Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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)

Maryland & North Carolina adopt UBE

Maryland and North Carolina both adopted the Uniform Bar Exam in late November, bringing the total number of UBE jurisdictions to 30.

Maryland's first UBE administration is slated for either February 2019 or July 2019. The passing score and the date on which Maryland will begin accepting transferred UBE scores from other UBE jurisdictions has yet to be announced.

North Carolina will administer the UBE starting with the February 2019 exam, with a passing score set at 270. North Carolina will begin accepting transferred UBE scores from other UBE jurisdictions on June 30, 2018.

The NCBE press releases can be read here.  (Kirsha Trychta)

December 7, 2017 in Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tracking Bar Exam Passage

The ABA should implement a national database for tracking bar examination results. 

Bar passage reporting, in its current iteration, is (a) inconsistent across agencies due to a lack of common vocabulary; (b) increasingly time consuming for law schools to complete, especially when tasked with tracking graduates for several years; and (c) largely dependent upon state courts' willingness to share information.  A unified, national database would alleviate many of these issues. 

A. Adopt the ABA's definition of first-time takers.  

Is this the first time that you’ve sat for the bar exam? Seems like an easy question with a straightforward answer … but not so fast. The correct answer all depends on who is asking the question.

The American Bar Association says that you are a first-time taker if this is the very first time you are taking any bar exam in any jurisdiction.  The ABA's common sense definition gives bar exam takers just one shot (feel free to hum Hamilton lyrics now) at being a "first-time taker."  

Meanwhile, the National Conference of Bar Examiners defines first-time takers as “examinees taking the bar examination for the first time in the reporting jurisdiction.”  The NCBE’s (arguably illogical) definition allows me—a professor who prepares law school students to sit for the bar exam—to be counted as a first-time taker at least 48 more times, if I am so inclined. Incidentally, the U.S. News & World Report follows the NCBE’s definition when computing a school’s national rankings.

On the other hand, other accrediting bodies (such as a state's Higher Education Policy Commission) make no meaningful distinction between first-time takers and repeat takers when calculating institutional pass rates on professional licensing exams, resulting in a third, different pass rate statistic for the same school.

The two primary definitions of “first time taker” employed by the ABA and NCBE are further complicated by examinees who sit for the bar exam in one UBE jurisdictions and then seek to transfer their score to another UBE jurisdiction with a different cut score.  The lack of a common vocabulary defining "takers" and "passers" is just the tip of the reporting iceberg, however. 

B. Adopt an academic calendar based reporting period of reasonable duration.

Agencies also cannot agree on how long law schools should be tracking their graduates.  Most agencies require law school's to report bar passage based on a calendar year (e.g. February 2017 and July 2017), not an academic year.  The calendar year model frequently has the effect of blending two distinct graduating classes into one report, e.g. the Class of 2016 and the Class of 2017, respectively, in my earlier example.  Reporting difficulties are poised to become even more complex if law schools are tasked with tracking their graduates for up to 24 months after graduation, as has been proposed by the ABA.

C. Require state courts to release comprehensive examination results.

The ability of a law school to produce an accurate bar passage report can be substantially impacted by the manner in which their home and neighboring jurisdictions elect to release its results.  Currently, there is no acceptable template or formula across the more than 50 U.S. jurisdictions.  Some jurisdictions release the names of those who passed the exam on a publically viewable website, while others only list anonymous seat numbers.  Some states will voluntarily mail a law school a results notification, while others require that the law school affirmatively request the results for individual applicants each time they sit for an exam (which presupposes that a law school is aware that one of its applicants sat in that jurisdiction at that time.)

D. Establish a national database that implements the ABA's definition of first-time taker, employs an academic calendar reporting model, and serves as a single repository for every state courts' examination results.

With both accreditation and national rankings at stake for law schools, a unified and comprehensive bar passage reporting system is imperative. The Conference of Chief Justices recognized the need for collaboration across the various agencies ten years ago when it passed a resolution urging the Law School Admissions Council, the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to establish a national system for tracking bar examination test results. Then five years later, the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar passed a virtually identical resolution. Yet, despite apparent support from at least two of the key stakeholders (namely the ABA and the state courts), no national database exists. The various agencies cannot even reach a consensus on who constitutes a “first time taker." 

A national database should no longer just be an aspirational goal. Rather the database needs to be created, and fast—especially in light of the growing popularity of the UBE and proposed changes to bar passage reporting requirements. A national database housing bar passage data for all law school graduates would alleviate a substantial administrative burden on every law school. For example, each state court system could report their state’s bar passage data to one agency—likely the ABA given their primary role in accreditation. Then the ABA could code the information in such a way that law school administrators and ASP’ers would be able to access the results for just those graduates who are affiliated with their particular school. The information could be searchable, such that any ASP’er could query: “2107 graduates + West Virginia + July 2017 + first time taker.”  With a few simple clicks, accurate bar passage reporting could be achieved by the masses.  Oh, the possibilities! 

I look forward to watching this issue develop in the coming months and years, with hope that the justices’ decade old dream of a national database becomes a reality.   (Kirsha Trychta)

October 24, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bar Tips to Check Out

Robbins

Allie Robbins, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs at CUNY School of Law, started a blog last summer for graduates studying for the bar exam. Many helpful tips are included in the posts. Allie will be adding new posts specifically for February bar studiers, so keep this blog in mind.  The link to The Activist Guide to Passing the Bar is found here. (Amy Jarmon)

September 29, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dear July 2017 Bar Exam Applicant

Dear July 2017 Bar Exam Applicant,

As the bar-exam induced fog lifts from your brain, I expect that you will have a few questions about what to do now.

It will be several more weeks--or even months--until the official results are released, so you should try to return to life-as-usual.  Go to work or start looking for a job.  (And, if you find a job, don't forget to tell the Career Services Office.)  Get caught up on all the errands that you put off this summer.  Reconnect with friends and family.  In short, keep yourself busy. 

Your only real bar-exam-related responsibility during the next few weeks is to keep your character and fitness file up to date.  If you change residences, get a new job, or make any other life changes, you must notify the Board of Law Examiners.  The Board likely has an "update form" available for download on its website.  The NCBE's update form can be found by logging into your online NCBE account.  The Board will mail your exam results and other time-sensitive documents to the address that you currently have on file, so make sure that everything is updated. 

For the glass half-empty crowd: Let me start by stating that immediately after the exam almost everyone I talk to feels like they failed the exam.  But, only a small percentage of those folks actually do fail the exam.  The reality is that the vast majority of applicants pass the exam on their first attempt.  If you do fail, you should check with your jurisdiction to see if you are allowed to review your essay answers after the exam; you can learn a lot about your game day performance by looking at your answers.  If you decide to retake the exam, you should contact the bar exam professor at your school to help you in determining your individual strengths and weaknesses, so that you may better prepare for the February exam.

For the glass half-full folks: Once you officially pass the exam, you’ll need to get sworn-in. Every state differs, but generally that requires a currently licensed attorney within the state to “vouch for you” by moving for your admission.  For example, in West Virginia you and the person vouching for you must attend a formal swearing-in ceremony together.  Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania the formal ceremony is optional. You still need a licensed attorney to vouch for you by signing your paperwork, but you can have a notary or local judge administer the oath at any time. 

Finally, you should be very proud of yourself for all that you've accomplished so far. (Did you know that only 1% of Americans go to law school?) I encourage you to take some time for yourself right now to reflect on your successes and to relax with your friends and family. You've earned it!

Waiting With You,

Kirsha Trychta

August 22, 2017 in Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Helping Colleagues Craft Bar Exam Conscious Syllabi

    Before the start of each new semester, I send an email to each colleague who will be teaching a bar exam tested subject that semester. I offer some general information about the bar exam and some targeted information about how their particular subject matter is tested on the bar exam—based on a compilation of details gleaned from NCBE outlines and a comprehensive MEE indexing project (Download MEE Pathfinder) performed by our dedicated library staff. Although the list is far from perfect, my colleagues have reported that they find the information useful as they prepare syllabi and select topics to cover within the course. Below is my email template. Feel free to use it, if you find it helpful.

Multiple Choice

    Your subject matter [is / is not] tested on the multiple-choice section of the bar exam.

     Generally speaking, the multiple-choice section consists of 200 multiple-choice questions: 175 scored questions and 25 unscored pretest questions. The 175 scored questions on the MBE are distributed evenly, with 25 questions from each of the seven subject areas: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. Students have 6 hours to complete this section of the exam (i.e. about 1.8 minutes per question).

     With regard to your course, [add the specifics for the multiple-choice topic from the master list below.]

Essays

    Your subject matter [is / is not] tested on the essay section of the bar exam.    

     Generally speaking, the essay section consists of six 30-minute questions. Areas of law that may be covered on the essay section include the following: Business Associations, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates, and Sales & Secured Transactions. Some questions may include issues in more than one area of law, and the particular areas covered vary from exam to exam. The [local jurisdiction does / does not] test state-specific rules on the essays.

     With regard to your course, [add the specifics for the essay topic from the master list below.]

Master Subject List

Business Associations

    n/a

    The five most commonly tested subtopics on Business Association essays are: identifying which business association would suit the client’s needs, the requirements for formation of a partnership, liability to third parties, the fiduciary duties of officers/directors within a corporations, and agency issues.

Conflict of Laws

    n/a

     Conflict of Laws issues are embedded in the other essay topic areas. They do not appear as stand-alone questions. Historically, conflict of laws questions are most frequently paired with family law issues, especially child custody issues.

Civil Procedure

    Approximately two-thirds of the civil procedure multiple-choice questions are based on jurisdiction, venue, pretrial procedures, and motions practice. Other subtopics— such as conflict of laws, jury trials, verdicts, judgements, and the appeals process—account for the remaining one-third of questions.

     With regard to Federal Civil Procedure essays, the examiners ask questions about jurisdiction substantially more than they ask questions about the actual rules. The four most common Civil Procedure topics are personal jurisdiction long arm / minimum contacts statutes, federal question jurisdiction, diversity jurisdiction (especially the amount in controversy), and joinder of parties.

Constitutional Law

    Approximately half of the constitutional law multiple-choice questions are based on individual rights. The other half are based on judicial review, separation of powers, and federalism.

     The most commonly tested subtopic on the Constitutional Law essays is freedom of speech, followed closely by the equal protection clause.

 Contracts & Sales

     Approximately half of the contracts questions are based on contract formation and performance / breach. The other half of the questions are based on defenses, parol evidence, remedies, and third party rights. Of the 25 total questions, one-quarter are based on Article 2.

     The four most commonly tested subtopics on Contracts / Sales essays are: offer and acceptance, statute of frauds, accord and satisfaction, and anticipatory repudiation.

Criminal Law & Procedure

     Approximately half of the questions will be based on criminal procedure and half will be based on criminal law. Within criminal law, the examiners tend to distribute the questions equally across four categories: homicide, all other crimes, inchoate offenses, and general principles.

     The examiners rarely ask criminal law essay questions and only occasionally ask criminal procedure questions. The five most common topics are inchoate offenses, homicide, fourth amendment, Miranda, and the exclusionary rule.

Evidence

Evidence multiple-choice questions are typically divided up as follows:

Presentation of the evidence: 25%

Relevance: 33%

Hearsay: 33%

Privileges & Writings: 9%

The three most commonly tested subtopics on the Evidence essays are: relevance, character evidence, and use of prior inconsistent statements.

Family Law

     n/a

     The four most commonly tested subtopics on Family Law essays are: how to get divorced, property division, “best interests of the child” standard, and child support obligations.

Real Property

    The examiners divide the questions up equally among five categories: ownership interests, rights in real property, real estate contracts, mortgages, and titles.

     The four most commonly tested suptopics on the Real Property essays are: recording statutes (race, race-notice), easements, deed warranties, and landlord-tenant leases.

Secured Transactions

     n/a

     The five most common subtopics on the Secured Transactions essays are: collateral classification, purchase money security interests, debtor/creditor rights of attachment, perfection, and priorities.

Torts

    Half of the multiple-choice questions will be based on negligence. Intentional torts, strict liability, and “other” torts account for the other half of the questions.

     The most common subtopic on the Torts essays is negligence (duty, breach, and causation), followed by the doctrine of respondeat superior / vicarious liability.

Trusts & Estates

    n/a

     The six most commonly tested subtopics on the Trusts & Estates essays are: benefits of creating a trust/will, how to create a trust, modification of a trust, future interests / remainders in trusts, validity of a will, and intestate distribution.

(Kirsha Trychta)

August 8, 2017 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Congratulations

Congratulations to everyone who just finished the bar exam this week. Well done! You put in a lot of time preparing and did your best during the exam.

  • Take a few days to relax and rest. Many of you will sleep almost non-stop for a couple of days.
  • Spend time with family and friends. Ask that it be a bar-free zone without discussion and questions about how it was, when the scores are known, etc.
  • Treat yourself to something special in celebration of your hard work: a few days at the beach; a hike in the countryside; meals at favourite restaurants; a marathon session of your favourite TV program.
  • Get back into a routine of sleep, good meals, and exercise. Being healthy will help your mood as you await the results.
  • Stay positive and do not dwell on the bar exam. It is done and dusted. Remember that you do not need 100%. Give yourself credit for your hard work, and let it go.
  • Make a plan for the time before results come out. If your employer lets you begin work before results, then plan what skills you want to focus on in your new job. If you are without employment, then keep yourself busy with part-time work, volunteering, a hobby, or other endeavour.

You have completed a very challenging step. Acknowledge your achievement. Believe in yourself. (Amy Jarmon)  

 

July 28, 2017 in Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

This Week's Bar Takers: Congratulations To You (and a few tips while waiting for results)!

For those of you that just tackled the bar exam this week, here's a few words of congratulations and a couple of tips as you wait for results from this summer's bar exam.

First, let me speak to you straight from the heart!

Simply put...

Bravo! Magnificent! Herculean!

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 my 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 few suggestions 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).

July 27, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Applaud Your Accomplishment

It is Wednesday, day two of bar exam testing. There is not much bar exam takers can do at this time but tell themselves that they have control over the here and now. They did all they possibly could to successfully pass the bar exam (hopefully). This is the Multistate Bar Exam Day! As a bar exam taker, your mantra should be that this will be your best day, you prepared for this, and if worse comes to worst, you can make an educated guess with a 25% chance of getting it right. You will also answer all of the questions. Think about what you get to do when you are done. You can rediscover what it means to be human being, eat, sleep, and be “normal.” Applaud the fact that you survived bar review. You survived the first day of testing so it is inevitable that you will survive the second day as well. You’ve got this! All the very best to bar takers everywhere and to all the Academic Support Professionals cheering their students along! (Goldie Pritchard)

via GIPHY

 

July 26, 2017 in Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 24, 2017

ALWD Intro and Bar Exam Encouragement

This last week, I attended and participated in a diversity and inclusion conference hosted by the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The three-day conference was engaging and timely. And it included a thought provoking and informative plenary presentation on stereotype threat and implicit bias by fellow-ASPer, Russell McClain. Having seen Russell present before at various ASP conferences, I knew he would be a charming and enlightening presenter—and he certainly was! Congratulations, Russell! I know the ALWD attendees were impressed by your interactive presentation, and I am sure many of them will be reaching out to you in the future for additional ways to address stereotype threat and implicit bias.

I plan to write some more about the ALWD conference and its theme “Acknowledging Lines: Talking About What Unites and Divides Us” at a later date. But, for now, I wanted to spend a little time talking about what is likely on the minds of most academic success professionals and all the recent law school graduates—the bar exam.

Exam takers: We all know you have been working hard, and we believe in you. The next few days will be beyond tough and tiring. But, you have trained your mind and body for it.

Yes. You will likely second-guess yourself. Yes. You will likely face questions that you might not feel good about. But, you are also going to see and work with a lot of information that you do understand and have encountered many times during your bar preparation. Trust yourself. Read the questions carefully. Organize your essays. And don’t let those few questions that you might not know the answers to bring you down. You don’t need to get that A+ to pass. If you spend too much time focusing on the information that you don’t know or can’t remember, you may not leave yourself enough time or energy to show the bar graders what you do know. And you do know. A lot.

A few more things . . . remember to breathe and it’ll be over soon.

We look forward to welcoming you into the profession. (OJ Salinas)

Good Luck (2)

 

July 24, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, News, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)