Bar Exam Tip: The Most Popular Question of the Day: “What Should I Study Today”

Hello All,

I have been asked this question by many examinees and so I thought I would take a moment to answer it here for everyone to see.

Many people are writing in asking what subjects they should study today. I recognize that the reason these individuals are asking me this question is because they think that they should study today what is most likely to show up tomorrow . . . and they are asking me because I have had a reasonably good track record of “predicting” the essay topics. Well, that is risky business . . . studying around what anyone might say is going to be on the test. First of all, I do not claim to be able to predict what you will see on the exam. I spend time coming up with what I think are possible essay scenarios (incidentally, one of my competitors is now calling it that: “possible scenarios” . . . interesting . . . but, I digress). My point is that while it feels good to go into the exam with these potential essay scenarios and it will feel even better if you see even just one of these essay scenarios tested – you should study what is the weakest subject for you.

Now, that is assuming you are studying at all today. I did not study the day before the bar exam. I planned on it, but when I got to the day before the exam, I simply decided not to study anymore. I passed. I have friends that continued to study up into the evening prior to the exam and they too passed. You really have to do what feels right for you. I personally think that you should not stay up late studying.

And, with respect to predictions and how you should study today (assuming you do study today) you should take a look over the “predicted” possible essay scenarios. But, your time should be spent reviewing any subject you would be afraid to see tomorrow – that is where you should focus.

Remember, no one has a crystal ball with respect to this exam. Therefore, while I think it helps calm students down to have some areas of focus – you should really think about the following:

1) Do I need or want to study today? (really – it is okay not to study today – sometimes rest is the best thing and just a light review of topics or no review), and – If you are planning on studying today then:

2) Focus on an area that is one that you are hoping you will not see on the essay exam. You may not be able to resolve every aspect of that topic or subject in your favor – but at least you can go into the test knowing that you gave it some extra attention close in time to the actual exam.

Above all, do things today that are good for you. Do not panic. You might say: “Easy for you to say . . . you are not taking the test tomorrow”. You are right, I am not taking the test tomorrow. But, I have taken and passed two bar exams. Some degree of panic is normal. But, do not allow it to overwhelm you. Push it away. That is imperative and will do far more for your likelihood of success on the exam than virtually anything else you could do today.

All the best to all of you who are taking the exam tomorrow! Be positive, trust your instincts and remain as calm as possible.

Best of luck!

California Bar Exam: Free Score Review by Bar None Review

Hello All,

If you failed the February 2011 bar exam, you should know that you are not alone. The complete statistics will be available on the California bar website ( http://calbar.org) very soon. Pass rates for the February bar exams are usually between 39% and 45%. So, you know that if you did not pass the California bar exam this past February, that you are among a significant number of people who did not pass.

So what do you do now? Do you take another bar review course? Do you hire a private tutor? Do you study on your own? The answers to those questions will be different for everyone. First, you need to properly evaluate why it is that you failed.

Because the scoring of the California Bar Exam is scaled, it is not easy to understand what a given score means nor is it clear where you will need to focus from numbers alone.  For example, if an examinee scores consistently the same scores on their essays (i.e., all sixties or three fifty-fives and three sixties) it will indicate a different problem than an examinee whose scores have a greater range (i.e., one 45, one 75, two 65s and two 60s etc.)

Students whose scores are very consistent will likely mean that the student has a writing problem that is consistent and across the board.  This type of writing problem is generally not subject specific and once it is fixed is fixed for all topics.  For the student whose scores are more spread out and ranging, typically this student’s problems lie both in writing style as well as subject knowledge and ability to spot issues.

The first step is to review your bar exam score sheet. This can be a very confusing piece of paper. Partly because it is simply just painful to look at. Here you are, you have just received the terrible news that you have failed the bar exam and now you have to make sense of the scores. In my experience, examinees very often do not understand how the scaling works or what equals a passing “raw” score. So hopefully, what follows below will be of help to you.

First of all, the raw score that is passing for the essays, performance tests and the MBEs varies from bar exam to bar exam. Most examinees incorrectly believe that a 70 is always required to pass an essay. However, this is simply not the case. In the past several bar rounds, a passing raw score on the essay has been as low as a 61 point something and as high as a 63 point something – not a 70. Of course, a 70 is a much better score to receive and better yet, 80s are really what you should be shooting for – this is the score we do our best to teach our students to be able to achieve consistently.

The passing raw score for the MBE in the past few years has gone down dramatically. Several years ago, to pass the MBE portion of the exam you really needed to achieve at least 70% correct (a raw score of 140). However, in the past couple of years, the raw passing score has been between 62% – 66% (a raw score of 124 to 133).

However, your practice scores should be much, much higher to ensure that you will do well enough on the MBE portion on exam day. The test has changed. I personally took it the first time back in 1994 (I passed on the first time). The required raw number to pass the MBE portion was higher back then. But, the MBE test has changed. As a result, I retook the bar exam in February 2008 (I passed this exam also).

Here is what I learned (without violating any of the rules the NCBE requires of me and of anyone who has taken the exam – remember you are not to discuss questions, MBE fact patterns, etc.) about the MBE – it has changed from the earlier days of the test. But, it is not any more difficult than the exam I took in 1994 nor is it any easier. So what does this mean for you – well, read on.

The most obvious difference in the MBEs from the past to the present, is that the questions tend to be much shorter. But, the very same issues are tested now as were tested before. It is true that you are not going to find exact replicas of the actual test. Nor should you be able to – it simply would not be a fair exam if you were able to simply memorize a past set of MBEs and then go and pass the MBE portion. Don’t get me wrong, I am on your side. But, this is a test and it is designed (quite well) to test YOUR analytical skills. Is is so much more about that than it is about memorization (even though, of course memorization is very, very important).

At this point, if you have failed the bar exam, you should immediately get back to working on MBEs – not memorizing the law, but instead – just going right back to practicing the MBEs. We provide free handouts on how to approach the MBE portion of the exam. To receive your free copy, contact us at pass@barnonereview.com and we will send it to you.

By working on the MBEs right away, you will most likely see a return to your prior practice MBE scores (right before the bar exam) within a few weeks (without reading through a single outline or re-committing any of the law to memory – even though of course, you will also need to do that prior to the exam).

A book we highly recommend is “Strategies and Tactics for the MBE” by Walton and Emanuel, published by Aspen Publishing. Be aware that Aspen publishes two MBE books with very similar names, but each are quite different. Both are useful. However, the “Strategies and Tactics for the MBE” authored by Walton and Emanuel, is, in my opinion, is the best book you can get for the MBEs. The information on how to take the exam (strategies and tactics of the exam) as well as the explanations are excellent and far superior to any other MBE book on the market. I do not have any financial interest in this book.

Once the California bar releases the full statistics, some of these numbers will become more clear. However, what is most important is where you are – how far away from passing were you really? Most examinees that I speak with are quite off base when they call in to discuss their scores. There is a lot of misinformation out there. I have been following message boards and I am shocked at how little examinees know about how the test is scored. This is the fault of both law schools and bar preparation courses. It can be incredibly helpful to have someone who is knowledgeable about it to help you interpret your scores. This is really the first step in figuring out what you need or don’t need.

We provide, for a limited period of time (as our classes and private tutoring obligations begin and then we are just not available to provide this service) a free review of your past bar scores. In order to participate in this program, you will need to send your scores to pass@barnonereview.com. We only accept scanned in score sheets at this time (we do not accept your typed in scores in an email). We have to be sure that we are dealing with you. In addition, provide a phone number where you can be reached (all score reviews and evaluations are conducted via phone).

Be sure to come back to this blog as we will provide more information and advice for those of you faced with repeating the California bar exam this July. Also, be sure to review past postings as these are quite relevant (for example, study plans, how to study etc.).

Also, be sure to visit our bar review course website for more information on what to do if you are repeating the California bar exam. Our website is: barnonereview.com

Once there, select the “repeat bar examinee” button on the left side of our website. You may also want to take a look at samples of our exam writing templates (two topics are provided online for free).

Good luck to you and do not give up, this exam is do-able!

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
(949) 891-8831
barnonereview.com

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