Practice for Success on the MBE!

Dear graduating students: Congratulations on entering your final semester of law school! Although this May will mark the end of your formal legal education for most of you, we know you are very aware that the biggest test is yet to come: the bar exam. We want to help you position yourselves for the best chance of success on it the first time, as there is much you can do between now and the end of July, in a less time-pressured way, to improve your odds of passing the bar first time.

 

First, some data. Our analysis of Emory Law’s bar passage rates over the last couple of years tells us that if you are an Emory JD student with a cumulative law school GPA below 3.2, regardless of LSAT or undergraduate GPA, you are at some risk of not passing the bar the first time you take it. If your Emory Law GPA is below 3.05, you are at higher risk of a poor outcome on the bar. Law school GPA is not the only risk factor an individual student might have; for more information, see the handouts outside Dean Brokaw’s office that have a chart of risk factors and how to address them.

Second, some solutions. The same chart suggests multiple ways to counter any risk factors you might have. One is that with early, diligent self-assessment and practice, you can improve your bar readiness well before you begin your commercial bar review course. A valuable first step is to take an MBE diagnostic exam and workshop. This year, the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success is offering two such MBE workshops in February, as previously listed in On The Docket. The first one is this Saturday, February 9. If your Emory Law cumulative GPA suggests that you may be at risk, and you do not plan to take this first workshop, we strongly recommend that you register for the second one, which will be on Friday, February 22. Even if you will take the 2/9 workshop, sign up for 2/22 — you can take both! 

Dozens of your classmates have already registered, but there’s room for more of you. The registration link is in the email sent to all 3Ls and LLM students previously.

A number of Emory Law faculty will also present MBE overview sessions this semester, to introduce you generally to the topics and sub-topics that can appear on the MBE portion of the bar exam. The first MBE Overview session took place last week, with Prof. Rich Freer talking about the MBE generally as well as the Civil Procedure portion of that test. While we do not routinely record these sessions, Prof. Freer did allow us to record his, and the link to that recording can be found on this blog in a recent post. Upcoming confirmed dates for more MBE subjects are:

2/18 – Evidence with Prof. Shepherd in 1E from 12:15 – 1:45pm

2/20 – Contracts with Prof. Pinder in 1C from 12:15 – 1:45pm

2/27 – Constitutional Law with Prof. Fred Smith, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, room TBA (see upcoming On The Docket)

3/4 – Property with Prof Dinner in 1E from 12:15 – 1:45pm

Date pending confirmation: 3/6, details TBA. Save the date!

There are links to additional, useful, bar-related information on this blog. We suggest that you subscribe to it so you get an email whenever new information is posted. We look forward to helping you cross the finish line to start your new careers!

Happy New Year! Bar Readiness 2019

Welcome back to all Emory Law students, but a special welcome back to you who will be taking a bar exam soon! We have a busy schedule of programs every spring semester to help you get ready to get the most out of the commercial bar review courses you will likely take after graduation, so please look out for announcements in On The Docket and in flyers on the electronic bulletin boards. You can also subscribe to this blog to get an email when there is a new post.

We will kick off our annual spring semester series of in-house “bar readiness” programs in late January, but you should take some steps now, before our first program (which will be on January 28, at lunchtime). That will be a Q&A session with Jennie Geada Fernandez about the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, or MPRE. We will then start a series of “MBE Overview” sessions, led by our own faculty, with Prof. Rich Freer walking you through the topics that can be tested under Civil Procedure, on 1/30, during the community hour. Save the dates! And watch On The Docket for details about location, etc.

1) Inform yourself about the requirements and testing for admission to the bar where you hope to be admitted. Every state has its own bar admissions rules and office, and you MUST comply with that state’s requirements. You can view them in detail at the website for the National Conference of Bar Examiners, www.ncbex.org. We strongly advise you to bookmark that site, as well as the official bar admissions site for your chosen jurisdiction. If there is any contradiction between the information provided, it is the state’s official bar admissions website and rules that will supersede any other guidance, so you need to read those carefully. NCBEX writes and scores tests such as the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”), the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”), the Multistate Essay Exam (“MEE”), and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”). The last, the MPRE, is given three times a year, separately from the rest of the “bar exam.” Not all states administer all three standardized tests that are given together (the MBE, the MPT, and the MEE). For instance, the state of Georgia writes and grades its own state-specific essay questions, instead of the MEE. States that DO give all three standardized components are giving a “Uniform Bar Exam”, or UBE. You should educate yourself about that at the NCBEX website.

2) We recommend the book “Pass the Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz. Although some of its information is out of date, such as the exact coverage and breakdown of the MBE, it remains one of the most useful bar readiness books available, since it includes action checklists and various charts to help you keep track of what you are doing to prepare, in addition to sensible, humane, time-tested advice for success on the bar exam. You can see a copy in the law library if you want to take a look at it before you decide whether to get your own copy.

3) The law school will provide at least two MBE Workshops this spring, at no added cost to you. The first one will be on February 9, from 10 am – 4 pm, and will be given by Kaplan. Watch On The Docket for more details and information about how to sign up. These workshops involve you doing a number of practice MBE questions, and then a professional bar lecturer explaining those questions and answers, and the strategies for doing well on the MBE.

4) If you haven’t yet signed up with a commercial bar review course, you should get that done before the end of this month. We don’t endorse any course over another and we suggest that you use the tools in “Pass the Bar!” to make an individual assessment as to which course is right for you. However, NOT taking a strong commercial bar review course is a known risk factor for failing the bar on the first attempt, and no one wants that to happen to you. Find the course you want, and sign up for it now! Most will offer you some “early start” materials, and working on those between now and May will likely reduce the time pressure and resulting stress you may feel during the intensive bar study period after graduation.

5) Plan a “bar vacation” for AFTER the bar exam! It’s fine to take a short week off after graduation before your commercial course class sessions start, but save the long vacations for August, after you’ve taken the bar. Your fulltime job between graduation and the end of July is to prepare for, take, and pass the bar exam. You’ll enjoy your vacation so much more once that is over!

Again, welcome back, and happy 2019! We look forward to helping you get ready for graduation and the bar exam.

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

Life Happens, Even When Studying for the Bar

The Law School Academic Support blog always has much wisdom to share, and its most recent post is no exception: The Inevitable Roller Coaster: Bar Review. All of it is worth reading, and I hope you will, but I wanted to highlight this section:

Life Happens

At a bar exam program presented several years ago, a speaker announced that everything that can go wrong will go wrong during bar review and everything you have ever wanted to do will become a possibility during bar review. She continued that bar review is only a few weeks and months out of your entire life and you will likely have the opportunity to experience many of the things you miss out on at some point in the future. Over the years, I note that Bar Studiers experience a range of life occurrences including: death in the family, breakups with significant others and spouses, issues with character and fitness on the bar application, car accidents, financial challenges (even with planning), lack of food, familial demands and expectations, emotional and physical impact of socio-political events, and much more. Life does not simply stop because you are studying for the bar exam. You will have both good days and not so good days and your reaction to and feelings about everything will be amplified.

You might waste a day or a half a day attending to real life situations and that is okay and necessary but it does not mean that you will be unable to complete your preparation for this exam. If however, life completely takes over and when you assess the situation you recognize that you are unable to sustain the pace and expectations of bar review then you might want to have a conversation with someone. You want to discuss alternatives or develop a new game plan to achieve your goals. Be open and honest with yourself and those helping you. (emphasis added).

I believe you still have time to readjust your bar study schedule now for success on the bar exam in July. But please do not avoid having this honest conversation with yourself. Avoiding the issue will not solve it. Addressing the issue by taking concrete action is likely to solve it, at this point in time. At some point soon, that window may close. Don’t take that risk — assess what’s going on with your life and bar readiness now, and you will improve your odds of success!

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.

Nine Weeks …

Nine weeks from today, most of you will be done with the July bar exam! That’s hard to envision, since most of you also just started your bar review courses. Here are some pieces of good news, which I hope you will find encouraging:

  1. In nine weeks, this will be over. No, it won’t be the best summer of your life, but it will be over before August and you can still go to a beach, lake, or whatever destination fits your budget and your need to relax.
  2. You have NINE WHOLE WEEKS to focus on getting ready to pass the bar on your first attempt. If you manage your time well, keep up with your courses’ assignments, and treat bar preparation as a daily job, that is a good amount of time. Don’t let one of those workdays or weeks get away from you — it might feel good now, but it sure won’t later.
  3. You are a very bright student community and most of you WILL pass the first time — IF you put in the time, do the work, and do more than 1800 practice MBE questions. If you took one of our diagnostic MBE workshops this spring, those count toward your total! If you didn’t, you can still pick up the practice questions from all three workshop providers, outside G145.
  4. The bar exam is not an aptitude test; it’s all about “sweat equity”, and you control that. No matter how bright you are, if you don’t study enough, you are unlikely to pass. But even if you struggled academically in law school, you can still pass the bar first time by investing focused, daily effort in your preparation and doing up to 2000 practice MBE questions. This is within your control, unlike so many law school courses. Seize the moment and take that control!
  5. Slow and steady really does win this race. Don’t panic or freak yourself out — there’s no need, and it won’t help. Just plug away at your course assignments and practice questions, 6 days/week (you can and should take a day off weekly, if you are otherwise keeping up).

Check your Emory Law email for the list of support programs we are offering this summer on Wednesdays here on campus! We were glad to see many of you today for the first one — complete with celebrity cameo appearances by Prof. Rich Freer and Dean Schapiro. Whether or not you are here in Atlanta, know that we are here and we are rooting for you. Let us know how we can help.

Bar Exam Risk Factors

A number of factors may put you at risk for not passing the bar exam. According to Professors Riebe and Schwartz, in their book “Pass the Bar!”, these include:

  • Low LSAT score, low law school GPA or low class rank
  • Not taking a bar review course
  • Low grades in bar-tested courses, or not having taken them
  • Working or other time commitments like caregiving during the weeks before the bar
  • Nontraditional student status
  • Life crisis or major life event (good or bad) when you are preparing for the bar
  • Record of weak test skills, in essay and/or multiple-choice format
  • Lack of realistic, effective study and exam-taking strategies
  • Excessive fear or anxiety

However, every one of these risk factors can be addressed by taking specific remedial actions, which are listed and discussed in the book. And as the authors note:

Although each of the factors puts students at risk, none of them prevents students from passing. Many students have several of these risk factors yet still pass their bar exams. The factors merely reflect common characteristics of students who have failed in the past. By being aware of the risk factors and acting to minimize their effects, you can increase your likelihood of passing your bar exam.

If one or more of these risk factors applies to you, please make sure to take full advantage of ALL opportunities to do practice questions and attend workshops to learn more and better test-taking strategies for the bar!