Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Survivor Advice: Words from Successful Bar Takers

Yearly, I ask former students who successfully passed the bar exam to share last minute advice with bar exam studiers gearing-up to sit for the bar exam. I look to individuals who have recently successfully passed the bar exam because I know that at this point, my current bar studiers “listen to me but do not hear me.” I know however that they will “listen to” and “hear” individuals who are closer to the bar exam experience than me. This is a great opportunity for me to seek out alums who are excited to share advice because they know I value their opinions and will share their opinions with others. Alums also add tidbits about their own challenges and triumphs throughout this preparatory process. Below are a few of the suggestions from my alums that a bar exam taker can implement at their own risk.

Pause from studying

“Stop studying by 12(noon) the day before the exam. 3 PM max. There is nothing that you can cram into your head past 3 PM the day before the bar exam.”

“Get your full hours sleep the night before the bar exam.”

“You should not be cramming the evening before day 2 either… light review only.”

Know your surroundings

“Get to know the area where the bar exam is scheduled to be taken, if you have time, so you’ll know where you need to be and about how long it’s going to take to get there”

Eat

“Eat a good breakfast that day.”

“Eat! But don’t eat too heavy for lunch- a good salad will do.  We don’t want to be sleepy during the test.”

“You can’t do your best tired and hungry.”

Don’t forget

“Ear plugs… [Writing day] can be pretty noisy with everyone typing.”

Overall strategy

“Trust your instincts! Do not second-guess yourself.  Move on if you’re unsure and come back to it later.  Don’t waste time!”

“I started with the question I felt I knew well- it helped to build my confidence as I progressed to more challenging questions.  What I couldn’t remember eventually came back to me (weird lol).”

“Sometimes you have to warm up to the exam.  Meaning, if you are not sure about on the first essay topic, move on and start with one you know.  For me, I got better and more confident as I answered more essays.  So, do not get stumped on the first essay if you are not sure about it.”

“[After each session], don’t discuss your responses with anyone.”

“Monitor your fluid intake before and during the exam or you might make several trips to the bathroom…Please stay hydrated of course.”

MBE strategy

“For questions you are not sure about, eliminate the choices you know are wrong and then come back later and choose between the close calls- or choose one and put a star next to it and come back later to review.”

“If you are unsure about a question, make your best guess and keep moving.  This is to ensure that you have a response that can be graded and you are not losing time or points.  The correct answer might come to you later on in the exam or you might have made the correct guess.”

Regroup & focus

“If you mess up or something happens, take 30 seconds to be upset, and then move on. (My first essay was deleted by [the exam software] and I had to redo it within the time between essays.  I started to cry but realized crying was taking too much time.)”

“Relax- nothing good happens when you are nervous.”

 “Don’t panic.  However, if you do panic- stop, take 5 seconds to recompose and get your bearings and get back to the task.”

“… Trust yourself and be confident.  You got this!”

See the light at the end of the tunnel

“Smile because that terrible summer will be over in about 16 hours!”

“Be confident! You made it through undergrad, LSAT, Law School, exams, etc.….”

“Pray, and don’t panic.  You know what you know.”

In sum, everyone has an opinion and advice but your voice and your needs should be paramount.  You know what you need, you studied hard, and you know how to take tests.  You can do it! Cheers! (Goldie Pritchard)

 

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bar Review Visuals: Take A Look at These Colorful Law Cartoons!

With a big hat tip to one of our bar takers this summer, here's a website -- The Visual Law Library -- that has some cool colorful cartoons to help brighten up your daily memorization studies.

http://www.legaltechdesign.com/visualawlibrary/2014/11/23/pure-notice-system-land-ownership-disputes/

On the website, cartoonist and attorney Margaret Hagan has created cartoons for the following subjects that are tested on most bar exams:  Civil Procedure, Con Law, Contracts, Corporations, Criminal Law, Evidence, Family Law, Property Law, and Torts.  

It's a rich resource to allow you to "see" some of the major rules in a colorful way.  So, feel free to take a break by scoping out a few cartoons that might help you better remember some of the major rules for upcoming bar exam.  (Scott Johns).

 

July 13, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Game Plan: Last Minute Bar Preparation

July is in full swing, the bar exam is fast approaching, and panic has set in yet again for some bar exam studiers. Others are ready to face the beast that is the bar exam so they can become "human beings" again. What do you do with the time you have remaining to maximize your preparation? Below are a few last minute suggestions from former bar exam studiers.

Last Two Weeks

Create a plan; make a schedule for the days leading up to the exam. What, specifically, are you going to do on each day? What materials do you need to put together for test days? What materials are not permitted in the exam room? Plan to be awake and study during the times you need to be awake and alert on exam day. Consider whether you need to regulate your fluid intake. Adopt a plan and stick to it.

Inspirational Music, Movies, or Videos

Music, movies, or videos that “pick you up” or “pump you up” can motivate you to dig up that last bit of energy you know is within you when you feel depleted. These can also create a positive mindset about your ability to tackle the exam or to reenergize after perceived poor performance. You can create a playlist leading up to the exam, for each morning of the exam, or after the exam. Alex Ruskell, one of our former contributors, wrote an entry last year with musical selections for various tastes. Click here: Get Pumped for the Bar Exam! 

Practice Run

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

Cheering Squad

Create a list of individuals who will cheer you on at various points and support you in different ways. Ensure that you have a mix of individuals who understand the bar exam process and some who are completely removed. You can have a call schedule or ask them to check-in with you on various days and at various times. There are some individuals who are great at getting you pumped up for a day of testing and others to whom you can confide all of your fears prior to or after the exam. There are also individuals who can run errands for you, cook for you, bring you lunch in between test sessions and keep your company. It is vital to consider what you need and the people who can cater to those needs in the days to come.

All the very best July 2017 bar takers! (Goldie Pritchard)

July 12, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Anxiety and Doubt Don’t Equal Failure

We are just a few weeks away from the bar exam. And for many students studying for the bar, that means questions. No. I don’t mean the hundreds, if not thousands, of MBE questions that the students have taken and, perhaps, retaken. And I don’t mean questions on any practice exams. I mean questions running through our students’ heads: questions of doubt, commitment, and normalcy.

Most students studying for the bar have had to live in somewhat of a “Bar Exam Prep Bubble” for the last few months. They celebrated law school graduation in May. But, it wasn’t really a full-on celebration because they knew there was still something more to do. It’s something huge and overwhelming. And it’s something that dictates one’s true entrance into the legal profession.

The bar exam is huge and overwhelming and, in many respects, it does dictate one’s true entrance into the legal profession. This monumental exam has a way of playing mind games with our students—especially at this point in the bar prep season.

Second guessing GIF

We are at a point in the bar prep season where students will start second-guessing themselves. Will I pass? Have I really done all that I should have done over the last few months? What if I freak out and can’t remember anything? Why have I put myself through this?

Despite all the work that our students have put into preparing for the exam, they will think they still have more work to do. Despite the objective results that their bar companies provide to them of their performance so far in the bar prep season, they will wonder and worry about how well they will perform on the ‘big day(s).’

As we prepare ourselves for the last few weeks of bar prep season, let’s remember that anxiety and doubt are normal for this big event. But, they don’t equal failure. Anxiety and doubt don’t mean that our students are unable to succeed. And they don’t mean that our students have not put in the necessary work to succeed.

Doubt picture

If we get an anxious and doubting student in our offices, let’s remember our anxieties and doubts about our bar exams. Let’s remember how we may have felt overwhelmed with the amount of material. And let’s remember that we, and every other licensed attorney out there, passed the exam.

The bar exam is challenging. But, it is doable. We are all proof that it is doable. With the right frame of mind and support from family, friends, and ASP professionals, we were all able to overcome the mind games. Our students can, too. (OJ Salinas)

July 10, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Music to the Ears? And to Calm Your Heart Too!

Straight from a recent law graduate and licensed attorney Sarah Myers, here's some exciting news that you can "sing" about as you prepare for your bar exam this summer.  But first, a bit of background....

Ms. Myers serves as the clinical director of the Colorado Lawyer's Assistance Program, a confidential program for law students and practitioners alike implemented by the Colorado Supreme Court.  As the clinical director, Ms. Myers successful passed the bar exam in February 2016, holds a master's degree in somatic counseling education, and is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed addiction counselor.  

In other words, Ms. Myers knows all about the stress and strains of life, particularly in relationship to the study of law and preparing for the bar exam.  

So, Ms. Myers put together a very handy survey of the research on the surprising benefits of music -- benefits that you can put to good use this summer as you prepare for the bar exam.  

http://coloradolap.Surprising-Benefits-of-Music.pdf

To cut to the chase, here's key language from Ms. Myer's summary:  

"Research shows that the many benefits of listening to music, playing an instrument, dancing, or singing include:

  1. Improved visual & verbal skills;

  2. Increased endorphins that improve mood;

  3. Improved cardiovascular system, including strengthening the heart, decreasing blood

    pressure, and reducing pulse rates;

  4. Better sleep patterns and more restful sleep;

  5. Boosted immune system and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol;

  6. Reduction in anxiety and overall stress;

  7. Improved sound-processing ability, improved hearing.

  8. Increased levels of oxytocin, resulting in reduced pain and improved mood;

  9. Improved memory across lifespan; and

  10.  Increased serotonin levels that reduce depression."

So, take heart and lift up your voices, your instruments, and your heels and start singing, humming, whistling, jamming, and just overall having fun making music.  And, the best music to make is that which is made with others.  So, why not get a group jam session going, especially this week, to help you start getting the benefits of music within your life.  And, if you just can't help yourself by taking a singing break, don't worry.  You can always just make up a song or two for some of your most difficult bar exam rules.  That way you'll reduce your stress and learn something valuable too!   (Scott Johns)

July 6, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Opportunity Mindset: The Opportunity to…

We often find individuals thanking others for the opportunity to do this or that but does it mean anything for a person who will sit for the bar exam in a few weeks? Maybe or maybe not. Current bar exam studiers are focused on the tasks at hand and rarely consider that they were of the few selected to attend law school and that they completed their degrees while some others were academically dismissed or otherwise forced to end their law school journey. All of the bar exam studiers' hard work, perseverance, efforts, and abilities granted them “the opportunity” to sit for the bar exam.

This blog entry was inspired by a small cohort of recent graduates who are serving as support for one another during this bar exam preparation period. I have worked with these students most of their law school career but this bar exam study period was very revealing about their character. I understand that one member of the cohort shared a bar meditation book with each member of the group, one makes motivational videos, and they collectively support each other with regular check-ins and sharing resources. This may not be unique as cohorts of friends typically do the same. What stood out for me was what a member of this cohort said to another. She said that it was “an opportunity” to sit for the bar exam so they should all treat it as such and not squander any opportunity to put forth their best effort. This “opportunity mindset” helps motivate some. An awareness and recognition of basic things that we have taken for granted create that opportunity mindset. If you are able to move and are of sound mind (just to list a few), you are able to accomplish quite a bit in a shorter amount of time to succeed in your bar studies than someone who does not possess those abilities. Even through her own struggles and challenges; this bar exam studier was able to recognize her opportunity to achieve her dream and has used it to encourage others.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “opportunity” as:

1. “a favorable juncture of circumstances”

2. “a good chance for advancement or progress”

I like both definitions for different reasons. In the first, I see all conditions being right leading to positive possibilities for success. For bar exam studiers, it simply means that everything they achieved thus far, led them to this point in time which allows them to sit for the bar exam. They would have never been afforded the opportunity to sit for the bar exam had every requirement not been met. In the second definition, given everything they have accomplished thus far, there are positive odds on their side for this next endeavor. Current bar exam studiers have good odds of successfully passing the bar exam.

As Academic Support professionals, it is our job to remind students of their achievements and ability. Defeatist attitudes and perceived inability to complete all tasks and to be successful on the bar exam are inevitable during bar study. Bar exam studiers forget all of the challenges they have overcome since May and are focused on the immediate feedback, the number (the number of MBEs and Essays they have completed and more importantly their scores on each). The number has different significance for each bar exam studier; it might show progress, achievement, or probability of success. While some are not meeting all their goals, bar exam studiers may have improved their speed and are getting more answers correct. The real question is how close are they to the target goal of putting themselves in a position to pass the bar exam on the first try and whether there is enough time to reach that goal?

The 4 min inspirational video found here aligns well with some of what was discussed above. Be excited about the opportunity bar exam studiers! (Goldie Pritchard)

July 5, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Perseverance, Plans, and Passing the Bar Exam

   Pier pic


We are less than a month away from the bar exam. Law graduates throughout the country have been working long hours trying to digest a huge amount of information. They try to stay focused and positive so that they can overcome this enormous hurdle that is only offered twice a year. But what happens when unexpected life events happen that impact a student’s focus and positivity? What happens when our students face a rough patch of water as they are sailing through their bar preparation?

I was on a vacation with my family in the Outer Banks of North Carolina a few weeks ago. After six years of living in North Carolina, we still had not made it out to this beautiful and most Eastern part of the state. The beaches, food, and lighthouses were all great. Here's a pic of one of the lighthouses:

Lighthouse pic with OJ

So, we were at a seafood restaurant getting ready to drive back to Chapel Hill after a wonderful time in the Outer Banks. I was about to pay our bill when I got a short and unexpected text message. A close family member had been in a car accident.

Many of us have likely received similar messages. You feel like you should do something, but you are so far away that you cannot do much. So, you try calling family members. But, no one answers. The text message did not include much detail. So, you call again. You text. And you wait. And the anxiety and the unknown take over until someone responds to your text or answers your phone call. And you hope so mightily that the response or phone call is a positive one.

Fortunately, despite a pretty scary car accident, no one was seriously hurt. My family member, who took the brunt of the accident, was able to thankfully walk away. Thoughts start circulating through your head. Soreness and bruises will subside. Vehicles can be repaired or replaced. Life is precious.

Things soon began to settle down as best they could. But, as many folks have likely experienced, it was difficult not to think about how things could have been worse. This got me thinking about what our students experience if a similar, or even worse, unexpected life event happens while they are preparing for the bar exam. How do we help them? Can we help them?

The answers to these questions are difficult, and they should be. Law school and passing the bar exam are large parts of our students’ lives. But, they are not the only parts of our students’ lives. How a student deals with an unexpected life event obviously depends on what this life event is. It may also depend on what type of support system this student has in place or can put into place. It may also depend on how much time a student has left to prepare—physically and mentally—for the exam, and whether or not the student wishes to try to persevere through this life event or wait until the next test date for the bar exam.

As academic success professionals, we know that we are likely part of the support system for our students. We know that we can offer a listening ear to our students and refer our students to additional resources when needed. Our listening ears are particularly helpful and appreciated during difficult times for our students. Sometimes, just talking about a challenge can be therapeutic and provide some assistance. We can also try to empathize and understand what our students may be going through. And we can, in a nonjudgmental way, try to have honest conversations with our students about their goals, bar preparation, and ability to maintain focus and some positivity.

Bar prep companies often place some extra time in their planning calendars for our students. But, this extra time may or may not be enough for our students. Are they on schedule with the suggested bar preparation calendar? How are their practice results so far? Can they afford another several months before they are licensed attorneys? How are they simply feeling right now? And how do they think they will be feeling in a week or two?  

These are all questions that we might have with any of our students. These questions become even more significant for students who have experienced some unexpected life event. I lost some focus and positivity during that short time that I was unable to find out what was happening with my family member. As we enter the last stretch of bar preparation, let’s try to remember that unexpected life events often happen, and we may need to be there to help our students plan and persevere. (OJ Salinas)

July 3, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Refocused: Bar Study Break and Wellness Check

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

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

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

 

 

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pick One: Sorting Through Excessive Supplemental Bar Exam Study Resources

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

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

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

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

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