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 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!