Checklist For The Next Five Weeks

Here is a basic checklist you can use to assess your progress to date and make any necessary adjustments to your bar study routine. The bar exam starts five weeks from today. You still have time for self-assessment, feedback on practice questions, and adjustments to your study plan to keep your chances of passing first time as high as possible! Make the most of it!

  1. Review the bar study schedule you put in place at the start of your review course. Are you able to stick to it and stay on track? Does it include enough time for review AND doing practice questions? If not, consider revising it.
  2. Start shifting time from reading material to answering practice questions, both MBE and essays. Do what your course recommends for MPT questions.
  3. Acclimate yourself to the bar exam’s schedule by getting up and studying at the time of day when you will take the exam.
  4. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and managing wellness/stress by eating right, taking reasonable study breaks and getting some exercise, even if just a 30-minute daily walk. Mens sana in corpore sano.
  5. Identify areas of strength and weakness among subjects, using all the tools your course provides. Target your weaker subject areas with more review and practice questions. Don’t avoid doing questions in your weaker subjects, that’s where you need the most practice.
  6. Increase the number of practice questions you do daily, with the goal of having done at least 2000 MBE practice questions and 5 or more released essay questions from the jurisdiction where you will take the bar, in addition to essay and MPT questions offered by your course, by the date of the bar exam.
  7. Check directions, instructions, technology and logistics for the bar exam site where you will be tested. Remember that in Georgia, Emory Law provides lunch on both days for all bar-takers at the GICC. Check especially to understand what you can and cannot take into the bar exam; enforcement is very strict and every year, there are examinees who are not allowed to take the bar or are disqualified because they overlooked instructions.
  8. If you will use a laptop, check now to make sure it is up to date and in top working order, with no viruses or bootleg software that could cause problems during the bar exam. Make sure it will get charged and stay charged during the exam and be sure to bring all necessary/allowed items such as chargers.
  9. Keep calm and carry on!

Do You Want Free Critical Pass MBE Flashcards?

Here’s something to lighten the mood a little on a stormy Friday five weeks before the bar exam and after a tough, sad week in Orlando. I have a complete, new set of “Critical Pass ” MBE flashcards that was sent to me by the company after I went to the annual conference for law school academic assistance. I understand that those of you who are taking commercial bar review courses (which I hope is all of you who will take a bar exam in July) can gauge your progress on completing assignments during the course, against the average for all others taking the same state course from that provider.

If you are an Emory Law grad, Class of 2016, taking a bar exam this July, email me a screen shot of whatever system your course uses; if it shows that you have done MORE assigned work than the average for your course, in your state, I will enter your name in a drawing for the set of MBE flashcards (I know, thrilling, right? But they’re not cheap and some 2015 grads really liked them). They cover all the MBE subjects, including the 2015 addition, Civil Procedure. You must be able to pick the set up from the law school in person and you must email me the screenshot before 5 pm on Monday, June 20. Good luck!

 

Image: www.criticalpass.com

What to Do for the Next Seven Weeks

By now, you should have started your bar review course, whichever one you chose. Your best chances of success come from a steady routine of scheduled, systematic study and work, for 48-60 hours per week. That means 8-10 hour days, six days a week, starting now if you’re not already in that routine. Here’s what Profs. Michael Hunter Schwartz and Denise Riebe recommend for this stage, in their terrific book “Passing the Bar”:

  • Do at least 34 MBE practice questions every day, striving to get your timing down to less than two minutes per question;
  • Do at least two essay practice questions every week;
  • Do at least one MPT practice question every week if your state administers the MPT or another “performance” test;
  • Master doctrinal law for three subject areas (for the MBE plus the essay topics) every week;
  • Refresh your learning of at least two subject areas every week;
  • Take a ten-minute scheduled break every hour; take a break every evening if you’ve met your daily goals (and you should schedule daily goals for yourself every week to accomplish the practice questions above);
  • Take off one day/week if you’re up to date on your daily and weekly goals.

My additional advice: use all feedback mechanisms your course offers, including practice questions, practice tests, turning in essay question answers in time to get feedback, etc. The bar exam is harder than you may expect, but it rewards “sweat equity”, i.e. putting in the time as if studying is your fulltime job.

Also, get your brain and body used to being alert during the hours when you will take the bar exam. Now is the time to reset your body rhythms if you aren’t already a “morning person”. Establish the habit of getting up by 7 a.m. or so and getting to work on your bar study before 9 a.m. If your brain thinks it shouldn’t be awake until 11 a.m., why would it suddenly do so on the days of the bar exam, when you need it to be in top form? Try to go to sleep by midnight every night so you get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. More and more research is showing us that sleep (or lack of sleep) directly affects learning, retention and retrieval of information. Yes, I know it’s the summer, but you will have many other summers when you won’t be studying for a high stakes professional licensing exam, and there’s always August. This will be over sooner than you can imagine!

Practice (Questions) Makes Perfect, or at Least a Pass

I hope you all had a pleasant Memorial Day weekend! By now, most of you have started your bar review classes. If you have NOT started yet, you need to start NOW. Eight weeks from tomorrow, you will be finished with the bar exam! Some of you will be finished eight weeks from today! To make sure you will succeed and pass on your first try, the next seven weeks are crucial and doing practice questions is an important key to success. One analysis last year showed that students who did 2000 practice MBE questions scored 13 percent higher on the MBE. That can mean the difference between passing and not, so why leave it to chance?

Similarly, practicing with essay questions (actually writing and submitting answers to your bar review company in time to get meaningful feedback) is very valuable. No amount of reading the material and model answers can prepare you, or show you where you have gaps, as well as writing out your own answers and getting feedback in time to adjust and improve your approach. By practicing, you will also build up familiarity with the format and the look and feel of bar exam questions, which will reduce mental stress and allow you to engage more quickly and effectively with real bar exam questions. It’s a little like riding a bike; doing it over and over makes it more automatic each time you try.

If you want to practice with actual MBE questions written and tested by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, you can buy them directly here: MBE Online Practice Exams. But ask your bar review company first whether they have licensed use of those questions and will provide them to you as part of your course in addition to the ones they draft themselves.

Managing Your Time on a Multiple Choice Exam (MBE!)

As you may have found during law school, it can be very challenging to plan and manage your time on a long multiple choice exam over a few hours — and yet that is exactly what you will need to do to maximize your success on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). As a reminder, the MBE is the day-long, standardized, multiple-choice exam that you take in two sessions, morning and afternoon, of three hours each. Here is the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ description of the MBE:

The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions: 190 scored questions and 10 unscored pretest questions. The pretest questions are indistinguishable from those that are scored, so examinees should answer all questions. The exam is divided into morning and afternoon testing sessions of three hours each, with 100 questions in each session. There are no scheduled breaks during either the morning or afternoon session.

Yike. And your MBE score is very important; a high score can compensate for some weakness on the essays, making the difference between passing first time or not; and it may be transferable to another jurisdiction if you need to be admitted in another state (note: not all jurisdictions accept transferred MBE scores; you must check with specific jurisdictions).

Law School Academic Support blog to the rescue! Here is a very clear and helpful blog post about how to use a “time chart” to manage your time on a long multiple choice exam: Time Management on Multiple Choice Exams. As you do practice MBE questions this summer, I recommend learning how to create and use this kind of time chart to stay on track.

Take Notes by Hand for Bar Review

Planning to take a bar review course this summer?  To increase your chances of success, you should: 1) take notes, whether you take a course in person or by video or online; and 2) take those notes by hand. More than one study has shown that students who take lecture notes by hand (instead of on laptop) retain, retrieve and use more information more efficiently, especially when it comes to higher order thinking and using that information to solve complicated, conceptual problems. Read all about it at NPR‘s website, and in the publication Psychological Science.