Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Components of the California Performance Test and the Multistate Performance Test

The California Performance Test and the Multistate Performance Test simulates the experiences of a new attorney.

You’ll be given a client “File” and asked to complete what would be considered a typical assignment for a first year associate. Most likely, you’ll be asked to write a legal memorandum or persuasive brief, although it is possible to be asked to draft interrogatories, a will provision or a closing argument. Although you may not have performed all of these types of tasks during law school, the bar examiners expect you to be able to follow their instruction memo and rely on your basic legal training to complete the assignment.

Each task is designed to test your legal skills such as fact analysis, fact gathering, legal analysis and reasoning, problem solving and ethical issue problems.

The Components of the CPT and the MPT

The File

Here you’ll find the factual information about your case in the form of:

• Excerpts from deposition testimony
• Client correspondence
• Police reports and medical records
• Invoices and purchase orders
• Witness interviews
• Contract provisions, a lease, or a will.

While the File contains all the facts you need to know about your problem, it also contains irrelevant information just as in real life where your client will volunteer much more information than you actually need. The File will include irrelevant or ambiguous information, unreliable and conflicting witness testimony and inconsistent statements.

The “Task” Memo

This is the first memorandum in the File and the single most important piece of paper in the File. It introduces your problem and identifies your task. Your job is to answer the questions presented in the memo and perform the assigned task as precisely as possible.

The Instruction Memo

If the bar examiners think you need guidance in completing your task, they’ll include a second memo in the File. This memo will tell you exactly what to include in your answer. Sometimes the examiners tell you what not to include in your answer.

The Library

The Library contains all the legal authorities you’ll need to complete the assigned task. They are the only legal authorities you may use to solve the problem.

The Library may consist of:

• Statues, codes and commentaries
• Constitutional provisions and regulations
• Rules of professional conduct
• Cases
• Secondary sources such as Reinstatement provisions

The cases may be actual cases, modified cases, or cases written specifically for the exam. The rules also may be actual rules or rules written specifically for the exam. Even if you think you are familiar with a rule or a case from law school, you must still read all the material in the Library. You cannot assume that the material has not been modified.

Next time, we will discuss the best approach to answering the performance test.

Monday, June 29, 2009

29 Days Until the Bar Exam: Strategies for the California Performance Test

The California Performance Test and the Multistate Performance Test (the MPT) is designed to test your proficiency in the basic skills you’ve developed in the course of your legal education and not just your ability to memorize. The goal of the MPT is to test an applicant’s ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation. It seeks to evaluate your ability to complete a task which a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish.

In most jurisdictions, you’ll have 90 minutes to read through 15 to 25 pages, analyze the problem, outline an answer, and write a response. In California, you’ll see one long MPT for 3 hours. Thus, the MPT is a test of your ability to work within time constraints and remain focused and organized.

The MPT tests the following:

1) Reading Comprehension

You must read proactively, with a critical eye toward solving a specific problem rather than answering a professor’s questions in class. You must read carefully and quickly, while you search for useful information and answers to the particular issue you’ve been asked to resolve.

2) Organizational Skills

You must organize your time and the materials effectively to complete the required task in the time allowed. The MPT is extremely time-sensitive. You must analyze an assortment of unfamiliar materials and compose either a memorandum of law, a letter to a client, a persuasive brief, a contract provision, a will, a settlement proposal, a discovery plan, or a closing argument, to list but a few of the possibilities.

3) Communication Skills

You must write concisely, coherently, and in a tone and manner consistent with the nature of the assignment. You must demonstrate your mastery of the language of the law and convince the bar examination that you “sound” like an attorney ready to begin the practice of law.

4) Ability to Follow Directions

The MPT is task-specific. You must perform the task identified to receive credit. If you are instructed to write a letter to the client, do that. Do not do a brief or a memo; write the letter. Show the bar examiners that you can read and follow directions.

Next time, we will talk about how to organize your performance test.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Keys To Passing The California Bar Exam Essays: "The System"

First, to be successful on the California essay portion of the bar exam, you must implement your organization.

Once you read the fact pattern, you will organize your essay, then you must analyze.

This is where you make the outline looking for issues. Look back to the fact pattern for facts which should be used for applying the law and then you can apply the facts to the law.

Please go to barprofessors.com for more information on the California and Florida bar exams.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Organization and Analysis: Essay Writing for the Bar Exam

In order to write a successful essay answer you must learn to organize your answer as your analyze the fact pattern.

Once you read the fact pattern, you will organize your essay, then you must analyze.

This is where you look through the fact pattern for facts which should be used for applying the law and then you can apply the facts to the law.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Mechanics of a Good Essay Answer for the Bar Exam

I am including a checklist as to the mechanics of a good answer for a bar essay. Whether you are writing an essay question in California or in Florida or in any other jurisdiction, use this checklist as a model for all your answers. As you practice your essay writing, keep this checklist in mind.

You must state a rule of law.

You must apply the rules to the facts.

You must reach a conclusion.

Keep Sentences Short

Keep your sentences short and concise. You are not writing a book or some thesis.

Write for an Uninformed Reader

Use your IRAC. For those applicants in New York, that state requires you to use IRAC in answering your essay question.

Also, restate your question as an answer or conclude how you want the court to rule and then why.


Take the call of question and convert it into a statement.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

5 Weeks Left to the Bar Exam: Approaching the Essay Question

In order to be successful on the state essay question, you must approach the essay step by step. Here is a checklist that may prove helpful to you:

» Read the Call of the Question First

» Read The Essay Fact Pattern Carefully

» Think Before You Write

» Roughly Outline an Answer

» Write an Answer Now

Remember to write in the order that the call of the question presents itself. If you have an (A) and a (B), don’t do (B) first; write in order that the question is given.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Hardest Bar in the Nation: California Results by Law School for February 2009

I thought it would be interesting to also post the California Non-ABA accredited schools to see how they stack up with the California ABA accredited schools. Yesterday, I posted the results of the California ABA accredited schools.

The California ABA accredited schools had a 53% first time bar pass rate and a 37% repeat-taker bar pass rate.

Out of state ABA accredited schools had a 45% first time bar pass rate and a 33% repeat-taker bar pass rate.

Here are the list of Non-ABA accredited and some non California accredited schools. Surprisingly enough, the correspondence schools seem to have the best bar pass rate of all the non accredited schools. It looks like going to a California ABA accredited school is still your best bet to pass the bar.

It still looks like California holds the title of the hardest bar in the nation.



California Northern: 0/0/0%-----9/1/11%
Empire College: 3/1/33%-----21/4/19%
Glendale Univ: 2/2/100%-----21/2/10%
Humphreys College: 1/0/0%----9/1/11%
John F. Kennedy Univ: 12/2/17%----39/2/5%
Lincoln Law School of Sacramento: 1/0/0%----27/2/2%
Lincoln Law School of San Jose: 7/2/29%---20/3/15%
Monterey College of Law: 10/4/40%---20/0/0%
New College of California School of Law: 2/0/0%---54/3/6%
San Francisco Law School: 2/0/0%----35/4/11%
San Joaquin College of Law: 1/1/100%----44/12/27%
Santa Barbara College of Law: 13/7/54%-----13/0/0%
Southern California Institute of Law -- Santa Barbara: 0/0/0%---4/1/25%
Southern California Institute of Law – Ventura: 3/0/0%----11/0/0%
Trinity Law School: 21/1/5%----55/3/5%
University of West Los Angeles School of Law - San Fernando Valley: 3/1/33%----14/0/0%
University of West Los Angeles School of Law – West Los Angeles: 17/4/24%---74/10/14%
Ventura College of Law: 12/2/17%-----23/3/13%

Total: 110/27/25%------493/55/11%



Newport University School of Law: 1/0/0%-----5/0/0%
Northwestern California University: 7/3/43%----21/3/14%
Oak Brook College of Law & Government Policy: 9/5/56%----7/2/29%
Southern California University For Professional Studies: 1/0/0%---3/0/0%
University of Honolulu School of Law: 0/0/0%----1/0/0%
West Coast School of Law: 1/0/0%----5/0/0%
William Howard Taft University: 6/2/33%----13/1/8%

Total: 25/10/40%------55/6/11%



Abraham Lincoln Univ: 19/2/11%-------------57/3/5%
Concord Law School: 54/18/33%-------------55/11/20%

Total: 73/20/27%------------112/14/13%



American College: 0/0/0%-------18/1/6%
California So. Law School: 3/0/0%------26/2/8%
Inland Valley University College of Law: 1/0/0%-------0/0/0%
Irvine University College of Law: 0/0/0%------2/0/0%
John William University School of Law: 0/0/0%-----1/0/0%
Larry H. Layton School of Law: 0/0/0%-------1/0/0%
Pacific Coast University School of Law: 7/0/0%----18/0/0%
Pacific West College of Law: 4/0/0%----10/0/0%
Peoples College of Law: 3/0/0%-----10/1/10%
University of San Luis Obispo School of Law: 2/0/0%----1/0/0%
Northern California Lorenzo Patino School of Law: 2/0/0%----17/0/0%
Western Sierra Law School: 2/0/0%----10/0/0%

Total: 24/0/0%------114/4/4%

Sunday, June 21, 2009

California Law Schools Bar Results for February 2009

California released their results by law school for the February 2009 bar. I hope all states will eventually be as transparent with the bar results as California is. First, I will post the ABA accredited schools:


LAW SCHOOL………………TOOK………..PASS…………%PASS………………………………TOOK…………PASS…………….%PASS

California Western---------68-----------44-------------65%--------------------------53------------23--------------43%

Chapman University---------10------------3-------------30%--------------------------54------------19--------------35%

Golden Gate University-----37-----------19--------------51%-------------------------66------------22--------------33%

Loyola Law School-LA-------28-----------15--------------54%-------------------------64------------22--------------34%


Pepperdine University------11------------9--------------82%-------------------------22-------------9---------------41%

Santa Clara University----26-------------13-------------50%-------------------------45-------------22--------------49%

Southwestern University—-36------------19-------------53%--------------------------85-------------29--------------34%


Thomas Jefferson-----------64------------27-------------42%-------------------------59-------------18--------------31%

UC – Berkeley----------------7-------------4--------------57%-------------------------29-------------15--------------52%

UC – Davis-----------------10-------------7-------------70%-------------------------39-------------16--------------41%

UC – Hastings-------------17-------------10-------------59%-------------------------79-------------40--------------51%

UC – Los Angeles-----------12-------------9-------------75%-------------------------30-------------13--------------43%

La Verne College-----------12-------------3-------------25%-------------------------40-------------13--------------33%

Univ. of San Diego---------42-------------22-------------52%------------------------67-------------25--------------37%

Univ. of San Francisco-----15--------------7--------------47%-----------------------34-------------17--------------50%


Western State--------------19--------------6--------------32%-----------------------88-------------20--------------23%

Whittier Law School--------27-------------12--------------44%-----------------------84-------------23--------------27%


Friday, June 19, 2009

Post Conviction DNA Testing is Not a Constitutional Right

Yesterday, the Supreme Court said that while DNA possesses a unique ability to free the innocent and convict the guilty, the justices nonetheless ruled that prisoners do not have a constitutional right to demand DNA testing of evidence that remains in police files. The United States Supreme Court ruled that prisoners do not have a constitutional right to DNA testing after their conviction, even though the technology provides an "unparalleled ability both to exonerate the wrongly convicted and to identify the guilty." Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a majority that said it is up to the states and Congress to decide who has a right to testing that might prove innocence long after conviction. The "challenges DNA technology poses to our criminal justice systems and our traditional notions of finality" are better left to elected officials than federal judges, Roberts wrote for the majority in a 5 to 4 decision. "To suddenly constitutionalize this area would short-circuit what looks to be a prompt and considered legislative response," Judge Roberts wrote. "A criminal defendant proved guilty after a fair trial does not have the same liberty interests as a free man," he wrote, and thus states have more "flexibility" in deciding procedures for post-conviction relief.

William G. Osborne was convicted of the brutal rape and assault of a prostitute in a secluded area near Anchorage International Airport in 1993. Osborne wanted to pay for a more discerning test of semen found in a condom at the crime scene, a test prosecutors agreed would almost definitively prove his guilt or innocence. But prosecutors refused to allow it, and Alaska courts agreed that Osborne did not qualify under the procedures they had established.
While Roberts stressed the virtues of judicial restraint, the dissenters said the court was abdicating its duty to seek justice.

Dissenting justices, led by John Paul Stevens, said the right to post-conviction DNA testing should not depend on the widely varying laws enacted by the states. Allowing a prisoner to test DNA evidence at his own expense would "ascertain the truth once and for all," Stevens wrote.

Only four states — Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts and Oklahoma — do not have laws in place specifically dealing with postconviction DNA testing, and Alabama recently enacted one limited to death row inmates that will become effective soon. Many states that do allow postconviction testing impose conditions on who may seek it. Including Alabama, 47 states and the federal government have enacted laws or rules that allow prisoners under some circumstances to obtain DNA tests, the high court said.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Essay Writing for the Bar Exam

Essay writing is a skill that you must master in order to pass the bar exam. For those persons who have failed the bar exam and are repeat takers, you have to examine how you have answered your essays and look for ways to improve your performance.

Always, write for an uninformed audience. For example, assume your audience knows nothing about the law. The bar examiners look for how well you know the substantive knowledge and how well you apply it.

You want to be able to show you can communicate the law, through your essay, in an organized fashion. If you are poorly organized, the examiner will find it hard to follow your train of thought or to give you much needed points. Your writing skills do matter as does spelling and grammar and using legal terminology.

Practice Time Management

Practice Writing
Keep sentences short and concise

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Frequently Tested Areas on the Multistate

Part of knowing the bar exam like the back of your hand is learning which topics in which subject the bar examiners love to test on. Here are the big ticket items you must know for each Multistate Subject.


Torts on the bar exam emphasizes negligence, just like in law school. Of course, negligence comes in many shapes and hues, including negligence per se, res ipsa loquitur and differing standards of care.


Property law covers a wide variety of subjects and often feels like a fast road trip through ten states in five days. While basic Property concepts, such as easements, covenants, adverse possession, estates in land and future interests, are covered, the examiners have taken a liking to mortgages in recent years. For many students, mortgages were not even included in their basic property class.


The most tested area in contracts is basic formation issues. Conditions and remedies also matter. Also, memorize third party beneficiaries.


When you think of evidence the only thing that should be ringing in your ears is the word hearsay. The vast expense of hearsay requires knowledge of what out-of-court assertions are not hearsay, as well as what statements fall within the exceptions. The Best Evidence Rule is on the exam, but not a highlight for examiners.

Constitutional Law

Individual rights matter a lot. These range from Equal Protection, to Due Process, to the Privileges and Immunities Clause to, of course, the First Amendment

Criminal Law and Procedure

It is important to know search and seizure issues from the Fourth Amendment as well as Miranda issues from the Fifth Amendment and right to counsel issues from the Sixth Amendment. Also focus on common law crimes, such as criminal homicide.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

6 weeks until the Bar Exam: Where Should You Be Today?

Make sure that you follow your work routine

By this time you should have set a realistic work schedule that allows for lecture time, review time, practice time and relaxation time.

By this time you should know where your strengths and weakness are. While there is still time, try to include more study time for your weaker subjects, but do not ignore your stronger areas.

Maintain your concentration level by varying your study activities, i.e. if you are reading an outline and losing focus, start practicing questions.

Know Your Law

At this stage in your studying, you should be trying to commit to memory the black letter law. You need to master the substantive law presented in the bar review courses but how you go about it is up to you. Knowing the law means that you internalize the material in such a way that you truly “own” it and can spit it out on demand. This does not mean that you recognize the material or it seems familiar to you. The bar exam requires you to know the rules with precision and specificity and to have a solid understanding of the rules.

• If you use flashcards, make them on the major elements of each subject, perhaps with exceptions to go with them.
• Create your own short outline that you can commit to memory.
• Know the vocabulary in each subject area.
• Create a short hypothetical for each rule.
• Continue to do practice questions, essays and performance tests

Know Your State Bar Exam

You should know your bar exam like the back of your hand. Everyone must prepare for the MBE, but you should know the ins and outs of your state exam. What are the length of the essays, do you have a performance exam, what areas are the most tested? You should know all of those questions so you can tailor your studies to your state exam. Don’t overlook this very important component of the exam as it may save you from failing. Too often, students get so overwhelmed by the MBE that they don’t study hard enough for the state portion of their exam.

Start Compiling Your Stuff for the Bar Exam Site

Start to slowly compile the items you need for the bar exam site. Make sure you have all the practicalities set for the bar exam itself. Have you made your hotel reservations? Do you have the confirmation number? Do you have all the things you need put aside so you don’t lose them, i.e. your admission ticket and your personal identification? Have you looked up what personal items you can bring into the exam to give you an added boost – like your favorite pen or watch?

Clear away a spot on your counter to start compiling your necessary items. This way you won’t need to panic at the last minute over those little housekeeping things that you want to bring with you. Put your admission ticket, the mapquest of the drive to the site or hotel, your hotel confirmation number in that spot and start adding the items you want even if you end up not taking them.

Preparing for those necessary little things will keep you focused on the job at hand and you won’t be scrambling around at the last minute.

The importance thing is to keep on your schedule.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Focus and Memorization

Students ask me how to memorize the voluminous subjects and topics a student must know in order to pass the bar. As we all know, we can read, read, read until we’re blue in the face and not remember a thing about what we read. If we remembered everything we read, all of us would be well prepared to take any bar in the country. Why can remember some things but not others? I think the first item to look at is our focus. You cannot memorize without first focusing on the materials you must learn.


If you are having trouble memorizing your materials, the problem is probably not with your memory, but rather your focus or, I should say, your lack of focus during your preparation.

Focusing means just that. Get rid of all your distractions. Leave the cell phone in the car, put the snacks away and focus on the materials at hand.

Use your study plan to figure out what you are to study for each day. Whatever topic you have in your study plan, break it down to manageable components to aid in your next step of memorization.


There are two main approaches to memorization. You can use what is called the “memory hooks” or “repetition”. One of my students who, after failing the bar in July, refocused on her study techniques. For the February bar, which she passed, she used acronyms and mnemonics in order to memorize the concepts. If this works for you, try to use some memory hooks to jog your memory as your study.

For those who can’t seem to learn mnemonics or some type of memory hooks, try repetition. As someone once said, “repetition is the mother of skill”. You will have to just repeat the concepts over and over again. In this respect you can try flashcards, write out the concepts, or use a recording devise to help your repetition.

When I was studying for one of my bars, I got tapes of the lectures and used to get up and put it on as I was getting dressed, listened to the tapes in my car, listened to them over lunch and dinner, and, in general, when I wasn’t actually studying, I would be playing those tapes over and over again. I had effectively replaced all my music with the study tapes. So all those times I would have been listening to my favorite music, I was listening to lectures.

Remember what type of learner you are. If you are auditory, listen to the tapes. If you are visual, keep looking in those books.

Focus on memorizing in sections. Don't worry about mistakes too much unless they are the same ones. Refer back to your outline once in a while to make sure you aren't memorizing it wrong. If you get stuck at particular sections, focus on those the most.

Make sure that you conquer your focus and memorization skills. Work hard at this.

Friday, June 12, 2009

How Much Study Time Do You Devote to Your Bar Exam Preparation?

Students ask me how much study time is really needed to pass the bar. I don’t think there is a ready-made answer for how much time you should spend on your studies for the bar exam. I’ve known successful applicants who have studied 8 hours a day and I’ve known applicants who were unsuccessful despite studying 15 hours a day.

You definitely don’t want to burn yourself out prior to the bar but you don’t want to be unprepared for the exam, either.

You have had the opportunity now to study for the last few weeks. You need to ask yourself how well you are learning or reviewing the subject materials. Are you mired down in the outlines, are you having trouble memorizing the elements of a tort? Are you getting enough practice questions in during the day? Do you traditionally have trouble testing? The obvious answer then becomes what you think you need now. My advice is to work hard and long now and once you know the materials, and once you start to feel more comfortable with the exam preparation, then you can become less strict as the bar gets nearer.

Those who are using the commercial bar review classes have a full 4 hour block of time where they are listening passively to a lecture. It’s a good time for review of your outlines, but you’ll need the rest of the day to actively work on preparation, for example, by doing practice questions and essays or performance memos.

Those who are not in commercial bar review classes or when bar review classes are not in session, have the whole day to enact your study plan. Start working the bar time. You know that you’ll be in the bar from 9-12:00 and then from 12:30 – 4:30. You’ll need to practice sitting still, focusing on your materials and concentrating for those 3 hour stretches without a break. It’s actually going to be hard for you in the beginning. Start trying to do so. You can do a 3 hour stretch, take an hour or an hour and a half as a break, then go back to 3 hours then break again and then do another 2 or 3 hour stretch. As the weeks go by, work the actual bar schedule, only taking a half hour break so you’ll be ready for bar exam day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Bar Exam Jitters: Controlling Your Anxiety

I saw one of my students yesterday in the midst of an anxiety attack. Despite studying diligently for the last few weeks, and despite earning the highest final exam grade in my class, she was a bundle of nerves and tension wondering how she was going to learn everything for the bar exam. She kept telling me that the exam was only 6 weeks away.

Sound familiar? You all will go through those jitters and fears until the exam. You will continuously ask yourself, am I studying enough? Do I know enough? How will I learn everything I need to learn? Why is the time going so slowly and then so fast?

Your anxiety is normal, but do not let that nervousness overwhelm you. It is completely natural to have test anxiety.

Yes, studying for the bar exam is not fun. It is tedious, hard work and you feel like the whole world is passing you by while you are miserable. But remember your ultimate goal. After this experience you will fulfill your dream of being a lawyer. And, in most cases, this will be the only bar exam you have to take unless you plan to leave the jurisdiction.

Try to Stay Calm

If you have too much anxiety, you will not be able to study efficiently or effectively. Too much anxiety will have a detrimental effect on your preparation and your performance. You cannot absorb the law if you are completely stressed. Try relaxation exercises or do something you like to do as a reward for a good study day. If you like watching a particular tv show, record it and watch it on one of your breaks as a reward. If you want to watch the playoffs, get up early or make up those 3 hours or, better yet, watch the 4th quarter only. Save an hour for exercise if that relaxes your mind.

Be diligent and disciplined and you’ll start to feel less stressed out.

Know the Exam Like the Back of Your Hand

To lessen your anxiety, you need to boost your confidence about the bar exam. You can only achieve this by taking the time to understand the tested material, answering practice questions, and becoming familiar with the organization of the bar exam.. The more confident you are about the exam, the less likely you will be to experience test anxiety.

Another thing you can do to ease your nerves is make sure you won't be in for any surprises the day of the exam. You should drive by the test facility a few days before your scheduled exam date and locate everything you need for the test (like your identification and admission ticket) and set it aside. Be sure you get a good night's sleep the night before so you can wake up with enough time to get ready. If you're going to be traveling to the test center during rush hour, give yourself plenty of time to arrive early.

Be Confident in Yourself and Your Abilities

You have been successful your whole life. You did well in college, got into law school, studied and clawed your way to a degree, and you can pass the bar exam. Remember, you don’t have to be a genius to pass the bar, you have to put in the time and the hard work. Tell yourself often that you can pass this bar exam.

Keep Your Mind in the Game

Keep thinking of your ultimate goal of beating the bar and becoming a lawyer. Visualize yourself as being smart at the bar exam, answering the questions easily. Visualize yourself telling your parents or your loved ones that you passed the bar.

Remember to Believe in Yourself. You Can and You Will Pass the Bar

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

MBE Questions: How Much Testing Should You Do?

When you take the MBE portion of the bar, you must average 34 questions per hour to answer all 100 questions in the allotted 3 hours. You must make sure on the day of the MBE exam, you do not run out of time. Yes, it’s imperative that you answer the MBE correctly, but it is also imperative that you have an opportunity to answer every question. You cannot allow yourself to run out of time and potentially fail to answer 5 to 10 questions that you didn’t get to. Even if you don’t know the answer, you can at least narrow the answer choices to 2 and make an educated guess. If you don’t read the question, you can’t even make an educated guess.

Make an ultimatum to yourself today that you will read and answer all the MBE questions per session at the exam site.

It’s a difficult endeavor and you must practice every day to get yourself ready for the MBE marathon.

How do you practice the MBE effectively and efficiently?

First, I would recommend you practice the MBE in ½ hour increments, for now. Ordinarily that would mean you need to do 17 questions per half hour. The stress of the actual test will make you work slower, so you’ll need to practice more questions per half hour. If you perfect a pace of say 19 or 20 questions per half hour, then come test time you’ll average your 17 questions per half hour.

Until you get used to all this extra study and practice time, try 3 to 4 sets of half hour tests, per study day, doing 19-20 questions at a time. Do not interrupt that time with bathroom breaks or phone calls or eating a snack while you are testing yourself. Time yourself, as it is very important that you keep up with the strict time limits of MBE testing. Do not cheat on the time. Yes, it is going to be very hard in the beginning, but with enough practice, you’ll find yourself getting through the questions faster and with more ease.

Once you finish your 19-20 questions, look over every single answer, even the ones you got right. You want to make sure you understand the reasoning behind the correct answer, even your right answers. If there is a point of law you don’t understand, write it down or try to memorize that point of law. You may want to go over to your study guide and re-read that section of the law.

Right now, the MBE testing will be like running in sand. You are going to frustrated and tired. Some days or some sessions you’ll do fine, other days and other testing sessions will leave you convinced you don’t know a thing about the law. You will be inconsistent and irritated. But don’t get discouraged, you will get better at them and the questions will start to become easier for you. Conversely, don’t get over confident. A few good scores does not make a passing score. Keep practicing. Your practice times will make you stronger for the actual test, and, believe it or not, you will actually start to see patterns and stock answers that you will know can’t be right. The MBE questions are like doing cross word puzzles. The same clues and answers will start to repeat themselves and you’ll discover the tricks the MBE examiners use to distract you from the right answer.

Practice, practice, practice and you’ll conquer the MBE test as you earn your way to your bar license.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Tale Between Two Bar Exam Components – MBE and Essay Questions or Performance Tests

A bar exam has two or for those states that have the performance exam, 3 different bar components. How do you sufficiently study and cover all the components of your bar exam?

I find that most of the commercial bar review courses rely heavily on teaching the MBE law and its strategies for the MBE, which is, of course, essential to passing the bar. Unfortunately, those same commercial bar review courses do not treat the essay or performance component nearly as comprehensively as it does the MBE.
Treating the essay or performance component as an afterthought is a danger you do not want to put yourself in. Let’s look briefly at the Florida bar. The Florida bar is a cumulative bar. The applicant does not have to pass both sections; she just has to get a total point score of 272.

The Florida section consists of 3 essays and 100 multiple choice questions. If the applicant does well on the essays, she can bring a number of points to the MBE score to ensure that, even if she does not pass the MBE of 136 points, she can still pass if she does well on the essays. Of course, the reverse is true – if she can do well on the MBE, she can bring the points to a weaker essay score.

One of the reasons why the MBE is hard is because you either get the answer right or wrong. If you get the answer wrong, you get no points. For an essay or performance question, you can beat around the bush a bit and still get some points. That’s why writing a good essay or good performance memo/brief can be a strategically good move.
How do you get enough study time for your essays and/or performance component in sight of the high demands of the MBE?

You must take time to prepare for your essays and/or performance component. Do not allow the bar review courses to take away from the necessity of studying for those components.

You must do MBE testing every day. I’ll discuss, in a few days, about how to maximize your MBE testing.

In addition to the MBE, I recommend that you do at least 3 or 4 essays and/or performance tests per week. By testing day, you will have done 24 essays and/or performance memos that will hold you in good stead for the exam. Try to do an essay every other day and do at least one essay or memo on Saturday and one more on Sunday. Since you will not have bar review classes on the weekend, you have 12 -13 hours to write and review your essay or memo. You can spare the hour and a half to devote to your essay or memo.

Don’t take the essay and/or performance test for granted. You are going to want the maximum points possible from those writing assignments.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Your Job This Summer is to Study

Your full-time job this summer IS studying for the Bar Exam. There is no ifs or buts about this. You need to be clear headed, dedicated, persistent, unyielding and your thoughts of “bar” need to be all encompassing.

The reason a person fails the bar is not because he or she is not smart enough. We all know plenty of people that we are shocked when that person passed the bar. They were the ones who we thought were dumb in law school, wasn’t in law review, wasn’t running in the right circles, etc. Whatever the reason, we knew that person could not pass the bar because he or she didn’t have it. Well, what they had was a plan of action that gave them ample opportunity to learn the materials necessary to pass the bar.

A person does not pass the bar for many reasons, but one underlying theme of their failure is that they didn’t put enough time into the material. The word “time” has many different meanings. You didn’t have actual time because you were working at a another job, a family member is gravely ill (this actually happens a lot – I have personally known 2 or 3 students in just this year, whose parent was ill and/or died).

Time also concerns how you work. You’d be surprised how much time you actually waste, talking to friends, not concentrating on the words in your outline, flipping through your books, etc. You have to work smart.

Work Smart

First you need to structure your day. As a student, you just go from class to class, do studying whenever you can find an hour or two. As a graduate studying for the bar, you must make your study time count and work like it’s your first job and you want to impress your managing partner. I guarantee you, once you pass the bar and begin working, putting in 60-80 hours a week will be normal – so you might as well start working like a demon now.

How do you structure your day?

Work the Actual Bar Schedule

Wake up early enough to eat breakfast, read your e-mail, look at the news or exercise, look over today bar review topic with plenty of time to get to your bar review course. I know that some people will take the later sessions of bar review or are not morning people. But you must start working the bar schedule as soon as you can. You need to start mimicking the bar so on July 28th, you are ready to start the bar at 9:00 am, work 3 hours of the morning session, take an hour break and work 3 more hours of the bar. You want your body clock to be on bar exam time.

In order to work the bar schedule, you need to start preparing yourself for early mornings so you are ready to be an your optimal best on July 28th bar start time and you need to get into the habit of working at least 4 hour stretches with no interruption so you can sit easily for the 3 hour stretch of the actual bar.

Towards July, figure out how long it will take you to get up, get yourself ready for
the bar, eat something, drive time to the bar location, wait time to get into the bar location, and check-in time at the bar location, so you’ll in your sit at the 9:00 am start time. Starting about the first week of July start getting yourself out of bed at that time so your body will be acclimated to the wake up time. You do not want to be sleepy or fuzzy because you didn’t train your body to get up at a time you are not used to.

Also, many of us are just not breakfast eaters. But you know that you cannot go 3 hours without eating when you are taking the bar. Practice eating something prior to the bar, as you will need need the fuel and the energy for the bar. Start small, like an egg or a banana or toast – something to put in your body for the bar.

Since you will be doing more than 6 hours of studying per day to get ready, here’s how you should structure your day.

9:00 am – 1:00 pm: Go to Bar Review, or to your designated location and work a 4 hour stretch. The reason I recommend 4 hours is the reason why a sprinter runs more than the 100 yard dash. If you study in 4 hour stretches, the 3 hour bar sessions are going to make it easier for you to concentrate and put out your optimal best for the 3 hours required.

1:00 – 2:00 pm. Take your break – go exercise, eat, take a nap. Rest your mind.

2:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Another 4 hour stretch of uninterrupted study time.

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Take another break.

7:00 pm – 10:00 - 11:00 pm. Study for another 3 to 4 hours prior to going to bed.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how to study.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Georgia’s Bar Examination Results by Law School for February 2009

Georgia has posted the bar exam results by percentage and by law school. There was a total of 380 takers, of which 215 takers passed, which is a 56.5% pass rate.

227 first time takers took the bar, of which 167 takers passed, which is a 73.5% pass rate.

153 repeaters took the bar, of which 48 takers passed, which is a 31.3% pass rate.

By Georgia law schools, here are the results:

School................ All Takers............First Time Takers..........AVE. MBE


Mercer Law School.....6 of 3 = 50%............0 of 0 = 0%...........134.6

Emory University.....12 of 8 = 66.6%..........6 of 3 = 50%..........131.7

Univ. of Georgia.....10 of 7 = 70%............5 of 4 = 80%............137.9

Georgia State .......31 of 25 = 80.6%.........25 of 22 = 88%........145.7

John Marshall........27 of 14 = 51.8%..........9 of 7 = 77.7%.......131.5

TOTALS...............86 of 57 = 66.2%.........45 of 36 = 80%........137.6

It is interesting that some schools have such low February first time takers. I wonder if the schools actively discourage either December graduates or, even, February takers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Michigan Bar Results by Law School for February 2009

I found the Michigan Bar Results by law school for February 2009 for both the overall rate and the first time rate. Here are the schools and their pass rates:

Overall Bar Pass Rate:

School.........Passing.......Taking........Pass Rate



Wayne State......33..............47............70%

Michigan State...36..............55............65%


Ave Maria........5...............10............50%


First-Time Bar Pass Rate:

School.........Passing.....Taking........Pass Rate


Ave Maria..........1............1.............100%



Wayne State........18...........23............78%

Michigan State.....22...........29............76%


I will be curious to see how Ave Maria will do on future bar exams as they will be in a new jurisdiction in Naples, Florida starting in the fall. Florida is traditionally one of the harder bars in the nation.