I have all the answers for you. First of all, I am a 53 yoa attorney taking the bar exam again late in life in Hawaii. So, I'm not screwing around. I have to get this stuff right, and I may not get another chance. It is my intent to escape Texas before they literally start hanging plaintiff's lawyers and their clients.
I have purchased three bar exam prep courses, including Themis, Adaptibar, and BarMax. Also, when I had this issue recently (totally failing a recent Themis Milestone exam (they give you "milestone" tests at three points in their prep course), although I have studied like a maniac for for months. I called them, and was fortunate enough to get one of the principals on the phone who really knew a lot about the Themis program. His is my Themis guy. The actually call you a few times during your prep, I guess to see if you are ok, or committing hari kari.
Here's the scoop.
Themis is good in terms of the lectures, handouts, and essay prep (And the MPT too, but as long as you work a few of those, you'll do fine--especially if your an old guy like me with 30 years of drafting documents). Themis is not so good on the MBE. The reason is that they write a lot of the questions themselves, and if you are doing Themis, when you get to levels five and six of the MBE practice questions, YOU ACTUALLY START GETTING REAL MBE QUESTIONS. When I spoke to my guy, I was livid about how I was scoring consistently in the mid seventies on Adaptibar, but then I failed their chickenshit milestone test miserably, and also failed again when taking a recent con law set of quetions. He explained it all, but, even though I may not agree with their strategy of attempting to teach me every subtle nuance with inartfully drafted questions (or at least I guess that's their strategy), here's what he said. He said the question split is about 40/60 percent, their questions/actual bar questions. He stated further that once you get to levels five and six, you get actual bar questions (which explains my high scores on those that I had gotten that far). He further stated that once a student takes 1600 multistate questions, he is maximally prepped, and the benefit of additional questions falls after 1900. So, I'll do all of the Adaptibar questions (1750?), and if I have any time left, I'll return to Themis and plug away on their upper level stuff, being levels five and six of their prep questions. (But not their tests, as they are drawn from Themis questions, and for the reasons below, I won't take any more of them--they only scared me and confused me).
So, in light of all this info, here's what I did. I literally when through and punched letter D on all the remaining questions on anything less than level five or six on the Themis program (Except criminal, because there are not very many, and on civ. pro., because there aren't many "real" questions anyway). This got rid of a bunch of the crap. Now when I take these tests, I score high again. Go figure. It's because they are real retired bar questions. I could berate the Themis questions all day for their weaknesses, but its not really their fault. The fact is that the NCBE does a thorough vetting, with the idea that a majority of students who know the law should be able to deduce the same answer on the same question consistently, or else it tests nothing. (In fact, its worse than testing nothing, because it actually makes you begin to doubt what you know). I don't want a question that is incapable of this deduction, because is screws with my knowledge already learned (especially when some clown writes a question and puts in a bunch of red herrings or butchers the black letter law on rules that I know I know--i.e., it effs with my head, and what I already know and have stored in my short term memory). Also, not only are there sometimes no clear single best answer, but the question is poorly drafted (for instance, which party does "he" refer to in the question?), or borrows from say con law question formats and throws it into torts, etc. I want questions that look, smell, and taste like vetted bar exam questions. Period. For instance (and Themis teaches all of this in their very good lectures of bar exam tips), a good negligence question's correct answer will usually contain the word reasonable or foreseeable. This is the kind of info I can use, but only if you give me negligence questions to practice on.
Oh, about those Themis tests. I took the first one months ago when I started. Scored a 49. They say, ok, thats a baseline. Then I literally studied for three months, and scored a 58. Ok, I say, I'm doing better. Then I cram like crazy, take hundreds of Adaptibar questions (again, scoring very high on them), and I take the next Themis Milestone exam and my scored actually dropped to a 56. I was livid. I looked at the questions, and there were in no way a good example of what the bar will actually ask me. They were oddball questions on esoteric topics, poorly written, with mixed styles and no way to deduce the correct answer on most of them. ARE THEY TRYING TO SCARE ME? I don't know, but I'm scared enough. I don't need this. ARE THEY TRYING TO TEACH ME THE SUBTLE NUANCES? Well if they are, I don't agree with the way they are going about it. Go look at the NCBE outline on what is tested. For instance, Torts test 50% on negligence and 25% on intentional torts. Hell, that tells me if I have those topics down cold, I pass. Hearsay is one third of the evidence questions. So, I memorize the rule. So I say, teach me what I need to know, until I know it like the back of my hand, and then I'll deduce the rest of the answers from my own knowledge and reading. Also, you pick up a ton of details when you are working the MBE questions, if they are well written. I am literally laughing at some of the Themis con law questions that start listing all the esoteric amendments to the constitution as options a through d. I dought that I need to know the 21st amendment about sell of alcohol after prohibition. But I know that 50 percent of the con law test will be on individual rights, so I need to know the tests that the supreme court uses, the protected classes, etc. Give me those type of questions.
So, Themis, love ya, but don't love your Themis MBE questions and won't be doing any more of them--or your "full bar exam" in about two weeks with two days of review. Sheesh, I don't think my ego can take another beating. After I took their last Milestone test, I felt like I had a pretzel in my head. I am going to keep reviewing the law, the notes from the lectures and the study aids, keeping it fresh in my mind, and applying this stuff in real MBE questions until the bar exam. I am going to keep writing the essays because they make me not only read the law, but regurgitate the rules in a way that makes me remember them.