Course Selection and Bar Readiness

Christen Morgan, Emory Law 16L

Two years ago, Christen Morgan 16L published a great post with some excellent advice for all law students with regard to bar readiness: Three Things I Would Have Done Differently for Bar Prep at The Girl’s Guide to Law School. Her points are valuable for 1Ls, 2Ls, and other continuing students as you consider your course selections for next year; and for 3Ls and soon-to-graduate LLMs as you continue to increase your “bar readiness” this year and once you start your commercial bar review course for a bar exam this summer.

For more specifics on how you can choose courses to optimize your readiness for success on a bar exam if you will return to law school in the fall, and on how to manage your own bar readiness if you are in your last semester, go to the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success webpage and click on links for Bar Readiness, Choosing Courses, and Practice Areas (for practice-focused academic guidance and information). Some are behind tiles you will see if you scroll down the page a bit.

If you missed our session on Course Selection and Bar Readiness last Monday, 10/12/20, it was recorded and the Zoom link is here: OAESS Session on Course Selection and Bar Readiness.

The Powerpoint from that session is here:

Finally, if you will graduate this academic year and plan to take a bar exam next year, you should make a decision now about which commercial bar review course you will use. If you know for sure which state’s bar exam you plan to take, whether or not you have a job offer yet, sign up for that; if your plans change, most vendors will let you switch states. Ask before you commit. If you are unsure or you are keeping options open depending on employment, consider signing up for a course for a UBE (Uniform Bar Exam) bar jurisdiction. The UBE offers a portable score that is valid in over 30 states now. Again, most bar course vendors will let you switch specific courses among their offerings if your plans change, so ask. In any event, don’t delay your bar readiness plan, which should be in process this whole academic year if it is your last one.

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.

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

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. 

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.

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/

NCBE Will Support Two Fall Bar Exam Dates

The National Conference of Bar Examiners has announced that it will make its materials available for two separate bar exam administrations this fall, in addition to the usual July dates:

To provide needed flexibility for jurisdictions and candidates, in addition to preparing materials for a July bar exam, NCBE will make bar exam materials available for two fall administrations in 2020: September 9-10 and September 30-October 1. Each jurisdiction will determine whether to offer the exam in July, in early September, or in late September.

NCBE also continues to update jurisidiction-specific information on its website:

NCBE continues to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely. The health and safety of bar applicants and of our employees and volunteers are of paramount importance to us. We will update this page as new information becomes available.

Click below to see which jurisdictions have made announcements about the July 2020 bar exam. 

 July 2020 Bar Exam: Jurisdiction Information

For answers to frequently asked questions, see the FAQs below this statement.

For ongoing information, go here: http://www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/

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.

Bar Readiness, Remote Version

Welcome back to the Spring semester, Emory Law!  Even though we are not with you physically, we are still available and ready to assist you as you prepare for the bar exam.  Professor Rich Freer has recorded an introductory lecture regarding bar preparation, which you can view here. We have also rescheduled our series of MBE subject matter workshops (see schedule below). At these sessions, Rhani Lott 10L (with input from Dean Brokaw and the Dean’s Teaching Fellows) will walk you through the MBE’s scope of coverage as outlined by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The sessions will be recorded, but we encourage you to take part live so you can ask questions.

Wednesday, April 1: 12:15pm

Wednesday, April 8: 6:30pm

Monday, April 13: 12:15pm

Wednesday, April 15: 6:30pm

We also encourage you to review the information here: Academic Engagement & Student Success: Bar Readiness; and to bookmark and subscribe to this blog, Emory Law Bar Readiness, so that you receive new bar-related blog posts. As always, go directly to the website of the jurisdiction where you plan to take the bar exam for specifics and deadlines. You can find a listing of those websites at www.ncbex.org.