Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Refocused: Bar Study Break and Wellness Check

About three years ago, I hosted a practice Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) session for bar exam studiers who were enrolled in online bar review programs. Practically speaking, these bar exam studiers did not have opportunities to interact with others preparing for the bar exam. Moreover, I did not want bar exam day to be the first time they experienced being in a room with others. This MBE practice provided bar exam studiers with an opportunity to be in a room with other bar exam studiers as bar study can be even more isolating for individuals opting to study independently. It also motivated bar exam studiers to complete a full-length MBE and honestly experience the challenges associated with sitting, reading, processing, and sorting through answers to MBE questions. My physical presence in the room was motivation because under my watchful yet non-authoritative eye bar exam studiers felt compelled to sit through the end of the testing period. Students were appreciative because they commiserated with others and recognized that they were not alone in experiencing the challenges encountered thus far in the preparatory process. In sum, the practice MBE session afforded bar exam studiers and me a rare opportunity to address stamina, fears, successes, strategies, and perseverance during the break between sessions.

A colleague in another department suggested that we offer the bar exam studiers lunch during the break and invite various administrators (Academic Support, Diversity Services, Library, and Student Affairs) who were already a part of their support system. My colleague used money in her budget to pay for the meal and students were so grateful. Other bar exam studiers who were non-participants in the practice MBE found their way to the lunch; apparently, food draws individuals out of their study spaces. Offering lunch was a wise and timely idea as it enabled bar exam studiers to mingle with familiar faces, feel supported by the institution, and receive comfort and reassurance. Bar exam studiers naturally gravitated to administrators they felt comfortable with, requested advice and suggestions, and shared ideas freely. Ironically, the lunch break experience appeared more meaningful to bar exam studiers than the practice MBE.

This year, we tried something different. We hosted a bar exam study break during the lunch hour and a few days before most bar exam studiers were scheduled to take their mock MBE in their bar review programs. We found affordable and healthy food options and accounted for a few additional bar exam studiers as we knew that some may have missed our message but would show up. A relaxing atmosphere to encourage wellness, stress relief, camaraderie, and fun was created and included music, plenty of natural sunlight, informational posters, stress balls, pencils, and other goodies. Once everything was set up, we waited and it seemed like no one was going to show up. Gradually, bar exam studiers emerged and found their way to the room. We did not recognize a few of our former students; it was like we were in Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video or any Zombie movie or television show. It was then that we realized that this event was timely! These individuals needed a few moments to reflect and refocus. We saw bar exam studiers we did not realize were in town and thought had long since commencement returned home. At some point, chatter took over the room and bar exam studiers seemed to come alive. We spoke with bar exam studiers but mostly left them alone. What an amazing and priceless opportunity for former students to see us (administrators) and other bar exam studiers to commiserate, to encourage one another, to fellowship over food, and to ask questions about bar studies. (Goldie Pritchard)

 

 

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June 28, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pick One: Sorting Through Excessive Supplemental Bar Exam Study Resources

The intense anxiety created by the bar preparation process leads bar exam studiers to take on habits and processes that they have often avoided in the past and that they know do not benefit them. The overflow of advice, particularly from peers who have recently sat for the bar exam, is a “must-do” for bar exam studiers whether the advice provided serves the bar exam studier or not. All advice might be great advice, independently, but the question is whether implementing all advice simultaneously is helpful.

Bar exam studiers develop anxiety simply by seeing their bar review schedules and materials and that anxiety becomes stronger as they complete assignments and at times fall behind. Anxiety further intensifies as bar exam studiers accumulate resources suggested by others. They become overwhelmed by the volume of resources at their disposal and question when and how they will use resources to maximize their potential for success on the bar exam.

My advice to bar exam studiers is to supplement bar review by selecting one or two supplemental bar review resources that cater to skill weaknesses. When I say this, bar exam studiers look at me perplexed by the suggestion that I would expect them to selective about available resources. If you have researched, selected, and paid for a bar review program then you should use all aspects of the program. Moreover, the bar review program should be adequate enough to prepare you for all aspects of the bar exam. However, if multiple choice questions are a challenge, then it might be helpful to determine why it is a challenge and consider using supplemental materials to build strength. The same applies to essays and performance tests. If access to additional practice questions for various components of the bar exam is limited then supplemental resources can be helpful and should be used solely for that purpose. If bar exam studiers are seeking alternative delivery modes of substantive law then supplemental materials are helpful. If memorization and recall are challenges and the bar exam studier is seeking mechanisms to compartmentalize, manage, recall, and/or memorize information then supplemental resources might be helpful as well. Bar exam studiers should always have a basic idea of what they need, why they need it, and how they will use supplemental materials. This is fundamental. Overall, bar exam studiers might need specific components of a supplemental resource, all aspects of a supplemental resource, or might not need it at all because what they seek is already contained in their bar review materials.

Time is very precious so bar exam studiers should ask themselves if they will actually have time to use what they spent money on, their bar review program and/or supplemental resources. (Goldie Pritchard)

June 21, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Winning Bar Exam Answers: Writing for Points or Writing to Impress?

Just the title of this blog might seem sacrilegious.  But, in the midst of the daily work in bar exam preparations this summer, I've come across an interesting trend.  It seems like no one preparing for the bar is convinced that they can write a passing essay answer, particularly when comparing practice answers to the multi-page point sheet or the line-by-line perfect answers often provided by commercial bar review companies.  

In short, bar exam studiers often feel like they missed the mark (and aren't even close to earning a passing score).  That can lead to a frustrating cycle of trying the next time to write an answer that resembles the massive point sheet, only to learn once again that one didn't quite get all of the points (or even half of the points).  Unfortunately, over time, essay answers start to look like point sheets rather than the written work of professional attorneys, and, no wonder.

But, in most states in which graders assess answers based on holistic relative grading, point sheets miss the mark, too. That's because in holistic grading the Supreme Court graders are not looking for points but rather are reading answers for the substantive quality of your writing and legal problem-solving.  So, here's a tip.  

Instead of practicing to write for points on your bar exam this summer, try to write to substantively impress your reader with the qualities of your professional writing and the substance of your well-thought out argument. In other words, write to impress...because...in holistic grading, that's exactly what the graders are looking for.  Of course, the impressions must have substance, i.e., demonstrating the work of an attorney.  So, with that in mind, here's a technique to assess and perfect your essay writing.   Instead of calculating whether your practice answer got all of the points, take a look at the much-shorter outline rubric provided by many bar review companies.  Then, glance through your answer to see if you hit the major issues and if your writing professionally flows.  In holistic grading jurisdictions, that's really meeting the mark, and meeting it well.  (Scott Johns).

 

June 15, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I’M Behind, It’s Over: Bar Prep Panic

A lot of what I heard last week was: “I fell behind in my bar studies so I spend all of my time trying to catch-up only to fall even further behind.” It is not uncommon for bar studiers to fall behind at some point during bar study. Studiers get tired, take longer to complete tasks, or encounter difficult/unfamiliar topics. How a person manages such situations may determine whether or not that person succeeds in catching-up or endures added stress throughout the remainder of the study period. Below are a few things one may wish to consider if ever in such a predicament.

1. Consolidate it and Write it. Create a gigantic to-do list (because everything seems impossible during bar review) by jotting down on a sheet of paper everything you have failed to complete. It is easy to feel overwhelmed thinking about all of the things you have not completed or seeing assignments listed under multiple days in various locations. Assignments and to-dos may appear more abundant than they actually are; therefore, it is helpful to collect everything in one place.

2. Prioritize it. Determine how and where to allocate and prioritize most of your time and energy. Create and label 2 columns: "critical" and "not-so-critical." In the critical column include tasks such as reviewing substantive law which is foundational to all other assignments and tasks. Consider the “80/20 rule” (in moderation of course) so you maximize your use of time to yield the most productive result and not waste time on tasks that are not benefiting you given time constraints. Determine when, in the remaining days, you can insert the not-so-critical tasks to ultimately complete all tasks without compromising future tasks. It is not advisable to spend all the remaining time catching-up. Instead, focus on what is currently due and gradually insert past due tasks in the remaining weeks so all tasks are complete by the end of bar review.

3. The Process. Keep your eye on the prize, passing the bar exam, but develop process oriented goals - steps that it will lead you to succeed on the bar exam. Often time, focus is placed on passing the bar exam which may appear impossible and overwhelming rather than considering individual steps and taking them on one at a time. Be cognizant that some of your steps might be very different from other bar studiers. You may have to warm up to sitting down for 100 Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) questions in 3 hours while others might require be able to do this fairly quickly. Knowing this about yourself, you may wish to initiate and implement frequent and consistent steps to achieve the ultimate goal. Being strategic and process focused will provide you with momentum, help you quickly develop good habits, and allow you to chip away at seemingly impossible tasks.

4. Start With Application. It is a given that substantive law is covered in lecture or some other method so we can check that off the list. For some bar studiers, completing a small number of MBE questions or an essay prior to lecture might be helpful to assess what they know, don’t know, or are familiar with. Also, their strengths and weaknesses in directing focus as they engage with the material. First instinct is to learn all the material completely and in depth prior to ever looking at a question although most programs encourage students to dive-in early. It might be helpful to redirect focus and time on things one needs to learn rather than things one already knows; and the only way to know what falls in what category is to practice. Do not focus on every minute detail and unique aspects of concepts but rather on what is needed to answer a typical question on the topic.

5. Select an Implementation Day. If you have tasks that are critical and require significant concentration such as completing a timed mock exam, clear your calendar off for a day to complete the task or tasks, schedule a study marathon. Set specific time limits for completing each task to ensure your productivity otherwise you may not get very far and may be faced with the adage: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” For your implementation day, find a place where you cannot be disturbed. This might require going to another town to avoid running into people you know, find a distraction free zone. It is important to note that while your implementation day might allow you to catch up, you are sacrificing a study day or day of rest and you will be exhausted at the end of this process. Furthermore, you will likely sacrifice depth of learning for breath of coverage. Plan a reward following the implementation day so you have something to look forward to as you are working because you will be exhausted. (Goldie Pritchard)

June 14, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Kill Some Of the Noise: Listen To Your Bar Prep Voice

While we are still in the early stages of bar preparation, around this time, bar studiers tend to hit the panic button. The realization that we are in the month of June is overwhelming because the bar exam is in July which does not seem very far away. Bar studiers fail to recognize that they are only about three weeks into bar review and although it is June, they still have time until the bar exam comes knocking at the door. They also fail to realize that even if they had a year to study for the bar exam, they would not feel prepared when exam day arrives for this is the nature of bar preparation.

Recently, I have spent quite some time quailing fears and concerns associated with the perceived lack of time. A primary concern I have heard voiced is an excessive focus on what other Bar Studies are doing and completing rather than focus on individual progress, accomplishments, and milestones. Let us consider fictional bar studiers Whitley and Denise. Simply because Whitley BarStudier uses flashcards she purchased and swears by their effectiveness in helping her master the information and efficiency in covering volumes of materials does not necessarily mean that Denise BarStudier should do the same or would generate similar results. Particularly if Denise tried flashcards at various points in law school and failed to yield significant results. If Denise examined Whitley’s flashcards and was still skeptical about their effectiveness, yet purchased them anyway, isn’t that counter intuitive? Each time Denise attempts to use the cards, she is filled with anxiety because she is unable to absorb the material and is reminded that she does not comprehend the material. Denise knows for a fact that checklist outlines and self-created and handwritten outlines work best for her memorization, recall, and learning of rules and key buzzwords. So then, why doesn’t Denise do what she knows works for her? Why would she go against everything that worked for her and do something that has proven to be ineffective? These are questions I often ask bar studiers. While it is great to be aware of available resources, their availability does not always mean they are right for you. Why work against your process and waist time, knowing that you may eventually have to revert to what you know to be effective? Simply because the masses said it helped them pass the bar exam does not mean that adopting the same approach will yield the desired result.

Another primary concern is passively doing and checking things off the “bar study to do list.” Let us consider fictional bar studier Dwayne. Dwayne BarStudier is very attentive to what professors and recent bar passers have told him about preparing for the bar exam. The key piece of advice he has received is to strictly follow the bar review schedule and he is guaranteed to pass the bar exam. Dwayne is doing just that but gets sick over failing to complete some assignments and therefore stays up all night to complete them. He monitors his daily and weekly progress in completing his bar review program and is for the most part on task. However, Dwayne is unable to answer questions about basic elements and requirements for simple concepts and has significant difficulty issue spotting or starting an essay randomly selected from subjects recently covered in his bar review program. Dwayne is also unable to give a good broad overview or synopsis of major topics in any subject area thus far. He has not thought about what this means as he is simply following his bar review program. He may wish to think about what he is doing, be self-regulated about his process and not simply “do-to-do.” Why shouldn’t Dwayne reflect on the tasks he is completing and the justification for completing them? Why shouldn’t Dwayne assess his performance in individual subject areas and individual types of tasks? Why shouldn’t Dwayne ask himself whether he is expanding his knowledge, storing information in his memory, and able to access that information when needed? Completing all the tasks may or may not be beneficial to Dwayne but he is unable to determine this if he simply completes his assignments without reflecting or truly critiquing his progress.

The best news that I can deliver to bar studiers is that we are still early in the process so there is room to make mistakes, adjustments, and to be confident adopting and sticking to systems that work for each individual as they study for the bar exam (Goldie Pritchard).

June 7, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bar Review Learning: What Happens in Lectures--Ought Never To Stay in Lectures!

In contrast to the promotional tourism slogan of a famous gambling city in Nevada, what happens in bar review lectures...ought never stay in lectures.  

Here's what I mean.  Too often what we learn during bar review lectures is never really put to the immediate test.  Rather than diving into practice essay and MBE multiple-choice problems that very day of a bar review lecture, we often tend to whittle away precious time by reviewing our lecture notes, re-reading bar review outlines, or, worst yet, re-watching lecture videos (because we are worried that we didn't catch every fine point made during the course of a four-hour bar review lecture).  In short, we continue to stay in the lectures by staying in a passive "lecture-like" mindset.  

However, that's not the way to learn to prepare for the bar exam because the bar examiners don't ask us to recite bar review lectures or demonstrate that we memorized our lecture notes.  Rather, the bar examiners demand that we show that that we can engage in active problem-solving.  So, if you are preparing for the bar exam this summer, get activated; get moving; get going by tackling lots of bar exam problems right after you complete each bar review lecture.  You become the master rather than watching others demonstrate mastery in solving bar exam problems.  It will be challenging.  That's because learning is incredibly difficult.  It takes all of our heart and mind.  It means making lots of messy mistakes.  It requires being comfortable with ourselves in realizing that it is not natural to know how to do things.  In short, it takes lots of work and perspiration in straining and stretching ourselves to tackle things that we couldn't previously do.  That's why we call it learning.  

So, instead of spending most of bar prep watching others solve legal problems, get into the action, the real action of learning, by breathing life into the bar review lectures as you work step-by-step through lots of bar exam essay and MBE multiple-choice problems.  Although it will feel mightily uncomfortable, you'll be mighty glad you did when you take your bar exam because you'll be ready to demonstrate to the bar examiners that you are an expert legal problem-solver, "bar none."  (Scott Johns).

June 1, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

New Article on Raising Bar Passage by Louis Schulze

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Louis N. Schulze, Jr. at Florida International has a new article: Using Science to Build Better Learners: One School's Successful Efforts to Raise Its Bar Passage Rates in an Era of Decline. The abstract is below, and the link to the article on SSRN is here:  SSRN link.

What measures can law schools take to improve student performance and bar passage? The answer is not what you think.

Recent developments in the science of learning show that most law students learn wrong. In fact, ineffective methods of learning pervade all levels of education. We now know that widely accepted learning and study strategies that were once considered gospel are actually deeply flawed. Yet we still embrace and propagate those myths.

Meanwhile, bar passage rates and law student performance are plummeting. Everyone in legal education is asking “what can we do?” But, “what can we do?” is the wrong question. The right question is to ask how students can capitalize on the science of learning to be more effective learners.

In this essay, I discuss principles from the science of learning that law schools and students should embrace. In the context of the methods we have implemented at Florida International University College of Law, which had the highest bar passage rate in Florida for three consecutive exams, I detail the project of transforming the learning of law away from the ineffective methods of yore and towards effective strategies that can make a difference on student performance and bar passage.

And it all has to do with science, not lore.

May 13, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

So…I Passed The Bar Exam!

“I was just calling to let you know that I passed the bar exam…!” Immediately after hearing this news, I screamed with excitement. I am always overcome with joy whenever students tell me about their success on the bar exam but I am even more excited when it is a student who was previously unsuccessful on the bar exam. Repeat bar takers have a special place in my heart because they typically journey through lots of agony, sacrifices, and determination to achieve this goal.

The journey starts when students are notified and realize that they were unsuccessful on the bare exam. Many emotions accompany this news including embarrassment, sadness, frustration, anger, and disappointment to list a few. Those emotions are reawakened when students receive a message from me confirming the result, providing some direction, and offering support. Students respond by either ignoring the message or reaching out immediately. For those who respond, we discuss the current crisis, try to calm emotions, and strategize. We discuss how to interact with peers, professors, family, and friends who may ask about the bar exam. Some students choose to inform the world on social media while others prefer to remain secretive, managing questions as they arise. Whatever their preference, I always have an honest conversation with individual students.

Collectively, we devise specific strategies and draw up plans for studying, meeting challenges, and exploring fears associated with retaking the bar exam. Through an early start bar preparation program, students engage with substantive law, essays, and multiple choice. Students are typically unhappy at first but as we address how to efficiently use time, prioritize tasks, and address disappointment, students appear more at ease. Personally, I learn a great deal about students as individuals, how they handle success and defeat, keep perspective, and balance stress.

When bar review programs officially start, it is time for cheerleading and challenging. Students check-in on a weekly basis to debrief and discuss where they are mentally. Each week is a new experience which ranges from productive to challenging. There are weeks when students are on the verge of giving up and other weeks when everything that could go wrong does go wrong. My goal is to help redirect students but also encourage them to persist.

The victory, passing the bar exam, is great because it allows students to move on with their lives or start their professional lives. Their struggle with the bar exam is a part of their story but also an experience they can use to encourage and support others. My investment in them is worthwhile because they are changing their lives, their families’ lives, and their communities. Bar exam results are still trickling in but congratulations to those who successfully passed the February 2017 bar exam on their second try. (Goldie Pritchard)

April 19, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Gearing Up for Bar Prep Season

Students have returned from Spring Break and many third year law students (3Ls) are realizing that the end is in sight. In the near future, classes will end, 3Ls will sit for their last set of law school exams, participate in the commencement ceremony, and sit for the bar exam. Some are so fearful of the anxiety associated with preparing for and taking the bar exam that they choose to avoid thinking about the bar exam. Others are so excited about completing their law school careers that the bar exam appears to be a very distant occurrence.

The past few days have been devoted to discussions of graduation and the bar exam with students who procrastinate, including some who have already missed initial application deadlines (in spite of repeated reminders) and as a result may be required to pay additional fees. Others have failed to sign-up for a bar review program, or have suddenly realized that they have insufficient savings to cover their living expenses during bar exam preparation.

As we face the second half of the semester, a student shared an interesting video with me (see video below). In this video, Samuel M. Chang, the outgoing 14th Circuit Governor for the ABA Law Student Division shared his perspective at an informational hearing of the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee last month. Chang spoke during a panel titled: “Possible Impacts of the Decline in Bar Passage Rates Upon Consumers and Different Sectors of the Legal Community: How Might the Decline of Bar Exam Passage Rates Impact Law Students, Legal Aid providers, Consumers and the Public Interest.” It is powerful to hear from students themselves about their personal experiences and those of their peers. Although the video focuses on law students in California, its content is also relevant to some law students in various jurisdictions with whom we interact and who are unsuccessful on the bar exam. Please find the link here to the transcript of his remarks. (Goldie Pritchard)

 

 

March 15, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Matter of The Heart: Moving Forward in the Midst of the Bar Exam Wait

It’s a great time for you - as this week’s bar takers - to reflect, appreciate, and take pride in your herculean work in accomplishing law school and tackling the bar exam.

Let's be direct!  Bravo! Magnificent! Heroic!  Those are just some of the words that come to mind…words that you should be rightly speaking to yourself…because…they are true of you to the core!

But, for most of us right now, we just don’t quite feel super-human about the bar exam. Such accolades of self-talk are, frankly, just difficult to do. Rather, most of us just feel relief – plain and simple relief – that the bar exam is finally over and we have somehow survived.  

That’s because very few of us, upon completion of the bar exam, feel like we have passed the bar exam. Most of us just don’t know.   So now, the long “waiting” period begins with results not due out for most of us for a number of months.

So, here’s the conundrum about the “waiting” period:

Lot’s of well-meaning people will tell you that you have nothing to worry about; that they are sure that you passed the bar exam; and that the bar exam wasn’t that hard…really.

Really? Not that hard?

Really? You know that I passed?

Really? There’s nothing for me to worry about?

Let me give you a concrete real life example. Like you, I took the bar exam. And, like most of you, I had no idea at all whether I passed the bar exam. I was just so glad that it was finally over.

But all of my friends, my legal employer (a judge), my former law professors, and my family kept telling me that I had absolutely nothing to be worried about; that I passed the bar exam; that I worked hard; that they knew that I could do it.

But, they didn’t know something secret about my bar exam. They didn’t know about my lunch on the first day of the bar exam.

At the risk of revealing a closely held secret, my first day of the bar exam actually started out on the right foot, so to speak. I was on time for the exam. In fact, I got to the convention center early enough that I got a prime parking spot. Moreover, in preparation for my next big break (lunch), I had already cased out the nearest handy-dandy fast food restaurants for grabbing a quick bite to eat before the afternoon portion of the bar exam so that I would not miss the start of the afternoon session of the bar exam.

So, when lunch came, I was so excited to eat that I went straight to Burger King. I really wanted that “crown,” perhaps because I really didn’t understand many of the essay problems from the morning exam. But as I approached Burger King, the line was far out of the door. Impossibly out of the door. And, it didn’t get any better at McDonalds next door. I then faced the same conundrum at Wendy’s and then at Taco Bell.

Finally, I had to face up to cold hard facts.  I could either eat lunch or I could take the afternoon portion of the bar exam. But, I couldn’t do both. The lines were just too long. So, I was about to give up - as I had exhausted all of the local fast food outlets surrounding the convention center - when I luckily caught a glimpse of a possible solution to both lunch and making it back to the bar exam in time for the afternoon session – a liquor store.  There was no line. Not a soul. I had the place to myself. So, I ran into the liquor store to grab my bar exam lunch: two Snicker’s bars. With plenty of time to now spare, I then leisurely made my way back to the bar exam on time for the start of the afternoon session.

But, here’s the rub:

All of my friends and family members (and even the judge that I was clerking for throughout the waiting period) were adamant that I had passed the bar exam. They just knew it! But, they didn’t know that I ate lunch at the liquor store.

So when several months later the bar results were publicly available on the Internet, I went to work for my judge wondering what the judge might do when the truth came out – that I didn’t pass the bar exam because I didn’t pack a lunch to eat at the bar exam.

To be honest, I was completely stick to my stomach. But, I was stuck; I was at work and everyone believed in me. Then, later that morning while still at work computer, the results came out. My heart raced, but my name just didn’t seem to be listed at all. No Scott Johns. And then, I realized that my official attorney name begins with William. I was looking at the wrong section of the Johns and Johnsons. My name was there! I had passed!   I never told the judge my secret about my “snicker bar” lunch. I was just plain relieved that the bar exam “wait” was finally over.

That’s the problem with all of the helpful advice from our friends, employers, law professors, and family members during this waiting period. For all of us (or at least most of us), there was something unusual that happened during our bar exam. It didn’t seem to go perfectly. Quite frankly, we just don’t know if we indeed passed the bar exam.

So, here’s a suggestion for your time right now with your friends, employers, law professors, and family members.

1.  First, just let them know how you are feeling. Be open and frank. Share your thoughts with them along with your hopes and fears.

2.  Second, give them a hearty thank you for all of their enriching support, encouragement, and steadfast faithfulness that they have shared with you as walked your way through law school and through this week’s bar exam. Perhaps send them a personal notecard. Or, make a quick phone call of thanks. Or send a snap chat of thankful appreciation.  Regardless of your particular method of communication, reach out to let them know out of the bottom of your heart that their support has been invaluable to you. That’s a great way to spend your time as you wait - over the course of the next several months - for the bar exam results.

3.  Finally, celebrate yourself, your  achievement, and your true grit....by taking time out - right now - to appreciate the momentous accomplishment of undertaking a legal education, graduating from law school, and tackling your bar exam.  You've done something great, and, more importantly, something mightily significant.  (Scott Johns).

February 23, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Bar Exam, Butterflies, and the Power of "Leaning Back!"

As you make your final tune-ups in preparation for your bar exam next week, remember, anxiety is normal.  So, please don't fret the "butterflies."

But, as I can attest due to my own exam stress, that is "easier said that done."  So, let me offer a technique or two that I use when dealing with a question that I can't seem to figure out how to even begin to answer.

First, I don't try to get a perfect answer. Rather, I treat each exam question as an opportunity to demonstrate my ability to solve legal problems.  In other words, I remind myself that I don't have to be right or correct to pass the bar exam; rather, I just have to demonstrate legal problem-solving abilities, something that we have all worked for several months to cultivate in our bar preparation work.

Second, no matter how difficult the exam, I focus on maintaining a winning positive attitude...by realizing that all of the test-takers are facing the same challenges (and therefore the same stresses). That's right.  If the problem seems difficult for you (and me), it is difficult for all of us!

Third, I use a simple "3-step plan" to give me a friendly "push-start" to get my mind around how to solve a problem.  So, here are the steps, steps that you might try yourself when you find yourself a bit perplexed on how to begin answering a problem:

1.    Grab hold of the call of the question and re-write it as an issue statement (e.g., The issue is whether the contract between Pratt and Delta is valid.). 

2.     Add material facts to your issue statement (e.g., The issue is whether the contract between Pratt and Delta is valid when the defendant failed to sign the contract.). 

3.    Now, you are ready to organize an answer...because you see (identified the trigger facts) that constitute the big issue (i.e., a statute of frauds problem here).

Let me offer one more "stress-busting" exam tip that you might incorporate in the midst of your bar exam.

LEAN BACK!

That's right.  Don't spend all of your time - for hours on end - hunched over your bar exam questions.  

INSTEAD, GET SOME FRESH AIR!

SOME OXYGEN!  

LEAN BACK IN YOUR CHAIR...AND BREATHE!

It's amazing but just leaning back in your chair, as the commander of your own "bar-ship" as you read and navigate your way through exam questions, can make a whale of a difference because the action of leaning back brings valuable oxygen to your body...to empower your mind...to do the work that is before you.  And, if you really want to take it to the next level, while you are "leaning back," why not just put your hands behind your head to form a "soft pillow" of comfort and confidence.  You can picture the move.  Just visualizing the move might bring a smile to your face.  And, that smile is a bit of relaxation in the midst of taking your bar exam.  So, nicely done!  (Scott Johns).

 

February 16, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reality Strikes

This week has been filled with conversations about the bar exam. While I am very excited about these discussions, 3L students are much less enthusiastic. The bar exam has been a distant occurrence but now, it is too close for comfort. For our jurisdiction, students have until March to submit their applications without incurring late fees. Students who are organized and plan every aspect of their lives have already sought answers to their questions and only need to submit their applications. Others are panicking because they believe that they are “behind the ball.”

What is most exciting for me are the conversations about fears, concerns, and how to navigate the bar preparation process. It is a delicate balance between supporting students and challenging them. I typically use this opportunity to dispel myths students share about studying for and taking the bar exam and provide context for why and how to be effective in their own process. It is equally exciting to help students who I am familiar with and whose habits I know. When you know how a student processes information, you can provide them with specific advice and applicable examples of how to manage specific situations. You can also refer them back to specific challenges and situations they overcame, including reminding them of their strengths and when they thought all was lost but they made it through the first year, then the second year, and are now almost done with law school.

Of course, some of these conversations quail some concerns, generate new concerns, provide new perspectives, encourage, and motivate. Students must face the inevitable, the bar exam, and their fears. The awareness of possible challenges is invaluable information to have. (Goldie Pritchard)

January 11, 2017 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bar Exam Results: Part II (Suggested Next Steps for Bar-Takers)!

As mentioned in yesterday's blog by Professor Goldie Pritchard, it's bar exam season...with results coming in throughout this fall semester.  

With that in mind, here's some advice for all bar-takers as results are posted...from across the landscape and the oceans...from Puerto Rico to Guam and from Washington State to Florida.

First, if you passed the bar exam, congratulations!  What a wonderful accomplishment!  As you celebrate your success while waiting to take your oath of office, here's a quick suggestion.  This a great time to reach out to your support team (family, friends, colleagues, mentors, etc.) and personally thank them for their encouragement and inspiration.  And, with respect to your law school colleagues that did not pass, its important that you reach out to them too.  Send a quick email.  Invite them for coffee.  Let them know that you personally stand behind them and for them no matter what.  Most importantly, just listen with kindness, graciousness, and compassion.  In short, be a friend.

Second, if you did not pass the bar exam, please know that the results are not a reflection of who you are as a person....period.  Lots of famous and successful people did not pass the bar exam on the first try (and some after a number of tries).  Yet, they are some of the most outstanding attorneys and successful leaders.  So, be kind to yourself.  Take time to reflect, cry, and ponder.   Most importantly, just be yourself.  Then, in a few days or a few weeks, reach out to your law school.  Make sure you order your exam answers if they are available in your state because looking at your exam answers can give you inside information on what you did that was great and where to improve too.  Contact your bar review company for a one-on-one chat.  Overall, though, the most important task at hand is to be kind to yourself, and please remember, your value comes from who you are and not from the bar exam at all.  Period.  (Scott Johns).

October 6, 2016 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bar Results and Motivating Current 3Ls

Bar results are trickling in from various jurisdictions.  Students who sat for the bar exam in July 2016 are impatiently waiting for their results to arrive.  Some who have received results are excited because they have accomplished their goal and are steps away from being licensed attorneys.  Others are devastated by their results and are not quite ready to regroup and re-strategize.  For everyone else, this is a tense period of time filled with uncertainty and unease until official bar results are in.  Academic Support Professionals who focus on bar preparation are on edge, awaiting results for each and every one of their former students.  We share in the joy of student successes, sit with the tears, listen to the disappointment and frustration, and help our students refocus and face the bar exam challenge, hopefully, one final time.

Students who are now 2Ls and 3Ls are hearing from their former schoolmates who sat for the bar exam.   At the very least, they are lurking on various social media outlets to see if their friends and former colleagues have passed the bar exam because they are uncertain about “bar exam result etiquette.”  Needless to say, this is an uncomfortable time for everyone.

This is, however, an ideal time to discuss the bar exam, bar exam preparation, and bar exam success.  Students have “real life” people whom they know either passed or were unsuccessful in passing the bar exam.  This is an opportune time to demystify the bar exam and debunk myths about the bar exam.  As Academic Support Professionals, we can discuss fears, concerns, and planning for the bar exam.  We can also address how to study for the exam and things that students can do now in anticipation of sitting for the bar exam.  This is a time when students are more willing to listen and have good intentions, mostly motivated by the fear of being unsuccessful on the bar exam.

Congratulations to all who were successful on the bar exam.  Hang in there, to those who were unsuccessful.  Cry and be upset for a little while but regroup and work with the bar exam experts at your institution.  We are crossing our fingers for you if you are still waiting for results.  Good courage to all the Academic Support Professionals who work in bar exam support as you empower students, develop new strategies and use new resources for student bar exam success. (Goldie Pritchard)

October 5, 2016 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Part II: The “Now What” of the Bar Exam: The Waiting Period Begins – A Great Time to Thank Your Supporters!

As Goldie Pritchard pointed out in yesterday’s blog, it’s a great time for you - as this week’s bar takers - to reflect, appreciate, and take pride in your herculean work in accomplishing law school and tackling the bar exam.  Let's be direct!  Bravo! Magnificent! Heroic! Those are just some of the words that come to mind…words that you should be rightly speaking to yourself…because…they are true of you to the core!

But, for most of us right now, we just don’t quite feel super-human about the bar exam. Such accolades of self-talk are, frankly, just difficult to do. Rather, most of us just feel relief – plain and simple relief – that the bar exam is finally over and we have somehow survived.  

That’s because very few of us, upon completion of the bar exam, feel like we have passed the bar exam. Most of us just don’t know.   So now, the long “waiting” period begins with results not due out for most of us until mid to late fall.

So, here’s the conundrum about the “waiting” period. Lot’s of well-meaning people will tell you that you have nothing to worry about; that they are sure that you passed the bar exam; and that the bar exam wasn’t that hard…really. Really? Not that hard? Really? You know that I passed? Really? There’s nothing for me to worry about?

Let me give you a concrete real life example. Like you, I took the bar exam. And, like most of you, I had no idea at all whether I passed the bar exam. I was just so glad that it was finally over.

But all of my friends, my legal employer (a judge), my former law professors, and my family keep telling me that I had absolutely nothing to be worried about; that I passed the bar exam; that I worked hard; that they knew that I could do it.

But, they didn’t know something secret about my bar exam. They didn’t know about my lunch on the first day of the bar exam.

At the risk of revealing a closely held secret, my first day of the bar exam actually started out on the right foot, so to speak. I was on time for the exam. In fact, I got to the convention center early enough that I got a prime parking spot. Moreover, in preparation for my next big break (lunch), I had already cased out the nearest handy-dandy fast food restaurants for grabbing a quick bite to eat before the afternoon portion of the bar exam so that I would not miss the start of the afternoon session of the bar exam.

So, when lunch came, I was so excited to eat that I went straight to Burger King. I really wanted that “crown,” perhaps because I really didn’t understand many of the essay problems from the morning exam. But as I approached Burger King, the line was far out of the door. Impossibly out of the door. And, it didn’t get any better at McDonalds next door. I then faced the same conundrum at Wendy’s and then at Taco Bell.

Finally, I had to face up to cold hard facts. I could either eat lunch or I could take the afternoon portion of the bar exam. But, I couldn’t do both. The lines were just too long. So, I was about to give up - as I had exhausted all of the local fast food outlets surrounding the convention center - when I luckily caught a glimpse of a possible solution to both lunch and making it back to the bar exam in time for the afternoon session – a liquor store.  

There was no line. Not a soul. I had the place to myself. So, I ran into the liquor store to grab my bar exam lunch: two Snicker’s bars. With plenty of time to now spare, I then leisurely made my way back to the bar exam on time for the start of the afternoon session.

But, here’s the rub. All of my friends and family members (and even the judge that I was clerking for throughout the late summer and early fall) were adamant that I had passed the bar exam. They just knew it! But, they didn’t know that I ate lunch at the liquor store.

So when in late October the bar results were publicly available on the Internet, I went to work for my judge wondering what the judge might do when the truth came out – that I didn’t pass the bar exam because I didn’t pack a lunch to eat at the bar exam. To be honest, I was completely stick to my stomach. But, I was stuck; I was at work and everyone believed in me. Then, later that morning while still at work computer, the results came out. My heart raced, but my name just didn’t seem to be listed at all. No Scott Johns. And then, I realized that my official attorney name begins with William. I was looking at the wrong section of the Johns and Johnsons. My name was there! I had passed!   I never told the judge my secret about my “snicker bar” lunch. I was just plain relieved that the bar exam “wait” was finally over.

That’s the problem with all of the helpful advice from our friends, employers, law professors, and family members during this waiting period. For all of us (or at least most of us), there was something unusual that happened during our bar exam. It didn’t seem to go perfectly. Quite frankly, we just don’t know if we indeed passed the bar exam. So, here’s a suggestion for your time with your friends, employers, law professors, and family members.

First, just let them know how you are feeling. Be open and frank. Share your thoughts with them along with your hopes and fears. Second, give them a hearty thank you for all of their enriching support, encouragement, and steadfast faithfulness that they have shared with you as walked your way through law school and through this week’s bar exam. Perhaps send them a personal notecard. Or, make a quick phone call of thanks. Or send a snap chat of thankful appreciation.

Regardless of your particular method of communication, reach out to let them know out of the bottom of your heart that their support has been invaluable to you. That’s a great way to spend your time as you wait - over the course of the next several months - for the bar exam results. Finally, don’t give up your hopes and aspirations for your legal work. We need you, all of you, as officers of the court. And, don’t forget, as Goldie Pritchard mentioned in yesterday’s blog, to take time out today to “appreciate and enjoy your accomplishments” as law school graduates and bar exam takers! (Scott Johns).

July 28, 2016 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Bar Exam is Over, Now What

For the past few years, your focus has been on finishing law school, walking across the stage at commencement, and taking then passing the bar exam. Well, you have finished law school, you may have walked across the stage at graduation, you took or are almost done with the bar exam, now what’s next?  You may be a planner and have a perfect plan for the days, weeks, and months ahead.  For others, your next steps involve visiting your law school's career services office or referencing communication they may have shared with you. 

All in all, take the time to appreciate and enjoy your accomplishments, get some rest, and dream big about the journey and adventures ahead of you. It is no small feat to attend law school, complete law school, graduate from law school, prepare for the bar exam, show up for the bar exam, and complete the bar exam.  You did all of that!  Not everyone can accomplish what you have accomplished and not everyone who started the journey completed it.  Take pride in your accomplishment. (Goldie Pritchard)

July 27, 2016 in Advice, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bar Exam Stress - A Two-Minute Video Clip to Help You Catch Hold of "Growth Mindset" Optimism!

There's been a lot of talk about "growth mindset" and for good reasons.  

As the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Dr. Carol Dweck relates in a June 21, 2016 commentary on the website Education Week, "...my colleagues and I learned things we thought people needed to know. We found that students’ mindsets—how they perceive their abilities—played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement. More precisely, students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset)."  http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html

But, with the bar exam looming next week for many law school graduates, as the saying goes, "sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words" to hep you and your graduates "catch" hold of a growth mindset in the midst of bar exam stressors.   So, at the risk of minimizing the science behind the growth mindset, here's a quick video clip that just might spark some positive vibes of optimism as you and your graduates focus on final tune-ups in preparation for the bar exam next week:  http://www.values.com/inspirational-stories-tv-spots/99-the-greatest  

In particular, just like the baseball player, we don't all have to be great hitters…or runners…or pitchers…to be successful on the bar exam. But, right now, most of us working through bar exam problems feel like we don't even know enough to play the game, to run the bases, to hit the ball, in short, to pass the bar exam. However, it is not about knowing enough that is key to passing the bar exam.  Specifically, I try to place my confidence NOT in getting right answers on bar exam problems but rather in learning and demonstrating solid legal problem-solving abilities.  It's just not an exam in which one can always be correct.  So, don't worry about what you missed.  Instead, focus on just being the best possible problem-solver player that you can. (Scott Johns).

 

You Can Do This!

July 21, 2016 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

THE FINAL STRETCH: THE BAR EXAM

The bar exam is next week and bar studiers are experiencing a variety of emotions. Please keep in mind that you worked hard in the weeks and days leading-up to this point.  Now, it is time to take care of yourself so you can perform at an optimal level.

Rest. Sleep is a tool to help you feel refreshed for the exam ahead and to help improve your memory.  With sleep, you can strengthen memories and skills you practiced while awake.  Memories of incorrect answers to essay or MBE questions become memorable fact patterns. 

In the alternative, do something else you find relaxing such as watching a movie or your favorite TV show, meeting-up with a non-law school friend for lunch or an activity, or just lounge around. Remind yourself that you have put in a lot of work and it is okay to rest a little.

Prepare. If you are flying or driving to the location of your exam, pack your belongings and pack your car early.  Ensure that you have the essential items but also consider packing one or two things that bring you comfort. 

Map-out your route to the testing site and determine how much time to allow but also consider alternative routes.

Layer your clothing in such a way that you can adjust to changes in temperature (extreme cold and extreme heat) throughout the testing period.

Have cash on hand as you might need it for parking, lunch, or other emergencies. Have a plan for where you will have lunch.  

Have a plan for how you will address stress, anxiety, and stay focused prior to the exam, during the exam, and after the exam. Think of how you will refresh for the next day. 

Visualize yourself sitting at the table, taking the bar exam, and passing the bar exam.

Meet the challenge. This is an exam you are likely to feel unprepared for regardless of how much time and effort you devoted to the process.  Trust your process and your intelligence.  You are capable of reading and following directions so you know what to do.  You have completed hundreds of practice questions so you can do it.  You have compartmentalized and organized information in a number of ways so you can retrieve information.

You own and only have control over your experience so stop comparing yourself to others. Be optimistic! Stay forward looking!  You have the Academic Support and Bar Preparation educator(s) at your law school cheering you on.  You can do it, truly. (Goldie Pritchard)

July 20, 2016 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Last Minute Bar Preparation Tips II

The “practice run” through should be your priority. As a bar studier, you want to mentally prepare for the exam ahead and the best way to do this is to mimic the circumstances surrounding the bar exam.  Next week is ideal for this type of activity because you are done with bar review and have a full week.

Read and Follow the Instructions

Know the policies of your exam site and the policies of the jurisdiction where you are taking the bar exam. Know what items are permitted and what items are prohibited. Ensure that you do not bring prohibited items such as cell phones, fitness trackers, or bar review books. Ensure that you bring necessary items such as admission ticket, identification card, laptop, and writing utensils. Know what type of behavior is prohibited and ensure that you comply. Review information included with your admission ticket and (re)visit your jurisdiction website for any policy updates.

Know the Structure of the Exam

Ensure that you know the dates of your exam and what component of the exam is administered on each of the days and in each of the sessions. If you have a three day exam (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), then know what component of the exam is covered on each of those days. Know whether you have essays in the morning and performance tests in the afternoon or vice versa. Know what time each session begins and ends.

Practice

Practicing on the days and at the time of your exam a week before your bar exam is ideal. You may have only practiced one session (3 hours) of essays, performance tests, or MBE. You may have practiced a full day (6 hours) of MBE or a writing day practice but you have not done it in the same sequence as the bar exam. The goal of this exercise is to see how you maintain your stamina, how you engage with the material at the times you need to, and how you manage two or three days of testing in a row. It will likely be an exhausting process and plan to be unable to do anything each night. The focus of this exercise is not on assessing whether you will pass the exam based on your performance. Bar studiers focus on the score rather than on time management, energy, and the like. Adrenaline keeps you going on exam day but you are fighting fatigue from the past few months and you want to train your brain to engage when you need it to. This is also an opportunity to practice following the policies of your testing center and jurisdiction. (Goldie Pritchard)

July 13, 2016 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Practice MBE Aftermath

Unlike the fear of the bar exam essay, bar studiers tend to face the practice MBE exam head on. Maybe because with multiple choice questions the correct answer is included in the answer options and one has a one in four chance of uncovering it.  Also, one could attribute poor performance on the MBE to the format of the exam, multiple choice questions.  Either way, comprehensive information recall is not perceived as imperative because of the hope that facts might trigger recollection.  The challenge is whether recollection is accurate or complete. 

Post practice MBE, three categories of bar studiers emerge: (1) the Confident Conqueror, (2) the Insecure Naysayer, and (3) the Earnest Hard Worker.

The Confident Conqueror likely met or exceeded the benchmark for “success.”  This person is excited and might even be arrogant about their achievement.  They know that they will pass the bar exam.  Social media might be where they announce their achievement or they might share their score with students in their bar review course.  For some, this achievement provides confidence and energy needed to effectively continue the process.  For others, this success is detrimental because laziness, procrastination, or bad study habits takeover.   

The Insecure Naysayer is the polar opposite of the Confident Conqueror.  This person is devastated because they failed to meet or barely met the benchmark for “success.” They previously may have been fearful and intimidated by the bar study process but they are even more fearful now.  Complaining may have been a habit for this person but now they have justification for their frustration.  Following the study schedule, completing assignments, and carefully following the program did not yield expected results.  They are convinced that they will not pass the bar exam. 

The Earnest Hard Worker is somewhere in between the Confident Conqueror and the Insecure Naysayer.  This person’s performance might be in the middle of the pack or they may have failed or achieved the benchmark for “success.”  Regardless of their performance, this person is working smart and not hard.  They are self-aware and aware of the progression in their studies.  They may have challenging moments but they can always pick themselves up or  rally individuals who can help.

Whether bar studiers find themselves in one of these categories or none of them, maintaining a hopeful and positive attitude combined with hard work is necessary for success. (Goldie Pritchard)

June 29, 2016 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)