For those of you taking the Feb 2014 exam, I am reposting some advice from the July 13 thread that I found to be really good:
This is the original thread post - viewtopic.php?f=3&t=213457&start=1375
You can do it, and possibly only with a little over a month of studying. Some background: I failed a class in the Spring semester and had to write a makeup research paper to get my diploma this year. Because I had to do this paper, I couldn't get started with my bar studying until the last week of June. During the 5 weeks before the bar exam, I studied about 6-8 quality hours per day (although I did step it up to 8-10 hours the week before the exam). I didn't watch video lectures (except for Evidence) and I hardly used any of the material provided by bar prep courses. By and large, I stopped doing MBE questions in the last week. Despite all this, I passed, and I left each day of the bar exam feeling like I had passed.
(A) For MBE questions, I used the BarMax iPad app to drill. But in terms of really learning some of the nuances for harder MBE questions, I got a lot of mileage out of the Emmanuel's "Strategies and Tactics" for the MBE. I think my scores averaged around 70% by the time the bar rolled around.
(B) With respect to the non-PT essays, I highly recommend you do the following:
(1) Buy a set of Leansheets for the California Bar (you can Google up "leansheets California Bar") and commit to memorizing and being able to regurgitate the materials from those sheets. The Leansheets are not exhaustive, but they are good enough, and most of all humanly manageable. The only downside to the Leansheets is that they are very tersely worded; you might need an old BarBri Conviser to give you more verbose explanations of the rules.
(2) Get a subscriptions with baressays dot com. The pairing of model essays with old questions is a GODSEND. What I did was I went through all the model essays for the past 7-8 years for a given topic, and I just wrote down all the different headings and subheadings. This gave me an idea of what the distribution was for legal issues tested on the exam. As you'll see, 90% of the issues that come up for any essay in any topic is something that has been asked before in the past 5-6 years. Once I knew what the predictable "universe" of recurring issues was, I just made sure that I could spit out a rules statement that more or less hit all the major elements of the model answer's rule statement. The essays are all about the setup; once you have your rules statement, you just need to methodically work through each element and discuss whether it is present or not based on the facts.
(3) PRACTICE YOUR BUTT OFF. With a baressays account, you have no excuse for being unprepared when it comes to the 1-hour essays. Once you've done step (2) above, do every single essay you can for a given topic, starting from older essays and working your way up to more recent ones (you want to practice with the most recent questions the week before the exam). When you first do essays, stick with one subject per day, and do one essay at a time for at least 2-3 essays a day. Sticking to one topic and doing multiple essays in that topic will make it easier for you to learn and internalize the rules. Starting from at least two weeks before the exam, you should be doing the essays in a cluster of three to simulate the actual test taking experience.
Remember: it is the practicing which will actually get you to memorize your rule statements. Always compare your answer against the model essay. Don't rely on a grader, as all that will do is give you an excuse to wait around for the grader to get back to you. Immediately after you do a practice essay take a 10 minute break tops, and compare your answer against the model. By reviewing right after taking a practice exam you maximize your retention of the material. I kid you not, I felt like I was going to fail until about a week before the bar exam when I flew out to California early and locked myself in a hotel room for a week, and just drilled essays all day (well not really *all* day; just 8-10 hours). Until that week, all of my rules statements were very vague and iffy; constantly writing them down in a timed setting, in response to a hypo, was what really crystallized those rules for me. Also, if you run out of essays to practice, just start from the beginning again. Even if you recognize a hypo, you get the benefit of refreshing your memory by just going through the practice of typing your rules statements into a blank document.
(C) With respect to the PTs: once again, practice is king. And really what it is you're practicing with the PTs is reading and drafting. I think half the battle with PTs is just being able to finish in a coherent way, and that requires development of reading and drafting skills.
"Reading skills" refers to the ability to: quickly decide whether material is relevant or not; markup the library and file in a way which allows you to return to key facts/language/issues efficiently; and get through the material at a good pace with adequate comprehension.
"Drafting skills" refers to the ability to: identify and select a format which allows you to present your arguments in a way which is both logical (e.g., arranging issues from most important/convincing to least important/convincing), efficient (e.g., with a minimum of repetition, by using phrases like "supra" and "see analysis above"), and easy to read (e.g., using ample underlining and empty spaces to make reading your essay easier on the graders); and phrase your thoughts in clear and succinct language.
Ultimately, my stance on the PTs is this: for most mortals, it's just not possible to identify all the possible issues and present complete analysis for each of those issues. What you need to create is a product that passes the smell test: it looks lawyerly (formatting and organization); it sounds lawyerly (logical and methodical writing and analysis); and it shows a sufficient amount of intelligence and effort (provides at least some kind of response to each legal question raised by the client/call of the question, and in doing so provides a meaty analysis for 70-80% of the possible issues, and nearly all of the really big ones).
Given my position above, when it came to PTs all I did to cross-check my answers was to make sure I hit most of the issues that the model answers (or high scoring applicant answers) identified. I didn't stress out about my answer's format looking very different from the model or high scoring answers. As long as my answers were objectively well-organized, easy to read, and complete (i.e., introductory and conclusory sections, and no headings or subheadings left unfilled), I knew I was in good shape.
TL; DR: For the MBE: drill using BarMax; learn nuances from Emmanuel's "Strategies and Tactics for the MBE". For the essays: Learn the law from Leansheets, using BarBri Conviser as a supplement if you need more detail/explanation; get a baressays subscription and practice essays until your fingers drop off. For PTs: keep practicing until you can consistently draft memos which are well-organized, easy to read, hit most of the issues, and look complete (no unfilled sections; complete intro and conclusion).
And in general: practice all of the above until you are able to consistently finish with an extra 10-15 minutes for each hour of work. So be able to finish individual essays with 10-15 minutes to spare, and be able to finish your PTs with about half an hour to spare. That will give you enough time to tidy up your PTs, double-check for any quick issues you might have missed, or go back to a previous essay in order to flesh out another issue. Also, you never know what condition you'll be in during the exam. Being able to finish early gives you a safety buffer. I had bronchitis the week before and during the exam, and I lost a good 5-10 minutes of every hour having to get up, go outside, cough and drink water.