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!

Building Endurance NOW for the Bar Exam

Bar studiers, as you know, the bar exam starts two weeks from today. A recent research report from AccessLex confirms some of the advice you’ve been hearing for a while now, so here’s a summary. To maximize your odds of passing the bar on your first attempt, try these in these last two weeks.

  1. Sleep about 8 hours/night. The bar exam requires endurance and persistence, which are fatiguing. Your brain is part of your body — treat them both well so they can both support your success! Adequate nightly sleep in the next two weeks is essential. Taper back your caffeine intake so you can sleep soundly on a regular schedule.
  2. Put in full study days, up to 10 hours daily (now including on weekends), taking 30 minute breaks between study sessions of at least two hours. Breaks allow your brain to process what you’ve been learning or fine-tuning, as well as to switch between subjects in ways that support learning and retention. Getting some exercise during one of your breaks will also help!
  3. Study in the morning for 3-4 hours (not counting breaks). In the research study, bar-takers who studied in the morning had significantly higher odds of bar success. This may be because they have “trained their brains” to be alert and focused on bar topics and questions at the time of day when they will actually take the exam. If you haven’t done this yet, now is a good time to shift your sleep and study schedule so you are getting up at the same time every day when you’ll have to get up for the actual exam, and studying during the same hours when you will take it. If you’ve been working, now is the time to cut back on work and focus on bar readiness. Ask your employer to give you this week and the next off so you can study in this final stretch, during normal work hours.
  4. Take more practice exams under test conditions, both timed and sitting still in a specific location. Endurance matters when you take the bar exam — both mental and physical. You’ll want to practice answering every kind of question (MBE, essay, MPT) under the same time and space restrictions you’ll have on the real bar exam. Emory Law grads this year have access to the full set of practice materials from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, including several practice MBE exams that provide explanations once you finish the full simulations. Practicing with real, released MBE questions from NCBE is the best preparation at this stage. Not all bar courses provide those, so make sure you practice with questions made available by NCBE, and thoroughly assess your own performance so you can keep improving.
  5. Practice actually writing and producing the kind of written work product on essays and the MPT that bar examiners expect to see. Attention to instructions and details matters a lot and can affect your grade — both are entirely within your control. Use a clear format like IRAC for essays, and closely follow the instructions for content and format on the MPT questions. Review released MPT questions and point sheets.
  6. Eat nutritious food and stay hydrated. Again, your brain is part of your body, and both need good nutrition for peak performance! They also need hydration and it’s easy to forget that in the heat of summer and the final days of bar study. Staying hydrated is known to actually improve academic performance, so why not give yourself that edge?

You’ve come a long way since May! By now, if you’ve been working steadily, actively, and constructively, you should feel very confident that the work you have done will serve you well during the real bar exam. That confidence will give you a boost too!            

   

 

Three Weeks to Go — You Can Do This!

We’ve been thinking of you all, and we know how tired everyone is by now, just three weeks before the bar exam starts. You can do this! As we always say: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The final stages are crucial. Here are some tips that might help you keep going over these last weeks:

1. Finalize your plan for where you’ll take the bar exam, including reminding any roommates or family what your needs will be on those days. Make sure any laptop you have registered to use is in good working order and conforms to the requirements of the bar officials and the bar exam software. Review and follow all related instructions, paying attention to any deadlines.

2. Review the daily schedule and FAQs for your bar exam; Georgia’s are here: https://www.gabaradmissions.org/july-2021-exam-faqs

3. Quiz yourself to test your recall of all bar topics as often as possible, even in short bits of time, using flashcards, apps, or whatever you have been using to test your memory.

4. Keep doing practice questions daily: about 34 MBE questions in mixed-subject sets, every day. If you haven’t yet taken your course’s practice MBE exam, do that now and review your scores and answers carefully to make sure you understand what you got wrong, why, and how to answer correctly next time.

5. Keep doing weekly practice essay and MPT questions: 2 essays weekly, 1 MPT (and attend our online MPT workshop on July 15).

6. Take care of yourself so you’ll be in great shape for test-taking: take breaks, give yourself little rewards for completing study goals, exercise daily, eat right and stay hydrated.

7. Adjust your sleep and study schedule to be consistent with actual exam days; i.e., go to sleep as early as you will before exam days to get enough sleep and be fully alert at the time you’ll take the exam, and start getting up at the same time you’ll need to be awake on exam days. 

8. Study during the same hours when you’ll take the actual exam, to “train your brain” to be fully alert and in the habit of doing good work at that time of day.

9. Stay on top of stress, using good self-care practices, and plan ahead for how you’ll handle any stress you might feel during the exam. Remind yourself of all the work you’ve done so you can feel confident about passing the bar.

10. Plan a safe celebration for after the exam! 

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.

Sign Up For A Bar Mentor!

If you’ve just graduated from Emory Law, congratulations! Most of you will have started your commercial bar review course by now. For some years, young alumni of Emory Law have volunteered to be “bar mentors” for individual new graduates of Emory Law who are studying for a July bar exam. Each graduate who wants a mentor is matched as closely as possible with a young alum (most have graduated in the preceding ten years) in terms of the state bar jurisdiction and House. The mentors are asked to stay in weekly contact with their mentees, to offer proven guidance at various stages of bar study, meet for coffee if feasible and if both parties want to do so, and generally be a sympathetic and knowledgeable resource for this year’s bar studiers.

Sign-ups for Emory Law’s Class of 2021 to request a bar mentor opened a week ago and are open through this Friday, 5/28. More details are on this flyer:

New York Announces Remote Bar Exam in July 2021, Caps Applications

You may have heard this news from other sources such as your commercial bar review course, or directly from the New York Board of Law Examiners via their Applicant Services Portal: the New York Board of Law Examiners (NY BOLE) announced yesterday that 1) New York will administer the July 2021 Uniform Bar Exam remotely; and 2) it will cap bar exam applications at 10,000. This is comparable to the number of NY bar takers in July 2019, so no need to panic, but you should register as soon as you are able to do so, following the instructions at the NY BOLE website and any official communications you have from them.
 
The application will open at 12:01 am EST on April 1, i.e. just after midnight tonight, Eastern Standard Time. To apply, you must have an NCBEX account (which you have if you took the MPRE) and a NY BOLE account (which you have if you’ve already taken the New York Law Course and the New York Law Exam online). I suggest you make sure today you have taken all steps to be ready to submit your application, following the NY BOLE instructions. Note: “An application is considered filed when it is filed electronically online and the application fee is paid. The application must be completed and the fee must be received during the application period for the application to be considered filed.” Credit cards accepted for online payment are MasterCard and Visa. Applications will be open until April 30 or when the cap of 10,000 is reached, whichever happens first.
 
As a further reminder, per the NY BOLE website: “The results from the March 11, 2021 NYLE have been posted to candidates’ BOLE Accounts. To access the exam results, log in to your account in the Applicant Services Portal using your email address and password and navigate to the NYLE section within the portal. The next administration of the NYLE is on June 10, 2021 at 12:00 pm Eastern. The deadline to complete the New York Law Course and register for the March [June] NYLE is May 11, 2021 at 11:59 PM.” 
 
Finally, make sure to read all the published information at the NY BOLE website and the FAQ at the NY BOLE website, and check your email and applicant portal often to make sure you don’t miss any official communications, as those will be your first and most important information channels. If you have questions that can’t be answered via information on the website, you may call the BOLE office at: 518-453-5990.
 

A Four-Month Action Checklist Before the Bar Exam

As my regulars know, I’m a big fan of the book “Pass The Bar!” by Profs. Riebe and Schwartz. One reason I value it so highly is that it provides “Action Checklists” for up to 12 months before taking a bar exam.

Four months from tomorrow, most bar-takers in the US will begin their first day of the July bar exam (July 27 and 28, 2021 in Georgia and many other states). So here is an action checklist, modified from the one in “Pass The Bar!”:

  1. Review your intended jurisdiction’s bar admission and licensing rules. For Georgia, go to www.gabaradmissions.org. To find other jurisdictions’ websites, go to www.ncbex.org, where you can look them up.
  2. Plan now for your bar review period.
    1. Assess your own risk factors and the suggested solutions, to maximize your chances of passing the bar on your first attempt.
    2. Decide what if any remedial actions you need to take, including assessing your strengths and weaknesses in core bar-tested subjects, using the West Academic Assessment materials (see The Fourth Floor, on your Emory Canvas dashboard).
    3. Schedule time weekly to start studying or reviewing subjects you feel you don’t know as well, focusing on doing practice questions and analyzing why the answer options were correct or incorrect. Note any patterns you see in the errors you make (and everyone will be making errors!). Revisit the winter break study plan sent in December to all 3Ls and graduating LLM students.
  3. Create your own winning “game plan” for bar success.
    1. Review the time commitments you have between now and the end of July, and plan to minimize them where possible. Make bar study a top priority between graduation and the exam.
    2. Do a financial check-up and plan ahead for budgetary needs during your bar study period. If necessary, look into bar loans.
    3. Do an academic check-up: review your law school transcript to identify any gaps or weaknesses in what you have studied to date, comparing your courses to the subjects your jurisdiction can test on its bar exam, and decide on a plan to remedy those gaps or weaknesses.
    4. Update/refresh your legal writing skills for bar exam essays; practice so that producing a strong, clear written work product in IRAC format becomes almost automatic.
    5. Review your jurisdictions’ past essay and MPT questions, paying attention on the MPT to what kinds of documents you may be asked to create. Start doing practice MPT questions, comparing your answers to the sample answers most jurisdictions provide.
    6. Do a stress/attitude check: plan for how you will stay positive, healthy, focused, and resilient during bar study.
    7. If you haven’t yet signed up for a commercial bar review course, do that ASAP and start using any early access study materials it provides.
    8. Remember to enjoy your last semester of law school and seize any opportunities to do some things you might not have done yet, like getting to know certain professors better.

Good Luck on the New York Law Exam!

Good luck to those of you who will take the online New York Law Exam this week as part of the bar admission requirements of the New York State Board of Law Examiners! If you aren’t taking it this week but you plan to take it in the future, please remember the dates and application deadlines, which are separate from the dates and deadlines for the Uniform Bar Exam that New York administers (also required for bar admission). The New York Law Exam is given four times a year.

If you expect to apply for admission to the New York bar (or any other state), make sure to review carefully all the rules and instructions that every state provides on an official website, such as www.nybarexam.org or www.gabaradmissions.org. An easy way to find the website of the state where you plan to take a bar exam and seek admission is to start at the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, www.ncbex.org. Bookmark that website and the website for your bar jurisdiction if you haven’t done so already!