Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Hat tip to Katherine Silver Kelly for sharing the link to this post on the Summer 2014 bar exam results. This article is a must read for anyone interested in the decline in the MBE scores from the July 2014 bar exam. Deborah Merritt, on the Law School Cafe blog, explains the scoring process of the MBE and shows how the ExamSoft debacle could have caused bar results to suffer in more ways than one.
Friday, March 20, 2015
The New York Times has addressed some of the recent (and not so recent) criticisms regarding the Summer 2014 bar examination results in their article, Bar Exam, the Standard to Become a Lawyer, Comes Under Fire. While this article does not unearth new information for many of us, it does legitimize the problem. Because, as we know, there is a problem. The NCBE essentially has a monopoly on bar licensure. They have moved from releasing a limited amount of data to an almost complete lack of transparency. Without this crucial data there is no accountability, which leads to less confidence in the examination and what it purports to assess. This lack of confidence is highlighted in the Times piece and has been echoed in a similar fashion since the summer results were released.
In order to validate the bar exam as a viable assessment tool, the released score results should be detailed, transparent, and effectively communicated. At this point, it appears that complete transparency is the only way to restore credibility in the bar exam and the work of the NCBE.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Call for Proposals
AALS Section on Academic Support
January 2016 Annual Meeting in New York, New York
Raising the Bar
As law schools react to a changing bar exam landscape, many schools have adapted new and different programming to meet the current needs of students. Bar exam support and preparation is no longer something that begins post-graduation, and its influence can be felt from admissions through curriculum planning and beyond. This program will explore how schools strive to stay ahead of trends, analyze data and out-perform their predictors in order to help their students succeed on the exam.
Topics might include, but are not limited to: statistical analysis of bar exam data and results; innovative programs for preparing students for the bar exam; curricular changes based on exam results and preparation; criteria for selecting students to participate in bar preparation programming and identifying at-risk students.
Preference will be given to presentations designed to engage the workshop audience, so proposals should contain a detailed explanation of both the substance of the presentation and the methods to be employed. Individuals as well as groups are invited to propose topics. The Committee would prefer to highlight talent across a spectrum of law schools and disciplines and is especially interested in new and innovative ideas. Please share this call with colleagues—both within and outside of the legal academy and the academic support community.
Proposals must include the following information:
1. A title for your presentation.
2. A brief description of the objectives or outcomes of your presentation.
3. A brief description of how your presentation will support your stated objectives or outcomes.
4. The amount of time requested for your presentation. No single presenter should exceed 45 minutes in total. Presentations as short as 15 minutes are welcomed.
5. A detailed description of both the substantive content and the techniques to be employed, if any, to engage the audience.
6. Whether you plan to distribute handouts, use PowerPoint, or employother technology.
7. A list of the conferences at which you have presented within the last three years, such as AALS, national or regional ASP or writing conferences, or other academic conferences. (The Committee is interested in this information because we wish to select and showcase seasoned, as well as fresh, talent.)
8. Your school affiliation, title, courses taught, and contact information (please include email address and telephone number).
9. Any articles or books that you have published that relate to your proposed presentation.
10. Any other information you think will help the Committee appreciate the value your presentation will provide.
Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so please send yours as soon as possible, but no later than Wednesday, March 25th at 5pm to Danielle Kocal, Pace Law School, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions, please email Danielle Kocal or call 914-422-4108.
The Section on Academic Support Program Committee:
Danielle Kocal, Chair
Goldie Pritchard, Past Chair
ASP Section Chair: Lisa Young
Monday, February 23, 2015
The Legal Skills Prof Blog recently posted this reference to a short piece on acronyms. I agree that acronyms and other abbreviations can cause confusion, ruin the flow of an essay, and cause the reader frustration. The article suggests a few useful guidelines on when to use them and when to avoid them. I have even had one bar examiner tell me to instruct students that their bar exam essays should not read like a text message. In an acronym, twitter/text, abbreviation heavy culture, this is a good reminder. Thus, I advise my students that when they are in doubt, they should write it out.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Many schools have students who graduate in December. To help them transition from the whirlwind of finals, graduation, and holiday celebrations to bar prep, here are a few things for them to consider:
- Create a realistic, yet rigorous study schedule. Begin after graduation, but make space to savor the end of law school before jumping into your bar prep.
- Communicate your study plans. Make sure that your significant other, family, and co-workers know that your priority is passing the bar exam. They will be your support system through this journey and they need to understand what you will need to be successful. (Perhaps a meal delivered now and then, or help with childcare...)
- Use Spaced Repetition to study instead of focusing on only one subject at a time.
- Remember to stay healthy- exercise, eat well, and get a full night of sleep. This will increase your focus and efficiency.
- Ask for help! When you are feeling overwhelmed, or have a question about your performance or a particular area of law, ask someone. You can ask your bar review provider, a classmate, or your Academic Support for assistance.
- Find balance. You will always feel like you should be doing more- more studying, more MBE practice, more essay and PT writing, and more outlining. However, you also need to know when to say when.
- Give yourself mini-rewards for reaching your daily goals and bigger rewards for reaching your weekly goals.
- Keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with positive people. Believing in yourself is the key to your success!
Congratulations to all of the December law school graduates and best of luck getting started with your bar prep.
Friday, December 5, 2014
I recently attended a lecture by Dr. Walter Mischel, who is known for administering “The Marshmallow Test” to young children as a researcher at Stanford. As many of you are aware, the test consisted of children sitting in a room with a single marshmallow (or another sweet treat) while being asked to delay eating it. If they delayed their gratification, the child would get a greater reward at a later time (typically two marshmallows). The experiment produced interesting and, at times, comical responses from the children being observed. You can check out some Marshmallow Test videos on YouTube to watch the eye rolling, seat squirming, and general agitation exhibited by the children.
While the underlying experiments were amusing to watch, the conclusions drawn from the initial experiments and the long term studies were quite insightful. Essentially, by understanding our impulses and how we can retrain ourselves in order to have greater willpower, we can make better choices and be more productive. Many of us believe that human nature rules whether the child would take the marshmallow instead of waiting (or whether the student would study for another 2 hours before watching an episode of their favorite show or checking their Facebook page). While some are more inclined to eat the marshmallow right away, many are able to resist for a limited amount of time.
As Dr. Mischel pointed out, we can all learn how to control our impulses (kids with marshmallows or adults with other enticements). For example, if you know that when you go to holiday parties, you rush the dessert table and do not leave that table until you have sampled two of each type of dessert, you can put a plan in place in order to limit your dessert intake. If you have no plan in place or if you arrive to the party hungry, you are more likely to fall into the dessert vortex. If plan ahead, to first spend some time at the crudité and also allow yourself a bite from three different sweets over the course of the event, you are more likely to be successful in limiting your impulses. Alternatively, if you instead plan to abstain completely from eating dessert at the party, you will likely fail. Thus, deliberate and premeditated change in small increments helps create a new practice that is easier to successfully adopt and sustain.
How does this apply to law students? Law students often succumb to and/or are ambushed by procrastination. It is difficult to delay gratification no matter what age. I learned from the marshmallow studies and from Dr. Michel’s presentation that we can all learn how to control our impulses if we understand what drives our impulses and if we are committed to making one small change at a time. In my example above, an individual knows that they struggle with overindulging in dessert. The willpower is harder to maintain without a clear and doable strategy in place. However, recognizing the temptation, adopting a realistic alternative, and planning ahead create a method for success. If law students try to more fully understand their impulsive triggers, they are better positioned to generate a plan to resist or avoid them.
Thus, law students can follow this strategy to use their time more effectively and more efficiently. Here are a few ideas:
- They can begin by writing out typical time stealers and creating targeted goals to reduce them. (Examples: When I study in groups, I am easily drawn off topic. When I turn on the television, I end up watching it for longer than I expected. If I turn my phone on while I am studying, my social media becomes a huge distraction.)
- They can purchase or create calendars in order to plan and track their time. Hard copy calendars visualize their priorities much better than a computer version.
- They can turn off their electronic devices while they study for a continuous block of time. (Example: I will study Torts for 3 hours in the library and leave my computer and phone in my locker.)
- They can disable their Wi-Fi while in class or while reviewing notes on their computer.
- They can establish a reward system that motivates this continued behavior. (Example: If I complete my stated study goal, I will get a night off or an extra hour of sleep, or more time for a special activity.)
Once an effective time management plan is established and the inherent benefits are apparent, students are more apt to fully adopt these new strategies by continuing to buck their impulses. After all, two marshmallows later are better than one marshmallow now.
(Lisa Bove Young)
Thursday, November 13, 2014
There have been several blog posts, email exchanges, and listserve threads discussing the decline in the Summer 2014 MBE scores and state pass rates, including a reproachful letter recently sent to the NCBE from a law school Dean. The National Conference of Bar Examiners stated in an October letter, that they see the drop in scores as a “matter of concern.” But, they also stated that their equating, the adoption of the Uniform Bar Examination, and scoring of the test were not the cause of the decline. The only explanation mentioned in the letter, albeit vague and slightly patronizing, was that the July 2014 test takers were “less able” than the July 2013 test takers.
After recovering from a bit of shock, this statement led me to question whether students really were “less able” to pass the bar exam this summer than they were last summer. I have helped prepare students for the bar exam, in various forms, for over 14 years. Throughout this time, I have in fact encountered only a handful of individuals who are not capable of passing the bar exam. However, I have also worked with dozens of capable and competent bar applicants who struggle with passing the bar for various reasons.
Tennessee reported that the national mean scaled MBE score for July 2014 was 141.47, which is the lowest since the July 2004 MBE. Thus, this drop created lower bar pass rates across almost all jurisdictions this summer. Again, while this drop is noted, it is not evident as to why this drop occurred. In the same letter referenced above, the NCBE noted that the number of test takers dropped by 5% between the July 2013 and July 2014 exams. However, it is unclear how the number of test takers has any bearing on the actual test taker’s performance. The mere fact that less individuals took the exam, 5% less, should not dictate a lower pass rate.
The data, or lack of it, led me to again question, “Were this summer’s bar applicants “less able?” Many commenters have refuted that the LSAT is to blame since LSAT scores for this group of test takers (2011 law school start dates) did not take a plunge. Thus, lower LSATs cannot adequately explain this decline.
In addition, according to one of the leading national bar review companies, the mean scores for their simulated exams in Summer 2013 and Summer 2014 were virtually identical. As many of us know, there is a strong correlation between simulated exam performance and actual MBE performance. Thus, it bears noting that, readily identifiable performance indicators lead to the conclusion that the test takers in summer 2014 were just as capable as the test takers in summer 2013.
If this is the case, why did this decline occur? Was it the exam-soft fiasco? Could it be the NCBE’s new question format? Is this a result of an error in the scaling process? Or, could it possibly be due to the retirement of long time NCBE Director of Testing Dr. Susan Case? Ultimately, is the decline a consequence of form difficulty differences and not group differences? Without knowing the specifics of the anchor test, the equating calculations, and specific differences within the tested groups, it is virtually impossible to have a definitive answer. That said, we should keep asking these questions. Individuals who fail the bar exam need us to keep asking these questions.
(Lisa Bove Young)
Friday, October 24, 2014
The Multistate Professional Responsiblity Exam is being administered next week on November 1st- yes, the day after Halloween. In a previous post, I outlined the basics of the MPRE and reminders for test day. If you are preparing for the test next week, you should check it out.
For some students, the MPRE is a treat. It is straightforward, testing only one subject; it is timed, but not too intense; and it is only sixy questions. For others the MPRE is a trick. It is filled with tricky questions involving ethical obligations and moral judgments. In either case, here are a few MPRE study strategies and tips to consider:
- Know your learning style. For example, if you are an auditory learner, you should listen to the MPRE lecturers from one or a few bar review companies. As mentioned, these are free and will help you learn the material by hearing clear explanations of the rules and the application of the rules to hypotheticals.
- Do not merely take full practice tests. You need to have a solid understanding of the rules in order to perform well on the MPRE. Therefore, you must study! Is it proper to enter into a business transaction with a client? Can you split a fee with an attorney from a different firm? Do attorneys have a duty of confidentiality to prospective clients? Know these answers before you walk into your test.
- Remember that more than one answer choice could be “correct.” However, you need to choose the “best” answer. Determining the central issue is the best way to do this.
- Determine the central issue and make sure you are answering the question being asked. Sometimes you can easily determine the central issue from the call line (the interrogatory at the end of the fact pattern), while other times you need to search the facts to find it. Whichever the case, determine the central issue before selecting your answer. Before bubbling in your answer choice, make sure you assess whether you have answered the question based on the central issue.
- Do not merely select an answer based on the “Yes” or “No” in the answer choices. Read the entire answer choice and pay close attention to words such as: “if,” “unless,” and “only,” which qualify each of the answer choices.
- Read the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (with a highlighter or pen). By actively reading the rules, you will get to know the rules that you clearly know and the rules that you need to study further. You need to know more than what was covered in your PR class, and even your MPRE lecture. Read and learn the Model Rules.
- Review the scope of coverage and study accordingly. The NCBE produces an outline, which delineates the coverage on the MPRE. Focus on the areas with higher coverage: Conflicts, lawyer-client relationships, and litigation/advocacy.
- Don’t forget about the Model Code of Judicial Conduct. There could be 2-5 questions in this area, which many of you are not familiar.
- Review MPRE practice questions in small chunks. Complete 5 at a time and then review the ones you got wrong AND the ones you got right. Take notes regarding what you missed and areas of confusion. Review these notes before moving on to the next 5 questions.
- Take at least 2 full practice tests after you have spent a considerable amount of time studying the rules.
- Get a good night’s rest before exam day- NO LATE NIGHT HALLOWEEN PARTIES!
- Take a few “easy” questions in the morning (before you leave your house) to warm up.
- Eat a protein-rich breakfast and repeat positive affirmations.
While it is unrealistic for me to say that this exam will be a treat, I do hope it is not too tricky!
Lisa Bove Young
Thursday, October 16, 2014
There are several new books on the market for Academic Support Professionals and for law students. In a series of posts, I will review a few of those books and some of the tried and true ones that I often turn to when I am in need of some words of wisdom or professional guidance.
First, I am reviewing a book published last year by the American Bar Association, PASS THE BAR EXAM written by Professor Sara J. Berman. This book provides a step by step guide for individuals embarking on their journey to pass the bar examination. Not only does this book provide crucial details about the bar exam, it guides readers to understand who they are learners and thinkers. It offers interactive questions, quizzes, and exercises to increase thoughtful reflection and a deeper awareness of the motivational factors required for successful bar passage. One highlight for Professors and Academic Support Educators is that the Teacher’s Edition provides many useful tools that can be integrated into Bar Support Classes and Programs.
Professor Berman’s two decades of experience is illuminated in this text and the teacher’s manual. This resource can help make studying for the bar exam more manageable and less stressful. If you are thinking about starting a Bar Support Program at your law school, if you are a student seeking a framework for bar strategy and success, or a Professor who wants to integrate more bar support into your curriculum, this book is a great place to begin.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
New York is considering the adoption of the Uniform Bar Examination. That is one sentence I did not imagine that I would be writing in 2014. But, it is true. NY may be the 15th state to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam. The New York State Board of Law Examiners (SBLE) has recommended to the New York Court of Appeals that the current bar examination be replaced with the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) beginning with the July 2015 administration. This news made me wonder, “What are the benefits of the UBE and why would a state like New York want to adopt it?”
The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to test the knowledge and skills that every lawyer should be able to demonstrate prior to becoming licensed to practice law. It is comprised of six Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) essays, two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) tasks, and the Multistate Bar Examination(MBE). It is uniformly administered, graded, and scored by user jurisdictions and results in a portable score that can be used by applicants who seek admission in jurisdictions that accept UBE scores.
When a law school graduate takes the UBE, they can use their UBE score to apply to other UBE jurisdictions for bar licensure. The following jurisdictions have adopted the UBE: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Colorado; Idaho; Minnesota; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; New Hampshire; North Dakota; Utah; Washington; and Wyoming. With New York possibly on board and other states considering it, the UBE is beginning to look more like a national exam.
Since many law students do not yet know where they would like to practice law, the portability of an applicant’s UBE score allows for more flexibility and mobility. Law graduates can take the UBE in any UBE jurisdiction and use their score to apply to as many UBE State Bar Associations as they would like. Instead of sitting for another bar exam, UBE licensed graduates can bypass a second test and apply directly for additional bar licenses with their UBE score.
However, other state specific requirements may also be required. For example, New York has proposed adding an additional New York specific one hour, 50 question, multiple choice test that would be given on the second day of the UBE. In order to practice in NY, an applicant would need to pass the UBE, with a score of 266, and score at least 60% on the state specific exam.
Avoiding a second bar exam is wise since bar exams are costly, excruciatingly difficult, and very time consuming. Taking the bar exam once is enough! The Uniform Bar Examination has many benefits- from portable scores, to multijurisdictional practice, to greater employment options. Having the UBE take a bite out of The Big Apple is a huge move in the right direction for this generation of law graduates.
If you would like to learn more about the Uniform Bar Examination, please visit The National Conference of Bar Examiners web-page at http://www.ncbex.org/about-ncbe-exams/ube/. If you would like to comment on New York’s proposal to adopt the UBE, you can e-mail your comments to: UniformBarExam@nycourts.gov or write to: Diane Bosse, Chair, New York State Board of Law Examiners, Corporate Plaza, Building 3, 254 Washington Avenue Extension, Albany, NY 12203-5195. Submissions will be accepted until November 7, 2014.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Picture this: Your new suit is pressed and ready, your parents have arrived from out of town, and your celebratory dinner reservation has been made. Then, you get a call; one you could have never imagined receiving. You thought you passed the bar exam (because you were on the pass list); but, the State Bar Commission tells you during that fateful phone call that there was an error. (Insert menacing music here.) Unfortunately, they deliver the news that there was a clerical error and that you actually did not pass the bar exam. What??? How could this happen?
This is exactly what happened in Nebraska this week when three almost attorneys were called 24 hours before being sworn in and told that they fell just a few points short of passing the bar exam even though they were initially told that they had passed. One phone call changed their life. While I often remind students that this is just an exam, it is an exam that consumes extensive amounts of time, money, and willpower. It is not an exam that anyone (other than a select few) wants to take over and over.
Mistakes happen. However, with high stakes testing such as the bar exam, shouldn't there be more stringent standards in place so that mistakes of this magnitude do not occur? If our society relies on the bar exam to determine a lawyer's competency to practice law, are we not also allowed to require those who administer the bar exam to be competent? With news such as this from Nebraska, we may need to start asking, who polices the gatekeepers?
Lisa Bove Young
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Multitasking is a way of life for those who’ve grown up in the digital era. You might be talking face-to-face with a friend but you are also texting or checking social media. Even those of us who grew up “b.c.” (before computers) now consider multitasking an essential skill. Why simply drive somewhere when you can drive and talk to someone on the phone? We are busy. We need to multitask. We are good at it. Well, we might not be as good as we think. Research shows that when people do several things at once, they do all of them worse than those who focus on one thing at a time. Multitaskers take longer to complete tasks, make more mistakes, and remember less. In addition, research into multitasking while learning shows that learners have gaps in knowledge, more shallow understanding of the material, and more difficulty transferring the learning to new contexts.
For many, multitasking has become such the norm that you don’t even think about it, you just do it. That’s the problem—you don’t think. However, take a minute to consider why you multitask. Is there an actual need for it? No. You do it because technology has made it possible, because you want to, because meetings/classes are boring, because you don’t want to wait. This is not to say that you shouldn’t watch tv while getting dressed in the morning. But do think twice before multitasking while preparing for and during class. You don’t need to check social media while reading cases. You don’t have to check fantasy football stats during class discussion. Although switching between these tasks may only add a time cost of less than a second, this adds up as you do it over and over again. Class requires focus and multitasking distracts your brain from fully engaging with the material.
The next time you go to class, put the phone on silent and put it away, turn off the internet or shut your lap top. Then focus on the professor and what is going on in the class. The first few minutes will be tough because your brain isn’t used to focusing on one task at a time. However, it won’t take long before your brain realizes it only has to do one thing. You will concentrate more deeply and learn so much more than your classmates who are busy tweeting how bored they are, checking fantasy football stats, and not picking up the exam tip the professor just gave. (KSK)
This idea for this post came from Sara Sampson, OSU Moritz College of Law’s Assistant Dean for Information Services. She made a short presentation on this topic at orientation and was so kind to share her notes and research. Thank you!
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Civil Procedure will begin being tested on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) this winter. Out of the 200 question MBE, 27 questions will be devoted to Civil Procedure. While Civil Procedure is a required course, not every Professor covers the same FRCPs in their classes. Thus, it is a good idea for students to take a look at the specific content that will be tested. The National Conference of Bar Examiners has updated the subject matter outline so that the Civil Procedure content being tested is consistent for the Multistate Essay Exam and the Multistate Bar Exam. You can find the content outline at the National Conference of Bar Examiners webpage.
Additionally, if you or your students are anxious to see what these questions will look like, you can access sample Civil Procedure MBE questions and use them to practice. So, if issue preclusion, standards of review, or jurisdiction are not your strengths, take a closer look at these resources.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Simply stated, the diploma privilege allows a law school graduate, of the given state, to bypass the bar exam en route to the practice of law. Yes, a law graduate would be licensed to practice law without taking the bar exam. This notion sounds enticing for many law students, especially 3Ls as the bar exam looms in their future.
Currently only Wisconsin, and in limited circumstances New Hampshire, provide the diploma privilege to law grads. Graduates from ABA accredited schools in those states are deemed competent to practice law without sitting for and passing a bar examination.
However, Iowa is also now considering the adoption of the diploma privilege. The Iowa State Bar's Blue Ribbon Committee lists the following reasons for abolishing the bar exam in their state:
- The bar exam does not test on Iowa law.
- The bar exam tests only one’s ability to outwit 200 multiple choice and 8 essay questions from a third party testing service.
- The bar exam does not measure true functional mastery of subject areas or compassion, judgment, and ability to help clients.
- Few remember anything they learned cramming for the bar exam.
Many of us have strong opinions about the bar exam and the many issues and factors surrounding the administration of it. However, do you also feel that the bar exam serves a compelling purpose? Does it help weed out incompetent applicants? Does it assist one in their legal practice? Or, is it merely a hazing ritual that is costly, excruciating, and biased? If the Iowa Supreme Court rules in favor of adopting the diploma privilege, will other states follow suit? Only time will tell.
Lisa Bove Young
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Directly after the bar exam, winter or summer, I am exhausted. I feel like I have been studying for eight weeks and like I took the bar exam myself- twice. However, I did not study all summer; nor did I take the bar exam this summer (maybe next year). But, I, like many of you, was in overdrive helping all of my students prepare for the most challenging exam of their life.
In reflecting on this summer’s bar review, I realize that I learned so much from my students. I also realize how much they appreciate me and the work that I do. I worked closely with a few groups of students. About one week before the bar exam one of the groups surprised me with a homemade lunch that included flowers and gifts and cookies and cards and gratitude and love. And another group that same week gave me an amazing flower arrangement with notes of gratitude.
Now, we have all received cards and maybe a bottle of wine or chocolates, but these moments were different. These students brought these gifts to me right before the bar exam, not after. They were busy studying, preoccupied with readying their bags for their nights away, and trying to keep their anxiety in check; but, they took the time to thank me in these heartfelt ways.
I cannot express how much these “gifts” moved me. Yes, the lunch was delicious and the flowers were lovely. But, that was not what made my heart sing. It was the sincerity in their gifts. These gifts embodied gratitude and thoughtfulness. I could see their gratitude in their eyes. I will never forget their eyes. I feel blessed to be able to do the work that I do and moments like these make the 24/7 on call, utter exhaustion, and stress of the bar exam all worth it.
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. Kahlil Gibran
Lisa Bove Young
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. This is my mantra for law school, the bar exam, the practice of law. There are always unknown factors and more than one right answer. You have to do your best to be prepared for anything but it still might not be enough. Certainty, absolutes, and complete control are not common. When asked a question, most lawyers answer with, “It depends…” Studying for the bar exam is a real test in getting comfortable being uncomfortable. You struggle to learn a massive amount of material yet are tested on only a fraction of it, and your score depends on how well others do. It’s a nerve-wracking process. I talk to my students about what it takes and how they will feel but I also experience it with them. Each summer during bar prep I do something that makes me uncomfortable. This year I decided to run. Every day. For the entire bar prep period and through the bar exam (66 days). Yes, I’m a runner but I hadn’t been consistent and was definitely not in peak condition. I had never run this many consecutive days and I kept making excuses to not do this challenge. I was a little scared that I would fail, which is exactly why I had to do it. Before I started I set some ground rules for myself: each week I would take a max of 2 “rest” days (under 2 miles) and do at least 1 challenging run (high mileage, hills, etc.). I would also go public (facebook) so I couldn’t make excuses. Then I started running. I started out cautious because I was afraid I’d get worn out. I realized that was wimpy and kicked it up a notch. I added cross-training two days a week to build up strength. And I kept running. By the end, I ran almost 200 miles in 4 states, lost a few pounds, and got some killer tan lines. I also learned a lot about myself and what it means to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Of all the challenges I have done, this is the one that most connected me to what my students are going through. Here are just a few take-aways:
(1) If you don’t take a break every now and then, you’ll get worn out and crash.
(2) There is rarely a good reason not to run but there are a lot of excuses.
(3) If you don’t have a plan you’ll find yourself running at 9:30pm and again at 6:30am the next day.
(4) A bad run is still a run and you will benefit from it.
(5) You must believe in yourself but don’t underestimate the importance of friends and family.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s what it’s all about.
Friday, August 1, 2014
Most of you have likely heard about the nationwide ExamSoft malfunction that occurred during the administration of the bar exam this week. If not, as you can imagine, ExamSoft did not perform as expected and many bar exam takers were left with error messages when they tried to upload their bar exams. Above the Law even collected tweets from infuriated bar applicants and compiled them on their blog. Take a look, my favorite is the one referencing the Titanic.
While rational minds realize that this software snafu is not a catastrophic event (since uploading can happen once the system is not being overtaxed), bar applicants are not rational. Applicants who are sitting for the bar exam are at peak performance; but, they are also at the pinnacle of stress. Anything can set them off. Some examples from this week include: the temperature of the room (in WA it was like the icebergs in Titanic); toe tapping from a tablemate; bad breath wafting from a tablemate (yuck); shortened lunch break on MBE day; not being able to take highlighters into the exam; a cluster of sobbing test takers during the MBE day; and (my favorite) a driver’s license accidentally being flushed down the toilet. None of these situations led to permanent bodily harm, but some left scars on test takers psyches.
If you took the bar exam, you can somewhat relate to what these examinees went through this week. However, I find that once there is distance from one’s bar exam experience, an individual is likely to brush off its intensity. Since I feel as if I go through, at least some of, the rigors of this exam twice a year, I do have a soft spot when I hear about anything that may have messed with an applicant’s mojo. As we know, there is a bit of mojo required for bar passage.
Luckily in Washington, bar applicants have a few days to upload their essays and PTs; so, many of my students were not adversely affected by the ExamSoft debacle. However, I will add “Barmageddon” to the numerous other stories that I have accumulated over the years. There is one when the earthquake happened in 2001 (and the examiners called out "keep working" as students climbed under their tables), the one where someone went into labor during the test, and the one where a student threw up on their exam (toe tapping is fine in comparison)… I will share these stories and a few others with my future students so that no matter what happens, they will “keep calm and carry on” when it is turn in the hot seat.
Lisa Bove Young
Friday, July 25, 2014
I have compiled this list for those of you studying for the bar exam and for those of us helping applicants prepare for the bar exam because at this point in bar review, we all need a good laugh! FYI: These are questions that I have received over the last week. Enjoy!
10. Am I allowed to chew tobacco during the bar exam?
9. Am I supposed to register for ExamSoft?
8. I can write my essays in pencil, right?
7. What is hearsay?
6. Are the MBE subjects tested on the MEE?
5. Do I really need to study Commercial Paper?
4. In a worst case scenario on the MBE, which letter should I pick? A, B, C, or D?
3. Do you have suggestions as to the types of food I should avoid the night before the bar exam? Also, you said that I should eat a breakfast of champions on the day of the exam, could you please elaborate?
2. What is the bar exam pass rate?
1. Which subjects are tested on the MBE? (YIKES!)
While some of these questions have clear answers (hearsay is an out of court statement used to prove the truth of the matter asserted), others would require me to have a crystal ball or supernatural powers in order to give an accurate answer. I have no idea whether Commercial Paper will be a subject tested on the Multistate Essay Exam, but I do know that the MBE subjects are tested on the MEE in Uniform Bar Exam Jurisdictions. I also do not want to select the pre-bar menu for my students, but I did give them a few suggestions (protein!). And, no, in WA you cannot use tobacco products in the exam room.
I encourage questions and answer them all (whether they are relevant or not), but I find the timing of a few of these to be startling. Since the bar exam is next week, I would hope that applicants know the subjects that are tested on each section of the exam and know the basic logistical requirements like signing up for ExamSoft ahead of time. These are important elements that I know I have repeated in multiple ways, hundreds of times...
But, this is bar review. It is a fast paced jumble of information with a few exuberant highs and numerous frightening lows, a (haunted) roller coaster ride of sorts. Everyone studying for the bar exam is overwhelmed with the vast amount of material being thrown at them all summer and we are overwhelmed meeting all of their diverse needs. The strangest question is the one that I ask myself twice a year: Why do I love this so much?
Here's to high pass rates and no Commercial Paper question on the Multistate Essay Exam!
Best of luck to all of the Summer 2014 Bar Applicants!
Lisa Bove Young
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
With less than a week until the bar exam, you are tired and just ready for this thing to end. However, you need to stay focused and keep going. You need some motivation, the psychological drive that compels you toward a certain goal. I can tell you to get motivated but this is extrinsic and only somewhat effective. Instead, your motivation must be intrinsic. It must come from within. This means you must attribute your results to factors under your control and believe you have the skill to reach your goal. How in the world are you supposed to this? Make a list of everything you are doing to pass the bar exam and then list the skills it takes to do those things. Now, hang that list up somewhere and look at it every time you have self-doubt. Yes, it sounds corny but trust me, it actually works.
Katherine Silver Kelly
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Writing style, organization, and format are critical to successful bar exam performance. Do not fall into the trap of only memorizing the law. You must also focus on your approach and your writing techniques in order to reach a passing score on the Multistate Essay Exam and the Multistate Performance Test. Here are a few ways to ensure that you will achieve passing scores:
Essay Exam Tips
- First, carefully read the call lines so that you know what the examiners are asking. Craft your answer around those calls. See an earlier post Answer the Question for more details.
- Actively read the facts. Search for the legally significant facts and try to find relevance for all of the facts. Use a pen to make notes in the margins and/or circle/underline the key details. (Highlighters are not allowed in certain jurisdictions.) These details should be used in your analysis.
- Use IRAC!
- Use simple straightforward sentences and short paragraphs.
- You should have a new IRAC for each legal issue. Separate your issues to maximize your points.
- Do not merely memorize and recite rules. NO DATA DUMPS! Instead, show the graders that you know the rules and understand how they apply to the facts. In order to do this successfully, you need to weave the facts into your legal analysis.
- MAKE IT EASY FOR THE GRADER TO GIVE YOU POINTS!
- Keep track of your time. Write the start and end time on your scratch paper for each of your essays. This will help you with managing your time. Do not go over the 30 minutes allotted for each essay.
- After each essay is completed, put it behind you, and focus on the next essay or the next section of the exam. Do not waste time and head space second-guessing your performance on an earlier essay. Stay in the present and stay positive!
Performance Test Tips
- Pay close attention to the task memo and the specific instructions within it. The task memo holds the key to your success. Consider who you are, who your client is, the tone, format, and limiting instructions for your task.
- Create your framework from the issues presented in the task memo. Use detailed and descriptive headings and issue statements throughout your task.
- Next, read the file to outline the key facts related to your task and your issues. (Alternatively, some applicants prefer to read the library first.)
- Take your time! Read the facts and the law carefully so that you have a good understanding of your case and are able to identify the salient details.
- Organize your thoughts before you begin writing. Use your scratch paper! You do not need fancy charts, but you may need to sketch out your framework or bullet point your key facts either on your scratch paper or in your examsoft file on your computer. This should take between 30-45 minutes.
- Use only the amount of time allowed for each PT task. Write your start and end time on your scratch paper and move on to the second task when your time is up.
- Use IRAC! Use it for every issue and sub-issue!
- Synthesize the cases by writing brief case summaries. For example, “In Holt, the athlete Holt’s face was not visible and his number, sponsors, and name were deleted, however other specific defining features (the unique color scheme and design of the athlete’s ski suit) were visible.”*
- Compare and distinguish your facts from the facts in the cases presented in the library. For example, “Our case is similar to Holt because in the photo used by the Gazette, no part of Jackson’s face was visible. Additionally, in our photograph, most of Jackson’s body and uniform were obscured and only the second zero of his uniform was visible. However, our case is distinguishable from Holt’s because in Holt the athlete had a unique suit design and color that belonged only to him. Here, there were at least two other Blue Sox players who were the same race as Jackson and who wore the number ending in zero like Jackson at the time the photo was taken. Thus, unlike Holt, it is possible there was no unique uniform that made Jackson readily identifiable.”*
- Make your answer easy to read. Use short concise sentences and paragraphs and make each word count.
- Remember to review what you have written before time is called. Become the grader. Save a few minutes at the end to read and edit your MPT answer.
Keep practicing…practice equals passing!
*Examples taken from passing Georgia bar exam answers.