For those of you taking the February 2019 bar exam, it is definitely crunch time.
The February 2019 California bar exam is just 30 days away. If you are taking this upcoming exam, you will want to make the very most of this time. So how can you best utilize your study time?
First of all, do not panic. There is still time to pass this exam! As long as you get on track now. This is the time to really focus.
One of the main reasons examinees fail the California bar exam is because they try to memorize very lengthy outlines and suffer from bar exam information overload. While lengthy outlines are a good place to begin your review, it is critical that you start memorizing not only the areas that most likely for testing, but also that you get started on reviewing the law in the context of the exam. In addition, it is crucial to have a reliable, condensed resource that is tailored to what the California bar examiners are looking for in both your written answers and MBEs .
Most examinees believe that what is required to pass the California bar exam is to simply learn and memorize the law and then everything will work out. Well, ask any person who has failed the California bar exam (in spite of studying constantly for two months) and they will tell you this is not the best way to prepare. You really need to be able to focus your studies in the time remaining.
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First, you need to know the law in the CONTEXT of the exam. This is true for both the written portion and the MBE portion of the bar exam. Now that you are 30 days out from the bar exam, it is a good idea to switch gears from learning the law and doing a substantive review (if that is where your focus has been) to learning the law in the context of the actual exam.
How to prepare for the MBEs:
Most examinees see the value in practicing MBEs. If you have not begun practicing MBEs yet then you had better start now. There is still time. But, you should not delay doing MBEs. Many examinees make the mistake of thinking that they need to review the topics prior to practicing MBEs. You should review the substantive law. But, do not let this delay your MBE practice. Some of the MBEs will be answerable based on your knowledge of the law. But, many of the MBEs will come down to technique and interpretation of the call of the question. So, it is imperative that you practice as many MBEs as possible.
If you are working full time, completing even just 5 MBEs every work day will be effective. If you have full time to study, then I recommend 50 MBEs (at least 4 or 5 days per week). You will ultimately need to work up to 100 and 200 sets. In the coming days, I will write more about how to prepare for the MBEs and the sources that I recommend for the MBE. Utilizing past NCBE MBEs is critical. You should complete every released MBE from the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
How to prepare for the essays:
In order to pass the essays for the California bar exam you will need to understand the law in the context of the essay. One of the best ways to achieve this is to read and issue spot past California essays and to study the released answers. The released answers are critical to your studies as this is the very best way to learn what the California bar examiners are looking for in each area that is tested.
The released answers (there are always two per essay and performance test) are selected by the California bar examiners. It is what they have decided is a reflection of the correct issues, correct analysis and conclusions. It is the very best way to learn what the California bar examiners want. This kind of study (reviewing past essays and answers) is not only a substantive review, but it is one that is in the context of the actual exam.
So how many past exams should you review? I recommend reviewing 60 to 100 past California essays. If you do this, you will likely walk into the bar exam having seen everything that could possibly be tested, multiple times. When you get to the actual bar exam, on day one, you will likely have seen a version of each of the five essays if you have read and studied 60 to 100 essays. You will have studied it, you will remember the issues, you will remember the answers. It is like having the test in advance.
Yes, you definitely need to know the LAW. But, think about it this way: if your job on day one and day two of the bar exam was to write out outlines from memory for each of the tested subjects, then it would make perfect sense to memorize subject outlines. But, this is not your job. Your job is to write a passing answer. Studying past exams (and released answers) is critical to being able to write your own passing answer. You do not need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, study what the bar examiners have embraced and emulate what is in the released answers.
The California bar examiners want certain things in a certain order on the essays. For example, if you look at ten past negligence essays you will see that the California bar examiners select essay answers that have a particular order and emphasis. Of course, the answer will include: duty, breach, causation and damages. But, did you know that the Palgraf case is in virtually every released answer for negligence?
The California bar examiners want you to address both the Cardozo majority view and the Andrews minority view under duty. There would be no way of knowing this without a study of the past essays. This is true of every topic. For example, there is a particular way the the California bar examiners want to see easements addressed, the Fourth Amendment, the 5th Amendment, First Amendment Speech etc.
We have created Bar Exam Templates and Bar Exam Cram Sheets that essentially have set up the order of issues and provide an invaluable guide for the most commonly tested areas. Here is an excerpt of our Evidence Bar Exam Cram Sheet and our Constitutional Law Bar Exam Cram Sheet for First Amendment Speech (These Cram Sheets are from 2016, but have since been updated for the February 2019 bar exam). Fourth Amendment Bar Exam Template.
For additional bar exam templates: Bar Exam Writing Templates
At this point, studying the actual past exams and released answers and practicing MBEs is your best bet. Yes, you need to memorize the law, but you especially need to study the law in the context of the actual exam and to start memorizing more condensed outlines that focus on the most testable areas and provide you with a structure for analyzing and writing your essays.
Stay tuned for more tips on how to prepare for the February 2019 bar exam!
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