AccessLex Institute Launches Helix Bar Review

The AccessLex Institute has announced that its new, at-cost bar review course, Helix, which was developed over the last few years, will launch in October 2021. In the meantime, there are several free Helix webinars about various aspects of the bar exam, including the Uniform Bar Exam and its three components: the Multistate Bar Exam, the Multistate Performance Test, and the Multistate Essay Exam. For details, go here: Helix Bar Review Webinars.

Helix will also offer a free MPRE course, beginning in October 2021.

A Few Last Words the Day Before the Bar Exam

black and white laptop

Well, it’s finally here. Tomorrow, thousands of law graduates around the USA will sit for the first day of the bar exam. You’ve prepared for this for months, if not years (counting your entire law school education). You’re ready!

Now is the time to do your final non-academic readiness check. Do you have all your materials and equipment ready and in good working order? If you will take a remote exam at home, have you prepared your test space in compliance with your jurisdiction’s instructions? If you will take the exam elsewhere, have you planned your route, parking, meals and snacks? Do you have a mask, if required by your test location or your own health? If you will be allowed any materials for some parts of the bar, have you checked those specific instructions and organized your allowed materials? Will you be able to get access to them easily when appropriate, and put them away when required? Have you set your alarm to wake you up in plenty of time each morning?

Aside from logistics, here are some day-before tips adapted from Profs. Riebe and Schwartz:

1. Get plenty of sleep the night before each day of the bar exam. A well-rested brain will help you in the inevitable situation where you encounter something unfamiliar on the bar; you’ll still be able to make an intelligent guess, or craft a coherent analysis, even if you don’t know or remember much about a particular topic.  If eatings carbs at night helps you sleep, consider doing that. Avoid alcohol.

2. Stay focused, persistent, and resilient. Use your healthy stress management strategies. If talking to friends or family members causes you stress right now, ask them to give you some space and reconnect after the last day of the exam.

3. Turn off text and social media notifications on your phone, and avoid social media this week.

4. Carefully review all instructions from your jurisdiction, including any published on the website of your bar admissions office and all emails from your jurisdiction.

5. On the day of the exam, If taking the bar outside your home, arrive early. It’s better to wait and have plenty of time to settle in than to rush in at the last minute.

6. Remind yourself to use your time wisely during exam sessions.

7. Make yourself forget each question after you finish each answer; every question and every exam session are fresh opportunities to do well.

8. Avoid talking with other bar-takers about the exam, or comparing notes, after each session ends. It won’t help you, and it might sap your confidence during the exam — even if it turns out your answers were right and someone else’s were wrong.

9. Remember that you CAN pass the bar exam! 

We wish you all the best of luck tomorrow and on Wednesday!

Go get it!

Six Weeks to Go — and 80%

I attended a conference this week on bar success, and some research presented showed that bar studiers who consistently did 80% or more of their bar course’s assignments, week-by-week, dramatically improved their odds of passing the bar exam on their first attempt. They did better than the bar studiers who had completed 80% or more by the time of the bar exam but had not done so consistently over the weeks. Slow and steady wins the race!

So here we are: six weeks from today, the July bar exam will be over. Your goal between now and then should be to make sure you are completing, every week, at least 80% of your weekly assignments from your bar course. To do that, if you have to choose among bar course assignments, ALWAYS choose the most active option, which in most cases means doing practice questions. Watching videos is more passive and it’s easy to lose focus on them. So while they’re helpful, all the research shows that doing as many practice questions as possible, including practice essays and MPT questions, is by far the most productive use of your time. This is especially true if you work up to doing them under timed conditions.

Bar studiers who didn’t do any timed practice questions in this study failed the bar at a much higher rate than those who did timed practice. This is totally within your control! You can ease into it by doing essays with open notes, but holding yourself to 50% more time than your bar will allow per essay. See what you’re able to produce. Compare your work product to the model answer, and review any gaps in your knowledge. Next time you do a practice essay in the same subject area, do it in the same time you will get on the actual bar exam, still with open notes. Review any gaps. Finally, start doing closed-book practice essays and comparing your answers to the model answers. Keep reviewing any gaps in your knowledge while you also practice your timing.

What if you feel as if you’re already behind the 80% or more target? Prof. Melissa Hale suggests aiming to do 80% or more of your weekly assignments from NOW forward, taking this approach:

First, stop thinking of it as “catching up” and realize that it’s about making progress. … It wasn’t just 80% that did the trick, but rather a CONSTANT 80% over the weeks. So, no cramming at the end!  But don’t give yourself the pressure of “catching up “ – work forward and do what you can!

Second, prioritize practice. Practice essays. Practice MBE. Practice MPT. Make sure you are doing something active. Yes, you need to learn the law – so videos, and taking notes, IS important – but you should really make active practice your number 1 priority. This means making perfect flashcards, or outlines, or “reviewing” pre-made outlines over and over again, are not as effective as writing essays. I even suggest that you write some essays as open note, because THAT is active review. You can also turn multiple choice questions into “mini essays” by taking off the answer choices, and writing a paragraph long “essay.” Do this with open notes and it will help you remember the law, work on your essay skills, AND help you with multiple choice questions in general. So, even though they aren’t “assigned”, they are a great way to review law in an active way.

Now is also a good time to make sure you are training your brain to be alert and in top form during the hours when you will actually take the bar exam. This means getting up daily at the time when you will get up on bar exam days, and starting your active study at the same time you will take the exam. You can see the daily schedule for the two days of the Georgia Bar Exam here, and time your daily study sessions accordingly: July 2021 Georgia Bar Exam Schedule. For more information about the July 2021 bar exam in Georgia, go here: July 2021 Georgia Bar Exam FAQs.

A Seven-Week Action Checklist

By now, most of you have started the assignments in your bar review course. If you have NOT started yet, you need to start NOW. Seven weeks from tomorrow, most of you will be finished with the bar exam!

Success on the bar exam is less about aptitude and more about attitude — that is, it’s all about sweat equity. The more time and effort you invest in your own bar passage, the better your chances are. You have a lot of control in this process. You want to invest time and effort wisely and efficiently, so try to be thoughtful and intentional with your study plan.

Think about incorporating these steps into your course’s study plan, in addition to making sure you “attend” bar classes daily, do the assignments on time and keep up with them, review material covered in class daily, and do plenty of practice questions. Profs. Riebe and Schwartz strongly advise doing about 34 practice MBE questions every day; 2 essay questions per week (from the MEE or your bar jurisdiction’s website); and one MPT question every week. You should make sure that the work you are doing for your commercial course, plus what you add to that, total those numbers daily and weekly.

If you want to practice with actual released MBE, MEE and MPT questions written by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, remember that Emory Law has paid for all graduating students in the class of 2021 to have free access to the full suite of NCBE study and practice materials. Details were sent to you via Emory email, so please check your inbox if you didn’t keep the instructions; or you will also find them on The Fourth Floor page of Emory’s Canvas system, under Bar Readiness.  If you set up your account for the study aids this spring, you should be able to log in at https://studyaids.ncbex.org, on any device. Your names were provided to NCBE as part of our institutional subscription; if you have any difficulty with the study aids, please contact NCBE.

To make sure you will succeed and pass on your first try, the next weeks are crucial and doing practice questions is an important key to success. One analysis some years ago 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 and MPT questions (actually writing and submitting answers to your bar review company in time to get meaningful feedback) is very valuable. No amount of watching videos, reading the material, and even reading 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.

You can still use the West Academic Assessment subscription also, to bolster your understanding of bar-tested subjects. Instructions for using the West materials are also posted on The Fourth Floor page of Canvas, and so is the Winter Break Study Plan sent to all graduating students in December to suggest specific ways you can use the West materials for bar preparation.

I recommend taking a scheduled 10-15 minute break after an hour of bar study, then switching topics. After your next break, you can go back to the first topic, but switching will probably help your brain process and retain what you’re learning more efficiently. Bar study is a full-time job, and you will give yourselves the best odds by working at it for 8-10 hours daily, so you’ll need those breaks! I also recommend sticking to a daily schedule that includes getting up as early as you will on the days of the exam itself, so your body and brain will adjust to being alert then; then take a break at the end of the day and do something for your wellbeing — a run or other exercise, or a walk with a friend, or a good meal. At this stage, I also recommend taking one weekend day off every week, if you are keeping up with assignments.

Your class has persisted through the worst global pandemic in a century. You can do this! The next seven weeks are in your capable hands.

AccessLex Offers Free Bar Success Webinars

Happy Spring! The AccessLex Institute has launched a new series of webinars to help support students’ informational needs as they prepare to take the bar exam. These will be especially helpful to students who will graduate this spring and take a bar exam in July, but they are open to all law students, regardless of the stage of your legal education.

Law students may register for one, or all, of these free bar success webinars:
 
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
For many students, taking the MPRE is one of the first steps towards bar admission. Learn about the subject matter eligible for testing on the MPRE, along with important logistical information, tips for studying, and more.

 
The Road to Licensure
Becoming a licensed attorney goes beyond graduating with your J.D. This session will walk you through the steps to licensure and help you find the information you’ll need to meet all of the requirements for your specific jurisdiction.

 
What You Need to Know About the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)
This session will cover each component of the UBE, including the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

 
5 Tips for Bar Exam Success
Questions about what the bar exam experience will be like? Join our team of licensed attorneys as they share some of their best tips, answer your questions, and help set you up for success.

Using Winter Break for Bar Readiness

If you will graduate in May and plan to take a bar exam in July 2021, consider using all or some of the long winter break through January 18 for early bar readiness activities, to save yourself some time and stress later in the spring and summer. 
 
The Office of Academic Engagement has created for you a self-administered study plan, meant to supplement whatever early access materials your commercial bar review course may offer. It was emailed to all graduating students in December and it is posted on Canvas, on The Fourth Floor, under Academic Resources and Bar Readiness; just log in with your Emory credentials: https://canvas.emory.edu/courses/74802. This plan makes use of the new West Academic Assessment materials to which all Emory Law students have free access; the link to those is under Academic Resources on Canvas. It is a substantive review of the doctrinal law you will encounter on the bar, which will help you focus your spring semester bar readiness efforts on specific topics and sub-topics.
 

If you’d like to confer with one of the Academic Engagement & Student Success team about a more individual bar readiness schedule for yourself, please feel free to make an appointment with one of us! We are available in January after New Year’s Day. Best wishes for a happy and healthy New 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

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.

Bar Readiness; Or, What I Did Over My Winter Break

Dear Class of 2020: Congratulations on finishing the fall semester! As you look ahead to the rest of your time here, you will have much to celebrate even before graduation. Don’t forget to use this time also to make sure you are ready to make the most out of your commercial bar review course after graduation. There is much you can and should do NOW to improve your bar readiness and your chances of first-time success on the bar exam in July!

First, check to make sure you are aware and on top of all bar-related deadlines and requirements for the bar exam in the state where you plan to take it.  Each state has its own rules and processes, even if they use some of the same tests, and the state bar admissions offices put the burden on you to know, understand, and follow their particular requirements. A good place to start is www.ncbex.org, the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, but always check directly on the state bar’s own website in case of any changes. You will also find on the state bar’s website information about the subjects that state can test, what kind of performance test it may give, whether there is an additional component that you take separately from the bar exam (e.g., the MPRE, or the online New York law course), and even past essay questions and sample answers. If you plan to seek exam accommodations, start that process now, it can take a long time.

Second, I highly recommend the book “Pass The Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz. Although it was published before a few changes in the MBE, so you have to update the information about what subjects are tested and how many questions are experimental, for instance, it remains the best comprehensive guide and planning tool I have found, including especially its “Action Plan Checklists.” Also, subscribe to or come back to check out our blog, “Emory Law Bar Readiness” (link is on the Office of Academic Engagement pages on the law school website, www.law.emory.edu); it contains a lot of useful information as well as links to additional resources.

Third, now is the time to confirm your choice of a commercial bar review course, if you haven’t done that already. You should have that in place by the end of your fall semester. This will allow you to start getting familiar with the course materials and figuring out where your individual weaknesses might be, with plenty of time to remedy any gaps in your recall or understanding of bar-tested subjects. You can add bar-tested subjects to your schedule during the drop/add period in the first week of classes in January, if you think that’s necessary.

Fourth, start NOW to plan ahead for your post-graduation study period. Assess your own readiness in a systematic way, and plan to take the MBE diagnostic tests and overview workshops we will offer in the spring semester.  Assess candidly whether you have any particular risk factors (a chart of risks and how to remedy them is available outside the Office of Academic Engagement). Plan how you will use the time between now and July to address those. Make a plan to handle your time, finances, and other needs during the bar study period (May through end of July).

We look forward to working with you on your readiness to take and conquer the bar exam next summer! Best wishes for your holiday season – Dean Brokaw

Congratulations!

Congratulations to all Emory Law grads who took any state’s bar exam in July and who have been told you passed! Most of the results have now been released, including New York and Florida, and Georgia (today); we are very proud of you. It’s a big achievement and one that is not easy to accomplish, as you know after many months of study and weeks of review courses, plus thousands of practice questions. You’ve earned the right to pat yourselves on the back!

If you want to be sworn into the Georgia Bar with your classmates on November 14, at the annual ceremony hosted here by our alumni relations team, please RSVP at this link, where you will also find more details about the event: RSVP for Swearing-In Ceremony.

If you took the exam and did not pass this time, please feel free to contact me or Rhani Lott 10L if you’d like to talk about trying a different approach or using different materials, including the ones listed elsewhere on this blog. If you will be in Atlanta studying to re-take a bar exam in February, you are welcome to come back to study in the MacMillan Law Library and/or take part in any of our spring semester programming. We have faith in you, and we want to help you cross that finish line.

Best wishes to all of you!