Tuesday

Visualization Tools -- Video


I have written a lot about the importance of visualization in the past.  One important way to help you reach a goal through visualization is to visualize the end point of the journey to the goal.  In the case of the bar exam, the end point is being sworn in as an attorney.

UC Davis has been kind enough to post a video of the swearing-in ceremony for its graduates who passed the July 2010 California bar exam.  Unfortunately, I cannot embed it here, but you can get to the video by clicking this link:  http://www.law.ucdavis.edu/publications-broadcasts/special-events.html.  Once you are there, click on "Swearing - In To The Bar of the Class of 2010" and the video should start.  [If the 2010 ceremony is not enough, you can scroll down and view the swearing-in ceremonies for those who passed the 2007, 2008, and 2009 California bar exams as well.]

So, if you find a video that reminds you of the end point of a goal you are pursuing, be sure to bookmark it so you can go back and watch it when you need some help visualizing your ultimate success.

[Photo:  creativedc]

Saturday

Lawyer Jokes

The best part is, the addendum to the cash offer is discriminatory on the basis of gender.


[Photo: Mike Willis]

Friday

Study It All: Lessons from a Bar Exam FUBAR


I went to lunch with a fellow associate yesterday.  She told me that one of her friends failed the July 2010 California bar exam.  She got her results and did fine on the essays and the performance test, but received a very low score on the MBE.  I expressed my sympathies, and asked if her friend knew what went wrong.  My colleague said, "Yes, she knows exactly what went wrong.  She didn't do any practice MBE questions."  Ouch!

It may be tempting to short-change MBE practice.  Once you study the MBE topics for the essay portion of the exam, you will have a good knowledge of the substantive law in those six areas. (Click here for my free MBE outlines.)  But, as I have written about before, the MBE is not primarily a test of your knowledge, but rather a test of how well you take tests.  The MBE questions are designed to force you into logic games and reading of tea leaves.  I think this is ridiculous and unfair, but until the bar examiners change how they do things, we have to adapt.

So, just make sure you do lots of MBE practice.  As you are probably well aware, you get MBE practice questions with BarBri, and can take preparation courses focused exclusively on the MBE, such as PMBR and Adaptibar [click here for $50 off Adaptibar].  You can also check out Steve Emanuel's highly-regarded Strategies and Tactics for the MBE.


[Photo: cushinglibrary]

Monday

The Law of Attraction and the Bar Exam


There are a lot of gurus out there who talk about (and sell products related to) the Law of Attraction.  Typically, they sell the idea of learning how to attract wealth to yourself.  It seems, though, you can use the principles behind the Law of Attraction to help you pass the bar exam.

In brief, the Law of Attraction means that whatever you put into the universe will be reflected back to you.  In other words, whatever you think about the most or expect on the deepest level will come into your life.  So, if you are afraid of failing the bar exam and constantly worry on that fear, then it is more likely that you will fail.  [If such constant worries are a problem for you, see my post about conquering fear.]  On the other hand, if you believe you are destined to be a lawyer and will make a good lawyer, then it is more likely you will pass the bar exam because it is a required step on the road to becoming a lawyer.

One way to attract good things (like passing the bar exam) into your life is to practice positive visualization.  I have explained this process elsewhere and recommend that you incorporate visualization into your bar exam study plan.

Success!


[Photo: lululemon athletica]

Studying for the February 2011 Bar Exam

Welcome to those of you who are beginning your quest to pass your state's bar exam in February 2011.  If you would like a quick summary of my thoughts about how to pass the bar, please review my Quick Start Guide.


For those of you preparing for the California Bar Exam, after you read my Quick Start Guide, I suggest reading the California Bar Exam Primer.  I remember reading this while studying for the California Bar, and it helped a lot.

Good luck!

[Photo: Hermes]

Saturday

Gifts for the Bar Exam Student


Is someone close to you about to start studying for the bar exam? Maybe that special person has already started studying for the bar? If you are wondering what sort of gift (holiday, birthday, anniversary...) to get that person, here is my list of the best gifts for bar takers.

Time

This gift costs nothing. When people are studying for the bar exam, they never feel like they have enough time. This is especially true for people who are in a relationship or who have family obligations (e.g., finding time to play with the kids). So, if you can give the bar student some extra time, please do so. Offer to do grocery shopping once a week for them. Offer to walk their dog. Offer to clean their house or mow their lawn. Any mundane and repetitive task you can take care of once or even a few times will be greatly appreciated.

Bar Prep Course

A lucky minority of bar examinees have had their bar prep course paid for by a law firm. The majority of bar takers have to pay for this themselves, often by taking a loan at high interest. If you have the money (at least a thousand dollars or more), buy a bar prep course for the bar taker. Obviously, you should ask the bar student which course he or she prefers before you pay for it, but the obvious choice is BarBri (which costs several thousand dollars). Other options include MicroMash and Rigos. For MBE (that's the multiple choice portion of the bar exam, in case you didn't know) preparation, PMBR and Adaptibar are good choices, and they cost much less than full-blown bar prep courses.  [And, if you purchase Adaptibar after clicking on my affiliate link, you can save $50!] You might also offer to pay for a couple hours with a one-on-one tutor (range $50-$150/hr).

Bar Prep Books

If a complete bar preparation course is out of your price range, why not buy a book or two for your bar examinee? One very highly-recommended book is Scoring High on Bar Exam Essays: In-depth Strategies and Essay-Writing That Bar Review Courses Don't Offer, With 80 Actual State Bar Exams Questions and Answers, by Mary Gallagher. Bar exam essays can be quite different from law school exam essays, and this book helps put it into perspective. Also helpful with essay writing is What Not to Write: Real Essays, Real Scores, Real Feedback, by Shah and Gill (there is also a California and New York edition of this book).

For the multiple choice portion of the bar exam, Strategies & Tactics for the MBE, by Steve Emmanuel is the clear leader

Board Games

Yes, there is actually a bar exam board game. It is called, not surprisingly, Passing the Bar. Everyone who plays it seems to like it. In fact, this might be a game to give to a law student in the second or third year of law school as a way to keep bar exam topics fresh in the mind. The questions themselves are geared toward MBE topics, and you can even buy a set of additional questions.

Mental Preparation

As I have written about elsewhere (here and here), the bar exam is a test of one's ability to endure stress as much as it is a test of knowledge. In fact, I wrote a book about how to reduce bar exam stress and anxiety that you might want to give as a gift:  Bar Exam Mind:  A strategy guide for an anxiety-free bar exam

You might also consider getting you favorite soon-to-be lawyer a copy of a Bar Exam Mind Audio Program.  One is all about visualizing bar exam success; the other is about using affirmations to pass the bar exam.

You could also treat your bar student to a spa day, an in-home massage, or maybe even a aroma therapy session. You can also just take them out for round upon round of drinks!

If your favorite bar student prefers quiet contemplation, you might get them a copy of Daily Reflections For Bar Exam Study: An Inspirational Companion For Law Students And Experienced Attorneys Taking The Bar, by M. G. Groepler.

Celebratory Dinner

When the bar exam is over, people want to relax. Promise your favorite bar examinee that you will take him or her out for a night of good food, good friends, and good booze when the bar exam is over. You will be eternally loved.

Humor

If humor is more your style, why not give the bar student Law School in a Box: All the Prestige for a Fraction of the Price. When they see that they could have gotten a law school education for about $10, they will laugh until the tears come. For some people out there, The New Yorker Book of Lawyer Cartoons is a good gift. Finally, for the future lawyer who can laugh at himself or herself and also wants to read a little cultural analysis at the same time, you cannot go wrong with Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture, by Marc Galanter.

Understanding

It is best to close this list with the best gift of all: understanding. People who are studying for the bar exam tend to be stressed. Some people can handle stress well; others become a bit grumpy. Try to understand and forgive them. This is not a license for the person to mistreat you or act like a jerk 24 hours a day. But, try to give a bar student a break if he or she snaps at you once in a while for some unexplainable reason. Just, give them some space and know that it is the stress talking.

[Photo:  mmlolek]

Wednesday

Locating Self-Study Bar Exam Materials

If you are interested in studying for the bar exam on your own without taking a professional prep course, you should start looking for used bar prep material when bar exam results come out in your jurisdiction.  As I post this, people in most states have received their results.

As more and more people get the good news that they passed the bar exam in their jurisdiction, they will be more than willing to part with their prep materials.  Although some people will burn them on a pyre and chant devilish incantations while drinking heroic quantities of alcohol, many will try to make a few bucks by selling them.  So, now is the time to start looking on craigslist and all4jds to buy used bar exam materials.  Usually, you can get bar prep material for 50-75% off the list price.


Also, if you have some friends who just passed the bar exam, ask them if they will give you their prep materials.  In their euphoric state, they may not realize they could sell the stuff for a few hundred dollars.

[Photos:  Neal.'s & Dominic's Pics]

Saturday

Twitter and the Bar Exam


In a prior post, I wrote about how I think blogging while you study for the bar exam is a bad idea.  It serves at best as a distraction and at worst a time-sucking, anxiety-producing endeavor.

Twitter, on the other hand, seems like a very useful tool.  It requires very little effort to set up a Twitter account.  You do not have to post any tweets ever if you don't want to, so you can lurk and soak up information with no need to reciprocate.  You simply set up your account, using your real name or an alias, and then start following people who interest you. (For a detailed guide for Twitter newbies, check out this informative post.)

Now, just like blogging, you can get sucked into the Twitter-sphere (Twitter-verse?) and waste huge amounts of time, so you should set some parameters for its use when you are studying for the bar exam.  Such as:  no reading Twitter except  in the evenings after you have finished studying for the day.  (If you have lots of will power, you might check Twitter during your lunch break, but don't lose track of time!)  Although Twitter has made its reputation for the immediacy of information transfer, there are ways you can be sure not to miss anything.

First, you can follow people who offer bar exam study tips.  One of the best that I have seen is @emanuelbarprep.  These tips are everything from quick nuggets about tested topics to links to more extensive blog posts.  I sometimes post these sorts of tips as well.  You can follow me at @barexammind.  If you know of good people to follow, please share in the comments below or send me an "@ reply" from your Twitter account and I'll retweet it.

Another great way to get information is to search hashtags.  If you are unfamiliar with a hashtag, it is using the # symbol before a word.  Then, you can use the Twitter search on the Twitter home page to find all posts with that hashtag.  During the bar exam, the two most popular hashtags to follow are #barexam and #barbri.  Other hashtags include #MBE and the symbol of your state + "bar", such as #cabar [california bar] and #nybar [new york bar].

Third, Twitter is a great way to blow off steam.  If something or someone is bothering you, you can tweet about it.  Releasing that stress if very helpful to having a positive frame of mind while studying.  Just be careful not to say anything you will regret later. Check out some great tweets HERE and HERE.

Finally, if you find that you enjoy Twitter, it is great to use for marketing and networking once you become a lawyer.  By connecting with others in the legal field during your bar exam studies, you will already have a jump on the competition.

[Photo:  rosauraochoa]

Tuesday

What is the California Bar Exam like?

That is exactly what this interviewer asked some people leaving the February 2009 California bar exam.  (Hat-tip to Passingthebarexam.)



Thursday

Funny Bar Exam Tweets, Part II

As promised, here are the rest of the #barexam and #barbri tweets I collected during the run up to the July 2010 bar exam:






And my favorite (though totally inexplicable):


(If you missed Part I of the Funny Bar Exam Tweets, click HERE.)

Monday

Funny Bar Exam Tweets, Part I

During the July 2010 bar exam season, I was following the #barexam and #barbri hashtags on Twitter.  Some people are really funny out there.  Here is a sample of what I saw:







Part II in a few days ...

Saturday

Free MPT Practice Samples

Today I was answering an email from someone asking about study advice for the Oregon bar exam.  One of the questions was:  if I am not taking BarBri, where can I get MPT samples to practice with?

I did a little investigating, and was able to discover that the NCBE has some former MPTs and "score sheets" on their website.  Here is the link (once you get there, scroll down).  Although the "score sheets" are not actual responses, it does give you an outline form of what the graders are looking for.

For those of you in MPT jurisdictions, it would probably be worth a look at the NCBE site to see if these practice answers will be of any help to you in studying for the bar exam.

You can also find MPT practice materials on Amazon.com.

Check out my performance test tips by clicking HERE.

[Photo: eelssej_]

Monday

Notes of a Bar Exam Repeater


As someone who has taken two bar exams within 19 months of each other (Oregon, July 2006; California, February 2008), I have something akin to the perspective of a bar exam repeater. The best part about repeating a test is that you learn things about the testing process that make it easier the second time. This post examines several of the things that I learned the first time I took a bar exam that helped make it easier for me pass the second time:  I was able to reduce my study time and avoid studying after 5pm on weekdays and I almost never studied on weekends.  It is my hope that you can use this advice to make your first time easier.

Practice Until You Feel Comfortable

As I have written about before, one of the most important things you can do to prepare for the bar exam is to practice under test-like conditions. But, you do not start there, you work your way into it. That is, when you first begin practicing essay responses, you should give yourself extra time and you should consult notes and outlines. After a couple of weeks, you should try to write essays within the time allotted by your state's bar and without consulting notes. At some point before the bar exam, you should feel comfortable enough under timed, test-like conditions that you can answer most essay questions.

When you get to this point, you are ready. I over-practiced for the Oregon bar exam. I wrote practice essays until my mind was numb. While this may not have hurt my bar exam outcome, it certainly made significant portions of my life boring to the extent that I would call them “wasted."

When I took the California bar, I was able to realize about 2 or 3 weeks before the exam that I had mastered subject X sufficiently to answer just about any essay. At that point, I realized that I was “comfortable” with the subject and did NOT need to continue to practice writing out complete essays. At that point, I began simply to outline essays (which takes about 10 minutes including reading the fact pattern). I knew how to fill in the blanks, so why waste time writing a complete essay? I just wrote it in my mind, and confirmed that I had spotted all of the issues by reviewing the sample answer provided on the California bar website. [You can review the sample answer provided by your state's bar website or by your bar prep course materials.]

A similar approach can be applied to the Performance Test.

As to the MBE, you cannot really practice in any way other than answering questions or doing flashcards based on prior questions. In terms of “getting comfortable”, once you feel you have learned a concept, put aside any flashcards relating to that concept. Tell yourself: “I know this.” Then, you do not need to obsess about that topic.

MBE is as Much about Technique as Knowledge

As I have written before: The MBE is really a test to see how well you take a test. It is not a test that truly tests knowledge. If bar examiners only wanted to test knowledge, then the essay portion would be sufficient. After all, if you cannot explain something in writing, then (absent some sort of disability that leaves you unable to express your thoughts in writing) you likely do not understand it.

So, in addition to learning the elements of crimes and torts, the prongs of various Supreme Court tests, and the steps in various legal analyses, be sure to pay attention to how the authors of the MBE try to trick you.

During my studies, on the MBE questions where I could not pick a definitive answer, I typically could narrow the choices to two. I normally had legitimate reasons for picking either of the two answers. Whether I got the questions right or wrong, I always spent extra time on reviewing the answer explanation. Why had I thought either of two answers was possible? Why did the test writers conclude that one of the answers was preferable?  Was there a word or clause in the question that tricked me?

It is the understanding of these nuances that will make passing the MBE portion of the exam possible.

Stress Should Decrease

In many ways, the bar exam is a stress test. Although you do need to have a lot of actual knowledge at your fingertips during the exam, plenty of very smart people fail the exam because they get stressed-out and are unable to recall the concepts during the exam. Therefore, you need to make sure that you are calm and able to recall everything you have worked so diligently to learn.

When most people first begin studying for the bar exam (and I am no exception), the magnitude of the information that one needs to learn is so overwhelming that it is easy to become highly stressed. In fact, it is understandable that some form of panic sets in. The important thing is to realize that hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people have passed the bar exam. Most of them are very ordinary people. You can do this.

So, your stress level should decrease the closer you get to the bar exam. You are learning more each day. You are practicing more each day. The exam is simply a forum through which you can demonstrate your knowledge of areas of law to a third party. The bar exam is a way for you to show that you have learned the basics and that society should allow you to practice law.

If your stress level is increasing during the final weeks before the exam, ask yourself:  Am I stressed because of the idea of taking the bar exam? Or am I stressed because I do not know enough to pass? If you do not know enough, then you need to study more.

If you are stressed simply because you have the bar exam approaching and you have built it up as some sort of uber-monster, then you need to relax and convince yourself that the bar exam is but a demonstration of your knowledge, not some 13th-century ordeal to prove your faith. You can do this.  Check out my strategy guide for lots of strategies for beating bar exam stress and anxiety.

Finally, if you feel yourself becoming completely overwhelmed by stress, you may want to seek professional help from a therapist.  Your law school or state's bar association may even have counselors available for you to call at little or no cost.


Maintain a Steady Schedule

I have noticed that some of the people I am following on Twitter [I'm @barexammind] and who post under the #barexam or #barbri hashtags seem to be studying VERY late at night. For example, several people claim to be studying after 8 pm on Friday nights.

Maybe these late hours will work for some people, but I believe that one should maintain a steady study schedule and that one should study during the hours when the bar exam will be administered. That is, since the bar exam is typically given from 8:30am to 4:30pm (approximately), you should concentrate your studies during these hours. Do not begin studying much earlier than 8am and do not study much past 5:00pm. This is part of anticipating the conditions of the bar exam. By preparing your brain and body to “think LAW” during these hours, you will do better on the exam.

[Of course, it is probably possible to pass the bar exam by studying at all hours of the day. I just do not think that I could have done it. Know yourself. Could you pass a test of this magnitude if you have random study habits?]

If you are studying at 10:00pm on a Friday night, it seems like you would not really have much focus and you would increase your resentment toward the bar exam. The increased resentment may eventually lead you to question why you are taking the bar exam at all. This could create a downward spiral making it increasingly difficult to study.

Think of studying for the bar exam as a job. There is a reason people work from 8am to 5pm during the week and (usually) take the weekends off: if they worked everyday at all hours, they would go insane. Try to keep your schedule regular.

[NOTE:    If, however, you must work a job during the day, then you have no choice but to study at off hours.  If this is your situation, it seems to me that it would be wise to take a few days off from work prior to the bar exam and shift your study time to the 8-5 schedule so that you can have at least some practice during exam time.]

[Photo: nestor galina]

Wednesday

The Twitter Job Search Guide -- A Review

For those of you who have jobs waiting for you once you pass the bar, congratulations.  If you do not have a job lined up, read on.  Even if you do have a job lined up, read on because the information below can help you find and obtain clients as well as build your network to enable you to find a new job when the time is right.

I recently finished reading a great book called The Twitter Job Search Guide: Find a Job and Advance Your Career in Just 15 Minutes a Day.  I highly recommend it and have began applying its principles to my career.

For those of you who have never used Twitter or who think Twitter is just a frivolous diversion, the authors of the Twitter Job Search Guide provide a good discussion of why Twitter is so useful to the job-seeker (and client-seeker) and of how to set up your own Twitter account.  Importantly, the authors give advice on how to set up your Twitter profile to give it the best opportunity to be found by search engines.

For example, in chapter 8 of the book, the authors apply the vogue concept of personal branding to using Twitter.  They provide 10 steps for "mining, defining, and redefining your brand."  But a brand means nothing unless you can sell the brand.  The authors know this and provide great advice on how to present your "Branded Value Position" to potential employers (and clients).  In short, you learn how to answer the employer's question:  if I hire you, what's in it for me?

Another useful section in the Twitter Job Search Guide is a discussion of how to create Twitter-friendly resumes and cover letters.  In addition, the book is punctuated with great advice from employers, recruiters, and successful, Twitter-using job seekers.

Beyond all this, the authors provide ample cautions and advice about how to avoid trouble in the twittersphere.  They refer, quite cleverly, to these techniques as "discretionary authenticity."

In short, the Twitter Job Search Guide is a great book, and I recommend that you read it as soon as possible.

[Photo: carrotcreative]

Monday

Inspirational Quotes to Help Overcome Obstacles



"He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence." – William Blake, "Proverbs of Hell," The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

"Shallow men believe in luck . . . . Strong men believe in cause and effect." – Emerson, The Conduct of Life

"[T]he moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no [man] could ever dream would come his way." – attributed to Goethe

"Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight." – Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790

(This last one is one of my favorites.)

"One should always think of what one is about; when one is learning, one should not think of play; and when one is at play, one should not think of one's learning." – Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son, July 24, 1739

(See my related posts re: diligence--elimination of distractions, anticipation of conditions, and stress reduction/visualization.)




[Photo: Giuseppe Bognanni]

Saturday

Guest Posting


If you have been following along, you will notice that there have been two guest posts in recent weeks.  (First one and second one.)  I am open to guest posts from anyone, so long as the post is related to the bar exam.  If you are interested in writing a guest post, please let me know by clicking the CONTACT link at the top of the page.

[Photo:  ScottieT812]

Thursday

Recent MBE Changes and the Importance of Using Updated Questions

Here is another guest post.  This one is from Dina Allam at MicroMash.  This is very timely and useful information about recent changes to the MBE portion of the bar exam.  Take it away, Dina ...

The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is notoriously one of the most feared aspects of the bar exam.  It certainly was for me.  It was the only time in my life 6 hours didn’t seem like enough time to finish an exam.  Every second counts on the MBE, and two minutes can make the difference between passing and failing.  I drank a Red Bull during lunch break to help me stay focused.  It had its payoffs (I believe drinking Red Bull helped me pass the bar) and its consequences – I had to rush to the restroom after lunch because I didn’t want to “waste too much time.”  Because there is so much pressure on the MBE, a better name might be the mental endurance test.  No matter what you call it, it’s important that you fully understand the MBE before you take it.  Over the next few months, you’ll have the pleasure of getting to know the MBE as well as I did or maybe even better.  

The MBE is the 200-question, 6-hour, multiple-choice portion of the bar exam administered on the last Wednesday in July and February.  Since the MBE tests content that is important to beginning the practice of law, the NCBE (National Conference of Bar Examiners) drafters evaluate questions on their relevance and credibility to beginning practitioners.  In recent years, the MBE has undergone many changes to become more consistent in style and format, resulting in more concise questions.  MicroMash Bar Review wants students to be aware of the several changes to the format of MBE questions that the NCBE announced and put into effect starting with the July 2009 bar exam:
  1. There will be no “none of the above” or “all of the above” answer choices.
  2. There will be no hypothetical fact-based answer choices (options that include “if” or “unless” statements which change the fact pattern).
  3. Common nouns will be used in lieu of proper nouns when practical (e.g., “a painter,” not “Pat” or “Painter”).
  4. There will be no “K-type” questions (Roman numerals in complex answer choices, e.g., I is true, but II and III are not true).
  5. One question will relate to a single fact pattern, instead of a series of questions that relate to one fact pattern.
In addition, the language in the answer choices will be parallel.  That is, the test taker will have options comparing similar elements, such as four different causes of action or four defense theories, etc., rather than comparing an answer choice that has a cause of action to one that has a defense theory.
Here is an example of a “K-type” question you will no longer see on the MBE (or at MicroMash)!


What does this all mean?  In the end it really means only one thing: you should no longer be using MBE practice questions in the old format.  One of most oft-repeated pieces of advice regarding bar exam prep (and MBE prep in particular) is to practice as many MBE questions as you can, making sure to do those questions in as close to realistic test conditions as possible.  That means answering practice questions in a timed environment whenever possible.  It means finding questions that, on par, are about as difficult or as tricky as those you’ll see on the MBE.  Most importantly, it means answering only MBE questions that reflect the new question format!  Studying and practicing for the MBE with updated question formats will prepare you for the actual MBE and simulate what you’ll see on exam day.  It will also help you accurately score yourself and keep track of how much time you need to plow through the examination.  

There are plenty of options available to assist you with bar prep (and MBE prep in particular).  Do yourself a favor and verify with your bar review company that their MBE practice questions are up-to-date with the current MBE question format standards.  The last thing you want is to show up on July 28th and see questions that don’t look familiar!

MicroMash is one of the bar review companies that has updated its questions to the current MBE format.  We excluded “K-type” questions, our fact patterns no longer have multiple questions, and our answer choices have been updated so that there are no “none of the above” or “all of the above” choices in the options.  

Visit our blog at BarExamBrief.com for up-to-date “MBE Questions of the Day” starting Friday, May 28th, 2010, to help you study for the bar exam.  In the meantime, stop by for other bar exam tips and tricks!
For more information on the recent changes to the MBE, please read “Recent Changes in NCBE’s Multiple-Choice Examination Programs” by Beth E. Donahue of the NCBE.

Dina S. Allam, Esq.
Academic Director, MicroMash Bar Review


Tuesday

How to Make Bar Exam Flashcards

There are two essential characteristics of good flashcards:  (1) they should be short and (2) you should create them yourself. 

If, however, you have ever used pre-printed flashcards with success or if you do not have time to make your own, there are lots of pre-printed options out there:

You may want to check out these products: (1) Bar Cards Complete Set (California and Multistate Subjects), (2) Kaplan PMBR: MBE Review Flashcards, (3) Passing The Bar board game based on the MBE, (4) Critical Pass, (5) Law in a Flash and (6) Dominate the Bar

As I have discussed earlier, I am a believer in making your own outline for each bar exam subject area.  You should not make flashcards until you have made your outlines.  Making your own outlines permits you to synthesize the material into a more manageable size in a format that works with your brain and temperament.  (If you do not want to make your own outlines, then use the commercial outline or an outline you got from a friend or online.)  Once you have your outlines, create flashcards as you conduct your review of your outlines during the first month of bar studies.  This way, you don't spend 10 hours straight making Con Law flashcards, but get your flashcards over a month or so.  In my opinion, you will learn more making your flashcards over a few weeks than you could absorb/learn if you forced yourself to create the flashcards in one marathon session.  In any event, you should have all of your flashcards done with at least one month to go before the examination.  This will give you plenty of time to memorize them.

How do you decide what to put on your flashcards?

As I stated above, the information should be brief.  So, you can put definitions, elements, "prongs", etc.  Never put some sort of long, drawn out analysis on a flashcard.  This will just freak you out and make studying cumbersome and ineffective.

For example, the front of your flashcard might say:  "Burglary -- Elements".  The back would say:  "(1) breaking; (2) entering; (3) the dwelling; (4) of another; (5) at night; (6) with intent to commit a felony therein."  Do not put a treatise about mens rea and intent on the same flashcard. 

When I took the PMBR course, it came with a large set of flashcards.  These cards had massive answers on the back.  It seemed like they were just reproductions of the famously wordy PMBR answer explanations (which are great, but not for flashcards).  I threw the PMBR flashcards in the recycle bin shortly after I received them.

Finally, be sure to note in a corner on the front of each flashcard what subject is being addressed by the card (e.g., Crim Pro; Real Prop; Evid; etc).  This way, you can keep your cards grouped by subject.  In my opinion, you should always study flashcards by subject.  To the extent the topics overlap, you should be able to practice this when you are writing practice "cross-over" essays.

How to memorize.

You probably have your own method for this.  I like to take a small number of flashcards (20-30) from a single subject and review them after I have spent a block of time studying that subject.  So, for example, if I have spent the last two hours writing practice Civil Procedure essays, I will spend 30 minutes reviewing and memorizing flashcards on this topic to solidify related content in my mind.

Another way to do flashcards is to have an MBE session.  So, for 2 hours, you review only MBE topic flashcards.  Then, you spend another two hours doing 50 MBE questions and reviewing the answers to them.  Reinforce your knowledge with different techniques in these back-to-back sessions.

Finally, during the last two weeks before the exam, you will have certain topics you know well and others that are more difficult.  Concentrate your efforts on flashcards from the more difficult subjects during these final weeks.  Of course, you will need to review the easier topics' flashcards periodically during this period as well to keep the information fresh.

[Photo: k4dordy]

Thursday

How do I study for the Performance Exam Section on the California Bar Exam and how important is it?

The people over at Bar Exam Doctor have kindly provided me with a guest post about their product designed to help bar examinees do better on the California bar's Performance Test.  In the interest of providing bar examinees with as much information as possible about how to succeed on the bar exam, I am posting this for your information.  (Please note, I have received no payment for this post and will receive no payment if you decide to sign up for the Bar Exam Doctor service.) 

Without further ado, here is their post:

How do I study for the Performance Exam Section on the California Bar Exam and how important is it?


I’ve been tutoring students over five years now and one of the most common questions I am asked is…"how do I study for the performance exam section on my bar exam and how important is that part of the exam?"

One performance exam is equal to two essays and makes up 1/3 of your total bar exam testing time. Despite this, my experience in helping students prepare for the exam is that they pay much more attention to the essay and multiple choice sections of the bar exam to the exclusion of the performance test. This is a big mistake.

As a practitioner, I can tell you that a law clerk or first year attorney who can write a well researched and well written legal memorandum, brief, status letter to a client, or assist on a legal pleading or motion is extrememly valuable to a large firm and even more so to a small firm or sole practitioner.

The performance exam is designed to test your ability to organize, analyze, then write in a defined, and short, period of time (3 hours). There are various methods (which I teach my students in individual tutoring sessions) but the one thing that is not a secret but which is crucial to your success on the performance exam is repetitive practice!

We developed barexamdoctor.com so that candidates preparing for the bar exam would have a place to go online, to practice writing performance exams, and to receive substantive feedback from well qualified graders!

~Todd


Tuesday

How to Eat Right while Studying for the Bar Exam

Everyone has heard of the "Freshman Fifteen," which is supposedly the amount of weight that people pack on during their freshman year of college because they drink too much beer and eat too much pizza.  Well, if you are not careful, you can quickly gain weight during bar exam studies.  The stress and long hours can lead to bad eating habits and poor food choices, with the result that you not only gain weight, but lose energy and lack mental focus.

I will admit that both times I took the bar exam, I did not eat in the manner I am about to describe, but I wish I had.  (Instead, I relied far too much on coffee and green tea to keep me awake, if not alert.)  I discovered the following method of eating about five months ago.  Even though I was exercising, I was still flabby and low energy.  Then, I discovered this eating strategy.  After changing my diet but making no other changes to my routine or my exercise regimen, I lost 15 pounds and three inches off my waist in less than two months and I felt great and continue to feel great.  All this while working as a litigation attorney and trying to have a life.

The trick is that you eliminate all "fast carbs" from your diet.  "Fast carbs" really means any high glycemic index carbohydrates that metabolize quickly, leaving hundreds of calories unused and that turn into fat.  This is why even if you are eating healthy food (e.g., whole grains, organic fruits and vegetables, etc) you can still pack on weight because of the high carbohydrate value.

Unfortunately, we all need carbohydrates to live.  So, change your diet to include "slow carbs."  These carbs are low glycemic index and take much longer for the body to metabolize.  Therefore, their energy lasts longer and you don't suffer from a "carb crash" an hour after lunch.  Slow carbs include beans and legumes, such as lentils.

Now, you need more than just beans to live.  So, you need to have protein and vitamins.  Therefore, you need to eat some sort of lean protein at each meal.  Examples include:  egg whites, lean chicken or beef, and fish.  You also need to get vitamins from vegetables.  But chose wisely, as some vegetables are high in sugar and therefore contain those fast carbs you are trying to avoid.  Good choices include:  broccoli, asparagus, chard (or any leafy green other than lettuce), brussels sprouts, peas, and mixed vegetables.

Okay, I know what you are thinking:  this sounds a bit boring.  Well, it can be.  What you need to do is mix it up with some spices and various bean and lentil varieties so that you have different flavors and textures.  Have an egg white omelet (you can include one egg for flavor) on a Wednesday instead of saving it as a treat for the weekend.

The key to this diet is that you need to eat at least five times per day to keep your energy up.  I realize this can be an inconvenience while studying for the bar exam.  So, let me suggest the following schedule:

Breakfast:  Eat a meal from the above-listed foods, combining a protein, a legume, and vegetables.
Snack during morning lecture:  Cold meat (chicken/beef/pork) salad with peas/broccoli and lentils.
Lunch:   Re-heat something in a microwave from a couple of days before.  If you want to go out to eat, make good choices.  If you have an El Pollo Loco near you, that is a good choice.  You can even order a hamburger without a bun -- weird, but effective.  Generally, on this diet, it is important to make most of your own meals.
Afternoon Snack:  (You can cheat a little here.  Maybe you aren't hungry, so skip the meal.  If you are only slightly hungry, maybe have a 120 calorie CLIF ZBaR -- super yummy and not exactly "slow carb," but close enough.)
Dinner:  Mix and match a protein, a bean/legume, and a vegetable.

Repeat the next day.

Finally, just like you should take at least one day off each week from studying for the bar exam, you should take one day off per week on this diet.  You will crave bread or rice or pasta, so have waffles for breakfast, Subway for lunch, and spaghetti with cream sauce for dinner.  Furthermore, those foods taste so much better when you only have them once a week.



Some favorite meals of mine:

Mornings:
--1/3 cup egg whites and one egg scrambled with herbes de provence; 1/2 cup of red beans; asparagus
--re-heated chicken; 1/2 cup black beans; mixed vegetables
--re-heated steak (cubed); lentils and broccoli mix
--put Trader Joe's Jalapeno sauce or other hot sauce/salsa on eggs and beans (no ketchup as it contains corn syrup)
(Also, note that I use egg whites, which you can buy in a carton . . . very convenient.  Trader Joe's has great prices if there is one near you.  And these are 100% egg whites, not artificial, low-cholesterol egg product that you can buy at supermarkets.)
--drink coffee/tea/water (no juice; don't drink calories)

Lunch/Dinner:
--chicken salad (cubed chicken, lentils, and broccoli) (this can be warm or cold)
--carne asada (meat only, no tortilla) with beans and mixed vegetables (and lots of hot sauce or salsa)
--fish with red beans and asparagus
--omelet with beans and spinach/collards/chard/kale
--chicken/beef/pork with lentil and mixed vegetables

Snacks:
--Re-heat leftovers
--CLIF ZBaR
--carrot sticks (lots of sugars, but still a vegetable)

Drinks:  (avoid drinking calories as much as possible)
--Water 
--Coffee/Tea/Yerba Mate (if you must, diet soda)
--Kefir (small glass of protein packed dairy drink.  Super tasty, and the high protein makes up for the calories.) 

[Disclaimer:  I am not a nutritionist or a doctor.  All I know is that what I have just described works for me.  If you have any underlying health issues, you may want to check with your doctor or with a nutritionist or dietitian before you implement any of the suggestions above.]

[Photo:  matthewf01]

Thursday

How to Reduce Negative Externalities Caused by the Bar Exam



 An externality is the effect of a transaction on a third-party who is not part of the transaction.  An externality may be either positive or negative.  In the case of the bar exam, the externality discussed here is the negative effect bar exam studies can have on your relationships with your family and friends.  Unless you want these relationships to be damaged or destroyed, you should give some thought to them before and during your bar exam study program.

Have the Talk

If you know any non-bar takers who you routinely see at least once a week, you need to let them know you are about to start studying for the bar exam.  The obvious people to speak with are your significant other, close friends, and children, if you have any.  (For more on S.O. and children, see below.) You should explain that you will be taking the bar exam soon, that it is a difficult test that requires a lot of studying, and that you will not be as available as before.  Tell them this will only last a couple of months, but that it will be intense.  Promise them (and fulfill that promise!) that you will be available on Saturday or Sunday to hang out and that you will be available each day during the evenings to talk.  (As I have discussed elsewhere, I do not believe that it is necessary to study 12 hours per day, 7 days per week to pass the bar exam.)

Significant Other

If you have been with your S.O. through law school, then he or she has gotten used to you keeping long hours away in order to attend class, do your homework, study for final exams, and work at clerking gigs.  If you have already come to an accommodation about this, then the bar exam should not be much different.  Maybe you will be away a couple more hours per day and occasionally on a weekend, but not much more.  If your S.O. is upset at the amount of time you are studying, then (assuming you aren't spending more than 50 or 60 hours per week studying -- and I don't think you should be) there really is no call for this behavior.  Explain that once you get a job as an attorney, it is likely that you will work a minimum of 40 hours per week, which will equate to at least 50 hours per week away from home when you factor in lunch breaks, commute time, and extra-curricular, work-related activities.  If your S.O. cannot take the time away now, the problem is likely to get worse. 

Of course, if you are going to preach in this manner, you have to make the time when you are with your S.O. quality time.  Vent a little about your bar exam stress, but do not make it the sole topic of conversation.  Study at your study place (e.g., law library) and live the rest of your life when you are at home.  (I hate to create some sort of dualistic conflict between life and work, since they are interwoven and cannot really be separated, but it is a useful concept here.)  In the end, if your relationship with your S.O. is healthy going into the bar exam, it should be strong after the bar exam.

Children

The majority of people taking the bar exam do not have children.  For those of you who do, it presents a special problem.  If your children are very young (under 3), then the burden is really on whoever will be caring for the children while you are studying.  Be sure to thank that person often.  If it is your significant other, then get a babysitter every couple of weeks and go out to dinner or even a night away.

If your children are older -- but not so old they don't want to talk to you :) -- then you need to be sure you make time for them.  You can tell them you have a very hard test coming up and that you need lots of time alone to study, but children simply cannot comprehend studying for 7-10 weeks straight for a single test. It seems ridiculous to them.

When children are involved, I highly recommend having a set schedule and never varying from it.  I have discussed my rigid studying schedule elsewhere.  The importance of having a set schedule is two-fold:  (1) your children always know when you are available (e.g., after 5pm M-F, after Noon on Saturday, and all day on Sunday); and (2) you are forced to learn during those hours or else -- it is a great motivator. 

Conclusion

The important thing is that you anticipate who will notice your absence during bar exam studies and to explain to them that it is only temporary.

[UPDATE:  For another, related view, CLICK HERE.]




[Photo: Sara. Nel]

Wednesday

Cramming and the Bar Exam

I have mentioned before that I am an interested reader of motivational authors. Another author whose work I respect is Stephen Covey. In his bestselling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he compares diligence and true knowledge to cramming and false learning. Although the context in which he discusses these issues is not directly related to the bar exam, the discussion is relevant and inspirational:

To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps even get good grades, but if you don't pay the price day in and day out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind.

Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm – to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.

And so it is with the bar exam. There is no way to cram for the bar exam at the last minute and pass. At least, no normal person can do it. Unless your super-humanity has been proven time and again, you should assume you are “normal” and study accordingly, with diligence and conscientiousness. I wish I could provide you with a Lazy Man's Guide to the Bar Exam, but no such shortcuts exist.

How to Outline for the Bar Exam


If you're sitting for the bar exam, then chances are you have been through law school. If you have been through law school, then you are acquainted with the Cult of the Outline.

The Cult of the Outline was made most famous in the movie “The Paper Chase” where one of the characters was a law student obsessed with creating the perfect outline to prepare for his final exam. Although he created the most miraculous outline in the history of outlines, he was unable to pass the final exam.

The moral of the story is that outlines are merely tools.  If a tool is of use to you, then you use it; if a tool is of no use to you, then you ignore it.  If someone tries to tell you it is impossible to pass the bar without making your own outlines, they are wrong.  (I know someone who passed the bar exam simply by reading the Conviser Mini Review from cover to cover over and over again until he had memorized everything.)

I was always able to use outlines effectively to organize my thoughts.  I used outlines in law school and in preparation for the bar exam.  (See my MBE outlines, my Oregon bar exam outlines and my California bar exam outlines.)  But, for some people, outlines are at best useless and at worst create psychosis.

To me, the act of creating an outline is a way to filter out what is unnecessary and keep what is needed.

How I Created My Outlines

For the bar exam, I created my outlines as follows:  I skimmed the day's topic in the BarBri Conviser Mini Review prior to attending that day's bar review lecture.  At the lecture, I took notes on my computer or in the BarBri In Class Workbook on what seemed important.  Then, after lunch, I spent two hours typing up an outline.  Limit yourself to two hours as it will force you to quickly sift through what matters.  Also, do it right after the bar review lecture so the important points are clear in your mind.  Since you will be reviewing each topic over and over again during the course of your studies, you will be able to add necessary detail to the outline over the next few weeks.  Once the outline is complete, you will still have a few weeks to memorize it completely.

[Note:  I used this creation process when I took the Oregon bar.  When I took the California bar, most outlines were already done, so I only needed to make a few new outlines for different subjects (e.g., Community Property and Remedies) and edit those outlines with state specific material (e.g., Evidence and Civil Procedure).  As I have mentioned elsewhere, I did not take the full BarBri lecture course a second time.]

If you plan to use outlines, then you should create them yourself, to suit your learning style. Although I have provided you with free copies of my outlines for Oregon and California, I suggest that you refer to those as models for what your own outlines should look like, rather than simply try to memorize them.  Everyone's brain works a bit differently, so they way I organize material for memorization might confuse someone else, and vice versa.




["Bacon Flow Chart" by ChrisL_AK (click the picture for larger view)]

Friday

Mentality and Bar Exam Success

I have stated elsewhere that visualizing success on the bar exam is important to a successful outcome.

Here is a video that I put together to help teach visualization techniques and to provide a visualization script to help you study effectively for the bar exam.





Wednesday

Typing v. Handwriting the bar exam

Although I am a huge proponent of typing the bar exam (and, in fact, I typed during both of the bar exams that I have taken), I will discuss what I believe are the pros and cons of each method.  Then, you can make up your own mind.




Typing

All bar jurisdictions of which I am aware permit examinees to take the bar exam using a laptop computer.  This requires the examinee to purchase overpriced exam software ($150 or more for a single exam) to secure his or her computer during the exam.  The added expense is worth it.

In my opinion, typing the exam on your computer is the clear winner.  Most people that I know can type much faster than they can write by hand.  I am no exception.  In fact, I actually believe that I can think better when I am typing that when I am writing something long-hand.  This is especially true when in an exam setting that demands quick regurgitation with minimal analysis.  If I am ruminating about my place in the universe, well, then, maybe I'll use a pencil and paper, especially since doodling helps me contemplate.

If you have taken all of your law school exams on a computer and have taken all of your outlines on a computer, then your brain is used to thinking about the law with a keyboard in front of it.  DO NOT change this for the bar exam.  Habituation is important  to the process of studying and exam performance.  Anticipate conditions and practice under those conditions.

There is, however, at least one negative to typing the exam:  a computer glitch.  At every bar exam, there are at least a handful of people whose computers crash, break, or otherwise fail to perform as expected.  This is terrible.  If you are anticipating taking the test on your computer, and it crashes in the middle of a performance test, you will likely freak.  This is an argument for using pen and paper. 

Of course, if you practice writing a few essays by hand during your studies, then you will be prepared for this.  I wrote a few essays and one entire performance test out by hand during my studies for the California bar exam to prepare for this eventuality.

Even with this fear of computer mayhem, I personally cannot imagine that I could have written enough or well enough or legibly enough to have passed a bar exam had I been hand-writing.  (Of course, there are some who can do it -- see comments to this post.)

[Note to MAC users:  I have known a few MAC people who borrow a beat-down 5-year-old PC on which to take the bar exam.  Then, because the computer has sat unused in someone's closet for the past year, the computer crashes during or shortly before the test.  Don't let this happen to you.  As far as I know, the exam software that all bar jurisdictions use is for PCs only.  So, you will need to have access to a working PC.  Since you can get a laptop for a few hundred dollars, I suggest you buy a new one if you can't borrow something less than two years old.  It is worth the expense for peace of mind.  There is another option, which is to run some sort of PC emulation software on you MAC.  I have no idea how to do this or how stable this is, so do this at your own risk.  If someone has done this, please post a comment.]

[UPDATE:  One commenter has stated that MAC users can now get bar exam software for their computers, so no need to use a PC if you don't have one.]



Hand-writing

The only advantage I can see to this method is that you do not have any chance of a computer crash.  Seriously, unless you have cramp-less hands or are a luddite, I cannot imagine how writing the exam by hand can be of any advantage.

Of course, if you have such a severe phobia of computer crashes that will keep you from performing at your peak during the exam, then by all means, hand-write the bar.

If anyone out there can think of any other benefits to writing the exam by hand, please post a comment. 

[UPDATE:  Based on one of the comments to this post, I should add that if your thoughts flow better when handwriting and you feel that you can handwrite the volume of words needed on a bar exam, then you should hand write.  The key is using the tool (computer vs. pen) that YOU believe will get you the best result on the bar exam.

My judgment here may have been a bit harsh and does reflect my bias in favor of typing, though I do like to handwrite when I am thinking creatively, I do not like to handwrite when I am taking tests or explaining information gathered through research.]

[Photos:  bigpresch and kevinzim]

Friday

Inexpensive bar exam study

So, you want to study for the bar without spending a lot of money? 

You are about to study for the bar exam, but don't have the $3,000 or more for BarBri and no one and no firm has offered to foot the bill. 

What do you do?

First, you will need study materials.  If you know someone who took the bar last year, ask them if they still have their prep books.  Maybe they will give them to you for free or sell them to you cheap. 

If you can't find someone with books, check on Craigslist for used bar prep materials.  I sold my California bar exam books on Craigslist once I got my pass results.  I sold them for 40% of what I paid for them new.  (If you are in California, be sure to check out my special report about how to study for the California bar exam for $500 or less.) 

If you can't find anything on Craigslist, maybe you can get some outlines from people who took the test earlier.  This is not as good as having professionally prepared review materials because the professional materials have so much more information.  Still, if you are impoverished, a good outline might be enough to get you through the bar exam.

(Click to get my free MBE outlines.  If you are taking the Oregon bar, click here for my Oregon outlines; if you are taking the California bar, click here for my California outlines.)

Second, find practice questions for the MBE.  Here, you will almost certainly need to spend money if you can't get a PMBR or BarBri MBE prep book for free from someone.  Again, look on Craigslist.  If you aren't having any luck, consider purchasing the least expensive PMBR package or Adaptibar.  (CLICK HERE to learn how to get $50 off Adaptibar's regular price!.)   (You may also want to try this book or these flashcards, though I personally have not used them and cannot say how helpful they might be.)

Third, you will need to find practice essay questions and model answers.  If you purchase a used study course, you should already have access to such material.  If you do not purchase review materials, you will need to get this material elsewhere.  Check you state's bar website for model questions and answers.  The California bar site has many years' worth of real bar exam essay questions and superb model answers.  You can get a huge amount of practice here.  In fact, when I was studying for the California bar, I got fed up with the BarBri model answers and relied exclusively on the model answers provided by the California bar on its website.  (If you are in California, be sure to check out BarEssays.com.)

Fourth, you must practice the performance test in the same way that you practice the essays.  Again, if your state bar provides such materials (as does the California bar), then you can use these free materials.  If not, then your only recourse is to find some professionally prepared materials.  (BarEssays.com also has Cal PTs.)

Good Luck.

[Disclaimer:  I took the BarBri review course when I took the Oregon bar and I used the Barbri books when I took the California bar.  If you can afford it, I recommend you use a paid review course.]

[Photo:  AMagill]
 
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