California Bar Exam Tip: What do I do if I failed the bar exam?

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Hello Everyone,

If you are a February 2011 bar exam taker you are no doubt thinking about the bar exam.  Putting together a successful study plan is very important. Now is the time to start thinking about your bar studies. A little advance planning can make a big difference. Here are a few pointers:

A SUCCESSFUL STUDY PLAN

Perhaps one of the most important things for those preparing for the bar exam is to have a successful study plan. I don’t mean an assignment list provided to you by your bar prep provider. Instead, I mean a “study plan”, a plan for success. A successful study plan not only includes assignments – like completing MBEs, writing practice essays, reviewing and memorizing the substantive law – but it also takes into account the realities of your day – “I need to eat”, “I need to rest”, “I need to exercise”, “I need to keep my stress level at a manageable level”, “I need to work part time” or “I need to work full time”, “I need to stay healthy”. These are all critical to your success on the bar exam and will play as important a role in your success on the bar as your actual bar study.

HOW DO I CREATE A SUCCESSFUL STUDY PLAN?

A successful study plan requires: taking into account your weaknesses and strengths, establishing a routine and habit of study, creating and adhering to a realistic routine that will address your weaknesses and maintain or improve your strengths while also taking into account the amount of time that you actually have available to study (for example, whether you have all day to study, or you work part time, or you are working full time etc.) See below for a sample one day study schedule.

Finally, a successful study plan should maximize your effectiveness by scheduling the right kinds of work during the right times of day or evening (for example, it does not make much sense to practice MBE questions at 9:00 pm after a long work day when you are exhausted). Instead, get up earlier the next day to do MBEs in the morning before going to work. Even if all you can do is ten MBEs before going to work, do it. And, do it every day and you will establish a routine.

It is important to make adjustments to your study plan based upon what is realistic for you. Once you determine what you will do each day and for how long, you will likely need to make adjustments to your plan. You may discover that your initial plan of completing 50 MBEs after attending a four hour bar review lecture is not realistic for you. While it is very important to do a significant number of MBEs and to write many practice exams, you should also realize that this practice is best done at your peak times – when you are most alert. Therefore, you may decide to complete 20 MBEs before going to your bar review lecture and then an additional 20 MBEs after your bar review lecture.

ESTABLISH A ROUTINE:

One of the key features of any successful study plan is to establish a routine. While you will have some study days where your study day ends earlier or goes later, the key is establishing a regular routine. This includes where you study, how often you eat, exercise, take breaks as well as the types of study you do during the day and when. For example – getting in the habit/routine of completing MBEs every morning at the same time and place every day, writing practice essays on a regular basis (for example, you might use the following routine: write a practice essay every Monday, Wednesday and Friday).

Below you will find an example of a typical study day from a good study plan. Here is a sample study day for someone who does not have to work and can devote their entire time to bar study: Note that other study days would likely incorporate writing practice exams and/or attending a bar review lecture or workshop).

SAMPLE ONE DAY STUDY SCHEDULE:

7:00 am – workout – short run or walk – (For example, 1 mile run/walk through your neighborhood)

7:30/7:45 am – shower, have a healthy breakfast and “disconnect for the day”. By disconnecting for the day, I mean: disconnect from your cell phone, the internet, text messaging and anything else that can lead to wasted time and loss of focus. This is really critical. Protect your study time, commit to certain study hours and refrain from checking email, voice mail, surfing the internet, checking and replying to text messages, and prepare your friends and family for your absence – see post: “Disconnecting to Pass the Bar”).

8:30 – 9:30 am – Complete 30 – 33 Torts MBEs

9:30 am – Take five minute break (do a couple of jumping jacks, just move around for a bit, eat a quick and healthy snack – for example, grab 6 or 8 almonds. Healthy snacks throughout the day are important to ensure a successful study day. We have all heard that eating small amounts throughout the day will help to keep your blood sugar level steady. This will help maintain your energy level through out the day as well and will lead to a much more productive study day).

9:35 am – check answers for the Torts MBEs above, review the explanations and make flashcards for each missed MBE. (Note: the amount of time this will take will vary and depend upon how many MBEs you missed, so take the time you need – the corrections you make now will result in a higher MBE score later on).

10:30 am – ten minute break – get up from your desk, move a bit, eat an apple or some other healthy snack like a couple of stalks of celery with peanut butter.

10:40 am – BEGIN ESSAY ISSUE SPOTTING EXERCISE. Read through four torts essays. For each essay, use the following method: 1) read and issue spot the essay, 2) quickly check the model answer to see if you correctly identified the issues, 3) if you did not spot all of the issues then go back to the fact pattern and try to identify which facts trigger the issues that you missed, 4) read the entire model answer, 5) study the model answer and create your own outline from the answer – this outline should be your model for how to approach this essay in the future. You will likely spend about 40 – 50 minutes per essay (15 minutes to issues spot, 5 minutes to check your issues, 20 – 30 minutes to sort out missed issues and to create your own outline/approach for tackling this essay in the future).

10:40 – 11:20 am – Torts Essay One (from “Essay Issue Spotting Exercise” above)

11:20 am – five minute break – get up from your desk, move around.

11:25 am – 12:05 pm – Torts Essay Two (from “Essay Issue Spotting Exercise” above)

12:05 pm – 12: 50 pm- lunch break – eat healthy, have something you enjoy, relax (AVOID: email, cell phone, t.v., surfing the net – these are all potential distractions that could lead to lost time – how many times have you just intended to “quickly check your email” and found that it lead to getting involved in replying to emails, becoming emotionally engaged in someone else’s problem, or simply just wasting an hour surfing the web. Don’t take the risk of picking up your cell phone or checking your email. Instead, protect the time you have promised to yourself to study – guard it. See also: post about “Disconnecting to Pass the Bar”).

12:50 – 1:30 pm – Torts Essay Three (from “Essay Issue Spotting Exercise” above)

1:30 – 1:35 pm – five minute break – get up from your desk, move around.

1:35 – 2:15 pm – Torts Essay Four (from “Essay Issue Spotting Exercise” above)

2:15 – 2:25 pm – ten minute break – get up from your desk, move around, perhaps go outside for some fresh air, have a healthy snack.

2:25 pm – OUTLINE REVIEW – Study/review Contracts substantive outline – it is recommended that you conduct your review in 50 minute increments, taking a 5 or 10 minute break every 50 minutes. This will enable you to study more hours per day and to study more effectively/productively because the breaks will prevent fatigue and will allow for more alert study periods. See recommended outline study intervals below:

2:25 – 3:15 pm – Review Contracts outline (see above).

3:15 – 3:25 pm – 5 or 10 minute break (get up, move around, stretch).

3::25 – 4:15 – Continue Contracts outline review.

4:15 – 4:25 pm – 5 or 10 minute break (get up, move around, stretch, eat a healthy snack).

4:25 – 5:15 pm – Continue Contracts outline review

5:15 – 6:15 pm – Dinner break – get up, move around, stretch, eat something healthy, make a short phone call to a supportive friend, spouse or family member – the key here is to only contact someone who is supportive of you, positive and aware and respectful of your commitment to study for and pass the bar).

6:15 – 7:15 pm – REVIEW TWO CONTRACTS ESSAYS (Spend 30 minutes for each essay and do the following: 1) Read and issue spot Contracts essay (15 minutes), 2) Check issues against the answer, read entire answer and make note of missed issues (15 minutes).

7:15 – 7:20 pm – Take a 5 minute break.

7:20 – 8:00 pm – REVIEW ESSAY APPROACHES FOR TORTS (Review the approaches/outlines that you created for the four Torts essays earlier during the day. The reason this makes sense is that you will reinforce the issue spotting and organization that you learned from your earlier review. And, since exam fact patterns repeat over and over again from one bar exam to the next, this review of past bar essays is one of the most effective ways to improve your issues spotting ability and to prepare for writing a well organized essay. Spend about ten minutes to review each essay outline/approach).

8:00 pm – End your study and relax.

Ultimately, your success on the bar exam will not come down to counting up how many MBEs you complete or how many hours you spend memorizing but instead, it will come from a combination of things.

Be positive, be flexible and adhere to a regular and realistic routine. In addition, keep in mind that your goal when reviewing a topic on a given day is not necessarily to master the entire subject that day. Instead, your goal should be to gain a better understanding of the topic that day and to recognize that you will need to repetitively review every topic over a period of time (two months is typical) in order to truly master it.

Students often find themselves frustrated by their own unrealistic expectations and goals. Instead of embarking on an eight or ten hour review of your Contracts outline, review it for three hours (taking a short break every hour) and then follow that with a review of two or three Contracts essays. By reviewing essays in the same topic, you will give yourself a context to the rules you are reading and trying to memorize. Repeat this several times during the weak while alternating your review of other topics, completing MBEs and writing practice essays.

Above all, work at maintaining a positive attitude. This will be much easier to do if you begin with realistic goals.
Good luck to you!

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(949) 891-8831
barnonereview.com

Bar Exam Predictions and the California Bar Exam

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Hello Everyone, (Please NOTE: this post was written on January 10, 2009, for current “prediction” coverage, see our home page).

I have received many requests in the past week for exam predictions.  It is that time of year.  If you have read past postings, you will know that I believe it is not wise to base your studies on essay predictions.  Instead, you should prepare for all subjects equally. However, this does not mean that it isn’t a good idea to know what has been tested in recent examinations or to develop a sense of which topics or combinations of topics might be likely scenarios on the upcoming exam.  This just makes sense.  You should know the test you are about to take extremely well.

Each bar round our students take a three-day, simulated bar exam.  The exam is given under exam conditions.  We use real bar exam questions for the exam.  In preparing this mock bar exam, I review the past 6 bar administrations.  I do this to determine which topics I will include in that bar round’s mock exam.  I choose exam topics that I have not seen in recent administrations as I believe that these may have a greater likelihood of showing up on the next bar exam.

One of the certain things about the California bar exam essay section is this: each bar round the examiners repeat one or two (and sometimes even three) of the subjects that were tested on the prior bar exam.  Usually it is at least two subjects that repeat.  If you look at the past bar exam administrations you will see proof that the subjects repeat from one round to the next.  As a result, it makes trying to predict the next set of essay subjects to be tested unrealistic.  In addition, it means that you would be foolish to think that if a subject were just tested on the July 2008 bar exam, that this subject would not show up on the February 2009 bar exam.

Since the same subject will often be tested on the essay exam from one round to the next, it is important to review the past exams not in terms of which subject was tested (i.e., Torts, Criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Wills, Contracts etc.) but, instead in terms of which topic within a subject was most recently tested (i.e., Defamation? Negligence, Murder, 4th Amendment, 8th Amendment, Will formation, codicil, undue influence, Contract Formation, Common Law, UCC, Remedies, Conditions etc.).

This is what I look at when I am preparing our simulated bar exam for our students.  And, this is also the same source that I go to in order to provide “predictions”.   I try to be very careful with the word prediction in the bar exam context.  First of all, it is misleading to even suggest that someone could predict the bar exam essay topics.  But, if the bar examiners were going to test contracts again on the February 2009 bar exam (it was tested on both day one and day three of the July 2008 bar exam) then perhaps the examiners would be more likely to test areas within Contracts and Remedies that were not heavily tested on the July 2008 exam.

Similarly, it would make sense that if the bar examiners have historically, over many years, tested certain areas, and one of those areas has been glaringly absent in recent years, then perhaps the examiners will test it soon.  Just seems to make sense, doesn’t it?  Well, I think it does.  Still, this being said, I do not believe that you should place a great deal of stock or reliance on what anyone might predict for the exam.  If it helps you think about possible scenarios, fine.  But, if it is something that you use to direct your studies away from less predicted subjects or less likely expected subjects, then it is nothing short of dangerous.  Be prepared for every subject and each topic within each subject.

Okay, I am not going to provide a list today of predictions.  I will, however, pass along some of what I address in my lectures about areas that are probably worth a little extra attention simply because the bar examiners have not tested these areas in some time.

As I teach each subject in our bar review course, I let our students know which areas of that topic were tested recently and which areas have not been tested recently.

For example, when we covered the subject of Torts, I let my students know that Strict Liability and Negligence were recently tested (one year ago on the February 2008 exam, an exam for which I sat and passed, by the way, I had taken it successfully in 1994 as well).  I also pointed out that Defamation had not been tested in some time.  And, that nuisance and the process torts (malicious prosecution and abuse of process) have not been tested in a long time.

I continue to point these things out regularly as we cover each subject area. Then as the bar draws even closer, we spend time reviewing additional essays that have tested these very topics (the topics that have not shown up in a while).  It is not that all will show up on the next administration, or that it would be wise to study only these areas.  However, I know that our students reap a great deal of confidence from this exposure simply because when they do arrive at the exam and open their essay booklets, they will inevitably see some of these areas tested in exactly the same way on exam day.  This is a great confidence builder.

Still, I constantly reinforce with my students that anything can be tested (for example, First Amendment speech and Murder essays have shown up back to back on not just two administrations, but three in a row in some years).  Other topics have repeated in this same fashion.  Therefore, while predictions are very tempting not only to make but to rely upon, it is not a good way to decide which subjects to review or study harder.  Instead, study all of the subjects, of course.

I will do my best to provide postings about some of these subject areas that I believe the bar examiners might be more inclined to test soon. For example, the 8th Amendment.  We have seen a lot of Criminal law and Procedure in the past couple of years on the California bar exam. But, one area that has not been tested in a very long time is the 8th Amendment.  The two main areas that are tested for the 8th Amendment are Bail and Sentencing (specifically, Capital Punishment).  Our 8th Amendment exam writing template is a great coverage for this area.  If you would like a free copy of our 8th Amendment Approach, please contact us at: (562) 799-5581 and we would be happy to provide you with a copy.

As I am committed to teaching my students who are currently enrolled in our program, I will not likely be available to discuss the template.  However, please feel free to obtain a copy from our office.

Oh, and one final comment for this post about “predictions” – nearly every bar review course is probably predicting both Civil Procedure and Evidence.  These are obvious predictions because neither was on the last administration of the bar exam.  Evidence has not been tested since July 2007 (when the new subject coverage began).  Something else you might want to keep in mind is that Evidence Transcript Style essays have not been tested in several years.  Just food for thought.

Incidentally, I do not intend to pass along every point that I make in my lectures regarding predictions.  I do not think that my students would even think that was fair as they chose to enroll in Bar None Review and paid the associated fees.  But, I will provide some information here when I can and to the extent that I think is both helpful and fair.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment here on my blog or to email me directly at: pass@barnonereview.com

Good luck in your studies!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(562) 799-5581
barnonereview.com

Bar Exam Tips: Preparing for Your Bar Exam Preparation

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Hello Everyone,

If you are taking the July bar exam, then I recommend that you begin (if you have not already begun) your studies now.  It is never too early to start preparing for the bar exam.  If you are in your last semester of law school you are probably busy with your final classes and perhaps looking into or seeking employment opportunities.  While these are both important, you should not delay in preparing for your next major hurdle – that of passing the bar exam.  If you have not already chosen a bar review program, then you had better get going on that very quickly.  Whether you have enrolled in a course or not, you should begin your studies now.

Here is what I recommend:

1.     Prepare for your bar prep by determining where you will study when you are not in class (will it be your bedroom, an office, a library?  Think about it and make a plan).

2.     Make a list of your best and worst subjects in law school.

3.     Identify your strengths and weaknesses early (for example, do you have trouble with MBEs or with writing?  You ought to know by now which areas you have difficulty with in terms of testing.  This will be important as you will want to devote more time to the areas that present trouble).

4.     Set aside time each week to study for the bar.  Your bar class will likely not begin until after you graduate from law school.  However, you should NOT postpone your studies until then.  Instead, begin taking practice mbes so that you can begin to familiarize yourself with the format of the bar exam and re-acquaint yourself with subjects that you have not studied in a long time.

5.     Begin preparing your family and friends for your upcoming unavailability (see our post about “disconnecting” during bar studies).  Your family and friends know what it has been like to have you in law school.  They certainly remember that you have midterms and finals and that during those few weeks each year that you were probably unavailable.  However, they may not have an appreciation for the battle that is ahead of you when you begin your preparations for the bar exam.  You will do yourself a great service in explaining to everyone now what this process will require.  Let your family and friends know that you will be unavailable once you begin your bar studies.  It is very helpful to prepare those around you for your absence.  I am not suggesting that you don’t talk to anyone at all for two months.  However, if you are serious about passing the bar exam, you will limit your social activity and focus on your studies.  To really have an excellent chance of passing the bar on your first attempt (or any attempt for that matter) you will need to study all day and everyday for two months.  During this two month period of time you will need to take breaks.  BUT, you will not have time to go out several nights a week, to take lots of phone calls, spend copious amounts of time emailing and text messaging and surfing the net.

Stay tuned for more advice in the coming days and weeks.  Also, if you are interested in receiving our free MBE strategies call our office at (213) 529-0990 or simply send us an email at: pass@barnonereview.com

Congratulations to all of you who are about to graduate from law school and good luck to all who are awaiting bar results from the February 2008 bar exam!

Sincerely,

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
barnonereview.com