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!            

   

 

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.

New York, Illinois Will Give Remote Bar Exam in October; Other States Confirm Diploma Privileges

The ABA Journal has published the following summary today to reflect more changes announced by bar jurisdictions yesterday:

In light of public health concerns, Illinois and New York have joined the growing list of states that canceled in-person bar exams, with plans for an October remote test offered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Ohio and New Hampshire made similar announcements Wednesday, as did TennesseeWashington, D.C.Massachusetts and New Jersey during the month of July. Maryland is also offering the NCBE October exam, which the state announced in June.

Additionally, Louisiana announced on Wednesday that the state would be offering diploma privilege for candidates who graduated from an ABA-accredited law school no earlier than December 2019.

According to the NCBE’s website, Utah, Oregon and Washington are also offering diploma privilege.