A Cautionary Tale and Some Heartfelt Advice from a Bar-Taker

This post just appeared in a Reddit forum for bar-studiers; it includes heartfelt, sound advice from a bar-taker who just found out that s/he failed the bar for a second time. As the poster writes, this is AVOIDABLE! There are specific steps you can take as a bar studier to maximize your chances of success.  But the struggle is real, especially as we’re not yet through this pandemic and its impact on our physical and mental health. Here it is:

I failed for the second time. The first time I took it, I completed all the [commercial program’s] lectures and some MBEs. I didn’t do any MPTs or MEEs. The sheer anxiety of taking an in-person bar during the midst of a pandemic as an immuno-compromised person paralyzed me. I couldn’t study no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t finish two MEEs and guessed on around half of the MBEs. So, I wasn’t surprised when I failed with a dismal 234.

The second time around I decided to redo the [commercial] program since I didn’t really finish it the first time. I got past some of the lectures but I remembered most of the lectures so it felt repetitive. I fell off course again. Four weeks before the exam I snapped back to reality and bought [a supplemental commercial course]. I watched all the lectures and rewrote lecture notes by hand until I had them memorized. I barely did any MBEs and didn’t do any MEEs or MPTs. So, unsurprisingly, I failed again with a 244.

I’m not sure why I repeated the same pattern of not doing any practice for the second exam. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of discipline or motivation that’s serving as a roadblock. It could have been my depression and anxiety, my bruised ego or a combination of all three. I have no one to blame but myself. So many of my loved ones feel sorry for me because I failed again after trying so hard. But, I didn’t. I really didn’t. I have too much shame to tell them the truth so I decided to tell strangers on the internet instead.

I’m in a better place mentally this time around. I’d be an absolute idiot to not do practice this time. I already have a game plan, unlike last time… The key is to just do the damn practice exams.

Yes. Active learning is more effective than passive learning, always. As you continue your bar readiness journey, do as much of the recommended work as you can, making bar study your fulltime job as much as possible after graduation. If you’re short on time, always choose active learning options like practice questions, followed by careful self-assessment, over passive options like watching online lectures. When you watch lectures, take active notes, ideally by hand as that is know to improve retention for most learners.

It’s mid-April. You have plenty of time to create your own plan for success on the July bar. You can do this!

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.

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.

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

Good luck on this week’s bar exam!

If you are taking a February bar exam this week, we are rooting for you! I think our graduates overall could pick up some more points on the MPT, and possibly bridge the difference between passing and failing, so make sure you understand what it will ask you to do, and how it will be graded. If you want to look over examples of past MPTs and sample answers, you will find some here: Georgia Bar Past Questions and Sample Answers.

Make sure you review the rules, procedures and instructions for your jurisdiction’s bar exam. Georgia’s are here: Rules, Procedures and Instructions. Most of all, get a good night’s sleep tonight, stay hydrated, plan ahead for challenges like traffic and weather, and get to the test site early. The less stress you have on bar exam days, the better your chances are. Remember, each question is an opportunity to do well and score points; fight for every point, but forget about each question after you finish, and move on. Remind yourself why you know you can pass this exam! Good luck, wherever you are taking the bar– you can do this!

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