Advice for bar takers...

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Advice for bar takers...

Postby leib10 » Sun Nov 26, 2017 11:56 pm

Texas July 2017 passer here. Just thought I'd give some advice to those who are taking the bar soon. I've only taken the Texas bar, so some of my advice on the Texas portions will be of somewhat limited use for UBE takers, but the rest should translate well enough.

1. Be careful about overusing study groups. While a group of people nearby can not only help you understand difficult concepts and provide a good support system, it's important to be able to grasp the material yourself. The problem with study groups is that often times, members of the group tend to think that they understand the material because the group as a whole understands it. But the test is obviously not testing the group's collective knowledge, but each individual's knowledge. Most people I know who successfully took the bar did so while studying by themselves, while also having a group of people around to occasionally lean on during periods of stress.

2. The lecture videos are a waste of time, for the most part. I was one of the people who hated reading outlines and hardly cracked my outline books during bar prep. The lecture videos, which have fill-in-the-blank outlines with which you follow along, are also pretty worthless and are generally a poor investment of your time, especially if watched at normal speed. Instead, I spent much more time going over the actual questions and their explanations, whether they were Barbri/NCBE MBE questions or Texas Essay/P&E questions. P&E material should only be learned by going over old P&Es, especially since they often repeat previous questions and fact patterns. Likewise, Texas essays often repeat themselves, so be sure to get at least an understanding of the most commonly tested topics in each subject (I crushed the Property essay on the July exam because I had previously seen it almost verbatim as a Barbri assignment, not because I had managed to cough up that knowledge from outline cramming).

3. Take breaks. If I could do it over again, I would have taken more breaks. I know there's a fear of getting behind, and you should have that fear to a certain extent because the work will continue to pile up and eventually you will not be able to catch up (likewise, DO NOT start a few weeks late, thinking that you will catch up, because you won't). Nevertheless, there are days where you just aren't going to make any progress, no matter what you try. Take a day or (gasp!) two off when you feel like you need it, because you really need to conserve your cognitive energy for the end game. Get out of town, or at least out of your routine. You'll be suprisingly productive when you take care of yourself by doing whatever feels good, as long as it's not more bar prep.

4. Don't work during bar prep, if possible. I know there are bills to pay, but let's face it: studying is a full-time job, and often there are weeks with much more than 40 hours spent on bar prep. Take out a small loan for living expenses if necessary, because it may be one of the best investments you make in your life. And God knows, having to take this thing twice is not worth a couple hundred bucks' worth of interest on a loan (if that).

5. Save some energy for loved ones. Life goes on, even during bar prep, and your relationships don't suddenly go away just because you're studying. Like taking breaks, it's worth the investment of time and energy to keep these relationships with significant others, family, and friends healthy because the trouble and stress a neglected relationship can create is not worth it, and is about the last thing you need.

6. Bar prep companies don't matter, for the most part. They make a ton of money by trying to paint themselves as having an edge on their competitors, but the only true determinant of success is you, the test-taker. So save yourself some money and go with Themis or Kaplan (I took Barbri because I was a rep and got it for free, but compared to the other companies' courses, I didn't think Barbri was worth the extra money). That being said, don't try to cheap out and cut corners with lesser-known companies because they often don't give you what the bigger companies are really charging you for: the study schedule that allows you to keep on track to learn what you need to know. Likewise, don't just buy a couple of books and flip through them and call it good, because you're setting yourself up for failure that way.

7. Switch up your study location from time to time. I split my time between the law school and my house. There were times I was feeling one or the other, and varying my study location helped prevent me from falling into a rut.

8. Don't be afraid to own your weaknesses. You are going to be better at some things than others; for me, I was good at criminal law and torts, but really weak in property. There will be times, especially near the end of the study program, where you can deviate from the assigned material in order to focus on your weaker subjects. That being said, at some point certain concepts (e.g., RAP) are going to be too difficult to master and it's best to let them go in order to focus on more easily grasped material. Which leads me to my next point...

9. This test is about maximizing points, and an in-depth knowledge of each area of law is unnecessary. I think a lot of people who failed did so not because they were stupid or suffered from a lack of dedication, but because they wanted to get down into the nitty-gritty details of each area of law. This isn't a law school exam, and treating it like one can be fatal. The goal is to have a relatively superficial knowledge and understanding about a very wide variety of topics, such that you can grasp and communicate the general ideas of each area of law. Avoid "well, what if X" thinking; the graders don't care about how clever you are at posing hypotheticals. Just spit out the law and analysis in a manner as close to the model answers as you can, don't get lost in the weeds, and you'll be fine on the essays. Likewise, be sure to get a good grasp of the most commonly tested MBE topics, because there are some that are pretty predictably present on the actual exam.

10. Never forget that you aren't alone in your suffering. Of all the things I've mentioned, this one may be the most important. It's really, really easy to fall into the trap believing that somehow, you're the only person who is struggling with the material and the process, and that you're the only one who is going to fail because you keep getting low scores that keep decreasing with time and you keep having a difficult time understanding the material and keeping on track with the schedule. That's why #1 on this list is so important: there's nothing more comforting to know that you aren't alone, that everyone is struggling more or less equally, and that statistically speaking, they can't fail you all. This is the single best way to deal with anxiety.

11. Leaving the exam, you're going to feel like you failed. It's normal, and practically everyone feels the same way. So don't worry, because you probably didn't (statistically speaking, anyway). Which reminds me: in practically every jurisdiction, every exam administration, a majority of people pass. So cling to that hope.

12. Lastly, and this is one a lot of people don't talk about: find ways to distract yourself while waiting for results. For Texas takers, it's a very long 3 months' wait (2 for February exams), and the constant revisiting of every mistake on the exam can eat you alive. But there's nothing you can do at that point to change your answers or speed up the waiting process, so you simply have to find ways to not think about it. Start working, start rediscovering all the things you liked to do before you started law school, start reconnecting with friends and family, take a vacation, pick up a hobby, whatever--just try to put the test behind you.

Hope this helps. If anybody needs more advice or just someone to vent to, just PM me and we can talk.


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Re: Advice for bar takers...

Postby Tony48 » Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:47 pm

Solid advice! About Barbri: I'd probably agree that it's not absolutely necessary. I only bought them because of their reputation and because I was determined not to I went with the "best" (aka most expensive) program. But I recently took the MPRE and used both Kaplan and Barbri (since they were free) and found that Kaplan had a very comprehensive program and I'm sure they would have offered the same on the bar. So I'd save my money and go with Kaplan. Barbri is great, but you can still get pretty much the same for less money. If I had to do it all over again (or if I decide to take another bar), I'm doing Kaplan.

And another point I want to piggy-back on: when the test is over, put it behind you and do not dwell on essays/MBE questions. It's over! I literally had a mini-panic attack after going over some essay answers online and was absolutely convinced that there was no way that I passed because I didn't have that user's answers.

Panic attacks are not fun. Do not find ways to stress yourself out.

About the videos: I do agree that for the most part, they are a waste of time. However, there were really good nuggets of info in them that I found that helped me, especially with some of the better lectures. Some of the lectures were absolutely horrible, but others were great. But yes, I'd increase the play speed so you can get through them quicker (if you do decide to watch them all like I did).

And yes, take breaks to do something fun. Go to the movies. Go to the spa. Knit. I dunno....whatever relaxes you and takes your mind off of it. I'm a tennis freak and I took a few hours on Saturdays to hit with my friends. It's how I would unwind and rid myself of the stress. You're going to need it because this thing will take its toll on you.

And I'd definitely agree to not working if you're taking it for the first time. My mom volunteered to take me in while I studied, and she basically helped me pass. I have no idea how I would have been able to do this while working. So if you can find a way to study while not having to worry about working, DO IT.

But again, very solid advice here. You are not alone. Everyone else is suffering right alone with you. But these tips will help make your experience a little less painful.

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Re: Advice for bar takers...

Postby SilvermanBarPrep » Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:44 pm

Great advice and #9 stands out to me as especially helpful. My go-to analogy when talking to students is to think of the bar exam as a huge shallow pond as opposed to a small deep body of water. Cover shallow and wide because the goal is competence not expertise.

Sean (Silverman Bar Exam Tutoring)

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