California Bar Exam Prep: Do You Have A Plan? Do You Need A New One?

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Hello All,

We just finished up our first weekend of our Writing Maximizer Program. I love teaching this program and was very happy to see such a great group of students, so eager to take on work and pass the bar exam! Every bar round I am reminded of how so many, very, very bright, smart, studious bar takers simply miss the boat because they do not have a plan and because they simply do not know what to do.

I personally believe that many courses out there throw what is called a “study schedule” at their students simply to keep them from ever having the time to actually bother anyone with a question. Think about it – if you are given a study plan, the pace of which is so rigorous and so time consuming that a normal human could not finish it – the odds are you will not bother asking a course instructor a single question. That is, of course, assuming there is even a person that you can actually ask . . .

Please understand, I often work with students who have been through this drill before with other bar prep companies and have taken the exam several times without the success that they worked so hard to achieve. It makes me mad. Why? Because their failures are completely unnecessary. I believe their prior unsuccessful bar attempts simply could have been avoided if perhaps their bar prep course had provided them with a) a realistic study plan and b) actual exam feedback.

I am frustrated for these students – these students who are clearly very bright, who clearly worked very hard and were, in my opinion, mislead – told that if they simply studied for 12 hours a day, that it would result in passing the bar exam.

Memorization IS important. But, it is critical to write practice exams, and even more critical to receive detailed feedback on your exams. I have several students right now who came to me after having taken the July bar exam (utilizing another bar prep course). They were given a study plan that kept them busy every day, all day and into the evening. They tell me they did everything they were told to do. I believe them. The problem (one of many I think) is that they were only told to write three essays. Three essays! That is not enough. I have also had the opportunity to see their “graded” essays from this course and I am appalled at what apparently passes as “exam grading” these days.

Three comments were repeated over and over: “use more facts”, “not enough facts here” and “missed issues” . . .

Folks, that is NOT exam grading – not in my opinion. “Review page 83 of your Torts Outline” is also, in my opinion, NOT exam grading.

So, yes, I am a bit perturbed, and yes, it probably shows. But, I find it increasingly frustrating to see intelligent, hardworking examinees fail because – in my opinion – the course they took failed them.

If you would like to see what I think is real exam writing feed back, click on here:  Sample Graded Essay (this was turned in from one of my students this morning – I graded it and returned it within a couple of hours of receiving it). There is no name provided for privacy reasons, of course. My hope is that in seeing this exam – with actual feedback – that you as a bar examinee will come to expect a bit more from your course providers.

With respect to having a plan, be careful. I am currently working with a group of students who all followed the plan they were given by their bar review provider in July and it did not work for them. I can see why it did not work as they only read a few essays and only wrote three or four practice exams – most of their time was spent watching videos and memorizing the law (because this is what their bar prep course told them to do). So, if you have a plan, look at it carefully and modify it if you think it is simply providing you with a bunch of busy work. Don’t get me wrong – memorizing is important. But, the bar exam takes a lot more than your ability to spit back rules. You need practice in writing the essays – this is paramount and a significant amount of your time should be dedicated to preparing for the actual test taking (practice issue spotting essays, reviewing essay answers and writing your own practice essays).

If you need help in putting together a study plan, search this blog for prior posts on creating a bar exam study plan.

All the best in your studies!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson

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