Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I Am Here For That But…Wow

As we enter the final days of bar preparation, emotions run very high. Students who appeared to manage stress well are falling apart and the realization that the bar exam marks the end of their education career engenders fears of “adulting”. Other fears, concerns, and physical manifestations also seem to permeate day to day bar preparation. As a Bar Support office, we are keenly aware of student panic and stress about the bar exam and are equally sensitive to both expected and unexpected personal and other concerns. Below are a few issues students can contend with:

Family and friends interfere. Well-intentioned family members and friends think this is an ideal time to conduct internet searches about the bar exam and share all of the scary details they uncover with the person studying for the bar exam. Shared information relates to bar pass rates, horror stories about preparing for the exam, and countless comments from students on various blogs and discussion groups. Some students studying for the bar exam are able to dismiss this information while others obsess over it and are derailed. This usually leads to mornings spent dispelling myths, putting information in context, and/or reminding individuals studying for the bar exam that they still have control over their fate. Moreover, if family and friends are a source of stress and panic then this probably is the time to stay away from them but also tell them what you need and don’t need.

My body hates me. I have to admit that lately, I have heard many gruesome stories about physical manifestations of stress and negative physical reactions to food. I will not share all of these here but students should be aware of what is going on with them physically. Certain ailments or discomforts might require you to take immediate action, others might require you to live with them until the exam is over, and yet others may only be address after the bar exam.

I hate you right now. As individual meetings with students end and we complete the final essays, mini-Multistate Bar Exams, or Multistate Performance Tests together, I try to select areas or things that particular students have expressed challenges with. A few students I have worked with throughout most of their law school careers often say: “no disrespect but I hate you right now.” I laugh and usually say: “I am here for that.” If our goal is to make weaknesses strengths then I will prey on all of the student’s weaknesses because it is possible that those very things will appear on the bar exam. It is also a good time to discuss how to manage areas of limited or no knowledge but still be able to focus enough and move on to the questions they are confident in.

Unconquerable fatigue. I hear more and more about chronic fatigue, sleep/rest that does not seem to result in refreshing energy, and insomnia all this results in lack of focus, feeling overwhelmed, and inability to be efficient or effective in completing tasks. Students appreciate when I affirm the difficulty of getting true rest and acknowledge productivity challenges but I also remind students that they are not alone. Students cannot perform to their optimal ability until they rest. I admonish them to tap into all the knowledge stored up and to do this, they might want to get some rest now because the day before the bar exam might be a significant challenge.

Every challenge makes you stronger! (Goldie Pritchard)

 

July 11, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Packing Checklist for the Bar Exam

With two weeks left until the bar exam, it is time to start getting your "game day" materials together.  I've created a packing checklist template to help you get started.  (See one sample below)  To begin, Download Bar Exam Day Packing Checklist.  Then compare my list to the official rules provided to you by your selected jurisdiction and make adjustments to the chart, if necessary.  Once the list is complete and accurate, start packing.  Make sure to double check everything before you actually leave for the exam.  If you are in doubt about something, bring it and leave it in your (or a friend's) car.  You can always return to your car later, if needed.  (Kirsha Trychta)

Bar Exam Day Packing Checklist
 

July 10, 2018 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

I Am Discouraged By Bar Preparation

“I am very discouraged by the process of preparing for the bar exam!” “I do not know if I can keep going, I work so hard but I have hit a plateau.” “I seem to regress rather than progress. I do not think I will be ready to take this exam. Maybe I am not supposed to be a lawyer.” These are some of the comments I hear from recent graduates as the bar exam approaches. It is not uncommon for recent graduates to experience these types of feelings, as long as they do not stay stuck in a rut.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term “discourage” as:

(1) “to deprive of courage or confidence: dishearten”

(2) “to hinder by disfavoring”

(3) “to dissuade or attempt to dissuade from doing something”

Bar preparation can be a challenge to the very courage recent graduates mustered up to face the bar exam as well as a huge blow to confidence. The challenges they encounter can dissuade them from progressing but the strength they have within, that brought them thus far will carry them through.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term “dishearten” as:

“to cause to lose hope, enthusiasm, or courage: to cause to lose spirit or morale”

This definition encapsulates all of the negative emotions felt but I would imagine that very few individuals, if any, are enthusiastic about sitting for the bar exam. I view my role as the bar support individual who reminds students of their hopes and aspirations coming to law school. I am here to encourage and remind them of the challenges they overcame, some of which were unique to them. I also attempt to remind them of the need to rest, consider their mental health, and necessity to take an occasional break.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term “courage” as:

“mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty”

Recent graduates typically lose sight of the fact that the mental strength they need to face this difficult task that is the bar exam is already within them. Courage does not mean that the task does not seem insurmountable or that you possess all of the confidence in the world. It simply means that you see the difficulty, are unsure of the possible result, stare it down, move forward, and see what happens. You are as prepared as you can be, you face the unknown but you know that your preparation will empower you to face and overcome various obstacles. You can do it! Remember, you do not need to ace the bar exam, you simply need to pass it.

Now please take a break on this 4th of July! (Goldie Pritchard)

July 4, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hot Tips for Cool Learning - Based on the Latest Empirical Research

It's sweltering in much of the USA.  And, the heat is only getting hotter for the many recent law school grads preparing for next month's bar exam.  

So, I thought I'd offer a few "hot" tips on how to enhance one's learning this summer based on a recently published study entitled:  "Smarter Law School Habits: An Empirical Analysis of Law Learning Strategies and Relationship with LGPA," by Jennifer Cooper, adjunct professor at Tulane University, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3004988

As detailed in the article statistically analyzing study tactics and learning, Professor Cooper found that two particular study strategies are positively correlated with law school grades.  

The first is elaboration, i.e, explaining confusing concepts to others.  So, be a talker this summer as you prepare for your bar exam.  In short, be a teacher...be your teacher!

The second is the use of practice questions to learn.  So, grab hold of every opportunity you have this summer to learn by doing.  Take every mock bar exam you can.  Work through every bar exam practice problem available.  Be tenacious in your practice.  Learn by doing!

Finally, as documented by Professor Cooper, beware of reading and re-reading.  It might make you feel like you are learning, but there is little learning going on...until you put down the book and start working on problems for yourself.  And, that particularly makes sense with the bar exam...because...the bar exam is testing the "practice of law" not the "theory behind the law."  

So, throughout this summer, focus less on reading and more on active learning - through lots and lots of practice problems and self-taught elaboration to explain the legal principles and concepts - as you prepare for success on your bar exam next month.  (Scott Johns).

 

June 28, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Inevitable Roller Coaster: Bar Review

As we slowly approach the one month mark for the bar exam, strange things begin to happen. Bar Studiers we did not realize were in town surface in the building with questions and concerns and Bar Studiers we have seen regularly seek more and more encouragement to intensify their bar exam preparation. Interactions with Bar Studiers is normal but what is out of the ordinary are some of the things they share with us believing they are the only ones experiencing them. Bar Studiers do not realize there are other students who also experience similar series of challenges and misadventures. It is as if the universe knows that the bar exam is looming and sets up a number of obstacles along their path to test resilience, persistence, and character. Bar Studiers may not always recognize they are up for the challenge and we are here to remind them of this fact, help them strategies, and get them to their seats on bar exam day with a sense that they can tackle this seemingly impossible, yet possible obstacle.

Below are a handful of issues that surfaced this year and in the past and some of the approaches we have used, depending on an individual Bar Studier’s unique circumstances and needs.

Health Plays Games

Last week and this week, I heard sneezes in the hallways and several Bar Studiers have been missing in action for a day or two. Some notified me that they will not be around as they know that I will inquire about their whereabouts. I parted with two boxes of Kleenex and a giant bottle of hand sanitizer was in significant use. I understand that allergies are in full swing and immune systems struggle to keep up with the pace many adopted to manage bar preparation. To put things in perspective, it is better to temporarily get sick now than on exam day. In response to panic about falling behind in bar review and feeling unprepared for the exam, we discuss how to rearrange schedules, move tasks around, and use small spurts of activity with scheduled rest. I prescribe sleep and okay short naps emphasizing the importance of sleep even though it seems impossible to have restful sleep due to constant thoughts about bar preparation. We insist that Bar Studiers see a doctor if need be and fill necessary prescriptions so as not to exasperated preexisting conditions and developed new ones.

If Bar Studiers are concerned about falling behind, we suggest low-intensity activities that allow them to complete tasks, go through flashcards on an app or physical cards, and memorize information. We discuss a plan for the next day so all they do is implemented with some room for adjustment. We try to find habits that can be implemented in the days and weeks to come so they are ready for the exam. We also explore worse case scenarios and how they will manage such situations on exam day. Of course, nothing is a guarantee but it is a start.

Life Happens

At a bar exam program presented several years ago, a speaker announced that everything that can go wrong will go wrong during bar review and everything you have ever wanted to do will become a possibility during bar review. She continued that bar review is only a few weeks and months out of your entire life and you will likely have the opportunity to experience many of the things you miss out on at some point in the future. Over the years, I note that Bar Studiers experience a range of life occurrences including: death in the family, breakups with significant others and spouses, issues with character and fitness on the bar application, car accidents, financial challenges (even with planning), lack of food, familial demands and expectations, emotional and physical impact of socio-political events, and much more. Life does not simply stop because you are studying for the bar exam. You will have both good days and not so good days and your reaction to and feelings about everything will be amplified.

You might waste a day or a half a day attending to real life situations and that is okay and necessary but it does not mean that you will be unable to complete your preparation for this exam. If however, life completely takes over and when you assess the situation you recognize that you are unable to sustain the pace and expectations of bar review then you might want to have a conversation with someone. You want to discuss alternatives or develop a new game plan to achieve your goals. Be open and honest with yourself and those helping you.

Fear Sets In

Obsession over percentile performance on the MBE and scores on the essays breeds fear and sometimes avoidance for many Bar Studiers. As Bar Studiers compare themselves to others through grading or communication with each other. Some academically strong Bar Studiers become disappointed and recoil. Others decide not to complete essays or MBEs until they have mastered the subject area. Each score becomes a determinative factor of whether they will pass or fail this exam. This is not necessarily true but it takes a lot to convince a student otherwise. I am always more concerned about those Bar Studiers who are left to their own devices than those who communicate these concerns and communicate their plans.

Here again, it is all about perspective. We like to use the experiences and advice of individuals who recently took the bar exam and were successful. We ask them what they did, how they did it, how they felt at various points of bar preparation, and I deem this more effective than anything else. I also try to put things in perspective by reminding Bar Studiers of what they should get from completing the practice, discuss the expectations of the exam with regard to time management, and remind them that exposure adds to the knowledge and confidence with which they approach the exam.

…But We Finish Strong

Bar Studiers, compete with yourself and no one else. Do your best and ensure that you reasonably do what you need to and can do so you have no regrets on exam day. You will not know everything, you will have a working knowledge of all subjects, and you have a plan for the more challenging areas. When you need a break, take a reasonable break and remain focused on the task ahead. Many before you went into the exam feeling just like you will feel and they came out on top; they passed the bar exam! Develop a plan for the days and weeks ahead. You have time to cater to your weaknesses and build strength. You can do this! (Goldie Pritchard)

June 20, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

3 More UBE Jurisdictions + Digital MPRE

In the last few weeks, three more states adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE): Tennessee, Illinois, and Rhode Island. Tennessee & Rhode Island will begin administering the UBE in February 2019, while Illinois is slated to begin in July 2019. In total, 33 jurisdictions (including 31 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have agreed to administer the UBE.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners also announced that it "has started the process of converting the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) from a paper-based to a computer-based delivery platform. The transition will happen in phases and will be completed by 2020."

(Kirsha Trychta)

June 19, 2018 in Bar Exams, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Studying vs. Learning: A Matter of Perspective

It's the time of the year when one group of graduates are taking their oaths of office while another group of graduates are preparing for the bar exam this summer.  That brings me to an interesting conversation with a recent bar passer and his spouse about studying versus learning.

You see, with an introduction in hand, I asked the bar passer's spouse if she noticed anything different between her spouse's law school experience preparing for final exams and her spouse's bar prep experiencing in preparing for the bar exam.

Without hesitation, the report came back: "No. It was much the same, same hours, same long days, the same through and through."  

In rapid response and without the slightest hesitation, the recent graduate - who just passed the bar exam - exclaimed that it was "totally different. No comparison between preparing for law school exams and the bar exam."  

You see, according to his spouse's perspective, preparing for law school exams and bar exams outwardly seemed identical, but, according to the recent graduate, in law school he spent most of his time reading...and reading...and reading...and then learning as much as he could just a few days before final exams.  In other words, he spent his law school years studying.  In contrast, even though outwardly he put in similar hours for bar prep as for law school studies, his focus was on practicing...and practicing...and practicing.  In other words, for law school he was studying; for the bar exam he was learning.

So, for those of you preparing for the bar exam this summer, focus on learning - not studying.  What does that mean?  Well, a great day is completing two tasks: working through lots of actual bar exam problems and then journaling about what you learned that very day.  Yep...that very day.  That's key.  Learn today.  Spend less time studying (reading commercial outlines, watching lectures, and reading lecture notes) and more time learning (doing lots and lots of practice problems).  That's because on bar exam day you aren't going to be asked about what you read but rather asked to show what you can do.  So, be a doer this summer!  (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 14, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A "Get-To" vs. "Got-To" Attitude as a Spring Board to Learning!

We're just about three weeks into bar prep.  The excitement of graduation seems so long ago.  We're back in the same 'ole schoolhouse setting, watching bar review lectures and working through hypothetical legal problems.  Sure seems like the same old pattern as law school.  But, it need not be.

But first, a bit of background...

In aviation, air traffic controllers will often query pilots about their altitude.  It's a bit of a hint from the controllers to the pilots that something might be amiss.  And, it almost sounds sort of polite:  "Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, Say Altitude."  

In response, the pilots make a quick check of the altimeter - the instrument that measures altitude (i.e, height of the airplane in the skies) to confirm that they are at proper altitude as assigned by air traffic control:  "Roger Denver Approach Control, Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, level at 15,000 feet."  

In between the two communications, however, you can bet that the pilots were quickly making some fast-footed adjustments to the aircraft's altitude to make sure that they would not be busted by the air traffic controllers.

That brings us back to the world of bar prep.  A quick "attitude check" might be similarly helpful for your learning.

You see, as Professor Chad Noreuil from Arizona State University puts it in his book entitled "The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam," it can be mighty helpful for your learning to have what I call an "attitude check."  In particular, as Professor Noreuil cites in his book, researchers have identified a positive relationship between an optimistic approach to learning and achievement in learning.  Consequently, Professor Noreuil counsels bar takers to take on a "get-to" attitude rather than a "have-to" attitude towards bar prep because a "get-to" attitude improves one's chances of succeeding on the bar exam.  That's what I refer to as a "get-to" versus a "got-to" attitude.

But how do you change your attitude from a "got-to" to a "get-to" attitude?  Well, here's a possible approach that might just help provide some perspective about the wonderful opportunity that you have to take the bar exam this summer.  You see, very few have that opportunity.  That's because the numbers are just stacked against most people.  They'll never get the chance that you have this summer.  

Here are the details.  According to the U.S. government, there are about 7.5 billion people worldwide, and the U.S. population is close to 330 million.  https://www.census.gov/popclock/   Out of that population, according to the ABA, there are about 35,000 law school JD graduates per year.  That's it.  https://www.americanbar.org/content/  And, because most states require a JD in order to to the bar exam, very few people get to take a bar exam, very few indeed.  

That brings me back to you.  As a JD grad preparing for the bar exam, you are one of the very few who get to take the bar exam.  So, take advantage of that opportunity this summer by approaching your bar exam studies as once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to "get-to" show your state supreme court all the wonderful things that you have learned about practicing law.  You've worked hard in law school for just such a season as this, so, to paraphrase a popular slogan, "Just do it...but do it with a get-to attitude this summer!  (Scott Johns).

 

June 7, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I Am Concerned About Bar Studies!

Like many of my colleagues, I am attending the Annual Association of Academic Support Educators Conference but that does not mean that work stops. Students know I am away but the panic does not subside despite leaving them with human and other resources. In between sessions and late evening into the night, I check email, respond to phone messages, critique essays, and prepare for bar exam programming. Many of the student messages I have received relate to bar exam preparation as some students have completed a week of bar review while others started bar review programs this week. Below are a few categories of student questions and concerns.

How do I learn the material?

I particularly love this question because it means that students are thinking about what they are doing while considering the long-term impact of what they do now. Furthermore, considering the depth of understanding rather than simply being able to recall information contributes to better performance on various components of the bar exam. This question often comes up when students have completed about a week of bar review and have likely covered two to three subject areas. They usually recognize the fast pace of the program and volumes of material they need to know but also anticipate what they have yet to cover. Students also recognize that simply watching lectures, reading material, and doing homework do not necessarily equate to studying for the test. In sum, students realize that passive review is helpful in the short term but they also need to retain, retrieve, and apply the information which might require active learning for long-term maximization of effort. We discuss how active work on the bar exam components until the end of the bar review period could help. We also discuss memorization, practice under timed and untimed circumstances, skill development in each of the components of the bar exam, self-care, and how to incorporate all of these things into their day to day lives.

How do I memorize the information?

This is another question I appreciate because yet again, students are considering the long-term access to information while possibly determining if they truly understand the information. Simply “looking at,” “reading,” and “hearing” a lot of law does not result in retention of the information. We discuss activities and tools past bar studiers used to memorize information and to revisit the information on a regular basis. Some examples include writing down all they can recall from memory for a particular topic, flash cards, random pop quizzes, and using a variety of bar review applications.

How do I use all of these resources?

This question relates to the issue of excessive bar review resources. Many well- intentioned alums who may have been successful on the bar exam the first time around, the second time around, or later feel the need to share their knowledge with current bar takers. Some of the offered advice is good, some horrible, and some does not apply to the individual shared with. The worse scenario is when one bar taker receives advice and materials from practically ten different individuals, all possibly swearing that a specific system or book is what led them to pass the bar; therefore, urging the bar taker to do the same. There are students who have materials from more than one bar vendor and numerous supplemental bar support books. They are overwhelmed and do not know what to do nor where to start. I instill in these bar takers that they paid for a bar review program and should start there. They should also have a general awareness of resources available to them, talk to me about various challenges along the way so as to collaboratively identify possible solutions, and discuss the incorporation of suitably identified resources. Simply doing everything everyone did does not necessarily help. I remind them that they are operating within a limited timeframe and most of them are pressed for time and each person needs to journey through.

How do I stay motivated?

To my astonishment and concern, this year as compared to previous years, some students have expressed a lack of motivation on day one and week one of bar review. Usually, adrenaline motivates them on day one and at least through week two but that does not seem to be the case. Several students are fatigued by the three-year law school journey while others took a vacation between graduation and bar review and both now experience difficulties getting into the swing of bar review. To address this, we discuss how to manage the upcoming three day weekend particularly since they have a “day off” (technically). This might be an ideal opportunity to rest and recoup once plans have been made for effective time management of the bar review period and also after completing assignments.

Happy Bar Review Season to all my colleagues who participate in bar review preparation! (Goldie Pritchard)

May 23, 2018 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Takeaways from AccessLex's Bar Exam Research Forum

I, along with about 40 other bar-exam professionals, attended the inaugural AccessLex Bar Exam Research Forum in Washington, D.C. on April 26, 2018.

The morning began with a keynote address entitled "The Bar Exam and the Future of Legal Education" presented by Patricia D. White, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law.  Dean White outlined her role as the chair of a new 10-person Commission on the Future of Legal Education, an initiative of American Bar President Hilarie Bass.  She explained that she and her fellow committee members intend to investigate: (1) the skill set needed to practice law, (2) access to justice issues, and (3) bar exam licensure requirements.  Dean White then spoke about the potential causes for the "downturn" in nationwide MBE scores in 2014 and what it really means to be "minimally competent" to practice law.  I found Dean White's presentation to be insightful, innovative, and inspiring.  If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, I highly recommend it!

Rodney Fong, Associate Dean at The John Marshall Law School, spoke briefly about "Breaking Bar Pass Barriers Today" before we broke into our first of two working group sessions.  Our task for the first working group session was to identify what research needs to be conducted to ensure that today's law students pass today's bar exams.  The working groups suggested developing a database that includes detailed background information on each test taker, similar to the LSAC's handling of the LSAT; increasing collaboration between the ABA, NCBE, and the numerous state boards; and drawing upon other higher education disciplines and professional schools for guidance.  

After lunch, Judith Welch Wegner, Professor Emerita and Dean Emerita of the University of North Carolina School of Law, discussed "The Future of the Bar Exam," focusing on what tomorrow's bar exam should look like and why.  We then broken into our second working group session, with the goal of identifying what research needs to be conducted to produce the best new bar exam format by 2025.  The working groups didn't hold back, offering suggestions ranging from administering sections of the bar exam after each year of law school to eliminating the exam entirely.  

In short, AccessLex put together an extremely innovative and collaborative forum.  With 40 key stakeholders in the same room (including representatives from the ABA and NCBE, law school deans, academic support professionals, statisticians, and higher education specialists), everyone was able to really dive deep into thoughtful discussions about how best to improve legal education generally, and the bar exam specifically.  The program concluded with AccessLex inviting participants to apply for its inaugural Bar Success Research Grant.  Initial letters of inquiry for the grant will be accepted during the month of May.

(Kirsha Trychta)

May 1, 2018 in Bar Exams, Meetings, Science, Teaching Tips, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Internal Signaling: The Power of Motivational Self-Talk to Improve Performance

Having just returned from a bar exam conference, I am struck by how little we know about what actually correlates to success on the bar exam.  Nevertheless, for our students, it is common to jump to the conclusion that bar exam results are "preordained" based on a complex mathematical formula consisting of primarily (or indeed solely) LGPA and LSAT scores.  In other words, those that pass have high numbers; those that don't, don't.  

Interestingly, in our attempt to reduce the complexity of life experiences to numbers, there are always what we refer to as "outliers."  People that pass (or fail) regardless of LGPA and LSAT scores.  I sometimes wonder whether we are all outliers because even the best of statistical models fails to accurately predict bar passage results for our students.  And, that brings me to the field of human performance.  

You see, according to writer Alex Hutchinson, early on in the field of sports-based human performance, "[p]hysiologists pieced together an impressively detailed picture of the factors that - in theory - dictate our ultimate capacity [in terms of predicting athletic success]....There was one problem with this approach: It couldn't predict who would win an athletic contest....Clearly, something was missing from the 'human machine' picture of athletic limits."  Alex Hutchison, The Mental Tricks of Athletic Endurance, Wall Street Journal (February 2, 2018), available at:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-mental-tricks-of-athletic-endurance. That something tends to be not easily reducible to biological measurement; it tends to be what some refer to colloquially as "head games."

In other words, in an athletic competition, your body is sending signals to your brain about the current physiological state of your body, i.e., whether you are running of out of energy, or dehydrated, or overheated, etc.  As interpreted by your brain, those signals then become self-fulfilling; they can serve to limit our endurance and our perseverance such that they become a barrier to improving our athletic performance.  However, psychologists have begun to explore the power of motivational self-talk to reinterpret those signals so that they do not in fact have such determinative power over athletic performance.  According to Dr. Hutchinson, it seems that positive self-talk can boost performance beyond what we think is possible based merely on the internal signaling of our biological markers.

That raises an interesting question with respect to bar passage.  We often hear people analogize that passing the bar requires preparation akin to preparing for a marathon.  As such, there's a case to be made that it might not be true that LGPA and LSAT are the major determinant signals as to who passes the bar exam.  Indeed, it is much more nuanced and complex; otherwise, why have a bar exam at all if results are preordained by past testing results in the form of LGPA and LSAT scores?    

Well, to be frank, we have a bar exam precisely because we know that LGPA and LSAT scores do not determine bar pass results.  And, as in athletic competitions, I have a hunch that one's self-talk has much to do with one's success in overcoming the nagging self-doubts that are common to most of us ("I don't fit in the law; I can't pass the bar exam; there's way too much to learn to pass the bar; I just don't have the time needed to pass the bar; I wasn't much of a success in law school so I'm not going to be successful on the bar exam; etc.").  Although there is no "magic cure-all," and of course LGPA and LSAT scores indicate something, it is important to recall that "something" doesn't mean "everything."  

And, that's where we come in.  Our bar exam destiny is not predetermined.  It is something that we can positively and concretely influence and improve by acting upon positive self-talk as we work - problem by problem and question by question - to train ourselves for success on the bar exam.  Those two things go hand-in-hand - "practice and talk" and "talk and practice."  So, whether you are preparing yourself for final exams or getting ready to study for the bar exam, pay attention to your self-talk.  Indeed, ask yourself today "What am I telling myself and is it really true or not?" (Scott Johns).

 

April 26, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

NCBE Reports February 2018 Average MBE Bar Exam Score

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has indicated that the national average MBE multiple-choice scaled score for the February 2018 bar exam declined once again.  As illustrated in the chart below, the MBE score has declined from near-term highs of 138 to 132.8 in just the span of a few short years.  

February 2018 MBE Averages

According to the NCBE, "[r]epeat test takers comprised about 70% of those who sat in February 2018 and had an average score of 132.0, a 1.7-point decrease compared to February 2017. This result drove the change in the overall February 2018 MBE mean."  http://www.ncbex.org/news/repeat-test-taker-scores-drive-february-2018-average-mbe-score-decline/.  

In contrast, the NCBE reports that the February 2018 average MBE score for first-time takers remained relatively flat, 135.0 for February 2018 first-time takers as compared to 135.3 for February 2017 first-time takers.  There have been several changes to the MBE exam over the last few years. In February 2015, the NCBE added another subject to the scope of the multiple-choice exam with the addition of Federal Civil Procedure.  And, in February 2017, the NCBE changed the number of pre-test (otherwise known as experimental) questions from 10 to 25, resulting in the 200 point scaled score calculated out of a total of 175 graded questions rather than previous MBE exams which graded 190 questions.  In addition, for the February 2018 MBE exam, the scope of Property Law was expanded to include some new sub-topics.

For those of you taking the July 2018 exam, there are several take-aways.  First, the MBE exam is a difficult exam.  Second, you can't learn to pass the exam without practicing the exam.  Third, statistics don't determine your destiny; rather, your destiny is in your hands, in short, it's in the reading, the analyzing, and the practicing of multiple-choice questions that can make a real positive difference for your own individual score.  So, please don't fret.  It's not impossible...at all. 

Finally, let me be frank.  In my own case, as I work through practice MBE questions, I am NEVER confident that I am getting the answers correct. And, that is REALLY frustrating. In fact, when I get a question right, I am glad but often surprised.  So, I try to NOT be confident that I have chosen the correct answer but rather be CONFIDENT that I am reading CAREFULLY and that I am METHODICALLY puzzling through the answer choices to step-by-step eliminate incorrect choices to help me better get to the correct answers.  

So, for those of you taking the bar exam this summer, take it slow and steady.  Ponder over every multiple-choice question you can.  Eliminate obviously wrong choices.  And, you might even keep a daily journal of your multiple-choice progress, perhaps by simply creating a spreadsheet of the issues tested, the rules used, and a few helpful tips as reminders of what to be on the lookout for as you approach your bar exam this summer.  In short, make it your aim to be a problem-solver learner.  (Scott Johns).

April 19, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April Fool's Day Flashback

On April 1, 2014, Alex Ruskell, former contributing editor to this blog and current Director of Academic Success at the University of South Carolina School of Law, wrote a hilarious post entitled "New Bar Exam Section -- Interpretive Dance."  The post is so funny that I thought it was worth re-posting today.  Happy April Fool's Day!  (Kirsha Trychta)

April 1, 2018 in About This Blog, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Congrats February 2018 Bar Takers!

Congratulations Feb 2018 Bar Takers!

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.  Or, Instagram them.  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).

March 1, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The "Key" to Golden Success - Being "Super Chill?"

As described by reporters Sara Germano and Ben Cohen, Norway might have a secret weapon in winning so many gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Korea this month, namely, being "super chill."  https://www.wsj.com/mostchillnationiscrushingit

Surprisingly, even just a few hours before a big competition, the Norwegian athletes are still living life, speaking freely with reporters and chatting & laughing it up.  Indeed, the Norwegians are even taking time off to, well, to play video games, have fun, and to socially relax with others.  Yep, they watch TV, they play jigsaw puzzles, and they even have a day or two prior to their big events to be completely "100% free."  You see, according to Norwegian coach Alex Stöckl: "It's important [in achieving success that the athletes] can turn off their minds."

There's an important message here for those of you taking the bar exam next week.  It's A-okay for you to take Monday off before your big event next Tuesday and Wednesday in sitting for your bar exam.  

I know...  

It's REALLY hard to take anytime off, let alone all-day Monday.  But, as illustrated by the success of Norway's athletes, rest strengthens us, rest empowers us, rest restores us.  So, take a lesson from the Olympians and feel free to give your mind a day of rest before the bar exam.  You've earned it...and...you've got golden proof that it works, especially in preparation for high stake events.  (Scott Johns).

 

February 22, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bar Exam Positive Affirmation

Every year, I am aware of the stress that bar studiers experience the week before the bar exam but I continue to be surprised by its various forms of manifestation. Some bar studiers are so fearful of the exam ahead that they consider sitting for the bar exam at a later date, some anticipate everything that could possibly go wrong, while others simply doubt their ability to pass after all the time and work they have invested. It is perfectly normal to have concerns and be nervous about the bar exam but when they ignore progress they have already made throughout the bar review process and when self-doubt, fear of failure, and a defeatist attitude dominate then momentum and progress made thus far could hinder the last few days of bar exam preparation. It is heartbreaking to be aware of the obstacles a bar studier has overcome to get to this point in bar preparation then see every bit of confidence they built up seemingly disappear. Worse of all is when the bar studier who served as the support system for other bar studiers breaks down. Fear is contagious and particularly when those who have relied on the strength of another become overwhelmed and scared when that person is overcome by fear and doubt.

If we are what we think then we must derive words that manifest our intentions and hopes. Even if we do not completely believe all that we say, we can at least state a desire we might like to see manifested and propel ourselves into making it a reality. Similarly, a change in attitude and a positive outlook on a situation may well become reality. I encourage bar studiers to have a few positive affirmations they can read out loud, say to themselves, or say with others. I ask them to think about something other than: “I will pass the bar exam.” I ask them to be specific with their choice of words to counter negative thoughts.

Below are some of the affirmations bar takers have shared with me over the years. Each is unique to individual bar taker’s state of mind and concern.

 

Affirmations

“I am capable of passing the bar exam because I have done everything necessary and in my power to ensure that result”  

“I have been given endless talents which I can utilize to tackle unanticipated subjects on my essays and tasks on the MPT”

“I have a process for tackling MBE questions and when I panic, I will go back to my process”

“I have prepared for whatever comes my way (proctor failing to give 5-minute warning, others getting sick, others discussing issues I did not identify, etc..) on each exam day”

“I will stay away from people who create additional stress until the bar exam is over in order to surround myself with positivity”

“When I panic about my surroundings on exam day, I will remember that I have done this before (completed 200 MBEs in 6 hours) in bar review and get into my zone”

“I am capable, I made it through law school and can make it through this exam”

“I was very focused in my preparation for the bar exam so I am prepared”

“I will turn my nervous feelings into productive and positive energy to maximize my performance on this exam”

“I know most of what I need to know and what I don’t know I have a strategy for”

“Every day I got better at the tasks and will be my best on bar exam days”

“Passing the bar exam is not ACING the bar exam, it is achieving the passing score and I can do that. I reject the spirit of perfectionism”

“I succeed even in stressful situations”

“Today I release my fears and open my mind to new possibilities”

“Whatever I need to learn always comes my way at just the right moment”

(Goldie Pritchard)

February 21, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Matter of Perspective...Makes All the Difference in Learning!

Howdy Bar Prep Students:
 
I am writing this note especially to those of you currently in the midst of preparing for the February 2018 bar exam.
 
If you're like me, about this time in bar prep, I felt like I was striking out...1...2...3...yikes...another swing at a question with another miss.  I didn't even come close to the right answer so many times. And, so many times I wanted to throw in the towel.
 
But, it's not the misses that count...but...rather...what you're learning along the way.  In fact, it's in our misses that we learn where we need to improve so that we can more confidently demonstrate our spectacular problem-solving abilities to our chosen Supreme Court bar.  So, capitalize on your mistakes by turning them into positive lessons learned to improve your problem-solving skills.
 
Frankly, that's hard to do...unless we realize that we all have amazing strengths as we work on preparing for bar exams.  You see, to use a baseball analogy, some of us are pitchers, some catchers, a few umpires, and some runners.  And, there's room a plenty for all of us regardless of our "playing positions" as attorneys of the state supreme court bar.  So don't give up on yourself just because you feel like you are striking out.  We all feel that way.  Rather, keep on looking at the bright side by learning through doing lots of practice problems.  That little change in perspective - turning misses into pluses - can make all the difference in your learning.  To help give you a perspective of what this might look like in action, take a quick look at this short video clip:   https://www.passiton.com/inspirational-stories-tv-spots/99-the-greatest   And, good luck as you continue to learn in preparation for success on you bar exam this winter.  (Scott Johns).

January 25, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Shopper's Guide to Bar Review Products, 2 of 2

In this two-part series, I hope to provide you with the information you'll need to make an informed decision when you select which commercial company (or companies) you'll use to prepare for the bar exam.  In Part 1, I introduced you to both full-service courses and supplemental specialty options.  Now, in Part 2, I'll offer some tips and suggestions on how to make your final decision and how to get the best price.

Tip 1: Try Before You Buy

All of the full-service companies offer a free MPRE course.  You should sign-up for all of the MPRE courses so that you can take a "test drive" of each company's software, digital platform, and print materials.  You may find that you really like one company's website or print materials more than the others.  For the specialty supplements, ask your academic support or bar support professor if they have any sample materials for you to review.  Most professors get free sample copies of bar preparation materials, like the Critical Pass flashcards and Rigos outline books.  And, if your professor doesn't have a copy to show you, check the law school library. 

Tip 2: Haggle for Discounts

Most would agree that if you pay sticker price for a car or any product at Bed, Bath & Beyond (20% off coupons!), then you're a fool.  The same is true for bar review courses.  You can always get some sort of discount, if you're willing to put in a little bit of effort. 

First, register for the MPRE course.  In addition to the benefit of the test-drive mentioned above, you'll likely get a coupon for a few dollars off their full-review course.  The emailed coupon will say something like, "Did you like the MPRE course?  If so, buy our comprehensive bar review course.  Here's a $50 coupon if you sign-up before the deadline."  You'll also get alerted to any flash-sales that the company might be offering.  (Getting too many promotional emails?  Every email comes with an "opt out" or "unsubscribe" link at the bottom, so you can choose to stop receiving the promotional emails at any time.)

Second, ask the salesperson if you qualify for any special discounts.  Students with a public interest law affiliation, bar association membership, or demonstrated financial hardship typically qualify for a discounted rate.  These discounts may not be advertised; instead, you'll need to affirmatively ask about them.

Third, ask if the company is willing to price match.  Some companies will match (or even beat) your best written offer, much like a car dealership or major retail store.

Fourth, ask for an interest-free payment plan, if you can't afford the upfront cost.  Your financial aid office may also be able to re-structure your financial aid package during your last year of law school to help you with bar-exam related costs.

Tip 3: Consider Bidding for a Course

Most students will purchase their bar review course directly from the company.  But each year a handful of students get a great deal on a course through some third-party source, such as a law school's public interest auction, student organization raffle, or scholarship program.  Before putting down any non-refundable deposit, you should investigate whether your school will be offering an opportunity to bid on a course or apply for a scholarship program. 

Tip 4: Read the Contract

Treat the bar review course buying experience like a major financial transaction.  Read all of the paperwork that is presented to you.  Negotiate.  Don't sign anything that you don't understand or agree with.  Remember, you actually have a lot of power in this buyer-seller relationship because there a lot of companies all vying for the same, small target audience (namely: you).  If you need help with the process, ask you academic support or bar support professor for guidance.

Tip 5: Wait Until, at least, 2L Year to Commit

There is very little benefit to putting down a non-refundable deposit with a company during your first-year of law school.  Just wait.  Shop around and get to know the lay-of-the-land before committing to a $1,500-$2,500 deal.  During that time you can investigate your third-party options and get quotes from all of the vendors.  You may also make a new friend or join a study group during law school.  If so, you may want to buy the same course as your study buddy to better enable you to study together during bar prep season.  In short, you really don't need to have everything ironed until the start of your final semester of school.

(Kirsha Trychta)

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Shopper's Guide to Bar Review Products, 1 of 2

In this two-part series, I hope to provide you with the information you'll need to make an informed decision when you select which commercial company (or companies) you'll use to prepare for the bar exam.  In Part 1, I'll introduce you to both full-service review courses and specialty supplemental options.  Then, in Part 2, I'll offer some tips on how to make your final decision and how to get the best price.

The three most popular companies offering comprehensive, full service bar review preparation programs are Barbri, Kaplan, and Themis.

Barbri is the oldest and most popular choice, and also tends to be the most expensive, with programs currently starting at $2,895. Barbri offers live lectures at select cities nationwide and pre-recorded online lectures for those students studying in cities without live lectures.  According to a Barbri representative, "For nearly 50 years, BARBRI has helped over 1.2 million law school graduates pass the bar exam across all 50 states, in all jurisdictions. Our courses include access to cutting-edge learning technology like our Personal Study Plan, Essay Architect, and LawMaster Study Keys. With BARBRI, you’ll have the ability to complete the course completely online or attend a lecture in a classroom setting – we’ve got all your bases covered! When it comes to your bar exam, don’t leave it up to chance and go with the most experienced and tested course!" 

Kaplan began decades ago as a multiple-choice focused company (then-called PMBR), and now offers a full-service package starting at $1,599.  According to a Kaplan representative, Kaplan Bar Review offers a comprehensive bar review course that is tailored to each student, and includes: (a) over 4,000 practice MBE questions; (b) unlimited essay grading with over 200 practice essays, each graded by barred attorneys; (c) two full-length MBE practice tests and one full-length practice bar exam under timed conditions; (d) a personalized final study plan tailored to each student’s unique strengths and weaknesses; and (e) a money-back guarantee.  Kaplan offers both live lectures in select cities and pre-recorded online lectures.  In addition, Kaplan has a Price Match Guarantee, pledging to offer their course for $100 less than the price of any other company’s course.

Themis, is the newest of the three companies, and has quickly made a name for itself, with comprehensive on-demand courses starting at $1,845, before applicable discounts.  Unlike its competitors, Themis does not offer any live lectures; all the lectures are pre-recorded.  Themis representatives boast that "Themis is built around learning science to help you study for the bar more efficiently and effectively.  Themis is the only company that releases their pass rates, which are almost always better than students who choose to take another course.  And with Themis, the course schedule adapts as you fall behind or work ahead, helping to keep you focused on what you need for exam day.  Also, Themis lectures are broken up into manageable chunks, allowing students to spend more or less time with a particular topic as needed."

In addition to the three juggernauts, numerous other companies offer a variety of a la carte services.

Adaptibar focuses exclusively on the multiple-choice component of the bar exam, offering 1,745 practice questions, most of which were obtained through a licensing agreement with the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The MBE course cost $395.

AmeriBar is lesser-known than some of it's full-service competitors, but offers a full course starting at $1,365.  AmeriBar also sells each exam component separately (e.g. $695 for the multi-state section), for those who want to create their own study package.  According to their website, AmeriBar's full review program includes "3,000+ pages of hard copy books; 1,000+ learning questions; 1,400+ actual released MBE questions; and 200+ essay questions."  

Critical Pass sells pre-printed flashcards covering the multiple-choice subjects. The 380 cards are color-coded, cross-referenced, and organized by subject and sub-topic, including indexes for each subject. Currently retailing for $149, the price includes free shipping and access to a companion mobile app.

Strategies & Tactics for the MBE, part of the Emanuel Bar Review, offers advice on how to analyze multiple-choice questions, including details on how to handle each MBE subject, step-by-step strategies for analyzing different question types, tips about how subtle differences in wording can completely change the meaning of an answer, and strategies for "rewording" questions in your mind to make them easier to analyze.  The 6th edition of this workbook currently retails on Amazon for $75.

Rigos offers several different packages ranging from outline books ($400 for the set of 5) to a full UBE course ($2,495).  Rigos is perhaps most popular for its creation of acronyms and mnemonics to help you easily memorize elements covering frequently asked legal concepts.  Rigos also offers a free MPRE course and a free 30-question multiple-choice assessment.

(Kirsha Trychta)

December 12, 2017 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Fresh Start" Steps for Bar Exam Repeaters!

'Tis the season, they say.  

But, for many law school graduates, the month of December seems like a herculean challenge because a number of graduates are preparing to retake the bar exam next February...after receiving devastating news that they did not pass.  

So, let me write directly to you...to those of you who did not pass the bar exam this past summer.

First, you do not have to be a repeater.  Repeaters repeat, with the same outcome likely to result.  Instead, it's time to take advantage of the information and the experience that you had and turn it into a "fresh start."  You see, you have "inside information," so to speak, that first-time takers lack.  You know what it's like to sit for the exam, and, in most states, you have concrete information about what you did that was great along with inside scoop about where you can improve.

But, where is this inside info?  

It's in the scores that you received along with your answers.  The first step on your "fresh start" journey takes incredible courage but is key...grab hold of your exam questions and answers and work through them, one by one, reading the questions, outlining answers, writing solutions, and reflecting on what you learned through re-writing the exam. In the process, you'll be able to see firsthand where you can improve.  That's important information that is not available to first-time takers.  So, take advantage of it.

Second, don't focus on studying but on learning.  You see, success this time around on the bar exam is not a matter of working harder but rather working differently.  [That's why I’m always reluctant to call it studying because the focus should be on learning.].  From a big picture viewpoint, as Dr. Maryellen Weimer, Professor Emerita of Teaching and Learning at Penn State University describes, learning involves three overlapping activities focused on (1) content; (2) experiences; and, (3) reflection.

Let me be frank about the content phase of learning.  We often feel so overwhelmed by the content, particularly because it comes to us from bar review companies in the form of massive detailed lectures and equally massive detailed outlines, that we never move beyond the content.  In short, we don't feel like we know enough to practice.  Consequently, we tend to be immobilized (i.e., stuck in) in the content stage.  Instead of experiencing problem-solving first hand, we tend to re-read outlines, re-watch lectures, and in general create gigantic study tools before we have had sufficient experiences with the content to know what is really important in the big scheme of things.  

And, in my experience, most often when people don’t pass the bar exam on the first time around, it is almost always NOT because they didn’t know enough law but rather because they wrote answers that didn’t match up with the questions asked.  They were stuck in the content stage, spending too much time learning answers rather than experiencing questions.  As mentioned above, that's because we are so naturally focused on trying to learn and memorize the law.  But, I can’t EVER recall someone not passing because they didn’t know sufficient law.  It’s almost as though we know too much law that the law becomes a barrier...because we write all of the law that we know in our answers...even if it is not relevant.

That’s why the second stage is so important – experiencing the content through active open book practice.  

And, the third stage is critical too – reflection – because that is where we dig in to see patterns in the bar exam questions over time.

With that background in mind, let me offer a few suggestions so that you are not a repeater but a "fresh start" taker on your bar exam next February.

1.  Avoid the Lectures!  I would not redo the bar review commercial lectures.  At the most, if you feel like you must, feel free to listen via podcasts while exercising, etc.  In other words, just get them over and done with so that you can move quickly into the experiencing stage using the content of actual practice problems to solve problems for yourself. In other words, the least important thing in successfully passing the bar exam on the second go is listening to the lectures or reading outlines.  Rather, as you work through practice problems, take the time to dig in and understand whether you really understood what was going one...that's the sort of experience in practicing along with the sort of reflection that makes a huge difference.

2.   Daily Exercise!  Establish a schedule so that you exercise consistent learning every day.  The key is to be on a daily regimented schedule because it’s in your daily actions of experiencing and reflecting through actual bar exam problems that leads to big rises in bar exam scores.

3.  Practice Makes Passing Possible!  Right from the "get go," take advantage of every practice exam you can.  Most of your days, from the very beginning of your studies, should be engaged in practicing actual bar exam problems and reflecting on what you learned.  Don't try to learn the material through reading the outlines.  Dig in and use the outlines to solve practice problems.

4.  Reach Out To Your Law School!  Meet once per week, on a schedule, with someone at your law school to talk out your work. Bring one of your written answers or a set of MBE question that you have done or a performance test problem that you just solved.  You see, according to the learning scientists, when we explain to someone the steps that we took to solve a problem, it sticks with us.  So, take advantage of your local ASP professionals on your law school campus.

5.  Make Your Learning Work Count!  Skip the commercial bar review online homework and drills.  If the problems presented by your commercial course are not formatted like actual bar exam problems (essays, MBE questions, or performance test problems), don't do them. Period.  That's because the bar examiners don't test whether you did the drills or the online homework; rather, they test whether you can communicate and solve hypothetical bar exam fact pattern problems.  So, focus your work on the prize. Only do bar exam questions.

6.  Two-Thousand!  Okay...here's a number to remember.  According to a recent successful "fresh start" taker, the number is 2000.  That's right.  A recent taker said that she/he did just about 2000 MBE questions.   That's really experiencing the content.  You see, it’s important to work through lots and lots of bar exam problems because that helps you to see fact patterns that trigger similar issues over and over.  And, if you do that many questions, you don’t really have time for commercial bar review online homework or making gigantic study tools or re-watching the lectures over and over.  Instead, you’ll be using your time...wisely...for what is really important, learning by doing.   In particular, focus your learning (not studying!) on probing, pondering, and reflecting through every available essay and MBE question that you can.  Unfortunately, we often hear of people slowing down in the practice arena during the last two weeks to make big study tools and to work on memorization. But, memorization doesn’t work without content...and content doesn't work with out experiencing lots and lots and lots of practice problems. In other words, by practicing every possible problem that you can get your hands on you are actually memorizing without even knowing it. 

7.  The Final Two Weeks!  In the last two weeks, while you are still spending the bulk of your time practicing problems, for an hour or two a day, start to run through flashcards, or your old study tools, or posters, or your subject matter outlines.  But, do so in a flash.  It doesn’t matter whether you use commercial flash cards, your own note cards, or your own short subject matter outlines, etc., just pick something and use it to reflect on your learning. Here’s a suggestion:  The learning science experts say that it is important to “elaborate,” i.e., to explain and talk through what you are learning and ask why it is important, etc.  In other words, as you run through your study tools, put them into your own words, e.g., vocalize them, sing them out if you’d like, or even dance with them or put some “jazz” into them. In short, make your study tools live!  However, always remember that the best way to make your study tools come to life is to use them to work through lots of bar exam problems throughout the last two weeks of bar prep.

8. Be Kind-Hearted To Yourself! Realize its okay to have melt-downs.  Note, I said meltdowns not just a meltdown.  Everyone has them, and they happen more than once.  That's being human.  So, be kind to yourself.  Feel free to take time off for short adventures.  The important thing is to take some time to rest and to rejuvenate, in whatever form works for you.  My favorite is ice cream followed by a close second with hiking and even watching Andy Griffith shows (you’re too young to know what that is!).

Well, with that learning background as a foundation and these steps in mind, I wish you well as you prepare for success on your upcoming bar exam!  (Scott Johns).

 

December 7, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)