Getting SeRiouS with Spaced Repetition; and a discount

If you are studying for the July bar, you know by now how much material you have to master and you have probably outlined a work calendar/schedule for the next eight weeks. (If you haven’t done that yet, now is a good time to do so).  Making the most effective use of your study time is crucial. A tool that may help is available now from www.SpacedRepetition.com, a start-up that has adapted “spaced repetition” technology to be used in studying for the bar exam, especially the MBE. Its founder is a law professor, Gabe Teninbaum, and you can read about the technology and its application here, SRS Info, and here: Top 20 Legal IT Innovations 2017.

The site uses a unique algorithm to help students learn far more in far less time. “An important focus for SpacedRepetition.com is helping law students succeed on the bar,” he says, adding that thousands of American law school graduates fail the exam every year. “But it can also be used by students and lawyers in other contexts to help them retain other legal knowledge. It has applications beyond law, too, but law is the current focus.” Combining psychological research and web technology, the system is built on a series of electronic flashcards. The core content, called the Boost Deck, is written by law professors. “A student spends about ten minutes a day studying them, and for each flashcard they see, they rate how well they know each one on a scale of 1 to 5,” explains Teninbaum…

Users are projected to improve their score by about eight points on the bar. This has dramatic potential, according to Teninbaum, because “between a third and half of people who fail the bar fail by less than that margin”.

Prof. Teninbaum is offering a 25% discount to all Emory Law grads who want to buy the basic “Boost Deck”, which normally costs $99 for a year’s access. Go to the SRS website, sign up (you can try it for 7 days for free) and use the discount code emory25 for 25% off. If you have to list a “referrer”, put Katherine Brokaw or try Emory or Emory Law. You can also follow Prof. Teninbaum on Twitter: @SpacedRep.

This system works best if you use it consistently and daily, but it takes very little time; you get automated reminders when you should do more review. It could be a refreshing change from your primary study methods. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Congratulations, Emory Law graduates! On to the bar exam!

Dear Emory Law graduates: first and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS! You made it! You earned the law degree in which you have invested so much effort, expense, and time. That is a wonderful achievement and I hope you take some time to savor it.

Second (of course), if you plan to use that degree to enter the legal profession, as the great majority of you do, you must take and pass the dreaded bar exam. Fear not! You can do it. But like your degree, it will require effort, some expense, and time. You don’t have to reinvent strategies for success on the bar exam, either. There are many excellent sources of guidance by people like academic support staff who have been coaching law students to succeed on the bar exam the first time they take it. And if you are taking a commercial bar review course, which we highly recommend (not taking one is a known risk factor for failing the bar first time), they will spend the next two months preparing you to pass.

Beware of bar-related advice from lawyers who are only drawing on their own anecdotal experiences with the bar exam. There have been a number of statistically significant changes to parts of the bar exam like the MBE in the last few years, so anyone who took it more than a year or two ago took an exam that may have been easier than the one you will face. Even excellent advice from knowledgeable sources must be viewed in light of those changes. For example, I often recommend Schwartz and Riebe’s book “Pass The Bar!”. It is an outstanding guide to first-time success on the bar exam and it includes action checklists for each stage of bar readiness. However, it was published before Civil Procedure was added to the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). So do use it, but remember that it won’t discuss that subject being on the MBE.

Because of the changes to the MBE in recent years, my best advice is to aim for overshooting the passing score in your jurisdiction. Those who aim only to meet a passing score often fall short. It’s just not worth it! As long as you don’t exhaust yourself, there is no harm in doing more preparation than you may think you need. Again, beware of lawyers who tell you not to bother studying too much. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t pass first time, but it’s not a pleasant experience and not one we want any of you to undergo. It can mean the end of a job offer you hoped to get, so underpreparing is not worth the risk.

The good news for Emory Law grads is that there is really no reason you can’t pass first time, as long as you prepare diligently and make full use of the next two months. You are very capable students, and the bar exam is not an aptitude test — it is all about well-managed, diligent study and practice, which are completely within your own control. If you will be studying here in the Emory Law library and building, the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success will be hosting regular study breaks for you starting the week of May 21. Specifically, we are hosting a study break/bar review kick-off on Monday, May 21, with King of Pops and the King of Civil Procedure, Prof. Rich Freer, at 1 pm. Watch your Emory email and Facebook pages for details from me, Jennie Geada Fernandez 02L, and Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo! We’ll be here all summer, so you are also welcome to drop by for encouragement and coffee.

We’ll be sharing information periodically on this blog between now and the bar exam itself. For example, here is some great bar-related guidance (and post-bar guidance) from lawyer Paula Edgar, CEO of a speaking, executive coaching and diversity consulting firm in New York: Bar Exam and Beyond: 11 Strategies for Law School Graduate Success.

Once again, we are VERY proud of you and all that you have achieved. We look forward to cheering you on, toward and across the bar exam finish line!

Bar Exam Risk Factors — and Solutions

If you plan to take a bar exam in the coming year, including this summer, you should take some time now to assess yourself and what risk factors you may have that could put you at risk of not passing the bar on your first try. That sounds scary, but 1) there are many ways to address those risk factors, many students have done that successfully to beat the odds; and 2) you have plenty of time between now and the summer to address any risk factors if you start now.

The book I recommend that all students read, ideally starting in the summer after their 2L year, is “Pass the Bar!” by Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz. Here is a chart for self-assessment based on their list of risk factors and solutions:

Bar_Exam_Individual_Risk_Factors

Take a few minutes to read it over and ask yourself if any apply to you — they DO apply even to Emory Law students — then keep reading to find out how to neutralize them! Look for and attend our ongoing programs this semester that will help you ease into bar readiness. And feel free to visit with Dean Brokaw or Jennie Geada Fernandez to discuss how you can optimize your chances of success, starting with the MBE diagnostic exams and workshops we will hold starting this Saturday. If you are a graduating student, check your email or On The Docket for info and a registration link. The bar exam is not an aptitude test; it is an ATTITUDE test — you achieve success based on the effort you invest. Sweat equity. And that’s good news, because success is within reach of you all if you make the right choices. We’re here to help.

Nine Weeks …

Nine weeks from today, most of you will be done with the July bar exam! That’s hard to envision, since most of you also just started your bar review courses. Here are some pieces of good news, which I hope you will find encouraging:

  1. In nine weeks, this will be over. No, it won’t be the best summer of your life, but it will be over before August and you can still go to a beach, lake, or whatever destination fits your budget and your need to relax.
  2. You have NINE WHOLE WEEKS to focus on getting ready to pass the bar on your first attempt. If you manage your time well, keep up with your courses’ assignments, and treat bar preparation as a daily job, that is a good amount of time. Don’t let one of those workdays or weeks get away from you — it might feel good now, but it sure won’t later.
  3. You are a very bright student community and most of you WILL pass the first time — IF you put in the time, do the work, and do more than 1800 practice MBE questions. If you took one of our diagnostic MBE workshops this spring, those count toward your total! If you didn’t, you can still pick up the practice questions from all three workshop providers, outside G145.
  4. The bar exam is not an aptitude test; it’s all about “sweat equity”, and you control that. No matter how bright you are, if you don’t study enough, you are unlikely to pass. But even if you struggled academically in law school, you can still pass the bar first time by investing focused, daily effort in your preparation and doing up to 2000 practice MBE questions. This is within your control, unlike so many law school courses. Seize the moment and take that control!
  5. Slow and steady really does win this race. Don’t panic or freak yourself out — there’s no need, and it won’t help. Just plug away at your course assignments and practice questions, 6 days/week (you can and should take a day off weekly, if you are otherwise keeping up).

Check your Emory Law email for the list of support programs we are offering this summer on Wednesdays here on campus! We were glad to see many of you today for the first one — complete with celebrity cameo appearances by Prof. Rich Freer and Dean Schapiro. Whether or not you are here in Atlanta, know that we are here and we are rooting for you. Let us know how we can help.

Happy New Year! Bar Readiness in 2017

Will you graduate this May? Do you plan to take a bar exam this summer? If so, now is the best possible time for you to focus on getting ready to pass the bar the first time you take it, if you haven’t started already. Time after time, we see that the law students who start planning for the bar early in their 3L year have a much higher chance of passing the first time. In January, you have plenty of time to diagnose any weaknesses you might have and work over time to address them. Many law students have factors that put them at risk of not passing the bar first time — but virtually all of those factors can be readily addressed if given time and attention.

As we did last year, Emory Law is offering all our students who will graduate this spring the opportunity to gain some of those insights by taking an MBE diagnostic test of 100 practice questions with a follow-up workshop to discuss correct and incorrect answers, and the strategies to achieve your best scores. They will take place in January and February; the first one is on January 20. Students can sign up HERE for 1, 2 or all 3 of them! Last year, many students took all three and got great results on last summer’s bar exam. We are very happy to be able to offer the same opportunities again this year!

Important Changes To The MBE For 2017

The National Conference of Bar Examiners alerted law school deans yesterday about another change to the MBE starting in 2017 (they had previously announced an expansion of the scope of topics that might be tested in the category of Real Property). The 2017 MBE will still contain 200 questions, but unlike prior years, when 190 of those were actually scored and 10 were unscored experimental questions, the new MBE will only score 175 questions and 25 will be unscored experimental questions.

This means that each individual multiple choice question will count a bit more than in the past; and cumulatively, it will be more important for a bar taker to answer each one correctly. What this means for you, as an individual test-taker, is that test-taking skills and strategies will become even more important. In addition to paying attention to the added scope of Real Property topics and making sure you study the new topics, it will be more important than ever for you to do as many practice MBE questions as possible and review what strategies were most effective for you.

We will be offering (again) free MBE workshops for graduating students in the spring semester, so please plan to take advantage of at least one of those. You can come to all of them at no cost to you. Also, be sure to ask bar review course vendors for details about their MBE practice questions, such as how many of them are actual former MBE questions released by NCBEX, and how many will address the added subjects in Civil Procedure (added in 2015) and Real Property. Be aware that older MBE review materials will likely not include those new topics, including some that are on reserve for your use in the MacMillan Law Library.

Do You Want Free Critical Pass MBE Flashcards?

Here’s something to lighten the mood a little on a stormy Friday five weeks before the bar exam and after a tough, sad week in Orlando. I have a complete, new set of “Critical Pass ” MBE flashcards that was sent to me by the company after I went to the annual conference for law school academic assistance. I understand that those of you who are taking commercial bar review courses (which I hope is all of you who will take a bar exam in July) can gauge your progress on completing assignments during the course, against the average for all others taking the same state course from that provider.

If you are an Emory Law grad, Class of 2016, taking a bar exam this July, email me a screen shot of whatever system your course uses; if it shows that you have done MORE assigned work than the average for your course, in your state, I will enter your name in a drawing for the set of MBE flashcards (I know, thrilling, right? But they’re not cheap and some 2015 grads really liked them). They cover all the MBE subjects, including the 2015 addition, Civil Procedure. You must be able to pick the set up from the law school in person and you must email me the screenshot before 5 pm on Monday, June 20. Good luck!

 

Image: www.criticalpass.com