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.

 

Remember the MPT

Dear bar studiers: some of you will be tempted to do scant preparation for the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”) portion of the bar, because it doesn’t require as much memorization as the MBE and the essays. This is a strategic error that can mean the difference between passing and failing the bar first time. Emory Law students, especially, should be able to do well and gain points on the MPT, because of the strength of our legal writing courses and the fact that so many Emory Law students take Contract Drafting and other similar classes.

Take the time now to get familiar with the MPT and how it works. Look at the past MPT questions used on the bar exam you plan to take, whether the Uniform Bar Exam (“UBE”) or the Georgia Bar, which posts past questions and sample answers, to both essays and the MPT, here. February 2020 questions are here. (The MPT parts will be at the end). Most commercial bar review courses offer the option of taking a practice MPT, submitting it, and getting graded individual feedback. Make sure you take advantage of that in time to get and use the feedback, so you can fine-tune your approach.

Prof. Mary Campbell Gallagher, founder of BarWrite and author of books on passing the bar and of a blog on the same subject, gives a detailed analysis, below, of one of the 2018 MPT questions that proved difficult for many bar-takers, including our graduates. She explains what was needed to score well on that question, and how bar-takers may have fallen short, to their cost; most importantly, she suggests how to do better. Because it’s possible to fail the bar exam by one point, you should make sure you are well prepared to grab every point available to you, and I believe our graduates could pick up more points on the MPT with more strategic preparation.

  1. Practice doing the close reading of MPT instructions Prof. Gallagher describes, using real MPT questions, and practice outlining how you would respond to them.
  2. Write out full practice answers to a few, looking for questions that ask for different types of written work product, and compare them to sample answers.
  3. Remember that your answers on the MPT will be graded on your responsiveness to the instructions regarding the task you are to complete, as well as on the content, organization, and thoroughness of your responses.

You may be asked to produce a memorandum to a supervising attorney, a letter to a client, a persuasive memorandum or brief, a statement of facts, a contract provision, a will, a counseling plan, a proposal for settlement or agreement, a discovery plan, a witness examination plan, or a closing argument. You should know what those look like and how to create them with specific reference to the instructions you are given. There are free MPT questions and point sheets from 2010-2015 available here at the NCBE website (scroll down).

Yes, you must do your very best on the MBE and the essays, and that will require memorizing a lot of material, but don’t leave MPT points on the table. Those points count too! Go get them!

Prof Gallagher’s article and analysis:

Bad News on the First July 2018 MPT Task

Georgia Supreme Court Replaces September Bar Exam With Online Exam in October

student with head down on desk

Chief Justice Harold D. Melton announced this afternoon that the Supreme Court of Georgia has canceled the in-person Georgia bar examination scheduled for Sept. 9-10 at the Georgia International Convention Center: https://www.gasupreme.us/online-bar-exam/. Due to public health concerns during this pandemic, and concerns specifically for bar-takers’ safety, an online exam will be administered Oct. 5-6 in its place.

Atlanta, July 20, 2020 – Chief Justice Harold D. Melton announced today that the Supreme Court of Georgia has canceled the in-person Georgia bar examination that was scheduled for Sept. 9-10 at the Georgia International Convention Center. Due to public health concerns during the pandemic, an online exam will be administered Oct. 5-6 in its
www.gasupreme.us

It is expected that the October exam will use most of the same materials from NCBE that other jurisdictions will use for online bar exams in October, but with Georgia law essays as usual instead of Multistate Essay Exam questions. All the subjects that were previously identified as eligible for testing are still potential subjects on the October exam, for the MBE, the MPT, and the Georgia law portions. Although the exam will still be given over two full days, the exam itself will be shortened.

If you were previously registered to take the September exam, our information is that the bar plans to roll over your registration, but make sure to follow all official instructions and announcements from the Office of Bar Admissions itself. If you had previously decided to wait until February 2021, but would now like to take it this October in the online format, it is likely you will get a chance to register for October, but that window may be brief, so keep checking the bar admissions website, below.

Details will be forthcoming at www.gabaradmissions.org. If you are already registered, look for further direct communications to you from the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions, which will also post answers to Frequently Asked Questions on that website later this week.

New York Cancels September Bar Exam

The New York Board of Law Examiners has cancelled the upcoming September administration of the New York bar exam:
 
*New July 16, 2020 *

UPDATE REGARDING THE SEPTEMBER 2020 BAR EXAMINATION:

In light of accelerating public health concerns and continuing governmental restrictions, the Board of Law Examiners has concluded that an in-person bar exam cannot be safely administered on September 9-10, 2020. Participants’ health and safety must remain our top priority and, because conditions have not sufficiently improved, the September exam has been cancelled. Please continue to monitor this website for updates regarding the New York bar exam. Additional information can be found in the Court of Appeals’ statement, available here.

When a determination is made as to a future exam, the Board will announce how the application fees paid by candidates currently registered for the September exam will be handled.
 

Tennessee Cancels July Bar Exam, Keeps Fall 2020 Exam

Confused law student

The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners announced that the Tennessee Supreme Court had issued an order today canceling the July 28 -29, 2020 administration of the Uniform Bar Examination in Tennessee:

Although stringent public health and safety protocols were planned for the administration of the July 2020 examination, the potential benefits of administering the examination do not justify the risk of assembling groups of people in limited space for a multi-day examination, when another examination will be administered in Tennessee in two months.

The Court order cited the recent increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee. Yesterday, Tennessee reported the largest single day increase in new COVID-19 cases. In the last week, all three locations for the July 2020 exam, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville, posted their highest single day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Some of the largest increases statewide have been among people aged 22 – 35, the age group of the majority of those scheduled to take the bar examination. The Nashville mayor announced today a major reversal in the plans to reopen the city.

The Tennessee Supreme Court and the Board of Law Examiners are acutely aware of the toll the ongoing pandemic is taking on bar examination applicants and are committed to administering the Uniform Bar Examination in 2020, while making every effort to minimize the risks associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. All applicants for the July 2020 examination who have not been determined ineligible for the examination or who have not already transferred their application to the February 2021 examination should expect to sit for the fall examination in Tennessee, to be conducted September 30 – October 1.

“Applicants to the Tennessee bar are afforded broad permissions to practice pending admission and can begin working immediately upon graduation, drafting documents, meeting with clients, and appearing in court. Applicants can continue to practice even if subsequent examinations are affected by the national healthcare crisis,” said Bill Harbison, President of the Board of Law Examiners.  “We understand that this has been a difficult time for recent law school graduates and the Board is committed to making the Uniform Bar Examination available to all July 2020 applicants before the end of the year, absent any new “safer at home” orders or other significant changes.” A copy of the order can be found here.   Complete COVID-19-related bar examination announcements can be found here.

Florida Cancels July Bar Exam, Will Hold Online Exam in August

In the ongoing saga of changes to this summer’s bar exams, Florida announced today that it will not administer its bar exam in July, as previously scheduled, but instead will administer an online bar exam in August. The July date is canceled.

The online August exam will take place on August 18, 2020. Among other details shared in its press release, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners has said:

The August 2020 Bar Examination will consist of 100 multiple-choice questions and three essay questions and may cover any subject that is traditionally tested on Part A or Part B of the General Bar Examination. Any subject may be tested by essay, multiple-choice, or both. • For the August 2020 Bar Examination cycle only, applicants will not be required to take the Multistate Bar Examination to establish technical competence. A scaled score of 136 on the August 2020 Bar Examination and a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination will be sufficient.

The Board also announced that it “will extend the deadline for applying for test accommodations under the ADA relating to the online format to July 10, 2020. Test accommodation petitions under the extended deadline must be received by July 10, 2020. No further extensions will be granted.”

If you plan to take the Florida bar exam, be sure to read the entire announcement and go to the website of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners for details and updated logistics, including deadlines.

 

7, 13, or 16 Weeks To Go?

Like so many things this summer, bar readiness is confusing right now. You know it’s essential to plan ahead and stay focused on studying for the bar exam, but how to do that when 1) important public events are deeply disturbing and distracting; and 2) for the first time any of us can remember, there are at least three four different scheduled bar exam dates already; and 3) who knows what more might change? (Just as I published this post, the District of Columbia announced it was canceling its September bar exam date and would give a remote exam in October that would not provide a transferable score).

First, the crucial public events and protests. Many of you may have taken part already, more may take part in coming weeks. Please remember that you are already uniquely equipped to fight for justice, if you’re studying for a bar exam: you have a law degree. Only about .5% of the adult US population has that education. Meaning only about .5% of the adult US population has that kind of power to effect change through our legal system. To wield that power, you have to pass the bar. So your success this summer or fall on the bar exam may be one of the most valuable contributions you can make, long-term.

Second, whether you will take a bar exam in late July, early September, or late September, here are some things to keep in mind, at this point in the summer:

Here again is a recording of the MBE Overview program Professor Rich Freer did for us last year: MBE Overview-Prof. Freer 1-30-19. It’s a good reminder right now, as you continue to work in your commercial bar review courses, of his excellent advice. The MBE Subject Matter Powerpoint shown onscreen in this recording is also available on this blog, under Online Learning Resources (above), with the other MBE Subject Matter outline Powerpoints I created for these faculty-led sessions. They are drawn directly from the MBE Subject Matter Outline document on the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

If you will take a bar in July, you now have seven weeks until the bar exam. It may be helpful to look again at those outlines occasionally, to see how the sub-topics within each major subject on the MBE relate to each other, while you continue to do practice MBE questions regularly in sets to test your knowledge. Don’t freak out if your results look worse when you do “mixed sets” of questions in different subject areas, as opposed to “blocks” of questions in one subject like Torts, or Contracts. That is normal, and part of the learning process! Don’t give up on doing the mixed sets — push through the challenge and keep doing them, knowing that you probably won’t score high for a while. Mixed question sets are a very effective way for most students to learn material, especially for an exam like the MBE where you won’t know what subject a given question is testing until you try to answer it. Doing them over an extended period of time, instead of cramming all the practice in at the end of your bar study, is also an effective learning strategy.

If you will take a bar in September, you have the opportunity to spread out practice questions even more, and use principles of “spaced repetition.” As we said two weeks ago in our first online “Bar Study Hall”, it is critical to be using this time wisely, and you should have in place now a written plan for how your personal study schedule will proceed, all summer. Use the gift of extra weeks to do more practice questions and better self-assessment on all parts of the bar exam: MBE, MPT, and essays.

Forced retrieval”, which is what you are doing when you give yourself practice questions and tests, is a highly effective learning technique. Remember that it’s not the initial results you get that matter, no one else is watching! What matters is the process of making yourself answer questions, over and over, and then reviewing your results to understand what you got wrong and how to answer correctly next time. Active learning, retrieval and practice always win over passive “recognition” (re-reading and re-watching material you’ve seen before, without then testing yourself on it). It is well-established that adult learners learn best when their activities are “meaningful, active, motivating, and significant.” Your effort to pass the bar is meaningful and significant, to yourself and to others. Keep it active and stay motivated!

Third, no one knows for sure what this summer may bring in terms of COVID-19. That’s just the reality of life right now, including for the jurisdictions and public officials who administer bar exams. So while it really is essential to have a written personal study plan and schedule, write it in pencil. You might have to change it because of personal circumstances unique to you, or because the jurisdiction where you plan to take the exam has had to change something. Stay up-to-date on your jurisdiction; the National Conference of Bar Examiners updates its summary of jurisdiction information at least weekly, if not more often.

Finally, keep taking good care of yourself. The ABA has provided some great online resources, including this video/audio recording: “Self-Care and Mindfulness in the Age of COVID-19.” The ABA Law Student Division also has lots of good resources and guidance for tackling the project of studying for the bar exam.

It has been a very challenging spring and this summer promises more challenges. Try to remember how important your ultimate goal is, for you and for others, and keep your eyes on that prize — a license to practice law. Stay safe, and stay well!

Featured image from www.law.com.

California, Pennsylvania, D.C Bar Exams Postponed; New York Changes Requirements

More states announced changes to their bar exams and processes this week. California and Pennsylvania have canceled administration of their July 2020 bar exam and will administer it in September instead. The California announcement may be read here: California Supreme Court Bar Exam Letter. The announcement of the Pennsylvania Board of Bar Examiners, with links to other documents and including an announcement of a limited license to practice law for July 2020 bar applicants, is here: Pennsylvania Board of Bar Examiners.

The District of Columbia has cancelled its July 2020 bar exam but has not yet announced a rescheduled date. Its announcement can be read here: District of Columbia Court of Appeals Order.

The New York Board of Law Examiners, which had previously announced the rescheduling of its July 2020 bar exam to September of 2020, has changed or waived a number of its requirements, which are detailed here, also with links to the relevant official documents: New York Board of Law Examiners. As with all information from bar admissions offices, please read the information they provide with great care, and follow up directly with them, via your applicant portal or file analyst, if you have specific questions, as only those offices can give you accurate and authoritative answers.

It goes without saying that this is a rapidly changing situation, and bar jurisdictions are updating their decisions, deadlines and processes almost every day. The National Conference of Bar Examiners updates July 2020 Jurisdiction Information frequently; check that here. This blog will not cover all changes to all jurisdictions. Always check at www.ncbex.org and then at a specific bar jurisdiction’s official website for the most accurate, updated and authoritative information.

New York Bar Exam Rescheduled

NOTICES:

*NEW April 6, 2020*

COVID-19. UPDATE

The Board’s office is closed until further notice as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Staff members are not presently available to answer phone calls. However, the Board continues to closely monitor the situation. The health and safety of applicants, our staff and the proctors who administer the bar exam are of paramount importance to the Board.

Updated information will be posted on this website as it is available.

JULY 2020 BAR EXAM: The New York Court of Appeals announced on March 27, 2020 that the New York State Bar Examiation will not be administered on July 28-29, 2020 as previously scheduledClick here to read the press release from the Court of Appeals.


The examination will be rescheduled to WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9-10, 2020. The application period for the rescheduled examination is presently scheduled to open on May 5, 2020 at 12:00 AM and to close on May 30, 2020 at 11:59 PM.

Additional information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the July 2020 bar exam is available on NCBE’s website at: http://www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/