The AccessLex Institute will host a Facebook Live event tomorrow at 1 pm, on how to pass the bar exam. Details are here. The AccessLex Institute is a leading organization in the study of the bar exam and which students succeed on it, and how. I highly recommend this Facebook Live event to all law students who plan to take a bar exam this summer. You don’t know what you don’t know until you ask!
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!
If you are a graduating Emory Law student and were unable to attend yesterday’s kick-off of our spring “MBE Overview” series, with Prof. Rich Freer talking about the bar and the MBE in general, and specifically about the topics that can be tested on the MBE under Civil Procedure, we are able to provide the recording several of you requested, thanks to gracious permission of Prof. Freer. The recording can be found HERE. Please note that this is a service provided for the use of Emory Law students and not to be distributed elsewhere.
Keep reading On The Docket and watching the electronic bulletin boards for announcement of future sessions in February and March!
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.
Tanisha Pinkins 17L has kindly sent the following words of encouragement for all of you who are studying for the July bar:
Hello Bar Preppers,At this point I know you all are exhausted, anxious, and uncertain about one thing or another but now is the time where you measure where you are and start SQUEEZING so you can get what you need out of these last few weeks. Do not stop SQUEEZING. Condense your outlines, regulate your sleeping habits, identify your strengths and weaknesses then hit the switch called WILL. Start using your WILL POWER. Yes you are exhausted, hungry, and your body and mind feel like giving up but you cannot quit because you have not reached your goal yet. You have to PUSH.
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Do not strive to be in a comfort zone because what you want to accomplish is not in a comfort zone. So push through that last 30, 40, 45, 50 minutes or an hour with your WILL POWER. There are no warm and fuzzy places within these last few weeks of studying for the bar exam. PUSH through the uncomfortable zone to accomplish your goal. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you. Kill those seeds of self-doubt! Eliminate all negative energy and distractions around you. FOCUS! You are more than capable. Crush the bar exam!!
Two weeks from today, right now, you will have finished your first morning of the bar exam! And if you are taking the bar in Georgia, you will be eating the lunch that Emory Law provides at the bar exam site, with your classmates and a number of law school faculty and staff who will come to cheer you on.
But between then and now, you have thirteen days of study left. Remember that marathoners often say that it’s the last leg of the race that is the hardest, and studying for the bar is no exception. You may feel burned out by now, or at least disengaged. That is normal but — like a marathoner — you have to push through the fatigue and keep doing your best until you cross that finish line. Here are some suggestions that may help, based on good advice from Prof. Steven Foster:
- Take a break this weekend, at least a half-day completely off from bar study. You need to take it so that your brain can digest all the studying you’ve been doing and catch up.
- Remember to study without distractions, and choose to do practice questions ahead of passively watching more video lectures or reading more outlines. “Multi-tasking” is a cruel myth when it comes to studying intensively and effectively — it doesn’t work. Put your phone on “do not disturb”, silence notifications on your laptop, shut yourself off from social media for prescribed periods of time, using an app like RescueTime or something similar. When you study, focus only on studying.
- Take a short, ten-minute study break every 45 minutes to an hour. Doing one thing for too long gets boring and retention decreases. Get up, stretch, move around. When you resume studying, switch between study methods and/or subjects. The change will help your brain keep learning and retaining information. Use active study methods, such as handwriting your own flashcards and then using them, maybe even out loud.
- In these last weeks, focus on memorizing the law and practicing questions. You will review each subject 2-3 times in the last couple of weeks before the exam. Test your recollection of as much black-letter law as possible (flashcards or MBE practice questions), study to fill gaps in your memory, and then do practice essay questions, writing out some full answers. You can also do “half-practice” essay questions, i.e. practice your active reading skills on long essay questions and outline what your answer would be, even if you don’t write out a full answer for all questions. You should do the same exercise as practice on some MPT questions. Keep drilling yourself with practice MBE questions to increase your score between now and the exam. You want to peak on exam day, so continue to push improvement right up to the exam day.
- Last call to establish good sleep habits! If you have been staying up late to study, and getting up late in the morning, STOP! You will take this exam in the morning. You need to train your brain to be alert and ready to get to work in the morning by the same time you will start the bar exam. Start going to bed earlier and getting up at the same time you will have to get up on actual exam days, allowing for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Finally, remember that you can do this! The bar exam is hard, but you have an Emory JD, which is a huge accomplishment. Tell yourself every morning, “I will pass the bar in 2 weeks!”
If you own the book “Pass the Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz, look at their “action checklist” for this stage of bar preparation; it has excellent suggestions too. Stay engaged — you’re almost there!
Many of you took your bar review course’s simulated MBE last week, and many of you may have been disappointed in your results. Now is the time to put on a final, focused effort to make sure you get the scores you need to pass! Even if you were pleased with your simulated MBE score, now is NOT the time to relax. Four weeks from today, you will be in the bar exam for real. If you keep up the good work and continue your diligent, targeted strategies to improve your own performance, there is no reason why you cannot achieve success! Here is some great advice from the Law School Academic Support blog:
The key is to use the feedback to improve. I highly encourage everyone to sit down with the Academic Support or Bar Support person at your law school. Bring the score analysis from your bar review company. Create an improvement plan for July. You can absolutely improve 20 questions by getting 3 more questions correct in each subject. Everyone can learn enough law for 3 questions per subject.
Efficient studying in July gets the 3 extra questions per subject. Most of June focused on the MBE, so much of July will be spent on essays. Most students worry about how to find time to improve. I agree that no one has time to add in an extra 2-3 hours memorizing outlines for each MBE subject, but you don’t need to. My biggest suggestion is to spend 10-15 minutes at the end of the night on the most important sub-topics. Use the score report to identify 1-2 small topics you struggled on that are highly tested in each MBE subject (ie – hearsay, duty of care, etc.). Spend 10-15 minutes right before bed looking at flashcards, an outline, or even practice questions on only that sub-topic. Switch subjects every day between now and the bar. The focused study on only areas needing improvement will help gain the couple questions per subject. Focused studying is the key in July.
If you’d like to meet with me or Jennie next week to discuss your simulated MBE score, we will be happy to talk over strategies you can use in the next four weeks. If you have the book “Pass the Bar!”, remember to review their action checklist that applies to this time period, it has great suggestions. Make sure to keep up with your course’s assigned work and keep your completion rate as high as you can — students who finish 75%, 80%, 85%, and more of their commercial courses have the highest odds of success (above 90%), and the more you do, the better your odds. If you have to choose which assignments to complete and not do others, I recommend focusing on practice questions in all areas of the bar: MBE, MPT, and essays. Enjoy your Fourth of July — but keep studying. With that effort and focus, you can make sure this is the last Fourth you have to spend studying for a bar exam — because you will pass it this summer! Keep calm and carry on.
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.
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 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.
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!