Found: A strategy for the MBE

Found on Top Law Schools board:
Two of my repeater friends who failed yet again pointed to the MBE as their downfall. I'm confident that it wasn't due to an inadequate knowledge of the law. When I asked them (separately) about their approach to selecting answers, each of them said that they had eliminated the wrong answers until they settled on the right one. Correct approach, but imperfect. As I questioned them further, they both admitted that their approach ultimately relied upon gut instinct instead of a methodical plan of attack. The fact is, depending upon instinct is a terrible game plan for passing the MBE.

The MBE requires a mechanical approach to consistently solving the problems. Many people will advise you to read the call of the question first and glance at the answer choices to get your bearings, then read the facts, re-read the call, and then start eliminating wrong answers. I agree with this approach. However, for study purposes, it's an incomplete strategy. After you have read the facts and re-read the call, but before you start trying to eliminate answer choices, you need to take a moment to identify and articulate (out loud is best) the following: 

(1) What issue is this problem actually testing? (Is it negligence or an intentional tort, consideration, acceptance, relevance, a defense?)
(2) What is the law of the issue, i.e., what are all of the elements that are needed to prove this issue? Recount them aloud.
(3) Which single element is the determinative point of law given the call and these facts?

Once you have completed this analytical drill, you will be ready to start eliminating wrong answers. Ignore the clock. Take the time to make this drill a Habit with every MBE problem that you do. Being methodical in your approach must become second nature. Automatic. You can work on your speed as you get closer to the bar, knowing that you will naturally become faster as you continue to work through MBE problems.

As I reviewed and re-reviewed my wrong answers over and over (another important prep strategy), I studied why I had selected the wrong answer, in addition to reviewing the rules of law. In other words, WTF did I do wrong? As a tactic of studying the test itself, not just studying the law, I kept track of the underlying reason behind every incorrect answer that I selected. You need to do the same if you are having trouble with the MBE. The majority of my wrong answers involved a breakdown at one of the 3 steps outlined above. (An insignificant percentage involved going too fast or just stupid mistakes.) About 45% of my wrong answers resulted from not knowing the law and the elements well enough. Okay, predictable. But surprisingly, another 45% of my wrong answers turned on my failure to identify the precise, narrow issue that the problem was in fact testing. Sometimes this turns on a single word in the facts. I could see that it was a torts problem, duh. But winging it by instinct and the seat of my pants, I would misidentify the narrow issue on which the correct answer turned, even though I knew the elements cold otherwise. If the right answer turns on intent, and you're thinking about causation, you will be applying the wrong litmus test when eliminating answer choices, which will lead you to the wrong answer selection.

Scoring high on the MBE depends upon knowing all of the elements cold, but also recognizing which element that the problem is testing. During your prep, take the time to mechanically, logically figure out the right litmus test to apply using the 3-step process above before you stampede through the answer choices. You will get more of them right, making fewer dumb mistakes, and you'll condition yourself to bring a winning approach to the table on the bar.

Congratulations Grand Poobah

On passing the July 2012 California bar examination!

I've been following his blog Passing the California Bar Exam almost since he began it. Although he may not have noticed me (he's a brave soul who leaves his comments section wide open) I have definitely kept him on my radar and would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on passing one of the country's hardest bar examinations. Poobah, you have always stayed very positive even when some folks - and the bar exam - were doing their best to try and drag you down. For that you have my admiration and respect. I wish you the very best in future and hope that you continue blogging.

Follow My Twitter

I update my Twitter more often than this blog site. While I will keep posting blogs here, if you want to read my current thoughts, go here.

More later.

Climb: Post About Mindset Found on All4JDs

Author: victor [21813]
02 Nov 2011 02:30 PM

i took the bar more times than you baraddict on finally passed. you have to realize that passing this test is really more about faith in your ability to apply the knowledge & skills in order to pass - you have to believe in yourself in order to pass. People underestimate the morale component of passing, bu in reality passing this test is far more about your psychology than the number of rules you've memorized or how much you have practiced applying them.

People might argue that the having the most positive mindset in the world will not help you pass if you havent studied enough. Yes, of course, you do need a minimum level of competency to pass, sure. However, i would guarantee you that if you dont make a conscious choice to believe that you can pass, you will continue to fail no matter how much you study. However, I believe that once you "release" your faith that it is possible for you to pass, then you will.

I would take the power of that belief further - I believe that once I began to believe that it was actually possible for me to pass, I subconsciously began to study more efficiently and effectively and made better judgments, both while studying and in the test itself. My belief that I could finally pass after failing so many times became so powerful, without me even realizing it, that it became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I guarantee you that even if you consciously think you can pass now, you unconsciously doubt that, and so you are, at least on the subconscious level, sabotaging yourself. There are two things you need to do now to pass in the future:

1) DECIDE to pass: Write out your intention to pass. Write down why you want to pass the NY bar, & why you deserve to. Decide that you will pass no matter how many tries it takes, but decide to believe that you can absolutely pass on the next try, and that you are open to that possibility. Expect to pass now, and then "let go" of that intention, by not thinking about whether you will pass or not the next time you take it, because you know you CAN pass now & will pass when the time is right, because your will & intention has made your passing an inevitability.

2) ACT on your decision to pass: Forget about your past attempts, with the exception of study techniques and materials that were particularly useful & helpful. Take what was useful from your past experiences and then move on, focusing on what you need to do now to pass in he present moment. Dont worry about what other people do, but focus on what works for you. I never could do hundreds of MBEs like other people - i got bored and overwhelmed and could forced myself to get through them. On my last attempt when I passed, i decided to do just one MBE and review the test thoroughly, & it was really helpful this time (quality over quantity - Emanuel's Strategies and Tactics is very helpful). I never could learn standard bar exam outlines (BARBRI, etc), which I find are skeletal and incomplete in some places and way too long and overwhelming in others. So, I found really good "mini outlines" and studied off those but added some info where I needed it.

3) BUILD your faith in yourself: you need to change your image of yourself from a muliple taker and "failer" to a succesful passer. Affirmations are a powerful way to challenge and improve your self-image. You need success to build on - look for success in your studying - you mastering the concepts of each subject and getting practice questions right and focus on your successes. Do not dwell on negative feedback - i used to torture myself because no matter what I did, i would always get mediocre or poor scores on my practice essays. Then the last time before i passed, i started interning for an attorney who complimented my legal writing and analysis, and that built up my faith in myself alot. I realized that the "feedback" i was getting from tutors was unfair and unrealistic for test conditions, and i the next time, when i passed, i just focused on budgeting my time on the essays really well and making sure i wrote a sufficient answer in the "Under-Here-Therefore" style for each essay (this is a great, easy to use format i learned from Mary Gallagher's essay course). I had enough faith to write a short, complete answers for each part of each essay, instead of running out of time on some essays because I overdid it on others.

You can and will pass this test, whether you ever want to practice law in NY or not. You just have to make the decision and everything else will, one way or another, fall into place. Dont worry so much about the "how", just focus on the end result you want.

One Month To Go

Dear Retaker,

It is now one month before the exam. Some of us feel far from finished. Others realized how little they have done in May and June and are starting to feel very anxious. All I can say, retakers, is keep going. Review how much you know. If it is not enough, then adjust yourself so that you do come exam time.

I highly recommend buckling down and getting very serious about the exam. Despite how much or how little you have done, don't give yourself any excuse to let up. Keep exercising, keep breathing, keep studying, keep practicing, keep reviewing. Don't let your breaks extend indefinitely.

See you in a month - stay strong!

Good Luck July 2011

Good luck to everyone taking the test, especially bar exam re-takers. Make it count.

How Much Rule In Your Essays?

Touro Law Center Academic Development Program Blog: Preparing for the Bar Exam - Outlining the Rule: "One question we are often asked by students studying for the Bar Exam is how much rule is needed to be sufficient in each essay. "

A Texas Bar retaker shares her experience

A Texas Bar retaker shares her experience:
I believe a little background may be instructive:

Attempt #1 (July 2005): I had just moved to Texas from Pennsylvania, where I went to law school, and was enjoying being in my beautiful new home which my husband had selected in my absence (we were apart for 9 months while I finished school and he moved here to start his new job). I took the BARBRI review course (the most popular) and studied at home for probably 5-6 hours in the evening. I also had the PMBR books (multistate questions, of which there are 200, and they are incredibly tricky and confusing, for the most part). I allowed myself to get distracted by pretty shiny things (hey - isn't that a piece of lint 50 feet away? I must abandon my studies and pick it up!), and my studying was exceedingly superficial. I failed by a HUGE margin, which was not surprising at all. I found out that I had failed on Eid (the Muslim holiday at the end of Ramadan), and my day was ruined, but it really wasn't surprising. I cried a bit and retired for a long nap, and a few days later I filled out the reapplication and started studying again for February.

Attempt #2 (February 2006): I decided to use MicroMash, another (computerized) bar review program. To achieve their pass guarantee refund, I had to complete all 2300+ multistate (MBE) multiple choice questions correctly at least once. I also used their state review, meaning I had to do 6 practice essays and submit them to an assigned mentor for criticism. Frankly, the MicroMash state review isn't that helpful, although I did increase my MBE score by 14 points. I spent so much time on the computer questions to get the guarantee that I ended up having only 2 weeks to really study for the essays, which was a huge detriment. I also allowed myself to get distracted by my beloved Winter Olympics; although I consider myself a world class multitasker, that's asking a bit too much in this dire situation. My score increased by 28 points, but was still WAY off. My law school buddy was visiting from PA, having just passed the PA bar on the second try at 66 years of age, and she was of great comfort to me when I learned I had failed again. She and my husband took me out to eat and reassured me that I do indeed have an IQ greater than that of George W. Bush, something I found it very difficult to believe at the time. I went to Kinkos and had an enraged, scowling picture taken for the reapplication; I'm sure my licensure analyst must have been laughing at the sour expression on my face!

Attempt #3 (July 2006). Realizing I had to change some things in order to pass this behemoth, I did so. Rather than studying at home, I got up early and rode into Dallas with my husband, who dropped me off at the Southwestern library and then went to his office on the North Campus. I left my computer at home; I confess to playing Monopoly on my cell phone quite a bit, but the main thing was that I was stuck at the library with my books and had no choice but to study until he was ready to go home at about 5 or 5:30. I devised a meticulous study schedule and tried to stick to it as closely as possible. I spent the month of May on the MBE subjects, reading through the Conviser and long outlines (if they did BARBRI, they'll know what those are) and doing at least 35-40 questions per day. I'd also look through the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) examples and go over the Texas Procedure and Evidence rules occasionally (each of those is worth "only" 10% on the bar). In June I cycled through the Texas essay subjects, spending 3 days at a time on each and thoroughly immersing myself in the "black letter law" and trying to memorize as many rules as I could. I didn't really write out answers to any old essay questions, but I did outline quite a few to see if I identified the issues and recalled the applicable law. It really helped to critically read a bunch of recent exam questions, as they tend to repeat in some areas, and you can really learn the rules that way. I continued doing MBE questions at night (probably still 35-40 or 50). In July I spent another week on the MBE subjects, then essays, still doing MBE questions at night, and spent a few more days on the MPT and Procedure & Evidence questions. For those P&E questions, it's impossible to know EVERYTHING, but I answered a number of old exam questions and really focused on remembering as many rules as I could. I also bought an "overcoming text anxiety" hypnosis CD and listened to it while going to sleep at night, as well as a 6-CD subliminal series with such CDs as "Overcoming Test Anxiety," "Improve Test Scores" and "Master Your Memory," which I listened to on my iPod while studying. I don't know how much those helped, but they certainly didn't hurt! Finally, although I only live 17 miles from the Arlington Convention Center (the testing site), I booked a room nearby so I wouldn't have to deal with traffic and so that I'd study in the evenings (although experts don't recommend that, I wanted to keep focusing on the task). I remember during the exam period being very anxious after the second day (the beastly multistate) and seriously not considering going back on Thursday for the essays, but when I awoke on Thursday morning I felt strangely at peace and knew I had to return, knowing that I would accept whatever happened.

I ended up increasing my score by 61 points this time! I got my letter yesterday and learned that Texas doesn't give passers their scores (except the final scaled score and MBE score, which really wasn't spectacular at ALL; I must have done surprisingly well on the essays). My MBE score only increased by 9 over February! I passed by 10 points.

Examinees should always try finish all the questions. Time management is key. Although I finished all of the questions on each exam, on my first attempt I allowed myself to get 15 minutes behind on the 90-minute MPT question and have to scramble to catch up, and I spent too much time on the Secured Transactions question and had 10 minutes less than usual for the next question. Your daughter's friends should, if they're not doing this now, write on their exam booklets what time they started the question and what time to finish it and move on to the next question. For the MPT, they should budget 5 minutes to read and outline the task memo, 35 minutes to read and outline the file and library, 5 more minutes to re-read the task memo, then the remaining time to write their answers. It really helped me to stick to my schedule. Not finishing the questions was never a problem for me, but when you get behind on a question you have less time to answer the next, and they're all worth the same.

Another thing which helped was my mental attitude. The first time I went into the exam with the attitude that I was going to fail. The second time I was hopeful, but tentative. The third time I went in saying, "I'm going to pass this beast; nothing's going to stop me." It's one thing to think after the exam that you probably failed; it's completely another thing to go into the exam thinking you're bound to fail. DON'T DO THAT!!

Sorry this has been so long - how I love to tell the story! If it helps someone else, that's terrific!

Helpful Comments on All4JDs

The way i did (and since the Q book has extra space) where I would recognize the law they are testing and specific rule, I would write the buzz words on the extra space- like IIED- intent, causation, etc. Then would ttry to match the elements to the correct answer. I know this sound like a lot of work, but it is not, once you do it once or twice you will get into the habit and will recognize the elements in one of the 4 answers.

When I practiced I read essays for 5-15 minutes then I tried to come up with a quick outline after issue spotting. I limited this to a combined 20 minutes giving me 40 more to write. Then, after reading and outlining, I read the model answer and copied the answer verbatim sometimes once or twice. A friend of mine did the same, but she didn't even outline. She read, issues spotted, and only copied the rules and she passed on the first try.

I found that the more I copied, the more I became familiar with the law. Also, I am tactile kinesthetic, so writing has a tremendous learning value for me. Eventually, my rule statements and outlines started to morph into something closer to what was in the model answers.
 At the end of the day, you just have to utilize every spare second you have, and when you do have spare time, you give your undivided attention to the task at hand. You could have 8 hours a day to study, but if you waste it by doing things you are comfortable with(I hated multiple choice questions, so it would be easier for me to just answer essays all day) or by looking at (guilty of this), you are wasting your time. Do the stuff you hate, and do it again until you conquer it. I absolutely detest multiple choice questions, the whole choosing between the "better" and the "best" answers. But, I did as many as I could, receiving embarrassing scores on the practice q's, but I kept doin them.
First learn the six core subjects for the MBE. I found learning them (memorizing the rules of law and how to apply them) was the key to passing. Almost all of the other subjects branch out from this core.
You still have to hit the outlines hard during each subjects' week as you can't just learn random Conlaw rules by answering the MBE questions. You need a framework that you can use to organize, contextualize, and on the exam utilize. This is especially true for essays. There are just some things you have to know backwards and forwards so that on the day you are almost programmatically putting it to use on the essays and/or MBE questions. 

Book Review: Strategies and Tactics, Emanuel and Finz editions

Strategies and Tactics for the MBE

This is a great book that should be a part of any bar review student's arsenal. The Strategies and Tactics sections should be read very closely - take notes if you have to. The advice is very solid. I am very fond of multiple choice practice questions that explain all four answers, as this book does. It is inexpressibly helpful to read why the question you chose is wrong and why the correct answer is correct. The book uses actual past MBE questions.

My only quibble with this book is that, as Strategies & Tactics for Finz Multistate Method does, this book should have had the questions indexed by subtopic. Studying in this manner would help a student really focus his study in a way that yields big results.

Also, this edition (2006) uses questions provided in a format that has since been slightly altered by the NCBE. However, the questions are still good enough to study from. If you can only get your hands on this book and not the updated 2010 edition, that should not be a significant problem.

Despite the book's imperfections I recommend it very highly as a supplement to any bar review course.

Strategies and Tactics for the Finz Multistate Method

I recommend this book as a supplement for MBE preparation. This book works well as a supplement to the associated text, Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Emanuel, reviewed above). The best feature of this book: problems are indexed by topic and subtopic allowing the student to focus her study. The questions in this edition match the current style of MBE questions.

The section on the Finz method appears to be appropriate for those who need tips on answering multiple choice questions; as my issues with the bar exam are about memorizing law and not with test taking, I cannot say that section did much for me.

The book did not receive five stars for two reasons. First, the answer explanations are not as deep or comprehensive as the ones in Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam). Second reason is that the questions in this volume are not released questions by the test creator, NCBE, but are written by the author (Steven Finz) who is a law professor. However, when used in conjunction with Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam), which does use released MBE questions, I believe this book will yield good results.

How To Approach Your Bar Review Course


Forget the people who use bar review class time to socialize or surf the web. Maybe they know the material already and maybe they are on law review and can afford to do this. Or maybe they just don't care. It doesn't matter. They have their strategy. You use yours. Stick to it.

Pay close attention in bar class and take notes according to their system. Barbri has you fill out key words and sentences, other courses dictacte all of the rules to you. Pay close attention to the lectures and take good notes because those will be your study base. Not those giant books bar review give you. There isn't enough time to do much more than crack them open. Stick to the stuff covered in lecture. You'll stay saner that way.

Don't Get Bogged Down

I found that bar review courses are extremely clear and straightforward in the way they present information. You will likely understand most of it and whatever you don't understand, feel free to ask questions from the bar course staff attorneys or look it up in the bar course text books. If you don't understand it the first day you hear it, get it resolved THAT DAY. Don't wait weeks to clear up your questions. Once you get it, make a note to review it again when you review your notes over. But once you have it - move on. Don't get bogged down.

This isn't law school. Don't get caught up in the finer points. You just need to hammer this stuff in so that you can take the test. As long as you have an understanding sufficient to successfully answer multiple choice questions or write a good essay - that's what you need.

Always Review Your Notes

Always, always re-read or otherwise review your class notes the day you took them (it should not take more than an hour). Review all your week's notes again on weekends. Save your regular days for going to class and doing practice questions.

Stick to a schedule

Know what you are doing each day and what material you will cover each day. If you need to modify your approach or your schedule, do so, but don't keep changing your strategy too much. It's not necessary to follow Barbri's schedule to the letter - in fact it is far too much. Customize it to your needs. For the bar exam, practice is supreme. If you are confused as to what to cut out of their overstuffed schedule - cut out the reading assignments (such as reading the Conviser for the next day). If there is still too much, cut out reducing your notes. That helps some people, but if you are a very slow studier (as I was) that is not always the best way to spend your time.

Practice Questions are Supreme

When your bar course assigns an essay or practice questions - DO THEM. If you have a block of time you don't know what to do with - or if like me you are confused or overwhelmed as to how to use non-class time - use it to practice the assigned questions. Very, very mindfully. Do it with your notes (or Conviser) open at first if you have to. If you do multiple choice questions - check and carefully review every single answer whether you got it right or wrong. Make some sort of study document from the rules in the essays or multiple choice that you didn't know. Make that study document short. One rule per question or per essay paragraph. By the end of each day, you should have a list of rules you learned that day, including that day's lecture notes. Re read them or quiz yourself on them daily.

Have a base from which to memorize

As you proceed, see if you can make a very short study document for every subject (maybe an outline of a max of 5-7 pages or maybe about 50-75 flashcards covering the most basic rules of law). If this takes you too much time (it did for me), buy one from any former bar review student on Ebay or find one online and use them to follow along as you study. This is an important step because you need a base from which to memorize the most important law and it is too much to try to memorize every single note you took in lecture.

By the end, you should have quite a pile of lecture notes and practice question notes or flashcards. But you should also have that reduced study document. The basic rules of law on that document are what you have to master before you walk into that exam. Barbri's schedule tells you to take the last couple of weeks to memorize law. This is where you memorize that shortened document, be it outline, pile of flashcards, mind map, reduced Barbri notes, or whatever. Test yourself and retest yourself. Do a few practice questions and a practice essay each day. Check your answers and see where your weak points are.

Work it until you finish it

Just because you are done with bar classes: DO NOT SLACK OFF. This was my biggest mistake and my biggest regret about my first time taking the exam. In fact this should be your most intense time studying. This is when you are in dress rehearsal mode. You should be memorizing and practicing during the hours you will be taking the exam (9-5 or so). You are off limits to the world while you do. Then, break for the evening and cool down.

Don't make yourself crazy. Stay away from people who stress you or who try to psych you out somehow. Now is not the time to be polite to people who don't deserve it. Just do what you have to do and keep doing it until you get to the exam, then release it all into God's hands.

Low Grades in Law School

Students who have low grades in law school has a significantly increased chance of failing the bar exam the first time. The lower your GPA, the greater the danger.

If you are in this situation, it is possible for you to pass. But you have to realize that you are in a situation that requires action and preparation. Many law schools stink at providing much support for weaker students since they tend to cater to the top students. Therefore you have to take a lot of initiative in your final year of law school. You can't just wait until two months before the bar exam to address this danger. You have to act as quickly and methodically as possible.

If you do not, you might have to repeat the exam, and for some students, the cycle of repeating the exam could take a toll of years, money and opportunity costs. Even if you don't want to practice law, you don't want to ever take this test again. Failing the bar is an extremely demoralizing, painful and embarrassing process. Thousands of students go through it every year, but it is still a very lonely experience because no one cares to talk about it.

Don't let it happen to you.

You have to do this for yourself.

If you are beginning your final year or semester of law school, and your overall GPA is still mostly C's - you need to start preparing for the bar exam now. Before bar review starts. Most likely, you won't have a good grip on the core subjects you will hear about in bar review.

Bar review is meant to be a review of the subjects you have studied, but for too many students, it is their first cohesive experience with the black-letter law. You have to know that law well to pass the bar exam. This is a lot of information to know. Even law review students sometimes have trouble with doing this. If you don't have a good foundation in the core subjects, you may not be able to make it up during only two months. The process will be overwhelming.

I suggest starting at least six to eight months before you are due to take the test.

Know what will be on the test

Find out the structure of your state's bar examination. Ignore anyone who tells you it is too early to do this. You must know what is going to be on that exam. And don't just rely on your law school to give you information on this: Go to the bar examiner's website for the jurisdiction where you plan to take the bar exam. Will the exam contain multiple choice questions? Essays? What subjects will be tested and how? How much time will you have to complete the exam? You have to know these things so that you can begin a strategy.

Sign up with Barbri and make full use of it

If you have not already done so (and you should have done so by your first year to get that price locked in), sign up with Barbri. The benefit to signing up early with Barbri is that you often get supplemental materials to review for your first year and upper level classes. Take these materials seriously. Use them to study and prepare for law school exams.

Barbri also hosts essay writing courses and black-letter law lectures for law school subjects (they call them "Final Exam Review Lectures"). Take advantage of these and move quickly because sometimes they close early due to demand. Pay attention to the information they give you. They are often the same lectures (or the same topics) covered again in bar review.

Be sure to do B.E.A.T. or any law school bar preparation courses during your 3rd year

Many law schools, in conjunction with Barbri, host a Bar Exam Accelerated Training (BEAT) program, where selected bar review lectures are presented for students. Attendance is usually optional, although some schools make it mandatory for students with low grades. Other schools have a voluntary bar exam preparatory course taught by their own professors, not through Barbri.

If your school does not make it mandatory to go, and your grades are low, treat these sessions as mandatory. You must go to them. Review the materials and take the practice quizzes they give you. You will see it again on the regular bar review session, but this will be your opportunity to get yourself acquainted with the material ahead of time.

If your school is like mine, these B.E.A.T sessions might be on the weekend. You won't feel like going. Force yourself to go. You will thank yourself for it.

Take law school courses on bar exam subjects

Be sure to take courses that will show up on the bar exam. You already took your basic first year courses which will absolutely be on the bar exam: contracts, torts, criminal law. But in some schools, some subjects show up as optional upper level classes which some choose not to take: evidence, criminal procedure, corporations - these are all basic bar exam subjects. Take these courses. Some people say it's not necessary to take courses for subjects on the bar exam. But I found that having taken the course, and made a reasonable effort at learning the black letter law, makes a difference. Attend the Barbri law school lecture courses for the course while you are taking it.

Get a tutor, take Barbri's legal writing class, get a book on writing bar exam essays, or practice on released bar essays

There is a strategy for writing a good bar exam essay. It is different and more straightforward than writing a good law school essay. You need to practice how to do this, somehow. If you can afford it, get a tutor. If not, get a book or go to your bar examiners site and read those essay questions and answers. Get to know the format for a passing essay.

Get "Strategies and Tactics for the MBE" or go to NCBE website

It's a (relatively) cheap book. At this stage, it will look intimidating to you. But either get your hands on this book or go to the NCBE website and read about the structure of the Multistate Bar Exam. Check out the sample questions they give out as part of their free booklet. Purchase their online exam if you don't want to get the Strategies book. Review the multiple choice questions Barbri gives you in the BEAT classes. Just get the questions and read them carefully. Get to know them. You have to know the six subjects on the multiple choice portion of the bar exam like you know yourself. This is the portion of the exam which gives students the most trouble. So don't skip a good preview of this section.

Experiment with memorization and study methods

People say, when studying for the bar exam, use the methods that worked for you. The problem is, if you are in this boat, your study methods aren't working for you. You will try things in bar review you may not have tried before. There won't be enough time to continually alter your methods and also prepare for the exam.

So while you are attending your preliminary prep classes or your bar-subject law school class and reviewing your Barbri or supplemental study materials, play with those materials. Experiment with study methods: see if you know more rules of law than when you started. Does reading things over and over work for you? Making flashcards and using them to quiz yourself? Making notes in margins? Making outlines? Making charts and mind maps? What is the best way to reduce the information so that you know it better after you've studied? Practice on your school tests or on released bar questions and see. Don't kill yourself doing the full job yet. Just play with it and have fun with it. Or see what different methods work for your regular law school finals. But do it. And make sure that you figure out your preferred study methods by the time bar review officially starts.

Also practice reducing things to their most important elements. Search the internet for examples of very short outlines and most important basic principles of law. I mean really short - maybe 5 or 7 pages. Check out Travis Wise's site (especially if you are in CA) for examples of very shortened outlines. A blogger by the name of Measuring Life also has examples of shortened outlines. Since you have a bit of time, practice creating these documents. Do it for your class or for the Barbri law school lectures. This is a vitally important skill for the bar exam. It helps you recognize what is most important to know so that you can create something short enough to memorize.

Where do you study best? In the library, at home, in a cafe? Know this before bar review starts.

Get your house in order

You will not be working, you will not be doing much for about two months. Get your bills paid, get your family ready, find yourself a place to study and stick with it. Get yourself and your friends and family ready for the process.

Get yourself ready for a stressful experience by getting any meditation CD's, study music, prayers, TV dvds, Zen gardens, etc. in order. Whatever helps you relax, make an inventory of those things and have them ready. You'll need them to chill you out.

Determine your hours when you are most alert. Is it morning, afternoon, or evening? Know it so that you can schedule your bar review classes around these times. If you are a morning kind of person, sign up for an afternoon or evening bar review class so that you can have the morning to practice or study. Etc. Are you an independent studier? Sign up for Bar review on Ipod or online, and do it as early as possible.

Start getting into an exercise routine. Join a gym, get on the treadmill, wake up and watch that Pilates show on cable, get a DVD to exercise to, sign up for yoga. Just get into the habit now. Exercising during bar review will really help blow off steam and keep your mind sharp.

If you are really struggling with certain substantive or personal discipline issues, you might find you need a tutor. Ask Barbri (or whatever bar review you will be taking) about this before you begin your class so that they can help you ASAP and you can hit the ground running.

If you can't afford a tutor (because they charge crazy fees) then speak to your law professors. All of them. Seek advice and direction. Push until you get it. They won't come to you, this is part of doing things for yourself.

Get your mindset calm and ready

Don't freak out doing these things. All these activities will be spread out over the course of your final year in law school; you'll have plenty of time to do them. Complete these things in a methodical and leisurely fashion, but make sure to complete them. By the time you get to bar review, you will have a decent preparation for the process and you can make the final sprint toward the exam.

Brief Post: Links For Improving Bar Essays

The California Law Student Journal once published an essay called Tricks of the Trade: How to Write Effective Essays. An alternate link can be found here.

A law review article to read while procrastinating, or while taking a break from studies, which deconstructs the meaning of "thinking like a lawyer".

A diagram that shows how to distinguish an analytical sentence from a conclusionary sentence.

Extremely Helpful Blog Post

Measuring Life, a California blogger who passed the bar on the second try, recently posted an extremely helpful blog post. It addresses the part of the bar exam I personally have the most trouble with: memorizing the rules. I am incredibly grateful to Measuring Life for posting this advice. You have helped me immensely.

Go to the Measuring Life post.

Perseverance Quotes

Even the most talented person gets nowhere without discipline and persistence. Persistence is the quality that puts people of average talent ahead of those who are geniuses but have accomplished nothing. Every single repeater has persistence. It's not failing the bar exam that defines what kind of person you are or what kind of lawyer you will become. What does define those things is whether or not you will give up or get lazy in the face of that failure. Consider printing this post and taping it to your wall.

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, 'press on' has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race."
Calvin Coolidge

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill

"Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Before success comes in any man's life he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat and, perhaps, some failures. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to quit. That is exactly what the majority of men do." Napoleon Hill

"Defeat is simply a signal to press onward." Helen Keller

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." John Quincy Adams

Helpful Post: You Can Do It! - From All4JDs

Found here:
"Posted By Sunny on 07 Dec 2010 12:56 PM
Preparing for the bar exam can be frustrating. It's frustrating to know that you're sacrificing a large amount of time to study for a test that you may not pass. I want to offer a few words of encouragement and advice to those of you preparing for the exam.

1: You can do it! Think about how far you have come. You graduated from college AND law school. This is not to mention all of the standardized tests and exams you had to take and the papers you had to write. Most people cannot claim these accomplishments. Don't let an exam that is written in such a way to weed many people out cause you to lose sight of all that you have accomplished!

2: Bar review courses may not be the way to go. I didn't do BarBri, PMBR or any other bar review course. Well, that's not entirely true. I bought the red and blue PMBR books used from someone on craigslist. I did every single question in both books TWICE.

3: Don't waste time. I wasted so much time, at first,making flash cards and outlines. WASTE! Highlight the answers you get wrong and move one. Read what you highlight weekly. Look up the law you don't understand and find someone (someone with no legal knowledge) to explain it to. Repeat the questions that you get wrong, 1-2 weeks after you got them wrong.

4: Don't wast time reading outlines. You don't have to read outlines multiple times. I only read the Conviser outline once. I bought PMBR CDs for the MBE topics from Craigslist and listened to them over and over again. Eventually, it sticks like a song that you hear over and over.Remember: YOU KNOW THIS STUFF ALREADY!

5: Application! Application! Application! This is the most important. You have to apply the law in order to really know it. Doing lots of multiples is the key.

6: Don't neglect the essay portion. A lot of people put this off until the end. Not a good idea IMO. From the beginning, I read several essay questions and answers each night. I did this in cycles and repeated the questions 3 times. Again, repetition caused the desired writing style and answers to stick. You can know the law, but if you don't give the graders what they want and how they want it, you will not get maximum number of points.

7: Do what works for you. There are lots of people offering there advice here. Most of them mean well. However, they can be misleading and confusing. I'm here just offering my unsolicited advice because I know how some of you feel and I want to help. But maybe what worked for me may not work for you. In the end, you have to figure out what kind of leaner you are, what you are lacking, and a good study plan.

8: Pray! I prayed a lot. This brought me much comfort and calmed my nerves. God cares for you and will help you if you lean on Him.

9: Laugh and Cry! I actually cried more than I laughed because I was tired, frustrated, depressed, broke... And while am still feeling some of the same emotions, I am happy that the bar exam is behind me. Hang in there because soon it will be behind you too. Best wishes."

Helpful Comment Found Online

montana_wildhack said...

The bar exam is a complete mindfuck no matter where you sit for the exam. It's a game, and you have to learn how to play by the Examiners' rules. Passing or failing the bar, in the great majority of instances, has little or nothing to do with intellect - it's just how well you can regurgitate the formula the bar graders want to see.

I took and passed the bar on my first try in Arizona, California, and Virginia - and although I went to a top law school, I was not a great student. I studied very hard for my first bar exam (Virginia) and went to all the Bar/Bri classes - so when I passed, I chalked it up to 2 months of full-time study and hard work. Two years later, when I took the Arizona bar, I studied for about 4 weeks - I borrowed the AZ Bar/Bri books from a co-worker, snuck into a few of the AZ specific lectures at ASU (Community Property was the only one really worth it), and passed the exam by a wide margin - I scored 480 (410 was needed to pass) with a 150 scaled on the MBE. I don't know what I scored on the VA exam because if you pass, they don't release your scores.

Most recently, I passed the California bar exam. I was working full-time up until less than a week before the exam, and I used only Bar/Bri books that I purchased off EBay. I studied with and sat for the exam with a good friend of mine who is also licensed in mulitple jurisdictions, and she failed the CA exam. She also took one week more off of work than I did to study prior to the exam.

So how did I pass three exams, in three very different jurisdictions, with three very different study methods? I READ and WROTE EVERY SINGLE ESSAY in the Bar/Bri practice essay exam books. Multiple times. I would read the questions, write out my answers, and then read the model answers and compare them to my answers. Then, I would make a list of what I missed in my answer, review those topics in the CMR, and then a few days later go back and rewrite the essays again. Later, rinse, repeat.

I really do think that unless you are totally bombing the MBE (meaning you are scoring less than 125 scaled), you don't need to spend a great deal of time studying for the MBE. Those questions are riddles wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma; answering them "correctly" is about being able to make an educated guess about what THE BAR EXAMINERS think is the "best" answer, not what you think is the "right" answer - seriously, you need to learn to substitute their judgment for yours. Because, like I said before, the bar exam is a mind game and the key to passage is learning how to not let the bar examiners psych you out. You just need to figure out what they want, and give it to them - a thousand MBEs and many regurgitated essays will be more than sufficient to do so.

Anyway, I hope that is helpful for you guys... believe me, I was never sure that I passed any of my bar exams until I got my results. In fact, when I was waiting for my VA results, I was so sure I failed that I got an ulcer while waiting for my results - LOL!! Hang in there and good luck next time. :)

Thursday, December 14, 2006 10:21:00 PM
From the OC Register:

Bar exam was the test of time
Orange woman tries for eight years to pass the bar exam.
ORANGE – Paulina Bandy couldn't fail the state bar exam again.
Not after she failed 13 times before.
Not after she had spent tens of thousands to attend law school. Not after she put her husband Jon Gomez through the ringer for so many years. Not after the debt she piled up forced her family to move into a 365-square-foot home.
Not after she spent the last eight years of her life studying to pass one stinking test.
Her 14th try came on a day in February. She did breathing exercises and self-hypnosis.
When the three long days of exams were finished, she walked out of the room and broke down and cried.
It was the only time she ever did.
• • •
Her journey began in 1994 at Western State University College of Law.
She had been a marine biologist, teaching at Science Adventures in Huntington Beach and at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.
She and Gomez, who married in 1992 after an 11-year courtship, lived in a three-bedroom home with a garage and yard in a Fullerton cul-de-sac. The couple traveled and shared a passion for sports. They loved to entertain guests at their home.
Life was good ... until the day Bandy decided to go into law.
Bandy, who grew up in Anaheim, always felt underestimated and thought law school could help her reach a sense of achievement.
She told her husband, "Don't worry, it won't affect your life at all."
She supported his decision to go back to college and pursue a teaching degree after a lucrative career in lumber sales.
The learning curve was steep for Bandy, who powered through night classes. But she made it through the first year, when most students are weeded out of law schools.
"Law school was so in-your-face smart," she said. "It was very prestigious."
She graduated in 1998 with a B average and a desire to teach business law. She didn't want a high-pressure job, but an exciting internship with the Orange County District Attorney's Office that summer stoked her interest.
With about $80,000 in unpaid school loans and a degree, Bandy prepared herself for the state bar exam. She felt confident.
• • •
Bandy did what every bar exam taker would do. She took bar review courses, consulted with experts, bought study aids and studied for hours a day. She had more work to do than the Ivy League graduates who were more prepared and apt to pass the exam.
"There was a secret out there to passing, and I wasn't in on it," she said.
Gomez kicked off a tradition of bringing flowers to his wife after she finished her exam in February 1999. But Bandy found out later that she failed. She was disheartened but vowed to do better the next year.
Her father died that same year, but Bandy had to immediately hunker down and get ready for another exam.
In 2000, Gomez graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a child/adolescent studies degree. He began teaching shortly after for a starting salary of $29,000. In the meantime, his wife studied 14 to 15 hours a day to prepare for a second stab at the state bar exam.
"I wanted my happy ending," she said. "I wanted the Disney movie. I just thought, 'I can pass the exam.' "
Her second try was unsuccessful. She had become a "repeater," and that's when the frustration, shame and desperation seeped in. Bandy began to isolate herself. She and her husband were struggling to eke out a living.
"I knew I could do it, but I didn't know what the formula was," she said.
• • •
Maybe she should've given up the dream.
By 2003, five years after she took her first exam, Bandy hadn't passed. On July 1 of that year, at age 39, Bandy gave birth to daughter Roxanne.
By then, Bandy had taken the test seven times and was spiraling into more debt. Her law school debt ballooned into $128,000, and Bandy had to defer the loan. The couple spent at least $1,000 on registration fees and hotel rooms each time she took the test.
Gomez refused to let his wife give up. She had come too close on many occasions – passing some portions of the exam but failing one – to stop trying. He drove her to the test sites in Pomona, San Diego, Ontario, Long Beach, Pasadena and stayed with her during the three-day trips.
"To me, it wasn't a big fight," he said. "It was easier to say, 'Go in there. You can do it.' "
The fight continued for years. She tried twice in 2004, the year the family left Fullerton to move into a 365-square-foot home in the back yard of Bandy's mother's house in Orange. They sold the majority of their possessions – furniture, sporting equipment, wedding champagne glasses – at garage sales and squeezed what they could into their one-bedroom home.
One couch, a television set, a bed. No closet space, a tiny kitchen and a study area. No vacations, eating out or new clothes. Bandy took odd jobs to help pay for expenses such as Roxanne's childcare and a $500 monthly rent.
She took the exam twice in 2005 and twice in 2006. She failed both years.
"She's been so dedicated, and it's been hard on me seeing her hit against the wall," said her mother, Caroline Bandy.
• • •
The exam in February of this year was Bandy's 14th. A few months before, her father-in-law yelled at her for being a "pretend lawyer" and ruining his son's life. She also got into a bad accident in January and totaled her car.
On May 25, the day the results of the exam were to be posted online, Bandy came home to a message on the answering machine.
"I screamed," Bandy said. "I'll never forget it. I was doubled over like being punched in the stomach. In a good way."
She had passed the exam, said the voice in the message. She sobbed uncontrollably. Her mother and husband were in the front yard, shocked.
"I passed, I passed!" Bandy yelled while running to the driveway.
Eight years of sacrifice had paid off. The family celebrated at a nearby Rubio's.
After all that ordeal, Bandy might not even become a lawyer.
Because of her own experiences, she has an urge to help other repeaters pass the exam. Passing her 14th test in February and being sworn into the bar association in December is proof to other repeaters that if Bandy can do it, so can they.
She's decided to devote her time to helping them full time. She launched a Web site,, and got a business license to help others find a formula to find pass the bar exam.
She'll also be teaching night classes to adults at the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District. She hopes to tell her story to others and help them through their own struggles.
"To me, it's been such a big goal," Bandy said. "This is the journey. It's the end."

A Helpful Comment

I found the following comment on “The Uncivil Litigator” and although it was basically a plug for the writer’s product, I thought it had some very helpful thoughts on a key bar exam preparation issue: active learning.

The most important thing about preparing the bar exam is actively learning the material. For most people, the most effective active learning occurs when they are practicing MBE or essay questions and thoughtfully reviewing answers. In fact, Scott Pearce at suggests doing as little up front review of the blackletter law as possible and focusing most energy on constant practice. But practice doesn't mean anything if it is not deliberate practice.

This means one should be constantly testing oneself on the elements of the law; and even when doing something “passive”, constantly asking oneself questions. One must be very engaged in the material. For those of us who have two months of full time study in front of us, that means creating flashcards/outlines/flowcharts of the material and practicing. For the rest of us, it means practicing the hell out of the MBE’s/essays, and constantly being engaged with the process. The repeater’s time is even more limited than that of a first time taker, so it is useful to practice closely the most tested portions of the exam.

I reproduce the comment below in its entirety. Paragraph breaks are my own:

Make a List of Active Learning Strategies- And Use It!

Active learning and a positive attitude. It is a simple formula for bar exam success. By simple, I do not mean easy. I can give you the formula but you have to apply it. And that does take effort.But what is active learning? Active learning occurs when you study, question yourself, and actually learn or reinforce relevant information. Active learning does not occur when you zone out in a bar review class, aimlessly read over your outlines, or sit in from of an open book with friends. Lawyers who fail the bar do so simply because they are not spending enough time on active learning.

Perhaps you feel frustrated because you spend eight hours a day studying for the bar and you still failed the exam. You didn't fail because of laziness or stupidity. You failed because you didn't do enough of the right kind of studying, i.e., the kind that leads to learning.The difficulty with active learning is that it hurts your head. It takes concentration. Seriously. It is far easier to "read" an outline (or a novel or a magazine or anything else that takes half your brain) than it is to think about the subtleties of an executory interest versus a remainder. Skimming an outline is an almost complete waste of time but it makes you feel good, makes you feel like you are studying.

To combat the fact that active learning is really hard, you need an arsenal of different learning strategies that match with your mood and level of concentration at any given time. For example, when your concentration level and energy are good (say at 7:00 am if you are a morning person), then pick an active learning strategy that requires high concentration, such as doing sample questions in a tough subject. When you've really had it and your concentration level is low, do a stack of easy flashcards. I also recommend my book MBE Crossword Bar Exam Review. When you've generated a good list of active learning strategies, order the list from high concentration strategies to low concentration strategies. Monitor your level of concentration, then pick a study tactic. (If you find that you always pick low level activities, you need to work on your concentration. Check out the previous post on Instant Hypnosis, which will help with concentration issues). As you think of new strategies, add them to your list.

Some examples of high level strategies include doing challenging simulated questions, creating your own flashcards, creating your own flowcharts, and explaining a tough legal concept to a study friend. (If you don't have a friend on hand, explain into a tape recorder and then listen to what you said to see if it makes sense. Don't just read from an outline.) Examples of mid-level concentration strategies include doing flashcards, answering simple practice questions, recreating one of your own flowcharts from memory, and creating your own hypotheticals. Low concentration strategies include my Crossword Bar Reviews, my free products, and very simple flashcards. Be creative with your ideas-- you can make simple matching games (such as match the example with the definition) or substitute your own flashcards in a game of Trivial Pursuit. Make it fun, but make sure you are learning. Whatever you do, don't fall back on old study strategies that waste time. The stakes are high and your time is precious. Don't fool yourself into thinking you are studying when you are really just passing time. Make "active learning" your mantra. As with everything else in life, it is not enough to put up an act. You must put in the effort. Study actively and put the bar exam behind you. Your career is waiting.

Advice from a foreign passer - from Calbar Primer Group

This was just so helpful, instead of directing you to the message board (message boards can be ephemeral) I felt the need to repost this person's advice in it's entirety. It's great advice from a foreign attorney who passed the California bar exam (keep in mind some of his advice pertains to that fact. CA differs from NY but since it is such a difficult exam to pass, advice there helps here too).

"Following my tutor's request (she thinks it can help some of you, I am not sure) I am giving you the combination that made me pass this exam (my study plan lasted 6 months) in my first try, being a foreign lawyer, 45 yo, finished law school over 20 years ago, native spanish speaker, coming from a civil law jurisdiction in South America. Since I did not buy a course I got lots of study material from fellow human rights lawyers from California and Michigan; I received tonns of material and I had to choose; under experts advice the result was the following:

MBE--> I read the BarBri Conviser (that is a wonderful book) I also studied the subjects (twice) by reading the FlashCards by Emanuel (yellow boxes) that guy is a genius, he makes you learn and understand the subjects without much effort, great Emanuel! PMBR Workbooks- those 2 books are really great (I don't care about their issues with the Board Examiners) they allow you to retain and understand the black letter law which is what you need (the MBE was very different from what I expected but apparently got enough points since I passed). Barbri and MicroMash MBE softwares- they helped me a lot in getting speed (I was too slow with the PMBR books -they are very difficult but it pays off to work hard with them). The time is too tight for the exam I could barely finish it and got very stressed after that one. Simulated bar exams by BarBri and Adachi helped me to understand that I was not totally lost but also that I could never get more than 60-65%. The easy exam the NCBEx
is selling online is a fraud, the MBE is not like that it is way more difficult.

MPT--> Books by BarBri and PMBR; learn a technique to spot the trick in every case. I also owe this to my tutor; she is a genius, no MPT was hard enough for her.

Essays--> This is the hard part; I read around 200 essays from past exams (CA and other States) I got from the Internet, BarBreakers by Adachi and the BarBri Essay Workbook; all the credit goes to my tutor (the best in the world, she did it for free, she is a very busy Judge in LA and used to be a grader many years ago) she reviewed the 56 essays and MPTs I faxed her and made me change everything; I believe my essays improved at least 1000% thanks to her; I really do not have words to thank her enough I will never have.
TIP-Memorise 15-20 rules of law per subject, they will be very useful during the exam (not too much Irac), especially if you do not know the answer I was totally lost in 1 essay and I invented an answer carefully reciting the rules of law I remembered, it may have saved me.

MPRE-Everybody says this is very easy but I found it very difficult and I barely got the required score; I studied with the MPRE BarBri book, excellent!

STRESS- Pray, pray and pray. This exam meant the world to me so I was under a lot of stress; since I am not a JD in the US passing meant it all; the weight of expectations was too much, my friends/lawyers who suported me unwillingly put a lot of pressure on me; I had job offers but they required me to add the magic word to my name ("Esq."); before and after the exam I prayed a lot it helped me a lot to get focus, relax and combat anxiousness. During the exam I repeated myself that God was with me (I am not a fanatic in any way but I a believer).

THIS SITE- I got a lot from your advice, strategy and experience guys; Travis (your website is wonderful and your advice on how to face the exam is priceless), Jay Wiseman (you are a role model to anybody I hope to meet you one day) and Sally Gonzales (you are very smart, your email on the essays made me reshape my strategy) at some point I followed your wise advice.

Do not forget- Essays weight 65% and MBE 35%. Not even a scaled 170 in the MBE can make you pass if you don't do fairly well in the Essay part.

In closing I want to say that at 45 I thought I had experienced it all and my life was going as planned but I had to leave my Country and start it all over again. This exam made me feel pain, anxiousness and stress I have never experienced before (to be honest it was almost a torture); when I got the good news it was like when my first son was born and soon after he started crying they gave him to me, I was so happy but I very badly wanted to cry.

I wish you all success in this task, like Travis states in his website this is a test of will and strenght and many guys fail because they freak out. Thanks California for giving me a new light; time to pay back, I have a lot of work to do. My final message is if I could make it for sure you guys can."

Brief Post: A Retaker Article Worth Reading

An article directed at retakers and motivation is in the December issue of the California Law Student Journal. View it while it is still available... the article is entitled: "Getting Motivated to Pass the Bar Exam Even After Multiple Failures", written by by Pati McDermott, CHT.

The Mind-Body Connection in (re)taking the bar - Updated

One thing I've noticed about successful bar exam re-takers (and first time bar exam passers) is that they did not ignore the connection between their mental readiness and their physical body and well being. The old saw is that the bar exam is a "marathon, not a sprint". The successful bar re-takers I have read about/seen take extra steps - beyond bar review - to care for their bodies and minds. It also appears that this has to be done just as consistently as MBE and Essay practice should be done.

I had heard successful bar exam takers say that they maintained whatever exercise schedule they had before they started taking the bar. For example, people kept going to the gym every morning if that is what they were used to. However, I didn't have a gym membership nor did I exercise at all outside of walking at every opportunity. So I believed that trying to start a new program of exercise during bar study would be an unnecessary distraction. This was an error.

Dr. Gallagher of Barwrite recommends daily exercise for one hour a day during the bar preparation period, whether or not you are used to it. When I took the Barwrite course I (roughly) followed that prescription, and that (along with other strategies) led to my first bar exam pass. So please, follow Dr. Gallagher's advice. Even if you are a sedentary person, get that one hour of exercise in every day while studying for the bar examination.

Nutrition, Supplements and Herbs*
Nutrition is the other prong in caring for your body (and through it, your mind). The best thing to do, I think, is to eat as nutritious a diet as you can muster, one that focuses on nutrition of the brain. Fish (salmon in particular), eggs, almonds and other nuts are considered "brain healthy" foods. Don't skip any meals during bar prep. Don't skip meals on the day of the exam. To ensure I get all the vitamins my diet might miss, I took a daily multivitamin.

Perhaps it is a placebo effect, but taking supplements and herbs eased my mind. The supplements I took during my bar preparation period seemed to help my thinking and my stress levels. It took research and a lot of trial and error to find a combination of supplements I liked. Finally, I settled on taking fish oil pills and a combination of rosemary, ginkgo, eleuthero and gotu kola herbs every day.

Another retaker with a website (since deleted) posted the following. This dedicated candidate passed on her second try with a very intensive study schedule.:
Re: Nutrition: first and second week. I took along with me the following vitamins and supplements: Viactiv (calcium chews), Vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, Cognitol (celastrus oil -- aids your concentration), Bacopa Vitality (Bacopa monniera - works in a synergistic fashion with celastrus oil), and a multivitamin. I took all of them at least once a day. I also took with me Piracetam (which I had been using the final month of February). I took as many as 6 during the test day, taking 2 or 3 Piracetam pills plus 1 acetyl-l-carnitine pill before the morning session and 2 or 3 Piracetam pills plus 1 acetyl-l-carnitine pill before the afternoon session (during lunch). I found that this really helped: my writing / thinking / typing speed was much faster, I could logically connect more points more efficiently and more complexly, etc. I ordered my Piracetam from Quality Health.
from How I Passed the PA Bar Exam by L. Kim
Though supplementation seemed to work for the candidate above and for me, all this supplementation is really not necessary. It is more important to stay as healthy and alert as possible. Despite my hardships with the bar exam, it has made me change many of the unhealthy habits I had all my life. I was inspired by taking the bar exam again to become much healthier:
  • balance my diet with more fruits and vegetables and less meat and sugars
  • eliminated coffee and most other sources of caffeine from my diet (except tea)
  • Drink at least 4 cups of water daily
  • exercise regularly 
*I am not a medical professional. This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before getting started on a program of supplements.
Prayer, Meditation, and Hypnosis
To keep my spirits up, I meditated regularly to binaural beat MP3s released by Brainsync. I don't know how much truth there is to that brain frequency stuff that they are sold for; I used them because they were cheap. I believe that in time they did have a positive effect on me.

Other bar exam takers have used hypnosis and subliminal CD's to beat the anxiety and stress attendant with repeating the exam. These CD's and these CD's were recommended to me by two other successful candidates (I did not try them). Caveat emptor - I don't believe these work for everybody. You have to be open to these things working and even then, it might not really work for you. Just know that others have found these methods helpful when used in tandem with other approaches.

A word about prayer. If you are religious, maintain your religious tradition. Don't allow bar review to keep you from church or temple. Some bar re-takers found that maintaining their relationship with God helped them through the difficult times.

Inspirational: Comments on retaking the bar exam found online

Anonymous said...
I took and failed two bar exams before passing July 2005. The first time I used MicroMash and got a fabulous MBE score but tanked the essays. I didn't realize that PA counts essays more than the MBE. The second time I studied, I concentrated on MicroMash more, especially their essay portion, which is useless. I was still assuming I would pass just like all my other friends from law school. When I failed the second time by 2 points, I grieved and thought all the things everyone else has said in this forum about self-worth and direction, and then I got pissed. I focused on the nit-picky examiners who probably looked like my hated UCC prof in law school. With that in mind, I decided my financial output for any more bar preparation stuff was going to be minimal and I determined they weren't going to beat me. I had to work full-time, so for July 2005 I changed my tactics. First, I decided not to study until 6 weeks before the exam. In the time between April and May I thought about my stategies. I purchased a few books on stategies for the MBE and the Essays and a book about how to get your head straight when you fail the bar- that book was the most helpful. Beginning 6 weeks before the bar, I did 100 questions a day in Micromash to keep me fresh--but I had done that for a year by that time so all the questions seemed no-brainers--but I did them anyway because by now I had realized the bar exam is as much about mental endurance as it is about intellectual capacity. I super concentrated on the essays. In my state they post past essay questions and the examiners answers on the web, so I printed all those out. I wrote an essay and then compared it to the examiners essay, then I would write it again like the examiner's answer. It was slow going. I had about 15 essay questions, so once I did that for each one, I mixed up the questions and did them again. Yeah, the same 15 essay questions. My schedule was: I arrived at work ( I work for a law firm) two hours before anyone else and wrote 3 essays. At lunch I read PMBR flashcards, which I purchased on Ebay for 5 bucks. After everyone left at around 4:30, I stayed and wrote three more essays and did 100 MicroMash questions until about 10 or 11. On Saturday, I went to my office and studied all day doing 3 essays, then 100 MBE questions, then 3 essays, then 100 MBE questions until about 4. I took Sundays off. I studied like this until the day before the bar exam and then took the day before off. Of course, it was excruciating to take it a third time and I went back to my hotel room and cried during every intermission. I don't mean to imply that everything was smooth sailing. It was hard. What I want to tell everyone is that you can do it. I think it helps to calm yourself down and figure out a study plan that works for you. By the third time, I realized that all the bar preparations stuff wasn't working for me and I had to figure out my own way. And it is simply appalling what tutors and others charge to help you, with all their guarantees. I think there is a special place in hell for a person who feeds off the depair of a person who has failed the bar by charging 4000 bucks to tutor. Geez already. Oh, and I want to respond to the person who said a client would rather have a lawyer who passed the bar on the first try: Firstly, your statements assumes that the bar exam measures whether the person will be a "good lawyer". That's BS. The bar exam is simply a hoop one must jump through to practice law. And I'm here to tell you that once you pass, how and when you passed become completely and utterly irrelevant and you look at yourself in the past, when you were stressing about the bar, like you would look at a bug in a petri dish. Secondly, it has been my experience that clients simply want someone to help them and they don't give two hoots about whether you passed the bar the first time. Thirdly, your law school must not have had this saying: "A" students are law professors, "B" students are judges and "C" students are litigators. You'll notice that all types are worthy and will be good for the profession. In the same way, failing the bar has zip to do with what kind of lawyer you are. You keep thinking that, though, and perhaps one day I'll see you in a courtroom.
Friday, January 06, 2006 8:15:46 AM
Anonymous said...
Irving...I am the other person from Texas who failed the first time, but I passed this time around. I increased my score by 98 points! To be honest with you, I didn't do anything different. Organization, confidence, and a bunch of practice problems, especially on the MBE, are the key to pass this test. You also need to take the required 2 months to study 8-10 hours per day with the exception of weekends. You can study about 6 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Go to church on Sunday and call it a night early on Friday and Saturday. If you need to talk about this, let me know and I will be glad to help you out. I know how much it sucked for me so I feel your pain, but now that I passed, it doesn't even matter that I failed the first time. Let me know what you decide.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006 10:41:22 PM

Anonymous said...
To those multiple takers I've been there. I graduated in July 2003 and I've taken four Texas bar exams. I know what its like being stuck in a kind of limbo not an attorney and not a law student and its also like being in a nightmare that repeats itself every six months. Since Texas only lets you take it five times I was already getting information on the CA bar, which is much harder than Texas. And I remember that day when I got my first results and failed by 60 points I told my dad 'I have four more chances' never did I think that I would need all of four of those chances. But I passed this time by twelve points and one piece of advice I can give you is go on the website and follow their outlines and they tell you where most of their questions will come from in a given subject. I took three MBEs before the bar and raised my MBE score by 14 points to a 139. Its all with the MBE, its the one place that when they scale the scores they don't take away points like the essays. So keep
Thursday, May 11, 2006 7:42:45 AM
Anonymous said...
I got the news today that I passed the bar exam! I have read this post many times since I first failed last July, and it was really good to know that I wasn't alone. Since failing in July, I have been out of work, looked over, rejected, and completely ignored for ANY legal jobs. So, my only option was temping for sometimes as little as $7.00 an hour. Believe me, I KNOW the frustration, anger, depression, and the feelings that "I have really wasted my time going to law school and now I have $100+ in debt to pay back." The first time I took the bar I really freaked out! I felt like I had studied very hard, but I was way too overwhelmed. This time, I paced myself a bit more: 1. I started studing 2 1/2 months ahead of time, so I studied about 5-6 hours per day. 2. Everyday, I did only 25 MBE Questions, but I wrote out the explanations to the answers I got wrong. 3. In addition to my 25 questions, I reviewed one state subject, and then did Essays and MPT's 3-4 times per week, so some days were heavier than others. 4. Then about one month before the exam, I still did my 25 questions and the other stuff, but I started outlining my state subjects. 5. Sometimes at night before I was about to go to bed, I read through about 10-15 flashcards. 6. I used the same stuff I studied with the first time, because I couldn't afford to buy a new bar review, and really, I didn't think I needed it. Pacing myself the second time around helped me out A LOT psychologically because I felt more at ease and I knew that I covered as much I could have covered. I wasn't all that confident, but I was pretty CALM before the exam, and during it. And when I walked out, I knew I had done all I could have done. In the end, my overall scaled score increased by 34 points (MBE--improved by 16 points, Essays--improved by 18 points). But please don't give up! It isn't that you don't have the ability to be an attorney, so NEVER doubt yourself as far as that is concerned. I strongly believe the key is staying CALM (which is hard for me because I am EXTREMELY "high-strung"), pacing yourself, and when you have done that you can really believe that you did everything within your power to pass the exam. I had already determined that if I didn't pass the bar this time, I was not going to take it again, because I knew that there was absolutely nothing else I could have done. So walking away from the legal profession would have been a little easier. If this is what you really want, don't quit, persevere, try to relax and pace yourself as much as you can, all of the studying in the universe won't prepare you enough because it is not humanly possible (in my opinion) to know it all. Afterall, it isn't how much you do, it is how you do it. To all repeat takers who have been blessed with success, congrats! And to those of you who must take it again, best wishes and keep fighting for what you want.
Friday, May 19, 2006 5:45:35 PM
Anonymous said...
This is directed to Irritable in Irving in particular and anyone else who went to school outside of Texas and is trying to pass the Texas bar. I also went to law school in Pennsylvania and signed up to take the Texas bar. Let me assure you that I did not know any Texas law when I started the Barbri bar review and I wasn't at the top of my class. Basically out of sheer panic and terror, I developed my own method of studying for the bar that worked on the first try. Here it is: 1) With respect to the multistate: Take PMBR. Do at least 150 questions in each subject. For each question that you miss, go back and read the explanation and write down the rule that was tested in the question. They test the same rules over and over and you can learn any multistate section by following this advice. I had a very poor background in evidence and property and did fine on the multistate using this method. I would also recommend not even bothering with the Barbri multistate practice questions because they are generally not as close as the PMBR questions. 2) For the horrible TX essays; Take out your BARBRI essay books. Read the questions and answers for the last 25 questions or so in each subject. This will also help you learn the law in the TX specific subjects. They generally test the same types of subjects over and over. I guarantee if you do this that you will be able to spit out so many rules on the essay to get through almost any question except oil and gas. For oil and gas, do maybe 10 questions and guess at the exam. It is a lost cause for people who don't have a background in that subject. 3) For TX procedure and evidence. Take the Barbri one-day mini course. If you cannot take the course, do at least 10 practice Texas Civil Procedure essay questions from the Barbri essay book and at least 10 Texas Criminal Procedure. There are common themes in the questions that will get you through. This is really only 10 percent of the test, so you will have to just acknowledge that you are at a loss for TX procedure if you didn't go to school there. 4) On the essays, state in positive and confident terms what you DO know and stick by it. It is intimidating to learn those subjects in a short time span. Stick by the basic rules/ themes that are tested over and over and develop those as much as possible. 5) I really hope this helps you. I learned everything in TX on the fly and passed only by using this method. I hope that you passed this time and won't be needing this help!
Friday, October 13, 2006 6:28:43 PM
Anonymous said...
I finally passed AZ. on my 5th attempt. I'm 45 y.o., first generation college in my family. If you love the idea of practicing for whatever reason - mine has been to do public interest, non-profit law, then I encourage you to keep going, keep going on, yes! another time and another time as long as you are granted permission to sit for it (in AZ. after the 3rd time you must get permission). I sought help from a therapist/counselor type for test-taking and stress issues, it really helped me cope esp. w/ the last 2 repeat attempts -- Having a sane place to go and no judgments about me and the repeat failures. Validation that "not passing" did not make me a bad person. Also get support from loved ones (mine was husband and sister who are unconditionally supportive). I want to encourage you repeaters to keep trying until you just possibly CAN NOT any longer. I had decided that the July 2006 (and 5th attempt) would be my last, as it felt as I imagine hitting the marathon wall at 24 miles feels - I've only done a half-marathon to relate that to, but that's how I imagine it is. The feeling of just literally not being able to take another step that I was "this" close to feeling years ago when I hiked from the south to north rim of the Grand Canyon (and finished! despite feeling for the last mile as if each step would be my last), that's how tough it was to do the bar one more time. During the process I learned I had (and you may probably) a lot more to GAIN by taking it one more than I had to lose by not taking it, if that makes any sense. Ironically I'm now an unemployed licensed atty as I had given notice at my part-time legal assistant job (which I had so I could STUDY for the exam) to accept a full-time paralegal job in anticipation of NOT passing - they did not want an attorney and I could not go back to my old job so I'm taking a few weeks off and then will start looking for my first "attorney" job since graduating from law school in May 2003. But that would-be boss atty was very happy for me and had assured me during the interview process that it was an arbitrary pretty unfair exam and not a reflection in her eyes of my ability to be a great atty (as I have had other attys I worked with tell me). If it happened for me, it CAN certainly happen for you. I did the BarBri private tutoring (2X) for help w/ essays - she was tough but very fair and it helped a lot, also did PMBR 2X - key w/ both was practice, practice, practice, for me, in as much "real time" simulation as possible. Also tried a hypnosis CD on test taking, hard to gauge how much that contributed, but I sent that CD to my niece who is now in law school. Good luck and best wishes in Feb. 2007.
Monday, October 23, 2006 8:35:51 PM
And finally, advice from a person whose up and down taking the bar exam is chronicled in its entirety on the Uncivil Litigator:

Formerly Irritable in Irving said...
This is directed to Anonymous who just failed Texas for the third time, as well as anyone else who seeks advice. I just passed the Texas bar exam on my third try. I don't know if there are any "magic bullets," but I'll tell you how I studied and what I think I did wrong on the first two tries and right on the third try. Attempt #1 (July 2005): After graduating from my Pennsylvania law school, I moved to Texas and settled into my new home. I attended the live BARBRI lectures and used the PMBR books in the evenings. I didn't attend the PMBR classes; just read over the outlines and answered the questions. My preparation was very scattershot; I allowed myself to be distracted and didn't put in enough focused time. In retrospect, my study for the first attempt was very superficial. It wasn't at all surprising that I failed the first time. I was nowhere NEAR passing the first time. Attempt #2 (February 2006): I used MicroMash, both MBE and state review, and also reviewed my BARBRI notes. I increased my MBE score by only 14 points, which was rather disappointing because I felt MicroMash really helped. Because I went for the pass guarantee, I spent so much time on the MBE questions that I only had two weeks to study the Texas subjects, which was certainly not enough. The MicroMash state review was worthless. I did all six practice essays and sent them to my mentor for review, but it really didn't help me learn the law. I'd recommend the MicroMash MBE program, but not the state review. I allowed myself to get distracted by the Winter Olympics (can't help it - I love the Olympics!) Attempt #3 (July 2006): Knowing I had to make some changes if I wanted to pass, I made several. Rather than study at home, with all its distractions, I'd ride into Dallas with my husband each morning. He'd drop me off at the Southwestern library and go to his office. I didn't take my computer; just my books, so I was forced to study for 8-9 hours without distractions. This time I used the Conviser mini-outline and the long BARBRI outlines. I spent the month of May on MBE subjects, reviewing the BARBRI outlines and answering about 35-40 questions per day. I spent June studying the essay subjects. I'd cycle through the subjects, spending 3 days on each. I didn't write out any answers to the old questions, but outlined a few, and mostly read the questions and answers very critically, as you really learn the law that way. In the evenings at home I'd continue answering 35-40 MBE questions, writing down any rules of law I had trouble remembering. In July I spent a week revisiting the MBE subjects, then revisited the essay subjects, still doing MBE questions in the evenings. I spent only a few days on the Procedure and Evidence questions, as well as reading over MPT samples. I purchased the "Finz Multistate Method," which teaches you to mark answers as true or false and therefore narrow down the answer choices accordingly. I didn't use it very much, but it did provide a useful technique for answering the MBE questions. Another thing I did differently was invest in some hypnosis and subliminal CDs on test-taking anxiety and skills. I'd listen to an overcoming test anxiety hypnosis CD at night while going to sleep and to the subliminal series while studying. I don't know how much they helped, but they certainly didn't hurt! Finally, although I only live 16 miles from the testing site, I stayed at a hotel nearby during the exam so I wouldn't have to waste time fighting traffic. I also like to study in the evenings, although they tell us to take the evenings off during the exam. I think for me the difference this time was that I spent enough focused time on each subject. I remember noting things in the Conviser that I never remembered reading before! It also helped to eliminate or at least minimize distractions. BTW, I only got a 128 scaled on the MBE this time; I must have done really well on the essays and other stuff. When you pass, they don't break down the scores; they just tell you your total score and your MBE score. I was afraid I'd get another low MBE score and that that would kill me, but wonder of wonders, I passed! I hope this helps someone out there. Believe me, I know what it's like to fail this beast, but I'm living proof that it can be slain! YOU CAN DO IT!!!! Don't let the bastids get ya down!!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006 2:11:34 PM