California Bar Exam Predictions – The Short List

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Hello all,

First of all I want to wish you all the very best of luck in your studies and I want to thank you for following my blog. I am truly humbled by the responses from examinees who have sent emails – thank you so much. If you would like to reach me directly, please feel free to send me an email at: barexamguru@yahoo.com

If you have been following my blog you will know that I do not really like to call my “predictions” predictions. I do not claim to be able to predict the bar exam. I have simply come up with what I call essay scenarios that I think might be worth considering.

Please understand that my students who pay to take my course do not appreciate it if I release our “predictions” weeks in advance to the world. They pay for the privilege of our insights – at least they see it that way. So it simply isn’t fair to give away part of what they pay for to everyone else for free. In past rounds I have not made this available outside of our course.

A bit about the “Predictions”

First of all, I do not claim (nor would I ever claim) that I could predict what is going to be tested on the bar exam. However, I do think it is worthwhile to think about some possible essay scenarios when studying in the coming days. I also think that it makes sense to spend some time on topics that we have not seen on the exam in some time. However, any topic could show up on the bar exam. And, you should expect to see some of the topics that were tested on the February 2017 bar exam, to repeat on the July 2017 bar exam. Typically two or even three subjects will repeat from one bar exam to the very next bar exam. Also, in the past, out of six essays you would expect to see testing of about 8 topics (this allowed for cross-over essays). With only five essays, I would still expect to see at least one or two (maybe even more) cross-over essays.

Note: if a topic does not make my list, that does NOT mean it is not going to show up on the bar exam. You need to be prepared for EVERY topic. My coverage below is simply a suggested emphasis and by no means should you interpret this to mean that something should be excluded from your studies. ALL subjects are testable and all subjects can repeat, back to back, from one bar round to the next. You can almost bet that if you decide to leave a subject alone, that it will appear on the exam.

Why should I review past exams today? Reviewing past exams – right before the actual exam – will improve your chances of spotting the correct issues. Anytime you review an essay (and study the answer) it is really is a substantive review. By reviewing 3 or 4 Civil Procedure essays in a row, you will have a much better understanding of how to approach the subject if it shows up on the exam.

By the way, I believe Civil Procedure is likely (see “Short List” below). Of course, it may or may not be there. But, if it is, it would probably be nice to know that this may be the beginning (finally) of a trend toward California Civil Procedure. If it is, Notice and Code Pleading create a nice federal and California distinction point. The issue of additur (where a judge increases a jury award) also creates a nice federal and California distinction point. In cases of additur, it is available in California but NOT in federal courts as it violates the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial.  Many things are “due” or “up”. All of this being said – no one can predict this exam. Nor should you direct your studies away from a topic because it isn’t on someone’s list of predicted topics. That would be very, very foolish.

So all of that being said, here are a few thoughts on what I think could be tested:

The old, 3-day exam versus the new, 2-day exam and what it potentially means in term of subject coverage: In the past, when there were 6 essays, the Bar Examiners historically tested 8 or 9 topics (spread out over the 6 essays). Now that there are only 5 essays, I think you can still expect to see 7 to 9 topics tested as the examiners frequently test cross-over exams.

SHORT LIST of possibles (see detail in next post):

Criminal Law (Murder) or Torts (If Criminal Law Murder – possibly alone or crossed with Criminal Procedure or Evidence. If Torts – most any area if possible – but longest ago in terms of testing are Negligence and Products Liability.

Constitutional Law (Possibly First Amendment or Dormant Commerce Clause)

Professional Responsibility (look out for attorney advertising or assisting a non-lawyer in the unlicensed practice of law, and ALWAYS duty to avoid conflict of interests and duty of loyalty, more details in the “Detail” post)

Civil Procedure (jurisdictional issues are most commonly tested, but Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel are a bit due. Also look out for: issues of remittitur/additur, pleading issues (like notice and code pleading), 7th Amendment right to a jury trial as these issues can come up as short answer, tack-on issues. The last time Civ Prop was tested (July 2016) California Civil Procedure came up for the very first time. This may be the beginning (finally) of a trend toward California Civil Procedure. If it is, Notice and Code Pleading create a nice federal and California distinction point. The issue of additur (where a judge increases a jury award) also creates a nice federal and California distinction point. In cases of additur, it is available in California but NOT in federal courts as it violates the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial.

Community Property (Possibly valuation of separate property business, personal injury award, time rule for determining community property interest of pension, retirement or reimbursement for education or license. Always be on look out for transmutation issue).

*Property or Contracts

If Property: (possibly landlord/tenant or landlord/tenant crossed with covenants and equitable servitudes). Property was last tested on the July 2016 bar exam. At that time, I was predicting either Easements (specifically in the land sale contract area) or Landlord/Tenant. Since the bar tested easements in the land-sale context that round, I am leaning more towards a Landlord/Tenant exam (if you see property at all on the essays) and possibly crossed over a non-assignment or non-sublease clause and covenants (for example, a covenant restricting what can be done on the land, a sublessee takes possession and starts breaching the covenant. Can the covenant be enforced against the sublessee? Is there another remedy available – perhaps enforcing the restriction as an equitable servitude? Don’t freak out. Just know that if there is a covenant on your exam that you should discuss both covenants and equitable servitudes as these most always go together. This is a scenario, in the landlord/tenant context that we have not seen tested in a while and as a result, it may be due.

If Contracts: While both of these topics are possible, I am leaning towards a possible: “either Property or Contracts” on this upcoming exam. Property and Contracts are a bit hard to predict for this bar round given the testing on the February 2017 exam. While neither Property or Contracts was really tested outright on the February 2017 exam essays, the bar examiners sort of tip-toed in the areas of both Property and Contracts (I am talking about the Tort/Remedies exam that tested Fraud and Misrep and Remedies).

Possible Repeat topics: (Remember – historically the California bar examiners repeat two or three topics from one bar round to the next. This includes the expected Professional Responsibility essay, which is rarely skipped).

Remedies as a possible repeat topic: Say what? Yes, it could repeat, anything can repeat. Remedies is on many bar exams back to back. What was not tested last bar round in Remedies: Injunction or Contract Remedies

Evidence as a possible repeat topic/crossover topic: Possibly as a cross-over with another topic – for example: Marital/Spousal Privilege, Attorney-Client Privilege or Hearsay issue crossed over with another subject. Be sure to know these privileges and rules and especially know the California/Federal distinctions in Marital and Spousal Privilege.

Professional Responsibility usually repeats (as listed above) Note: Per the California  State Bar Examiners own rules, PR will be on either the essay portion or on the performance test every bar round).

Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure possible repeat topic. Even though this subject made the main list of possibles, it really would be (if tested) a repeat. But, it has been so long since murder has been tested that I believe it is highly likely it will come up within the next year. It may be more likely to be on the February 2018 bar exam. BUT, if it were me taking the exam this July, I would most definitely be prepared for Criminal Law Murder or Criminal Law Murder with Criminal Procedure.

Keep in mind that anything can be tested. Do not dismiss any topic. First Amendment Speech was once tested three times back to back. Many other subjects have been tested three times in a row. Anything is possible. However, the above “predictions” are what I believe may be more probable essay scenarios for the July 2017 bar exam.

Remember that you can accomplish so much in these final hours. Tomorrow, you will be relying in part on short term memory, so make certain that you study well and review writing approaches. I am always stunned at how some examinees will say: “If I don’t already know it now, it is too late”. That could not be more untrue. It is NOT too late. Study essay approaches and read essays!

I wish all who are studying for this exam the very best of luck!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson
Bar Exam Guru
Founder/Program Director
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session

Bar Exam Cram Session Live Streamed!

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Hello All,

With fewer than three weeks remaining to study for the bar exam, time is critical. What will you do to ensure success on the exam?

One of the main reasons examinees fail is not for lack of studying, but for lack of studying the right material. In order to navigate 6 1/2 hours of testing on day one and 6 hours of testing on day two, you need to have a strategy. For success on the essays it requires far more than rote memorization. Approaches (for the essays, the MBEs and for the performance test) are critical.  I will be writing more in the coming days about how to memorize and prepare in these final weeks leading up to the bar exam.

We still have a few spots left in the July 8 and 9 Bar Exam Cram Session (this weekend) in Los Angeles. If you can not attend in person, but do not want to miss out on this bar passing weekend, you can sign up for our live stream!

Students who attend this session receive our Digging Deeper into the Bar Exam Series (a weekly email support series) containing additional predictions, study advice and strategy as well as our method and strategies for improving your MBE score, sample essays and answers based upon the predictions and on the most commonly tested essay scenarios. Students will also receive (as part of the Digging Deeper into the Bar Exam Series) approaches and advice for the new, 90 minute Performance Test and selected videos covering study tips, exam predictions and approaches). In addition, Students will learn how to adapt (their studies, timing and strategy) to the new two-day format.

Past students have taken our Bar Exam Cram Session and improved their scaled score by over 200 points by utilizing the techniques and step-by-step essay approaches that are taught not only over the course of this weekend, but leading up through the bar exam. Each student receives a Ten Day Study Plan to utilize in the final days leading up to the bar exam as well as instruction on how to study over the few weeks. Don’t miss out, sign up today!

If you are not ready for this:

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Then sign up for this: The Bar Exam Cram Session 

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Note: Live streaming must be purchased by Thursday, July 6 to ensure your “seat” in the online program. For a limited time, use promotional code: BAREXAMGURU and receive $100.00 off the course fee.

For more information, contact Bar None Review at: 213-529-0990.

All the best in your studies!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson
Founder/Program Director
213-529-0990
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session

Bar Exam Cram Live Streamed!

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Hello All,

We still have a few spots left in the June 3 and 4 Bar Exam Cram Session (this weekend) in Los Angeles. If you can not attend in person, but do not want to miss out on this bar passing weekend, you can sign up for our live stream!

Students who attend this session receive our weekly Digging Deeper into the Bar Exam Series (a weekly email support series) containing additional predictions, study advice and strategy as well as our method and strategies for improving your MBE score, sample essays and answers based upon the predictions and on the most commonly tested essay scenarios. Students will also receive (as part of the Digging Deeper into the Bar Exam Series) approaches and advice for the new, 90 minute Performance Test and selected videos covering study tips, exam predictions and approaches). In addition, Students will learn how to adapt (their studies, timing and strategy) to the new two-day format.

Past students have taken our Bar Exam Cram Session and improved their scaled score by over 200 points by utilizing the techniques and step-by-step essay approaches that are taught not only over the course of this weekend, but leading up through the bar exam. Each student receives a Ten Day Study Plan to utilize in the final days leading up to the bar exam as well as instruction on how to study over the next six weeks. Don’t miss out, sign up today!

Note: Live streaming must be purchased by Thursday, June 1st to ensure your “seat” in the online program.

For more information, contact Bar None Review at: 213-529-0990.

All the best in your studies!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson
Founder/Program Director
213-529-0990
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session

California Bar Results Continue to Decline

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We may have a lot of sunny days here in California but, it may not feel very sunny for a majority of those who just took (and failed) the California bar exam. The State Bar of California released preliminary statistics for the February 2017 California Bar Exam via press release this weekend and the numbers do not look good.

Out of 4,439 applicants who completed the exam, only 1,532 of applicants passed the General Bar Exam. That is a pass rate of only 34.5 percent. Another way of looking at it is that 65.5 percent who completed the February 2017 California bar exam failed it. While we have seen results this low in the past, it appears to be part of a bigger trend, nationally, toward lower and lower pass rates.

The Executive Director of the State Bar of California. Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker said, “Regrettably the pass rate shows a continuing decline, a trend happening nationally.” She went on to say that “the State Bar is committed to a better understanding of the problem to determine how to address it.”

It appears the first steps to addressing the problem of declining bar pass rates will involve a “series of studies” the first of which is to begin on Monday, May 15th.

This initial phase of the study will focus on examining what the California bar examiners refer to as the “cut score.”

Here are some of the preliminary statistics from the February 2017 General Bar Exam:

  • 4,439 applicants completed the exam (it is unclear how many showed up and did not complete, would be interesting to have those numbers)
  • 1,153 (26.0 percent) were first-time applicants
  • The pass rate for first-time applicants was 39.0 percent
  • 3,286 applicants were repeat applicants
  • The pass rate for repeat applicants was 33.0 percent

Here are additional statistics broken out by school type. As usual, graduates of ABA law schools enjoyed the highest pass rates, with a distinctly higher pass rate enjoyed by graduates of California ABA law schools versus out-of-state ABA law schools (source: the State Bar of California).

School Type First-Timers Repeaters
California ABA 45% 46%
Out-of-State ABA 39% 34%
California Accredited (but not ABA) 18% 15%
Unaccredited: Fixed-Facility 25% 2%
Unaccredited: Correspondence 26% 11%
Unaccredited Distance Learning 18% 7%

So what does all of this mean? How does this affect those who are taking the July 2017 bar exam? Will the “cut score” go up? Will it change at all for the July 2017 bar round?

It is not yet clear whether the cut score or grading will change at all for the July 2017 bar exam. But, what is clear is that the State Bar is acknowledging publicly, for the first time that I know of, that there is a problem with the bar pass rates. Given the heat from many law school deans in the past few years about declining pass rates, the State Bar may also be feeling some pressure to address what some have call an abysmal pass rate.

There are a few things about this press release that I think are worth noting – and that is what we do not know, what the preliminary numbers fail to show:

Attorney Takers Not Yet Included in the Preliminary Statistic
These preliminary statistics do not appear to include those taking the Attorney’s Exam (note that the statistics only refer to those sitting for the General Exam). In recent years, attorney takers have had a very low pass rate in comparison to those taking the General Exam. So it will be interesting to see if attorney takers did worse on the February 2017 bar round (compared with prior bar rounds).

Those Who Did Not Complete the Exam are Not Counted as Part of Pass/Fail Rate?
The State Bar press release refers only to the number of applicants “who completed the exam.” We know from the press release that this number was 4,439 and that out of that number, only 1,532 of applicants passed.

What we do not know is how many applicants may have shown up but, failed to complete all three days. I am not suggesting that the State Bar is hiding anything. These preliminary statistics are that: preliminary. However, I am not certain the State Bar will ever release the number of those who did not complete the exam. Given that the pass rates appear to be based only upon applicants who completed the exam, the actual pass rate (taking into account those that did not stick it out the full three days) could actually be worse than 34.5%.

Incidentally, the State Bar’s press release still refers to the California bar exam as a three day exam, consisting of “six essay questions, and two performance tests.” I am assuming this is a mistake, but it is not exactly comforting that they are still referring to the three day exam.

I am not a believer in conspiracy theories surrounding the bar exam. But, the pass rates are declining, that is clear. This is, as the Director of the State Bar pointed out, part of a “national trend.” The pass rates for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) are actually not much better than California’s bar pass rate. As of July 2017, twenty-seven states will have adopted the UBE for their state bar examination. With pass rates in the mid 40 percentile on the UBE, low pass rates are certainly not unique to California.

I do think it is a good thing that the State Bar has publicly announced that they are looking into the problem of declining pass rates. Whether this is about the test or about examinees being adequately prepared – is really the question, I think. Are people adequately prepared by their law schools? Are the entrance requirements to get into law schools – in an age of declining law school enrollment – perhaps lower? It has been known for some time that many California law schools (faced with low enrollment) are digging deeper into the applicant base, admitting students with lower LSAT scores and lower GPAs in order to make enrollment. If so, does this mean that law school admittees are less qualified (lower LSAT scores, for example)? And is the LSAT even the best way to determine whether someone should be admitted to law school? Some law schools have chosen to accept the GRE now in lieu of the LSAT for law school admissions.

Times are changing in California
What is clear is that times are definitely changing. The California bar exam (despite their press release still referring to the old, three-day exam) is now just two days. The performance test portion of the exam has been cut down from 6 hours of testing to only 90 minutes. These are significant changes. Still, I do not see anything from the bar examiners that suggest they will change the grading or the “cut score” in time for the July 2017 bar exam. But, time will tell.

In the meantime, what works in terms of passing the California bar exam is the same: becoming extremely adept at writing and taking MBEs. There are still five essays to write. So not much has changed there. But, the performance test (still worth two essays) is now only 90 minutes. Some might think this cut in time would make it easier. But, from the sample 90 minute performance test provided by the State Bar, it does not look easier. There is virtually the same amount of material to get through (in the old, 3-hour PT), but now far less time to do it in. This new 90 minute version will most definitely be easier for those who can think fast on their feet, which, quite frankly is a pretty good trait for a would be attorney.

What do you think about the low pass rates? What do you think about the new 2-day bar exam in California, do you think it will be easier or harder or the same?

I will address how I think examinees should prepare differently for the new, 2-day California bar exam in our upcoming, free “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” There is still space available in this workshop. Click here to sign up!

Lisa Duncanson
Founder/Program Director
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session

 

 

 

California Bar Exam: Performance Test Tips!

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Hello All,

By now you have finished Day Two of the California Bar Exam and have hopefully settled into your room to rest and hopefully study (at least a little – I do not recommend pulling all nighters at this point, but some review is a good idea. Equally acceptable is resting and flipping channels. Still, I was never a rest and flip channels kind of bar taker and that has served me pretty well up to this point – your choice, of course).

Given that tomorrow is another Performance Test and that you want to finish this exam strong, I have decided to provide some last minute Performance Test tips.

See below:

1. Follow the instructions carefully! Exam pressure can lead to missing things and to misreading instructions – so slow it down enough to make sure you are not missing something in the instructions. You are going to base your whole answer on your interpretation of the senior partner memo (the letter to you from your would be boss) – so make certain you read it very carefully and more than once! (See more on following instructions, and evidencing that you have followed instructions, in # 2 below).

With respect to following instructions, do so to a T. If the senior partner memo tells you not to write a statement of facts, then do not write a statement of facts. Pay close attention to the instructions you are provided. Failure to adhere closely to these instructions will cost you dearly – so be careful!  Examinees are often in a rush to get through the materials quickly and end up missing something in the instructions, failing to pick up some of the easier points. So make sure you read through the senior partner memo a few times and be certain about what you are being asked to do.

2. Make your answer look like it is an answer to that particular performance test. Whatever you are asked to do on the performance test, make sure that you create a document that looks like what you were asked to produce. There will typically be two places from which to obtain your format and instructions for the document you are asked to prepare. The first source is the from the senior partner memo (the letter to you from your would be boss). The second source is also in the case file portion of your performance test and it is a firm wide memo (usually with the title: “To all associates . . .”) that provides instructions on how to write an appellate brief or a memorandum (or whatever it is that you are being asked to write). It is critical that you refer to both of these sources to make certain that you include all sections that you are supposed to include (assuming there are sections, i.e., statement of facts, or point headings, etc.) in your document.

These two sources will also help you to format and organize your document – for example, if you are asked to write a memorandum about the the Constitutionality of a proposed ordinance, then a) you need to make sure that your document is identified as a “memorandum” and b) you need to make certain that your document visually makes it clear that you are in fact addressing the constitutionality of a proposed ordinance. This may seem obvious and it may seem less important than figuring out what the cases mean, but the reality is that many examinees simply fail to do some of these very basic things and end up losing points. So, make certain that you do not forget to make your performance test answer look like it is the very document that you have been asked to produce.

3. How do I know which cases to use? Use them all. Seriously. Really. Do not be afraid. Try to find a use for each case. That is it.

4. What part of the statutes should I include? Assuming you have statutes (not all performance tests do) then look to see which parts of the statutes are referred to in the cases. It is a pretty safe bet that you should also use the sections that the cases refer to as well.

5. Use headings – this is SO important! (First, make sure you follow any format that you are instructed to follow). Always err on the side of following instructions. Some of your formatting will likely come from the instructions (either from the senior partner memo and/or potentially from a firm wide, memo to “all associates” in the case file). Remember that your performance test answer (whether it is a memorandum, a points and authorities, an appellate brief, a letter to a client, a closing or opening argument) it is still an exam answer. It will be graded by a human being and you need to be cognizant of that – make it easy to read and easy to follow. Use headings.

6. What if I don’t finish my answer? This is not an option. You need to make certain that you do finish your answer. Just do it. I take my job very seriously and I work hard, I go the distance, I do whatever it takes to get whatever I need done. Why am I telling you this? Because you should too – you should work your butt off and I don’t just mean in your preparation for the bar exam – but I mean right now, right now on this test, today. Suck it up and get through it. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but if you want to pass this thing then go after it, especially in these last hours. Insist on finishing today’s performance test – because you can and because you need to.

7. Okay, but what if I don’t finish my answer? Sigh. Okay, if you see that you are not going to finish what you had planned on writing, then adapt and do so quickly. The clock may not be your friend, but it does not have to be your enemy either. Watch it, keep track of your time. Don’t wait for the proctor to provide a time warning for you to know how much time you have left to finish. Keep track of your time and speed things up as you need to in order to finish your answer. And, if you are really up against the wall, then make it look like you have finished. If it is appropriate for the document that you are writing, then add a heading for “conclusion” and have a few sentences or a paragraph summarizing as best you can what you have written. And, you can even pre-write a conclusion if you think it will help (this is really only helpful to laptop examinees).

8. Be POSITIVE! (I know, how nice of me to yell at you to be positive :)) Seriously though, please do not be miserable – it will only hurt your performance. No one forced you to go to law school (well, I hope not). You presumedly wanted to do this, you want to be a lawyer. Therefore, today is about doing what you want to be doing – taking and passing the bar exam. Be proud of all the hard work you put in to get to where you are right now. So many people say things like: “I was going to go to law school” or “I always wanted to go to law school” . . . well you did go to law school. Be proud of that and don’t let the struggle of the bar exam take any of that away from you. Now go kick the bar exam’s butt!

All the best of luck this afternoon!

Please feel free to comment on this blog – I would love to hear from you and would love to know if you find it helpful, or if you have suggestions.

Sincerely.

Lisa Duncanson

Founder/Program Director
Bar Exam Cram Session and Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
barexamguru@yahoo.com

What Should I do if I just failed the July 2016 bar exam?

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What should you do if you just failed the bar exam?

If you have failed the bar exam, keep in mind that you are in good company. The bar exam is not an IQ test. Many very bright and hardworking examinees fail the exam. As devastating as this experience is, it is important to start thinking about what you need to do next. Below are some tips and suggestions. Above all, don’t lose heart.

1) Get past being devastated as quickly as possible – I know this sounds really harsh, but the sooner you are able to get back on track and develop a plan for passing – and yes, start studying again – the better. Those that do, have the best chance of passing the next exam.

2) Find out why you failed – this starts by getting your scores back from the bar. The bar will automatically mail score sheets to all examinees who failed the bar. This usually takes 1 – 3 days after bar results come out. When you get your scores, don’t panic and don’t make assumptions about any one section. You will receive raw scores and scaled scores. Take the time to read the materials that come with your score sheet that explain the raw and scaled scores. See also, other posts on this blog about making it to re-read and interpreting bar scores. And, if you need help interpreting your scores, you can get it free through Bar None Review – contact me (Lisa Duncanson) directly at: barexamguru@yahoo.com (Note: I offer this on a first come, first serve basis and for a limited time. To participate you must send a copy of your actual score sheet, including your name and a phone number where you can be reached). For more information on what to expect if you have just learned you were unsuccessful on the bar exam, click here.

3) Commit to taking and passing the next exam – in almost every case, I would recommend taking the very next bar exam. Obviously there are sometimes reasons to sit out a bar exam administration – but in most cases, the best advice is to take the very next exam. Think about it, the material seems like it has fallen out of your head right now – just think how hard it will be to put it all back together if you wait another six months – that would be a whole year since your last review – not a good plan.

4) Attend our free workshop –  I will be teaching a free, How to Pass the California Bar Exam workshop this Tuesday, November 22nd in Los Angeles. Students will receive a free copy of our Guide to Passing the California Bar Exam as well as free bar exam writing templates. The workshop will provide substantive coverage on how to successfully write for the California bar examiners, how to develop a plan for succeeding on the February 2017 bar exam, tips for writing Performance Tests and strategies and tactics for success on the bar exam. Space is limited. Click here to reserve your space in the November 22, 2017 workshop.

5) Develop a plan of attack – Your plan might include taking another bar review course, hiring a tutor, or continuing your studies on your own. There are many courses available (assuming you already tried barbri) that cater to different needs – small classes, private tutorials. Do your research and due diligence before enrolling in a course. Ask for references, ask to see the course materials before enrolling, make sure the bar review provider is a good fit for your needs. And, don’t abandon your common sense – if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is. But, whatever you do (take a course or study on your own) make a plan – figure out how many hours you will study each day, where you will study, how long will you have to review each topic, how many essays you will write each week, how many MBEs you will do each day, how many PTs you will write – figure it out, map it out and develop a plan. For tips on how to create a study plan, click here.

6) Work hard – no matter how hard you worked the first time, you are going to have to work just that hard again. And, if in your honest assessment of your prior bar studies you conclude that you did not work hard enough – well then you are going to have to work harder and smarter. There simply is no magic bullet.

Best,

Lisa Duncanson

Founder/Program Director
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session (™)
barexamguru@yahoo.com
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barnonereview.com

5 Things to do to pass the California Bar Exam

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Does this look familiar to you?Books&StudentOverwhelmedThe California bar exam is in 30 Days. How will you be spending this time?

Most examinees spend countless hours and hours reviewing lengthy outlines that do not translate into writing successful essay exams or scoring high on the MBEs. Successful examinees know that they need to work form a very condensed version of the law in order to navigate the essays, identify the correct issues and write successfully on exam day. If you would like to see an example how you can reduce and move away from lengthy outlines, sign up below and we will email you a free copy of our Tort Bar Exam Cram Sheets:

Sign up here for a free Torts Bar Exam Cram Sheet

Here are five things you can do now to increase your chances of passing one of the hardest bar exams in the country:

1. Start studying the actual test, now! 

Reviewing past essay exams is one of the quickest ways to learn what the bar examiners are looking for and to understand the context for the law that you are learning. And, if you actually study the answers, you are learning the law. It is truly a type of substantive review, but one that is far more specific to the task at hand. Keep in mind you will not be called upon to write a Torts outline on the bar exam. Instead, you will be expected to write an essay answer. This is something that you need to prepare for.

All too often examinees fail because they delay the actual study of the exam. I have worked with thousands of students preparing for the bar, many of whom were repeat bar exam takers. One of the biggest mistakes an examinee can make is to delay review and study of the essay exams and MBEs. Most examinees seem to understand the importance of doing practice MBEs. But, far too many examinees wait to conduct a review of the essays (and answers) until they feel they have the law memorized. This is a big mistake!

First of all, by waiting until you have the law memorized you fail to see the context for the law you are trying to learn and you understand less. This makes it harder to memorize and tends to send examinees off a cliff of never ending memorization. The bar examiners are not looking for your ability to regurgitate rule statements. Instead, it is your job to identify legal issues presented by each essay and resolve these issues through a solid legal analysis. Yes, it is important to know the rules. But, until you carefully review essays and answers, you will have a bridge to gap between what you have memorized in your outline and what you should say/write in your essay answer. Furthermore, until you start studying the actual test questions (both essays and MBEs) you will not know how the issues come up or how to organize a successful essay answer. It is a bad feeling to spend months memorizing outlines and then open an essay exam and not be certain as to what issues are presented or how to organize your answer.

One of the best ways to prepare for the exam is to truly understand the material. This might seem obvious. But, far too many examinees memorize voluminous outlines only to their demise because they have failed to see how the issues are tested on the essays.

Make sure that you begin studying the essays and answers soon. Your goal should be to see as many as possible (I recommend reading through 100 past exams). Essay exams repeat over and over again. Therefore, by reading and studying past exams you will increase your chances of seeing something similar on the actual bar exam. How great would that be?

2. Write some practice exams under non-timed conditions and open book to learn the law.

In case you haven’t noticed, I am a big proponent of learning from the actual test. While writing timed essay exams for practice is something you should do. It is also important to write exams under non-timed conditions and open book so that you can work on sorting out how to answer the question. Think about it this way: do you want to just get a 60 or a 65 (or worse) on your essays? Or do you want to be able to write 75s and 80s? Well, practicing essays under non-timed conditions, with the benefit of an answer and a writing approach for that subject, will help you craft your own model answer that is well above passing.

It is true that you will not have more than an hour on the exam day. But, if you take the time to tackle some of the subjects that are particularly challenging now, under non-timed conditions (like Products Liability, First Amendment Speech Essays, Evidence Transcript Style Essays and Evidence in general) you will have a tremendous advantage on exam day. And, you will have a far better understanding of the material (since you have practiced – without the time pressure – how to analyze it and organize it). All of this will make memorization much easier.

3. Make sure you know how to begin every essay subject or topic.

One of the challenges I had leading up to the bar exam many years ago, was the fear of not knowing how to even start my essay answer. So, I decided to tackle this. I liked Community Property because there was an easy paragraph that is used to start all Community Property essays. That brought me comfort and some peace of mind. I thought about the other subjects and how could I make every topic this comfortable. Well, I thought about Constitutional Law and how most of the time (not always, but most often) Constitutional Law essays begin with an Article III Case or Controversy discussion (where in addition to State Action, you address Standing, Ripeness, Mootness and Political Question). Then I committed to working out both a starting point and an approach for every subject so that I would know how to begin my exams on exam day. This was time consuming, but I know it was one of the reasons that I passed the California bar exam on my first attempt.
 
One way to figure out how you should start your essay answer is by reviewing past essays and answers (see above, under number 1). There are also resources available that provide approaches by topic to assist you in writing an organized essay exam. Our Bar Exam Cram Sheets include approaches for the most commonly tested essay areas (this includes step-by-step approaches as well as what headings to use). It is important to know ahead of time – before you walk into the bar exam – what your approach will be for each subject and topic. Even better (and I think this is really a necessity) is to have that approach evidenced in the headings that you use on each essay.

4. Condense the material that you need to commit to memory.

Trying to commit outlines that are each 100 pages or more is not only not realistic, it is not necessary or practical. Instead, you should conduct an extensive review of each topic and then move away from the more extensive material to a) either an outline that you have created for yourself that is a condensed outline (2 to 4 pages per topic) or b) purchase a condensed outline (from a source you trust) and make it your own. By this I mean, go through past exams and add notes to your condensed outline so that it becomes a document that represents not only the rules for a subject, but also the most commonly tested areas of law from the essays.

It is very important to have a condensed and trustworthy outline for each topic prior to going into the bar exam.

Every subject really does have an approach. Rather than trying to commit a hundred page outline to memory, you should be working on figuring out how to bridge the gap between your study of lengthy outlines and the essays. There is a gap. Typical outlines do not prepare you for the realities of writing an essay answer. You need short and concise definitions – not one or two paragraph definitions – in order to successfully handle all of the issues that a one hour California bar exam essay requires.

Again, sign up above for a free condensed Torts outline (our Torts Bar Exam Cram Sheets).

5. Be Smart About the MBEs.

First of all, do MBEs every day. How many MBEs you should do each day will depend upon how much time you have available (whether you working full time, part time or if you are able to study full time). If you are working full time, then getting time to practice MBE questions is a challenge. Often examinees who work full time during their studies wait until weekends to complete any MBEs. This is not a great plan. Instead, get up a half hour earlier each morning and complete 10 MBEs every day before you go to work. This will not only add up to 50 MBEs every Monday through Friday, it also keeps your head in this part of the test. It will help you continue to improve your MBE scores every day. This is critical.

Complete each MBE one at a time and review the answers carefully before moving onto the next MBE. Eventually, you will need to complete 200 MBEs in one day. And, you should attempt to do that well before the actual bar exam. However, right now you are likely still in need of correction and improvement on your MBEs. The best way to fix an MBE that you have missed so as to increase your chances of getting it correct the next time – is to immediately review the answer explanations to that MBE. The goal is to make the correction quickly and without delay. Think about it this way: if you complete a set of 30 or 50 MBEs without checking the answers and then go back to check the answers afterwards, you will have to re-read the MBE fact pattern again in order to make sense of the answer explanations. This takes time, and it actually wastes time. If you want to make the quickest corrections and make these corrections stick – review the answer explanations for each MBE right after you pick your answer.

Good luck to all who are studying for the bar exam. Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog for more tips!

Lisa Duncanson, Bar Exam Guru, Founder The Bar Exam Cram Session & Bar None Review 213-529-0990 barexamguru@yahoo.com

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