Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

narfkarta
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Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby narfkarta » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:16 pm

Hey everyone! I took the bar exam in California a few times and just recently passed. I know what you guys are going through so I thought I'd share some advice.

Psychological Advice

I know this is cliche and most of you will roll your eyes at hearing this again: but relax! It's not THAT big a deal! You're not stupid! I know plenty of dumb people who passed the first time and plenty of very bright people who failed and had to retake. This is a test of nerves, stamina, and keeping your cool. That's it. Most of the rules are not conceptually difficult (although in K and Prop they can get complicated). It's just a matter of keeping focus, keeping calm, and doing what you need to pass.

I was there, I know how it feels. You might be tempted to get too much in your head, thinking that you're the dumbest kid in the class and that you aren't cut out to be a lawyer, etc.
If you heard someone else didn't pass the first time, would you judge him/her so harshly? No you wouldn't, you are only so hard on yourself. Cut it out.

Here's a good way to think of it: in this current legal job market, you probably wouldn't be employed anyway even if you already passed. So you're not missing out on much :mrgreen:

Studying Tips

So how did I go from repeated failure and hopelessness to finally passing the hardest bar in the country?

Here are some specific tips:

1. For the MBE I highly recommend you get an older book called Strategies & Tactics for the MBE by Walton and Emmanuel. It is published by Aspen. This book is a few years old but it uses REAL MBE questions from past tests. Even though the questions might be old, they are the MOST SIMILAR TO QUESTIONS YOU WILL SEE ON YOUR MBE. The Barbri and PMBR Kaplan MBE practice questions are way too long and bear very little resemblance to the actual MBE questions. The actual MBE in recent years consists of very short questions and fact patterns with very tricky answer choices. That is what the Strategies and Tactics book will prepare you for! Check your wrong answers and take notes on rules you missed or tricks you fell for. Then you can study those notes later.

2. Do MBE practice at 9 am for three hours straight. Get your mind use to working at that hour and having better stamina.

3. Don't feel the need to study all day. It's not about quantity it's about quality. Study only when you are focused and in the right mood. If you're not, then go exercise, watch TV, relax. All this talk about having to study 8 hours a day is nonsense.

4. If you take Barbi do not waste a minute on that stupid computer game trivia thing whatever it's called. Just don't.

5. For essays use a lot of headings! A LOT! Don't write more than three sentences without breaking it up into a new paragraph. Make the headings bold. Whenever you are breaking down elements of a law, make a new heading for each element and bold it. Within the paragraphs CAPITALIZE all pertinent legal vocabulary to show the reader you included that rule or topic. Basically write the essay for a five year old.

The reader is sitting in bed at midnight with a stack of essays to read. He is just checking off pertinent headings and legal terms to see that you didn't miss them. Make it easier for him by bolding, making a lot of space between small paragraphs, and capitalizing to show off your knowledge of fancy legal phrases. The reader, like everyone else in our generation, has a short attention span due to the Internet, so he won't be able to absorb huge blocks of text. This change in style is what changed the game for me, it had nothing to do with content.

6. Once you mastered the style of writing (the 5 year old method) mentioned above, concentrate on just memorizing the laws. Don't write so many essays. Once you know the proper organization then you're good to go, it's just a matter of knowing what to write, so concentrate on learning the law.

7. Instead of writing a lot of essays, just read a lot of past ones to recognize what issues to write about when certain fact patterns come up. Don't write an answer or even outline, just read the essays that are available for free on the state bar site. After doing a few practice essays, you already know how to write an essay, now you just need to know when to write about what. Read past essays so when similar fact patterns come up later, you will remember that one essay with a similar fact pattern you skimmed through before and what issues the sample answer had.

8. Study in a way that makes the rules stick in your head. Don't beat your head over with rote memorization if you learn better by reading things in a narrative way and just understanding and absorbing it.

MY FAVORITE....

9.. Don't tell people you're retaking it! If you are scheduled to take it in February, tell all (or most) your friends and distant family that you are taking it in July because you need more time or you just wanna work or whatever excuse. This makes a huge difference. As I mentioned above, the biggest factor in succeeding is having focus and being calm. Having all your friends pestering you about the test and worrying about what they will think if you don't pass causes way too much anxiety. Get rid of that anxiety by just lying :) I can't tell you how much this helped me. I was so much more calm and relaxed. I studied for myself and not to impress others. If others don't know when you are retaking it and you have a mentality that "I will just do the best I can and keep taking it as many times as needed to pass" you will have a much more relaxed attitude and in turn study better. Trust me!
Last edited by narfkarta on Thu Nov 24, 2016 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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shepdawg
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby shepdawg » Tue Dec 10, 2013 3:18 am

Congrats. Sounds like good advice

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2807
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby 2807 » Fri Dec 13, 2013 9:02 pm

I disagree with the advice above, so much that I must respond and I hate posting on here...

--------
Do not rely on your writing confidence, and supplant false confidence, by merely "reading" other essays. Good lord.

This exam tests how you write. There is only one way to learn how to do that...
You are likely re-taking becasue of a writing weakness.
You likely know the BLL well enough, but get lost in your writing and cannot stay focused as required to nail the Bar exam.

YOU MUST write essays under simulated ( and eventual 3-hour) stress-filled blocks. Have them graded by someone qualified.
ONLY then will you hopefully see weaknesses, patterns of writing weakness, and BLL gaps.

If this is too daunting for you, and you are already seeking shortcuts, you are in big trouble.
This has to feel like work.

You can do it. You have been through law school. You have the tools, but you have to be smart and work hard. NOW.

If you only read other essays you will always say to yourself "yep, I saw that..." "yep, I would have wrote that.."

You think you would have: 1) seen the issues, 2) stated them correctly, 3)then correctly state the applicable law, 4) then apply the actual facts that matter...( and nothing else? )

PROVE IT.

The Bar will ask you: to prove it.

Can you?

ONLY 1 way to find out....

And it is NOT by reading other's work.

That is a lazy, sure-fired, way to not progress.
And if you do not progress, will you pass?

Those who do the work-- will stand a chance to pass.

IF you always do what you've always done--you'll always get what you've always got.

DO THE WRITING UNDER STRESS. PERIOD.

narfkarta
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby narfkarta » Sun Dec 15, 2013 1:26 am

I stated that you should just do reading *AFTER* you MASTERED the five-year-old method. So definitely write out enough till you get good feedback and have the right structure. And honestly even the feedback at Barbri usually sucks. Once you have the style down you won't forget it, so just concentrate on knowing diff fact patterns and knowing THE LAW.

narfkarta
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby narfkarta » Thu May 29, 2014 9:24 pm

For all those beginning bar studying for July...

MinEMorris
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby MinEMorris » Fri May 30, 2014 2:37 am

Thanks for this post, Narfkarta. I'm a first-time taker but I still found some of your advice insightful. Big congrats on passing!

adonai
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby adonai » Sat May 31, 2014 2:03 pm

Thanks for the post. Do you have any advice on what to do with regards to structuring your PT and essay according to the question calls? I find myself getting tripped up and spending a majority of my time wondering what I have to discuss under each question call. Sometimes the question calls are pretty straightforward ("Discuss P's rights against D," "Will P prevail against D for Negligence") other times it is not so clear and the question calls seem to overlap with regards to discussion of elements.

For PTs, I also have trouble with structure. For example, the model answers will structure it one way, but then I would have structured it a different way and it would have never crossed my mind to structure my answer the same way as the model answer did (although the content is all there).

narfkarta
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby narfkarta » Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:29 pm

adonai wrote:Thanks for the post. Do you have any advice on what to do with regards to structuring your PT and essay according to the question calls? I find myself getting tripped up and spending a majority of my time wondering what I have to discuss under each question call. Sometimes the question calls are pretty straightforward ("Discuss P's rights against D," "Will P prevail against D for Negligence") other times it is not so clear and the question calls seem to overlap with regards to discussion of elements.

For PTs, I also have trouble with structure. For example, the model answers will structure it one way, but then I would have structured it a different way and it would have never crossed my mind to structure my answer the same way as the model answer did (although the content is all there).


Don't spend so much time worrying about that. If they don't give you a clear call, then make headings based on the major issues you spotted, and include sub-headings under those for elements. Make as many headings and issues as you can, just throw it in. All that matters is that you mention the major issues and topics that the grader sees on the his grading check list.

For PTs - there is no need to practice these nearly as much, just do 1 or 2 full PTs during your studying. You just reminded me of my PT tactic, I didn't mention it above, I'll add my advice here...

narfkarta
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby narfkarta » Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:33 pm

PT STRATEGY - Do a couple of full PTs as practice during your studying. But before the two days of the bar when you will have PT, the night before, just flip through the model answers in the Barbri book and look only at the structure and organization of the answers. There are only a few different types of PT questions - letter to client, persuasive memo, etc. For each of these types the model answer will be structured a certain way. So just look at how to do it so if you have that kind of assignment you'll organize it that way. For example, look at whether the headings are short or long and descriptive thesis statements, or look at how headings are numbered and organized. This only takes a few minutes. You can even do it at lunch before the PT. This might be better because it is fresh in your head when you sit to do the PT and will immediately recall how to organize.

The main thing with PT is being focused and having STAMINA. Otherwise all the material is there for you. So eat a hearty good meal and maybe even drink coffee during that lunch break before the PT. Imagine you are a lawyer getting a quick assignment from your boss, and just proceed to make a logical, clear memo or letter, organizing it in the same way as the model answers.

Once you have that correct frame you just have to add logical arguments or points and analysis, which you are equipped to do after law school.

helfer snooterbagon
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby helfer snooterbagon » Mon Jun 02, 2014 6:48 am

Not to be too much of an asshole, but someone who has failed the bar multiple times is not the person who should be giving advice.

narfkarta
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby narfkarta » Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:36 am

Actually I am. It gives you perspective and also my issue was mostly anxiety, which I finally got under control. But in all that time I saw what was necessary and what was unnecessary.

My advice is specifically for retakers or those who are overly nervous, about how to best manage time and mindset etc.

But I can't help it if some first-time takers want to get down in this ~ hawt thread~.

adonai
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby adonai » Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:33 pm

helfer snooterbagon wrote:Not to be too much of an asshole, but someone who has failed the bar multiple times is not the person who should be giving advice.

I actually take the advice of multiple takers more seriously. First, they know what they did wrong because they get their scores back. They know what it took to actually pass because they knew what to improve on and what was the right way to do it and wrong way to do it. I found that most first time passers just give general advice, which isn't as useful. Also, a lot of them tend to be the ones who just say "follow the program and you're good," or "crammed for one week and passed, too ez." Most of us aren't like the latter.

narfkarta
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby narfkarta » Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:00 pm

Bump for the new season

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SpAcEmAn SpLiFF
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby SpAcEmAn SpLiFF » Mon Jan 19, 2015 1:18 am

I moved to CA recently and I'm going to be taking the Feb exam for the first time. I'd previously passed NY and NJ. From my previous experience, devoting an extensive amount of time to state law distinctions was a waste because most of the NY and NJ essays asked you about federal law anyways. There were only a handful of opportunities where you could add a sentence or two about the applicable state law distinction to score an extra point here or there. Is this the case for the CA exam? I noticed there's an entire Barbri lecture devoted to CA Civ Pro. I don't remember whether we had that for NY/NJ anymore (took it in 2012), but I don't think we did... :?

aretoodeetoo
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby aretoodeetoo » Wed Jan 21, 2015 8:35 am

I'm basically treating 2807's advice as gospel. Listening to advice is so easy (or reading advice). Applying it as a strategy is time consuming and just not fun.

I would be more interested in the perspective of someone who didn't pass than someone who passed with ease (took a BarBri course, freaked out, passed) - not too much insight.

I'm getting pretty excited about this thing.

ginger root
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby ginger root » Wed Jan 21, 2015 2:42 pm

SpAcEmAn SpLiFF wrote:I moved to CA recently and I'm going to be taking the Feb exam for the first time. I'd previously passed NY and NJ. From my previous experience, devoting an extensive amount of time to state law distinctions was a waste because most of the NY and NJ essays asked you about federal law anyways. There were only a handful of opportunities where you could add a sentence or two about the applicable state law distinction to score an extra point here or there. Is this the case for the CA exam? I noticed there's an entire Barbri lecture devoted to CA Civ Pro. I don't remember whether we had that for NY/NJ anymore (took it in 2012), but I don't think we did... :?


I also passed the July 2012 NY/NJ exams on the first try and moved to CA recently, but I failed the July 2014 CA bar due to my essay performance. Here are some thoughts:

1. The CA bar essay questions for civ pro, evidence, and professional responsibility will instruct you to answer under either CA law or federal law (ABA rules for prof. resp.). If you are asked to answer solely under CA law but don't have any CA law memorized, you're probably going to fail that essay. By the way, we did have NYCP in Jul. '12, as a crossover with domestic relations.

2. For NY essays, the call of the question is very specific. You don't need to write about a wide area of law and you're not expected to have a five page answer just for one topic. However, if you don't know the specific rule that they're testing then you're kind of screwed for that question. For CA, the questions are generally broader and more like those 1L issue-spotting exams that were a race against the clock (at least they were for me). In CA, you need to churn out more law and analysis for each essay. The fact patterns and the substantive law being tested are not significantly harder than NY, however, the CA examiners expect more from your answers.

3. You'll probably need to adjust your essay writing style. You'll notice the difference by reading through released CA sample essay answers and the model answers provided by your test prep company. Every new issue needs a heading and its own separate IRAC. Every element of a rule needs its own heading and should be individually analyzed. This very structured way of writing takes some time and effort to get used to, and is more time-consuming when you're writing it. The bar examiners here seem to want everything served up to them in easily digestible chunks of information, so that they can just skim through your answer.

Contrast this to the sample answers for the NY bar exam that we both took: http://www.nybarexam.org/ExamQuestions/JULY2012QA.PDF. These are presumably some of the best answers, but I think these would actually have a chance of failing in CA based solely on the writing style. Notice that the rules section for each call is basically every single applicable rule in one monster paragraph, followed by the analysis for all of those preceding rules. In CA, you'd need to separate all these rules out into their own headings with individual analysis.

4. Lastly, a bit of general advice -- don't fall victim to false confidence. I didn't have the fear in me when I studied for this bar. Sure, I was nervous, but I admit that at the end of the day, I'd assumed I would pass. I easily passed two other states, didn't I? This thinking is wrong, wrong, wrong. I kind of went through the motions, viewing this whole thing as a pain in the ass, and did too much "passive" learning (video lectures, reading outlines) and not enough "active" learning (practice essays). Have the fear that you had the first time around. I have it now!

narfkarta
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby narfkarta » Sun Jun 05, 2016 2:02 pm

Bump for the new season

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rcharter1978
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby rcharter1978 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 12:37 am

Can't stress enough to practice PT's if they are your weakness. Even if you don't want to do a full PT, at least have game plan/methodology/strategy. You may end up with an essay question that you know you're going to bomb, because your brain freezes, or you just didn't really focus on that particular subject. But the PT's are worth 2 essays, right? So, as long as you don't write "fuck the California Bar." in an essay or leave it blank, you can make up for a bad essay (or maybe even 2 lukewarm essays) with a good-great PT.

I did a lot of stuff different when I re-took the bar, but I felt like I may have improved the MOST on PTs.

They are a giant pain in the ass, but they are worth so much that I don't know why they often get ignored.

narfkarta
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby narfkarta » Mon Nov 21, 2016 11:54 pm

Mhmmhm

LockBox
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby LockBox » Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:31 pm

I'm writing this post in an effort to give back to the TLS community as I know I benefited greatly from it. I was a repeater who just passed the July 2016 CBX. I wasn't the strongest writer or test taker, but I was able to pass because of a lot of information found here. I didn't use a ton of resources, just a few that really, really worked. Feel free to PM me with any questions. Generally, I followed a plan of 9 weeks of full-time study (e.g., 9am - 5/6pm) - no weekends (needed to recharge). Also, the minimum rule was 2 x 50 - I had to write out NOT LESS THAN 2 essays per day, and complete NLT 50 MBE's per day. This included review.

For the 9 weeks, the general overview was a 4-3-2 breakdown: the first 4 weeks was phase 1 which was review + writing going over each subject once (keeping to the 2 x 50 rule). I would take, say the first two days for contracts. Start with a brief review and then do 50 contracts MBE's followed by essays. In two days, I would do the same for property etc. The next phase was 3 weeks where I focused on practice exams (e.g., 3 essays in a day or 100 MBE's followed by review). The last phase was 2 weeks and it still included writing, but a lot more outlining. For me (as i'm sure it is for many repeaters) you need to be WRITING and APPLYING your knowledge - not reading.

Another tip that helped me was I started a word doc and separated it by the 14 subjects. Each time I read an essay or reviewed an MBE question that had a good rule statement, it went into the word doc. By the end, I had a 20-30 page doc only detailed with rules (including CA distinctions). In my final prep days before the exam, I reviewed this document exclusively.

1. PT's: to be honest, this wasn't an issue for me. I didn't really practice any PT's as this was the only area I was naturally strong in. I did, in the week leading up to the bar, take 15-30 minutes to outline a PT from the BarBri book, get a general idea of how I would write it and then read the model answer, paying attention to the nuances - the audience, the tone, demeanor of a high-passing answer. Otherwise, I've heard good things about the PT prep classes.

2. MBE: I will advocate for Adaptibar. Not just for the questions, but also for the interface. I had, at my fingertips, a breakdown of which subjects I was doing well in, and which ones I was not doing well in. My daily 50 MBE questions would be made up of: First 10 MBE's on the weakest subject, Next 10 MBE's on the 3 lowest scoring subjects, last 30 MBE's on all subjects. Sometimes this would change because I would be focused on, say, Civ Pro. Once I became stronger, I would find other subjects would dip, percentage-wise so I would have to work on those. This cycle repeated until test day.

3. Essays: This was my weakest subject. I read many blogs about not procrastinating and just writing it. It sucks to write everyday - it really does. But what sucks more is failing the bar. I kept failing, as I submitted some essays to bar-grader tutor who would consistently (at the beginning anyway) give me 50/55's. The tutor wanted me to review my outlines more to "learn the law." I disagreed and continued writing (and largely, failing). Others may disagree on this, and your mileage might vary. But for me, I knew I learned by doing the law, not reading it. On game day, I really did feel like my essays were polished, on point, and that I destroyed (largely) each one. The practice, mainly from the first phase (first four weeks), is what I felt bolstered my ability on game day, under the stress and tension of the exam.

Finally, i'll say that I kept myself accountable. I had an excel sheet with tabs for each section. Each day I wrote in which previous bar exam essays I did that day, whether I outlined/wrote (or both), and, if applicable, what my score was from my bar grader. Others have advocated for writing in which issues were missed, which rules were incorrect etc. but I would just write these in red in the word doc that I wrote the essay in. For the MBE's I would write down how many questions I did, and what my daily percentage was so I could see trends. Adaptibar had my overall percentage for me each day when I started.

In closing i'll say that I'm by no means an expert or a super intelligent person. Nor do I believe you have to be either of these to pass the bar. I do think there is a high level of understanding of the law required coupled with diligent effort. Some people may pass just by reading outlines or whatever, but I knew I had to had to had to write everyday and even more so to have a shot. The mental aspect of this journey is a whole other issue which i'll leave to others to handle and/or talk about. It was difficult for me, as I did not really believe it could be done. But I moved ahead and kept working. I'm glad to say that I passed and I hope that this post helps you as you prepare, believe and work towards passing.

Good luck.

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rcharter1978
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby rcharter1978 » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:44 am

adonai wrote:Thanks for the post. Do you have any advice on what to do with regards to structuring your PT and essay according to the question calls? I find myself getting tripped up and spending a majority of my time wondering what I have to discuss under each question call. Sometimes the question calls are pretty straightforward ("Discuss P's rights against D," "Will P prevail against D for Negligence") other times it is not so clear and the question calls seem to overlap with regards to discussion of elements.

For PTs, I also have trouble with structure. For example, the model answers will structure it one way, but then I would have structured it a different way and it would have never crossed my mind to structure my answer the same way as the model answer did (although the content is all there).


Buy the red PT book. It will help with structure, and getting down to the nitty gritty. I think if you have a good way to structure the information, the structure of what you actually write will flow from that, and the format should be pretty clear.

My tutor also had a PT program that I found useful. Its pre-recorded, but he has a good method.

Between the tutor's PT tutorial and the red book I think I improved a lot on PTs.

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rcharter1978
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Re: Advice For Anyone Retaking the California Bar

Postby rcharter1978 » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:49 am

adonai wrote:
helfer snooterbagon wrote:Not to be too much of an asshole, but someone who has failed the bar multiple times is not the person who should be giving advice.

I actually take the advice of multiple takers more seriously. First, they know what they did wrong because they get their scores back. They know what it took to actually pass because they knew what to improve on and what was the right way to do it and wrong way to do it. I found that most first time passers just give general advice, which isn't as useful. Also, a lot of them tend to be the ones who just say "follow the program and you're good," or "crammed for one week and passed, too ez." Most of us aren't like the latter.



I absolutely agree. I passed on my second try, and my first effort was piss poor (1377). So, I had to focus and change a lot of things to pass the second time.

I would tell you, if you're taking in February...do not sleep on PT's.

PT's are worth 2 essays, and you already have all the law in front of you so if you have a method and a good format to track the information you're in good shape. You have to write a good PT, but I think its much easier to prepare for than essays.




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