Guest Post on Bar Exam “Trigger Words”

Dr. Kirsten Schaetzel, a linguist and our Emory Law ESL specialist, has written this excellent advice that will help all bar-takers, not just those for whom English is not a native language. The bar exam will play tricks on you; awareness and practice will help:

“Pay attention to trigger words!

Bar questions, both multiple choice questions and essay questions, often contain words that may seem insignificant, but instead carry much legal meaning and usually have an impact on the answer you choose or the answer you write. We call these words “trigger” words because just like the trigger on a gun, these words have an impact! When you pull the trigger on a gun, a bullet shoots out; when a question contains a trigger word, it has an impact on the way you interpret a situation. Some bar questions may have more than one trigger word.

Trigger words concern time, place, and manner (the way something is done). These usually have a legal impact. Examples of triggers are:

  1. Adverbs, such as immediately, recklessly, accidentally, quickly, severely
  2. Negatives, such as not, does not, did not, and prefixes such as il- (illegal), im- (imperfect), in- (inhospitable), and un- (unconscious)
  3. Descriptive qualifiers, such as a person’s age, any physical limitations, gender, familial or business relationships
  4. Dates, distances, and times (may be clues to causation and statute of limitations)
  5. Place, such as country, state, county, city (may be clues to jurisdiction)

A few examples of trigger words in sample MBE multiple-choice questions are listed below (http://www.ncbex.org ):

  1. The man has “Beware of Dogs” signs clearly posted around a fenced-in yard . . .
  2. The neighbor was attached by one of the dogs and was severely
  3. A major issue is whether the train sounded its whistle before arriving at the crossing.
  4. A daughter was appointed guardian of her elderly father . . .
  5. The sales agreement did not mention the shutters, the buyer did not inquire about them, and the buyer did not conduct a walk-through inspection of the home before the closing.

Notice the underlined “trigger” words and think about the impact they have on meaning.

As you read the prompts for multiple-choice questions and the fact-patterns for bar essay questions, keep your eyes open for trigger words and phrases!”

Thanks, Dr. Schaetzel! I recommend, in this final stretch of bar study, doing as many practice MBE questions as you can and use “active reading” by underlining or circling trigger words and other key words on the questions themselves. This will remind you to notice them on the real bar exam (and you should underline or circle them on the real questions too). Time will be tight — you can streamline your pace of answering questions by practicing now how to focus on the essentials.

Great Advice from the Class of 2018

Dear bar studiers: Happy Friday! Bethany Barclay-Adeniyi, who graduated last year, has kindly written down specifics of what helped her most to pass the Georgia bar exam in February. Bethany took BARBRI and supplemented the course as below. Here are her thoughts:

Below are a few things that really helped me during the bar prep process:

  1. Mental Focus, First and Foremost
    1. Without peace of mind, bar prep will go in vain. Without a stress-free environment that allows you to focus and retain information, bar prep will go in vain. Getting your mind in the right place, and keeping it there throughout the study process, is key to success. Whether it be prayer, exercising, or some other form of stress relief or means of staying encouraged, finding ways to stay motivated, at peace with yourself, and focused are key to bar prep success.
  2. Consistent MBE practice
    1. I tried to maintain 32 MBE practice questions per day. Given my work schedule, some days I could only get through 10 or 15 questions, and then I would make up for the remaining amounts on the weekend. When I took my leave from work solely to study, I upped my MBE practice to 50 questions per day – 1 set of 25 in the morning, and one in the afternoon.

                   (I realize this may be a large amount for students going through the BARBRI course for the first time, especially in the first month given the lectures can be time-consuming. I do wish, though, that I had incorporated more MBE questions in lieu of some of the BARBRI AMP questions. While helpful in learning the black letter law, AMP questions are simply not formatted like true MBE questions).

    1. Adaptibar helped me greatly as well. Not only did it help me break up the monotony of study days, but it allowed me to track which areas I consistently got questions wrong in so I could target those topics more. While a good way to “switch it up” and keep my brain engaged, there is no substitute for putting a pencil to paper and marking up actual questions, given this is what happens on exam day
    2. Reading the explanatory answers helped because they are structured like a well-written essay question (for the most part). So MBE practice helped in all areas of preparing for the exam because it helped me learn law that is potentially also tested on the essay portion of the exam.
  1. Prioritized mastering the GA essay topics based upon which were tested more frequently, but also making sure I did not neglect any one subject.
    1. It is key to prioritize which subjects are tested more frequently (in general), but I didn’t spend a ton of time tracking which essay questions had been tested each year, etc. I know some people get a little too caught up, in my opinion, with trying to predict which essay questions will be tested based upon previous statistics. I found it more helpful to not waste energy poring over what I thought would be tested, but rather spend time learning enough information about each subject so that I would be prepared to write a well-formulated essay no matter the topic.

                    i.      For example, I think Professor Freer’s BARBRI “go-by” he provides about how many times essay topics have been tested in previous years is enough to prioritize a study strategy for essay topics. I personally did not look at another source, and was able to divide my time efficiently between subjects.

    1. When practicing essays I also kept in mind that generally each fact was in an essay question for a reason. So even on exam day, I kept that thought in mind and the facts helped jog my memory about what legal concept was being tested.
  1. Practice, Practice, Practice
    1. Consistent practice of MBE questions, essays, and MPTs

                    i.      I didn’t neglect MPTs, and followed the “Pass the Bar!” book’s suggestion of doing 1 MPT per week, and 2 essays per week. Some weeks I did more depending on how secure I felt with my performance.

    1. Timed Performance: I started off doing a few essays and a MPT untimed. However, after that I did timed performance. I found timed performance to be invaluable because I was able to get a more accurate picture of the work product I can produce while under pressure/my MBE performance (exactly what will be happening on exam day).
    2. Sidenote: I broke out the MBE practice as its own section above because I think people underestimate the importance of the MBE in general. I also think I did not realize how important it is to practice those MBE questions religiously because, when I did, I started seeing patterns, common distractors, and my performance improved drastically. On exam day, I was in a rhythm when it came to MBE questions. It greatly helped, given you are also dealing with anxiety and nervousness on the day of the exam, to have my mind already trained and familiar with the rhythm and pace to take when doing MBE questions.
  1. Picture yourself succeeding
    1. As someone told me, and what I often got tired of hearing to be quite honest, was that bar prep is a marathon and not a sprint. While cliché, it is absolutely true! You have to pace yourself and take it one day at a time. Each day, it is important to imagine yourself succeeding, and picture yourself crushing that exam. I even went so far as to picture myself sitting in the exam room, sitting at a table while doing MBE questions, practice essays, or practice MPTs (for those who don’t know what the exam room looks like, a picture is online on the GA bar admissions website). Keeping my end goal in mind was key.

Thanks, Bethany, for sharing your words of advice and encouragement!

 

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. However, our review of recent bar performance and results suggests that some bar-takers are underperforming on the MPT enough to cost them a passing score.

It is pretty simple for you to make sure you don’t fall into that trap in July. 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. July 2018 questions are here.

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 last summer’s 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. Practice doing the close reading of MPT instructions Prof. Gallagher describes, using real MPT questions, and practice outlining how you would respond to them. 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. 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. 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!

Bad News on the First July 2018 MPT Task

Congratulations to all February Bar-Passers!

Congratulations to all Emory Law grads who took and passed any state’s bar exam in February! Most of the results have now been released; 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 took the exam and did not pass this time, please feel free to contact me or Jennie Geada Fernandez 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 or near Atlanta this summer, studying to re-take a bar exam, you are welcome to come back to study in the MacMillan Law Library or take part in some of the study breaks we’ll be offering (most will be on Wednesdays around lunchtime). We have faith in you, and we want to help you cross that finish line.

Best wishes to all of you.

Important Bar Readiness/Advising Sessions in March; MBE Overview Information

Dear students: Welcome back from your break! We hope you enjoyed some rest and relaxation. Here is some important information about bar readiness programming in March.

  1. On March 20, the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success will hold an open academic advising session for all rising 2Ls, rising 3Ls, and continuing LLM students, specifically focused on course selection and bar readiness. In addition to fulfilling graduation requirements, it is wise to choose a variety of courses, each of which serves at least one of the following purposes: (a) help you better define your potential interests, by narrowing the possibilities; (b) help you deepen your knowledge/skills/abilities in specific practice areas, if you know the possible careers you may choose to pursue; (c) help you signal to potential employers your knowledge of (and interest in) a particular area; (d) help you prepare for the bar exam by instructing you in one or more of the topics that are tested. Pre-registration and regular registration will take place in the first half of April, so come to this session on March 20, Rm. 1E, 12:15-1:45 pm. Graduation requirements are listed on the Law School Registrar webpage and in the online Student Handbook you will find there. You can review a course selection checklist for JD and AJD students here: Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success, under the tab for Choosing Courses.
  2. On March 27, the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success will again welcome the Director of Bar Admissions for the State Bar of Georgia and a member of the Board of Bar Examiners for Georgia, to discuss what to expect on the bar exam itself. This session is well worth attending even if you plan to take the bar in a different state, as much of the information will cover national tests like the MBE and MPT, as well as other generally applicable information. This program is especially intended for students who plan to take the bar exam in July 2019, but others are also welcome to attend. March 27, Rm. 1E, 12:15-1:45 pm. A copy of the actual bar essay question the bar examiner will review with students is linked below; you should review it, outline how you would answer it, and bring those materials to the session.
  3. Due to a lack of faculty availability and student attendance, there will be no more MBE Overview sessions this spring. You may view the 2019 MBE Subject Matter Outline that is the basis for those sessions here, on the website for the National Conference of Bar ExaminersMBE Subject Matter Outline.  Rest assured that your commercial bar review courses will instruct you thoroughly in these topics. If you haven’t yet signed up with a bar course, you should do so right away, and start reviewing the “early start” materials most provide.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Georgia Bar Exam BOWDEN JULY 2018 QUESTION

Bar Admissions/Bar Examiners 3-27-19

Save the Date — Info Session with Bar Examiner and Director of Bar Admissions; Deadlines

Emory Law Bar Readiness State Bar Georgia

If you will graduate in May and take a bar exam in July, mark your calendar for March 27, when the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions will return for its annual spring visit. Unlike the fall visit, when the director of bar admissions speaks to students mostly about the character and fitness process, the spring visit includes one of the actual bar examiners, the lawyers who write and grade the essay questions on the Georgia bar. The presentation will be on March 27, from 12:15-1:45 pm, in Rm. 1E.

This session will be useful even if you plan to take the bar exam in a different state, as the director of bar admissions will speak generally about things like the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) and MPT (Multistate Performance Test), which are included on the Georgia bar exam and most other states’ bar exams. She will also go into detail about the Georgia bar exam, so if you plan to take that, don’t miss this session. Also, if you have individual concerns or questions about the character and fitness review process, she normally makes herself available for private conversations with students after the main session.

Please visit www.gabaradmissions.org for detailed information, and remember to keep checking your bar applicant portal for any communications from the Office of Bar Admissions. You don’t want to miss any questions or deadlines from them, as they will strictly enforce all policies and deadlines. The very last deadline for submitting a character and fitness application for the July 2019 Georgia Bar is March 6, 2019. Review all Georgia deadlines here: Georgia Bar Admissions Deadlines and Fees.

If you will take the Uniform Bar Examination or another state’s bar exam, make sure you are tracking and meeting all relevant deadlines and requirements. You can review those at the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, www.ncbex.org, in the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements. NOTE: “The information in this publication is correct as submitted to NCBE by contributing jurisdictions at the time of publication. It should be used only as a general guide. Since jurisdiction rules and policies change, NCBE strongly advises consulting the jurisdiction’s bar admission agency directly for the most current information.”

Congratulations!! And a Georgia invitation

Dear Class of 2018: If you recently learned that you passed the bar exam, congratulations! All your effort and hard work paid off!

If you have passed both the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) and the Georgia Bar exam, you are now eligible for admission to the State Bar of Georgia. By now, you should have gotten the following invitation from Emory Law:

Your Emory Law Community would be honored to facilitate your admission to the Georgia Bar with a special Swearing-In Ceremony & Reception at Emory Law in Tull Auditorium on Thursday, November 15, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. Judge Courtney L. Johnson 00L will preside. All your friends and family are invited!

Arrive by 5:45 p.m. We will begin promptly at 6:00 p.m. and the entire event should conclude by 8:00 p.m., including time to process and sign the certificates following the ceremony.

To participate in the Swearing-In Ceremony & Reception, you must complete the following:

1) Register yourself and your guests.

2) Submit your original Certificate of Eligibility by end of business day on Thursday, November 8, 2018. Delivery instructions below. You received this certificate with the notification of your Georgia Bar passage, and possession of the original document (not a copy) is the only method by which the Clerk of Court may process your admission. Please note: Your certificate will be mailed to the most recent address on file with the Georgia Bar. Please confirm your address with the Georgia Bar to ensure accurate delivery.

Please hand-deliver your certificate to the wooden lockbox outside of Dean Brokaw’s office (G131) in Gambrell Hall or mail it via registered delivery (FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc.) to:

Genude Gregoire, Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement

Emory University School of Law

1301 Clifton Road

Atlanta, GA 30322

MUST BE RECEIVED NO LATER THAN END OF BUSINESS DAY ON

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2017

If you have any questions, please contact Genude Gregoire.

Once again, congratulations on this incredible milestone! We look forward to celebrating your accomplishment at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, November 15!

Note: If you are being sworn in prior to this event, but would like to join your classmates as a ceremonial participant, please let us know by emailing me here: Genude Gregoire.

We are so proud of you, and we look forward to seeing many of you here on November 15! Do remember to register yourself and your guests.

Warm regards — all of us here at Emory Law!

Two Weeks to Go — Stay Engaged!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

You Took the Mock MBE — Now What?

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.

Practice Questions and Another Free MBE Diagnostic Assessment

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.