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

Muscle Memory and Bar Readiness

I’m reposting this from the Law School Academic Support blog because it is such sound advice, from a longtime academic success educator: Muscle Learning and Bar Prep Success. If you came to Study Smarter as a 1L, to the session when I teach how to outline, you’ll know that I do believe deep learning is like weight-lifting: your brain only gets stronger when you do the heavy lifting and do the written work yourself, just as your muscles only get stronger when you actually lift the weights instead of reading about someone else’s weightlifting.

Muscle memory is also one reason why I suggest doing at least some of your (thousands of) practice MBE questions using pencil and paper, such as on the tests found in Emanuel’s Strategies and Tactics for the MBE, a book you can buy online (I’ve put a copy in the law library for you to look at if you wish). Not only does the Emanuel’s book use actual released MBE questions licensed from NCBEX, but practicing on paper with the kind of pencils you will use on the real MBE can only help; it certainly won’t hurt. If getting familiar with that helps your brain earn you one or two more points, that can mean the difference between passing and failing the bar exam. So use all the strategies available to you to fight for every point. Given the many changes in the MBE in recent years, it is NOT safe to aim for the minimum passing score — you should overshoot. You don’t have to ace this, but you do want a comfortable margin of points above the minimum score, to make sure you pass.

Please remember, as I’ve posted before, that our analysis of Emory Law’s bar passage rates over the last couple of years tells us that if you are an Emory JD student with a cumulative law school GPA below 3.2, regardless of LSAT or undergraduate GPA, you are at some risk of not passing the bar the first time you take it. If your Emory Law GPA is below 3.05, you are at higher risk of a poor outcome on the bar. Law school GPA is not the only risk factor an individual student might have; for more information, see the handouts outside Dean Brokaw’s office that have a chart of risk factors and how to address them. MOST IMPORTANTLY — RISK IS NOT DESTINY. You can dramatically improve your odds, in spite of any risk factors you may have, by identifying and addressing them strategically and thoroughly. We see this every year — students whose diligent, intelligent, disciplined summer study overcomes risk factors like low LSAT scores or GPAs, so that they pass the bar on their first attempt.

You’ll be hearing from us more often here as the bar gets closer; Jennie and I are here during the summer and we’re always happy to offer guidance and/or sympathy. Sometimes we have snacks.

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

Steven Friedland on Bar Exam Readiness; Bar Examiners’ Visit on March 19

Prof. Steven Friedland, who has published books about bar readiness, has a great article in the current National Jurist: Using The “Four T’s” To Achieve Bar Exam Success. His advice is sound, especially what he says about staying actively engaged in your own learning process, and using active techniques to improve your learning and retention.

Spring break will be a great time to look again at “Pass The Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz, and see where you stand in terms of their pre-bar checklists, and the bar exam risk factors and remedies they identify. The spring semester will accelerate rapidly once you all return from spring break, and graduation will be upon you faster than you expect (yay!) — then your commercial bar review courses. Please use time to your advantage now, identifying areas that may be a challenge for you on the bar exam so you can address them sooner and more thoroughly, with less pressure.

Please remember that the Director of Bar Admissions for Georgia and one of the Board of Bar Examiners, both alumni of Emory Law, will be at the law school on Monday, March 19, at 12:15 to 1:45 pm. Usually the Bar Examiner asks students to review a specific past essay question in advance, so watch for an email about that and check On The Docket for any other details. You can find past Georgia bar essay and MPT questions, and select answers, here: Georgia Bar Essays and MPT Questions. A light lunch will be served but feel free to bring your own.

Have a great spring break!

Bar Exam Essays: Just Do It (Them)

Here is excellent advice from the Law School Academic Support Blog, about doing practice essays questions now, as part of your preparation for the bar exam in one month. I strongly advise doing practice essay questions now, if you have not yet done any, and turning them in ASAP for feedback if your commercial bar review course offers that service. Students sometimes avoid doing practice essay questions because they fear them. Here’s the thing: if essay questions scare you now, how do you think they’ll make you feel on the real bar exam? The good news: if you tackle that fear now and don’t avoid doing practice essays, you will be much less intimidated when you have to answer the real thing. Your first attempts may not be very good. That’s okay, you have time to practice and get better. None of this is based on aptitude or intuition.

  1. Just do it. If you wait until you are fully comfortable with the law to write an essay; you will never do it. You will never be fully comfortable with all aspects of each and every subject area but you can get better by writing.
  2. Build your muscles. You must dive in to build tough skin when it comes to critique/feedback. When you are faced with the unknown you will develop a strategy. You do not want to face your worse fear, the essay, on the day of the exam.  It just won’t work. “Remember that no one shows up for a marathon without preparation so why should you?” (Dean of Student Engagement quote)
  3. Keep it real. Be completely honest with yourself and the people who are trying to help you.  Complete timed questions, honestly critique your responses,and start to do it closed book.
  4. Close the book…or you will never get the timing right and you will never memorize the rules.  Only after you have made a good faith attempt and done your best should you look up rules you do not know or understand.

Another word of advice for Georgia bar exam takers (and it may be relevant in other jurisdictions too): the exam will almost always include an essay question that raises issues of professional ethics. It will likely appear as part of a question on a different, bigger topic — because that is how ethical issues arise in the legal profession, they emerge when you are trying to handle a specific matter of law. On the February bar exam, which you can see online here, Essay Question 1 mostly concerned Evidence. However, one of the questions asked whether or not a prosecutor should turn over certain evidence to the defense. This is a specific scenario where the Georgia rules are slightly different. To do well on all of this essay, examinees needed first to know to discuss the rules governing professional conduct as well as evidence, and the Georgia distinctions.

February 2016 Bar Questions Are Online

Georgia’s Office of Bar Admissions has posted the February 2016 questions online here: Ga. February Bar Essays and MPTs. It is well worth your time to read through them so you have a better idea of what you will see on the actual bar exam. They have not yet posted sample answers for the February questions, but you can see sample answers for earlier bar exam essay questions and MPT questions going back as far as 2000. The New York Bar also has past questions and sample answers but the most recent ones they have posted are from July 2015.

No matter where you are taking the bar, make sure to look at the actual past bar exam questions that most jurisdictions make available. At this stage, you may not be ready to tackle them by doing practice answers but the more familiar you get with them by reading them over, the easier and more effective that practice will be when your bar course assigns you to do some (or you’re ready to do some on your own). Actually doing lots of practice MBE questions and writing out practice essay and MPT answers can mean the difference between passing first time and not. And make sure to think carefully about the “call” of each question; practice reading those closely, so you have more confidence that you know what the bar examiner actually wants to see in your response. Fight for every point!