All posts on this blog are my own; they do not represent any institution.
A group of us who have been involved in lawyer licensing and legal education for many years lay out options for bar admission in the current context at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3559060.
Have you taken any simulated exams yet? Did you score way below what you think you need to pass? Did you take a simulated bar exam and walk out of the room with that “Huh???” look all over your face? Do you feel like the last thing in the world you are ready for now is the real exam?
Take a big, deep breath, hang on, and hang in there! Many have been right where you are –dazed and scared, taking the scores on a simulated exam like a cannon to the gut, and yet on they went to PASS the Bar Exam just a week later. You CAN too.
1. You don’t have to take the real thing until the end of this month. You have a 17 days more days to study. Think of all you were able to learn in one day before certain finals! There is so much you can still get clear in these last weeks.
2. Your simulated exam may have been harder than the real exam.
3. The real thing is a PASS -FAIL test; you don’t have to get an “A.”
4. Use the simulated exams to help with strategies on how to pass the real thing.
- Did you budget your time well? If not, watch the clock more carefully and limit your time per question.
- Were you tired after lunch? Perhaps you can eat a bit less and take some of that lunch hour to walk a bit and burn off some stress or listen to some motivating music.
- Did you “blank out” on any questions? If so, get a plan ready to work through a temporary “brain freeze” should one occur during the exam!
- Most important, do not get psyched out. Simulated exams help you by providing an opportunity to make necessary adjustments before the real thing. Simulated exams are not necessarily a referendum on how you will actually perform next week. They are, however, an opportunity to get lots of useful information. Use that data wisely, and use these two weeks to improve!
Many students who are parents say they feel guilty that law school is taking them “away” from their kids. If your children are in elementary, middle or high-school, know that your studying is positive role modeling. You are teaching them discipline and the value of hard work through your actions. (Teaching is much more effective than preaching!) Do not be surprised if your children do better in school when you too are studying.
The following are a few practical pointers:
- If you have dependent children or aging parents who must be able to reach you in an emergency, give them a code or special ring tone for an emergency call or text. You’ll know if it’s something you need to read or listen right away or if it can wait until when you decide to take the study break you have earned by completing whatever tasks were on your schedule.
- Keep “office hours” so your family knows when you are studying and not to be interrupted, and when you are available. Even if it’s an hour a day at dinner every night, keep your commitment to them. It is even more important when you are gone a lot to be consistent and reliable. If they know when they can depend on you to give them your full attention, (and you truly follow through on that, at one certain time each day), they may be better able to leave you alone the rest of the day.
- Be sure to include your family (children, significant other, parents) where you can productively do so. When you take “breaks,” ask them to test you with flashcards. (Just be prepared, your kids may have memorized the rules before you do!)
- Play audio versions of your lectures while you are driving, cooking, cleaning, or playing with kids.
- Bring flashcards (or better still have them on your smart phone) to test yourself if you are at the park or waiting in line at the market.
- If you have young children, read your outlines or cases aloud. Infants and toddlers mostly just want to hear your voice and be close to you. Whether you are reading Dr. Seuss, Shakespeare or Farnsworth on Contracts may not matter so much!
Excerpted from Pass the Bar Exam –a must-read for all law students.
Who should read Pass the Bar Exam and why?
- Law students!! If you are in law school, this book is written for you and to you. It is an interactive guide. Think of it as talking with a mentor or supportive professor who is sharing advice, stories, worksheets, quizzes, and other planning tools to help you pass the bar exam. The best part is that these very same professional, life, and study skills will help far beyond bar prep. They will help you achieve most any goal you invest this kind of effort in. Knowing that the effort you put into bar passage will pay success dividends for decades to come should make the study process a much more rewarding one. Read Pass the Bar Exam and get ready for a virtuous cycle of success, on the bar exam and beyond.
- Families, friends, spouses, and partners of law students. Many of you are or will be confused and sometimes even offended by the behavior of your son, daughter, mom, dad, husband, wife, partner or friend. He or she seems inordinately stressed out, or has virtually disappeared. You can’t help but think, ‘How hard could law school be?’ And, ‘isn’t the bar just another test?’ This book will help you “get it.” As a key player in the support network of someone taking the bar exam, your help at this stage is critical. Learn what bar takers go through and how you can lend a hand and/or back off, as needed.
- Law school deans, professors and administrators, particularly Academic Support (ASP) and Bar Support Faculty designing and teaching both for credit and extra-curricular bar success courses, in live and distance learning settings. For you, there is also a special Teacher’s Edition Guide, with lesson plans, syllabi, and an updated section on online bar support. For law school deans, there is no more important, indeed existential, concern to your students than bar passage. There are deep fears among today’s law students that the deck is stacked against them. Urge all your students to read and discuss this book and they will begin to view the entire bar preparation process as one of empowerment rather than the needlessly difficult hazing ritual that many see it as. (How bar takers see the process often determines how engaged they are in it, and in turn how success they are in the end.) Following the many chapters filled with concrete advice such as strategies for avoiding distractions and how to enlist the support of family and friends (and knowing the difference between supporters and saboteurs) will help your students to deal with the many “life” challenges that prevent today’s students from doing the work that needs to be done to pass the exam. The books focus on both traditional and non-traditional law students will also provide immense support, validation, and assistance to your diversity students, part-time or returning students, and students who have extensive family or work obligations outside of law school.
- Prospective law students. This book should help balance some of the negatives you may hear about legal education so that you see that despite the great challenges there are enormous rewards. A legal education remains the standard bearer in forming minds that are capable of solving the complex problems facing society today. When people or businesses face problems, they turn to lawyers. In addition to practicing law, lawyers run businesses and government, they are entrepreneurs and innovators, they are called in to resolve crises (to arbitrate, mediate, and get people back on track), and they engage in countless sorts of strategic planning efforts that help avoid costly problems to begin with. Hopefully the book helps you decide to go to law school. If you do, the text and tips will help you succeed in school as much as on the bar exam. The book will help you start good habits from day one.
- Experienced attorneys who work with new lawyers. This book will help you understand some of the concerns facing prospective law clerks and new associates. It may assist you in becoming a stronger mentor and more effectively integrate new lawyers into law practice. Today’s attorneys face generational divides. There are challenges for Baby Boomers managing new graduates from the millennial generation. There are also more second and third career law students which means as experienced lawyers you may find yourselves supervising newbies who are older than you. The legal world is also more diverse than ever. Tolerance and the ability to see things from different perspectives will be an increasingly critical asset.
- Students from high school to graduate schools of all varieties who are working to achieve any academic goal. Much of the stress and many of the challenges described here are not unique to law or the bar exam. As you read, just replace the words, “passing the bar exam” with whatever your goal is and you will find useful success strategies for academic goals such as
- Doing well on final exams or midterms,
- Getting a high score on the SAT, LSAT, MCAT, medical boards, or other standardized test, or
- Completing most any professional training.
Taking the July Bar Exam? Feeling like you are way behind on your bar review schedule? Have the sense that you’ll “never learn it all” ? You are not alone! I have been hearing from dozens of students in your same boat. Here are some tips to stay on course:
- Don’t spend (waste) time berating yourself; problem solve and focus on improvement.
- Don’t worry about what you did not learn in law school; learn what you need to know now!
- Assess where you are spending your time. Track each hour of each day. If you are “wasting” time on social media or chit chat or worry, fill that time in with productive efforts.
- Put off all that is not essential until August. (Do minimal laundry, dishes or other chores; tell all friends and family you will see them in August.; take time off from work; etc.)
- Take care of absolutely essential non-study activities (such as paying bills, taking showers, etc.) when you are too tired to study effectively.
- Productive time when you are in high gear studying for the bar exam is time a) learning and memorizing law (listening to bar review lectures, reading outlines, making flashcards, etc.), b) taking practice tests and studying model answers to see how to improve, and c) exercising, sleeping well, drinking lots of water, and eating healthy foods.
- Don’t feel guilty taking time “off” to exercise, eat well, and sleep. All of those will make your brain more efficient.
- Take practice tests of every variety that will be tested on your bar exam: MBEs, Essays, PTs, any other portion. Test taking will improve your stamina, concentration, and test taking skills. It is also often easier to learn law in the context of hypos (taking practice tests) than in the abstract (simply reading outlines).
- Critically review answers to practice tests to a) learn law you don’t know and b) assess your timing and strategies for each part of the test (how much time reading and outlining versus writing on essays; are you reading the call of the question first on MBEs, etc.).
- Remember, studying for the bar exam is not “punishment.” You earned the right to take the exam. And, a summer of serious study will help you go in to the exam in July feeling empowered to answer any sort of question the examiners throw at you.
For more Bar Exam Success Strategies, check out Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals
Passed the July 2015 bar? Congratulations!! Hope you are still celebrating!!
If you did not yet pass, the February bar exam is yours to pass. Say that to yourself. Don’t even use the word “fail.” Just say “I will pass the exam this February.”
Still waiting for results, good luck! Stay calm and get yourself ready so that you will be fine whatever the website says.