Put in full study days, up to 10 hours daily (now including on weekends), taking 30 minute breaks between study sessions of at least two hours. Breaks allow your brain to process what you’ve been learning or fine-tuning, as well as to switch between subjects in ways that support learning and retention. Getting some exercise during one of your breaks will also help!
  3. Study in the morning for 3-4 hours (not counting breaks). In the research study, bar-takers who studied in the morning had significantly higher odds of bar success. This may be because they have “trained their brains” to be alert and focused on bar topics and questions at the time of day when they will actually take the exam. If you haven’t done this yet, now is a good time to shift your sleep and study schedule so you are getting up at the same time every day when you’ll have to get up for the actual exam, and studying during the same hours when you will take it. If you’ve been working, now is the time to cut back on work and focus on bar readiness. Ask your employer to give you this week and the next off so you can study in this final stretch, during normal work hours.
  4. Take more practice exams under test conditions, both timed and sitting still in a specific location. Endurance matters when you take the bar exam — both mental and physical. You’ll want to practice answering every kind of question (MBE, essay, MPT) under the same time and space restrictions you’ll have on the real bar exam. Emory Law grads this year have access to the full set of practice materials from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, including several practice MBE exams that provide explanations once you finish the full simulations. Practicing with real, released MBE questions from NCBE is the best preparation at this stage. Not all bar courses provide those, so make sure you practice with questions made available by NCBE, and thoroughly assess your own performance so you can keep improving.
  5. Practice actually writing and producing the kind of written work product on essays and the MPT that bar examiners expect to see. Attention to instructions and details matters a lot and can affect your grade — both are entirely within your control. Use a clear format like IRAC for essays, and closely follow the instructions for content and format on the MPT questions. Review released MPT questions and point sheets.
  6. Eat nutritious food and stay hydrated. Again, your brain is part of your body, and both need good nutrition for peak performance! They also need hydration and it’s easy to forget that in the heat of summer and the final days of bar study. Staying hydrated is known to actually improve academic performance, so why not give yourself that edge?

You’ve come a long way since May! By now, if you’ve been working steadily, actively, and constructively, you should feel very confident that the work you have done will serve you well during the real bar exam. That confidence will give you a boost too!            

   

 

Three Weeks to Go — You Can Do This!

We’ve been thinking of you all, and we know how tired everyone is by now, just three weeks before the bar exam starts. You can do this! As we always say: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The final stages are crucial. Here are some tips that might help you keep going over these last weeks:

1. Finalize your plan for where you’ll take the bar exam, including reminding any roommates or family what your needs will be on those days. Make sure any laptop you have registered to use is in good working order and conforms to the requirements of the bar officials and the bar exam software. Review and follow all related instructions, paying attention to any deadlines.

2. Review the daily schedule and FAQs for your bar exam; Georgia’s are here: https://www.gabaradmissions.org/july-2021-exam-faqs

3. Quiz yourself to test your recall of all bar topics as often as possible, even in short bits of time, using flashcards, apps, or whatever you have been using to test your memory.

4. Keep doing practice questions daily: about 34 MBE questions in mixed-subject sets, every day. If you haven’t yet taken your course’s practice MBE exam, do that now and review your scores and answers carefully to make sure you understand what you got wrong, why, and how to answer correctly next time.

5. Keep doing weekly practice essay and MPT questions: 2 essays weekly, 1 MPT (and attend our online MPT workshop on July 15).

6. Take care of yourself so you’ll be in great shape for test-taking: take breaks, give yourself little rewards for completing study goals, exercise daily, eat right and stay hydrated.

7. Adjust your sleep and study schedule to be consistent with actual exam days; i.e., go to sleep as early as you will before exam days to get enough sleep and be fully alert at the time you’ll take the exam, and start getting up at the same time you’ll need to be awake on exam days. 

8. Study during the same hours when you’ll take the actual exam, to “train your brain” to be fully alert and in the habit of doing good work at that time of day.

9. Stay on top of stress, using good self-care practices, and plan ahead for how you’ll handle any stress you might feel during the exam. Remind yourself of all the work you’ve done so you can feel confident about passing the bar.

10. Plan a safe celebration for after the exam! 

Six Weeks to Go — and 80%

I attended a conference this week on bar success, and some research presented showed that bar studiers who consistently did 80% or more of their bar course’s assignments, week-by-week, dramatically improved their odds of passing the bar exam on their first attempt. They did better than the bar studiers who had completed 80% or more by the time of the bar exam but had not done so consistently over the weeks. Slow and steady wins the race!

So here we are: six weeks from today, the July bar exam will be over. Your goal between now and then should be to make sure you are completing, every week, at least 80% of your weekly assignments from your bar course. To do that, if you have to choose among bar course assignments, ALWAYS choose the most active option, which in most cases means doing practice questions. Watching videos is more passive and it’s easy to lose focus on them. So while they’re helpful, all the research shows that doing as many practice questions as possible, including practice essays and MPT questions, is by far the most productive use of your time. This is especially true if you work up to doing them under timed conditions.

Bar studiers who didn’t do any timed practice questions in this study failed the bar at a much higher rate than those who did timed practice. This is totally within your control! You can ease into it by doing essays with open notes, but holding yourself to 50% more time than your bar will allow per essay. See what you’re able to produce. Compare your work product to the model answer, and review any gaps in your knowledge. Next time you do a practice essay in the same subject area, do it in the same time you will get on the actual bar exam, still with open notes. Review any gaps. Finally, start doing closed-book practice essays and comparing your answers to the model answers. Keep reviewing any gaps in your knowledge while you also practice your timing.

What if you feel as if you’re already behind the 80% or more target? Prof. Melissa Hale suggests aiming to do 80% or more of your weekly assignments from NOW forward, taking this approach:

First, stop thinking of it as “catching up” and realize that it’s about making progress. … It wasn’t just 80% that did the trick, but rather a CONSTANT 80% over the weeks. So, no cramming at the end!  But don’t give yourself the pressure of “catching up “ – work forward and do what you can!

Second, prioritize practice. Practice essays. Practice MBE. Practice MPT. Make sure you are doing something active. Yes, you need to learn the law – so videos, and taking notes, IS important – but you should really make active practice your number 1 priority. This means making perfect flashcards, or outlines, or “reviewing” pre-made outlines over and over again, are not as effective as writing essays. I even suggest that you write some essays as open note, because THAT is active review. You can also turn multiple choice questions into “mini essays” by taking off the answer choices, and writing a paragraph long “essay.” Do this with open notes and it will help you remember the law, work on your essay skills, AND help you with multiple choice questions in general. So, even though they aren’t “assigned”, they are a great way to review law in an active way.

Now is also a good time to make sure you are training your brain to be alert and in top form during the hours when you will actually take the bar exam. This means getting up daily at the time when you will get up on bar exam days, and starting your active study at the same time you will take the exam. You can see the daily schedule for the two days of the Georgia Bar Exam here, and time your daily study sessions accordingly: July 2021 Georgia Bar Exam Schedule. For more information about the July 2021 bar exam in Georgia, go here: July 2021 Georgia Bar Exam FAQs.

AccessLex Offers Free Bar Success Webinars

Happy Spring! The AccessLex Institute has launched a new series of webinars to help support students’ informational needs as they prepare to take the bar exam. These will be especially helpful to students who will graduate this spring and take a bar exam in July, but they are open to all law students, regardless of the stage of your legal education.

Law students may register for one, or all, of these free bar success webinars:
 
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
For many students, taking the MPRE is one of the first steps towards bar admission. Learn about the subject matter eligible for testing on the MPRE, along with important logistical information, tips for studying, and more.

 
The Road to Licensure
Becoming a licensed attorney goes beyond graduating with your J.D. This session will walk you through the steps to licensure and help you find the information you’ll need to meet all of the requirements for your specific jurisdiction.

 
What You Need to Know About the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)
This session will cover each component of the UBE, including the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

 
5 Tips for Bar Exam Success
Questions about what the bar exam experience will be like? Join our team of licensed attorneys as they share some of their best tips, answer your questions, and help set you up for success.

Staying Composed During The Bar Exam

You’ve absorbed so much information already about exam-taking strategies — this is not that. These suggestions come largely from Professors Riebe and Schwartz, my favorite bar readiness authors (“Pass The Bar!”):

  • Get plenty of sleep the weekend before, and each night before, each day of the bar exam. (I will add, stay hydrated; it does help!).
  • Check your technology and allowed materials. Make sure your laptop and charger are in good order.
  • Get set up in your test location early, to allow for any unexpected situations, whether it is in your home or somewhere else.
  • After test sessions, DON’T talk to your fellow bar-takers about the exam or compare notes. They don’t know any more than you do, and you could end up feeling discouraged without there being a real basis for that.
  • Stay focused on your goal, use stress management techniques that work for you before, during, and after exams, stay positive and think of “success” as doing your own personal best.
  • Pay close attention to all instructions, before the exam and on the exam itself, and make sure to follow them.
  • Think ahead and remind yourself how you plan to use your time wisely during the test sessions.
  • Forget each section or questions as you finish it; put it behind you and focus on the next opportunity to do your best, i.e. the next section or question.
  • Remind yourself how far you’ve come and why you believe you will pass the bar.

I’ll also add, after the end of your last session, breathe deeply. You’re done. It will be a while before you get results. Try to put this whole ordeal behind you and refocus on aspects of your life that you may have had to put on hold since May. This stage is over. Be kind to yourselves and to each other. We’re very proud of all your hard work and resilience this year.

You Got This!

One week from now, your 2020 remote bar exam ordeal will be over in Georgia and in most states. Remember to double-check the instructions you have from your bar jurisdiction, including the deadline to download the exam files (10/1 at 4pm for Georgia). You’re in the last stretch of this marathon. You can do this. You can pass the bar. You don’t have to ace it, just pass it. Your law school is rooting for you and we wish you the very best.

 

Some Tips for The Last Weeks before the October Bar

No matter what state’s bar exam you will take in October, it is essential that you complete as much as possible of your commercial bar review course before then. For example, the average completion percentage of BARBRI’s successful bar-takers last summer, July 2019, was about 82%. We advise trying to do more. We also advise that bar-takers aim at having done a total of about 2000 practice MBE questions by the time you take the real thing (that includes all practice questions you’ve done since beginning your bar study). Use the tools your bar course provides to calculate how much time you need to budget daily to finish your work, including — VERY IMPORTANT! — taking the simulated MBE if you haven’t done that yet. And just as important as taking it, you must assess your own performance on it so you can target any subject areas of weakness between now and October 5.

Here’s the recorded Zoom session with Prof. Rich Freer and BARBRI’s Director of Legal Education, Jonathan Augustin, held on Sept. 23: MBE Strategies.

When you review your simulated MBE score, Profs. Riebe and Schwartz recommend analyzing WHY you got any particular answer wrong so you can plan how to do better. They identify four main categories of error: 1) reading comprehension (RC); 2) missed issue (MI); 3) error of law (EL); 4) applied law incorrectly (A). As you review your test results, jot down those letters by each one you got wrong, and identify which kind of error you make most often, then work on improving that skill.

Emory Law graduates, if you weren’t able to attend last week’s session on how to tackle the Georgia essays, plus other tips on the MPT and what you can do to reach peak bar readiness over the next few weeks, that session was recorded and you will find it on Zoom here: Georgia Bar Essays and Other Tips for Readiness. The Powerpoint used during that session is here: 

If you missed last week’s separate session with Georgia’s Director of Bar Admissions, that was also recorded and the recording is available on Zoom: Information about the October 2020 Georgia Bar Exam.

Check communications from the Georgia bar or your bar jurisdiction as to whether you will now be allowed to use any scratch paper during the MPT, as that was a recent change option, but not all states have changed their restrictions.

If this feels like a heavy lift after the long months of delay, quarantine, rule changes, schedule changes, etc. — it is. But this exam is the last obstacle between you and the license to practice law that you’ve all worked so hard to achieve. You’re almost there! You can do this! We are all cheering you on!

Georgia Bar Publishes Details About October Exam

The Georgia Office of Bar Admissions has updated its FAQ section with more details and specific logistical requirements for the remote October bar exam: here. If you plan to take that exam, please review those very carefully, as a failure to comply strictly with all requirements could result in your being disqualified. You all have waited too long and endured too many changes to have that happen in the home stretch!

As set forth in the new FAQ and in an email you should have received from the Georgia Bar this week, laptop registration is now open. It will close on September 18 at 4 pm, so please don’t leave that until the last moment. There is other paperwork you must complete, so do read their email carefully, it has detailed instructions in addition to the FAQ posted. Both are essential for you to review.

The Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success will host a special review session for Emory’s Georgia bar-takers on September 10 at 4 pm, on Zoom, to discuss how to tackle the open-book Georgia law essay questions. Check your Emory email for details and a link.

Take good care of yourselves, the light is showing at the end of the tunnel. 

New York, Illinois Will Give Remote Bar Exam in October; Other States Confirm Diploma Privileges

The ABA Journal has published the following summary today to reflect more changes announced by bar jurisdictions yesterday:

In light of public health concerns, Illinois and New York have joined the growing list of states that canceled in-person bar exams, with plans for an October remote test offered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Ohio and New Hampshire made similar announcements Wednesday, as did TennesseeWashington, D.C.Massachusetts and New Jersey during the month of July. Maryland is also offering the NCBE October exam, which the state announced in June.

Additionally, Louisiana announced on Wednesday that the state would be offering diploma privilege for candidates who graduated from an ABA-accredited law school no earlier than December 2019.

According to the NCBE’s website, Utah, Oregon and Washington are also offering diploma privilege.

Information About The August MPRE

If you plan to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”) in August 2020, please review the following information from the National Conference of Bar Examiners:

NCBE continues to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely. At this time, the MPRE scheduled for August 11 and 12 at Pearson VUE testing centers is proceeding as scheduled. If there is any change in your testing center schedule, you will receive an email from Pearson VUE. Pearson VUE is following CDC and WHO recommendations and enforcing local requirements at its test centers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect candidates. For information about the specific precautions being undertaken by the testing center at which you have a test appointment, contact the testing center directly (contact information can be found in your Appointment Confirmation email). 

Pearson VUE is posting related updates to its website.

Candidates who prefer to opt out of testing on August 11 or 12 may cancel their test appointment up until 48 hours prior to their scheduled appointment time by contacting Pearson VUE and requesting a full refund for their exam fees. If you wish to cancel your appointment, for your convenience you are strongly encouraged to do so online at https://home.pearsonvue.com/mpre. You may also call Pearson VUE customer support at 888-205-1855, but please keep in mind that wait times may be longer than normal. The next administration of the MPRE is scheduled for October 23 and 28, and the deadline to register is September 14.

Health and safety are of paramount importance to us. We encourage everyone to follow CDC, WHO, and local health official guidelines on safety precautions and restrictions.