Thursday, May 28, 2020

Hidden in Plain Sight

That might be an overreach.  But not by much.  I only witnessed - at the most - 3 different flowers along the nearby hiking trail.  Another hiker, who I met along the way, exploded with joy that she had spotted 44 different flowers along the same identical path, many of which were rarely seen during the short Colorado spring season.  Same path; different eyes.

That experience left me wondering what else I am missing in this journey of life.  Much, I suspect.  Especially in these times with much of my face hidden behind a bandana.  You see, I had a different purpose in mind on the hiking trail. And that resulted in a different pace and a much different outcome.

My fellow hiker's words hit home with respect to bar prep.  Much of the colloquial wisdom is to practice testing yourself, constantly, as you prepare for your bar exam.  Watch the clock, and my oh my, certainly don't take a timeout to research a bit of law when you are stumped.  But, if in your bar prep you are driven by working the clock, you'll miss much.  And what you miss is the opportunity to learn to improve critical reading and problem-solving skills because developing those skills takes lots of time and concentration - just like my fellow hiker spotting 44 flowers in beautiful bloom along the trail.

Let me share a secret.  Rare is it that people run out of time on the bar exam.  Oh it happens.  But it's not because they didn't practice with the clock.  Rather, it's often because the gambled with proven strategies to tackle their bar exams.  They grabbed hold of the essays and then spent precious time looking for their favorites. Or, they hit the multiple-choice bubbling along the way while leaving many answer choices blank, with a long list of questions that they'd like to come back to, in the event that they have more time left at the end.  On the bar exam, you don't have time to look at questions twice (or even more).  Rather, just solve them one-at-a-time as they appear in the materials.

I know, you're saying, "Well, how am I going to get faster if I don't practice with the clock?"  I'm not saying never practice with the clock, but the time to do so is much later, mostly only with mock bar exams, and mostly only in the last two weeks or so.  In my experience, if you work on getting faster, you'll be super-fast but also often super-wrong because you haven't worked on seeing the patterns and observing the commas, the phrases, and the many nuances that are the heart of doing well on the bar exams.

Let me make it concrete.  I have never seen a person fail the bar exam because they didn't know enough law or weren't really speedy enough.  Rather, when people do not pass the bar exam, they tend to write about issues that weren't asked by the problems.  That's because they worked mostly for speed through as many problems with goal of constantly testing themselves.  "Am I passing yet?  Is that good enough? I've got to get up that trail, so to speak, as fast as possible."

Instead, let go of the clock.  Spend time in the midst of the problems.  Question the questions.  Puzzle over them.  Ponder and probe the language, the phraseology, the paragraph breaks, and the format of the questions.  In short, for the first six weeks of bar prep, practicing problems to learn with just an occasional check-in mock bar exam to see how you are doing.  That way you'll be sure to see what's hidden in plain sight. And, that's the key to doing well on the bar exam.  To locate and expose, what one of my recent students brilliantly called the "undertones" of the problems...that are really in plain sight...if only we take the time to learn to see.  

(Scott Johns - University of Denver).

Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink


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