It’s FINALLY here! Hopefully you have set a time today to stop studying so that you can relax and attack the exam with a fresh mind tomorrow morning. (Trust me, you’ve been studying all summer; a few hours will not make much, if any, difference.) As you start to wrap things up, here are a few last-minute — and hopefully repetitive — reminders:
Mind the clock!
If you forget every other suggestion you’ve heard this summer, please remember this one: DO NOT EXCEED 60 MINUTES ON ANY ESSAY QUESTION!! I promise you that no good can come from spending more time on one answer at the expense of the others. A friend of mine admitted that when we took our exam, he or she spent about 80 minutes on the first (racehorse) question on Day 3. That person got an 85% on that answer…but guess how we know that score.
You have no greater friend on the bar exam (aside from your watch) than IRAC. Even if you encounter a “throat-clearer” issue, you can still use IRAC and make your grader happy. For example:
“Common Law vs. UCC
The UCC governs the sale of goods, which are tangible, moveable objects. Since the dispute centers around the sale of a car, which is a tangible, moveable object, the UCC governs this transaction.”
That is a very short analysis, but it still follows a strict IRAC format. IRAC is what your graders will want and expect to see, so don’t deviate!
Zip your lips!
No matter how tempted you are to rush out of the Convention Center at lunch and double-check every detail of your answers with your friends before you forget, DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT!! You know that the graders look at your answer holistically, so why bother comparing your thoughts with someone else? There is a Contracts question on file where the two released answers each decide differently on the UCC/CL issue. Can you imagine if those two applicants had discussed their answers with each other after the exam? Each would have spent the next four months fretting about failure, when in reality they wrote the published answers.
This one is difficult, but important: if you encounter a question on which you draw the dreaded blank, DO NOT PANIC. As mentioned below, all panicking does is waste time. Instead, there are a couple of proactive measures you can take:
What would my mom say?
When I took the exam, Question 2 dealt with a topic our Bar/Bri professors promised would hardly be anywhere on the MBEs, let alone in the essays. Yet there it was. Instead of freaking out and thinking about how certain I was that I would fail (okay, maybe I did that for a minute), I thought about the question from a lay perspective: what would my mom, who never went to college, say if I asked her this question? Remember, these questions are not written to trick you. If you think about them logically, you will probably kick-start your brain and be able to pick out the issues and even remember some (or all) of the rules.
Those of you who took PPLW may remember this technique. If you draw a blank regarding a rule, read through the facts again with a critical eye. WHY was Fact A included? WHY was Fact B included? The Bar Examiners tailor their questions so that almost every fact can (and should) be used in an applicant’s answer. By reading through the facts and hunting for clues, you can probably “reverse engineer” the rule by picking out the facts that illustrate the elements.
Finally, and most importantly: NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!!
I was reasonably sure that I failed that second question. I’m still not convinced that I got a passing score on it, but it doesn’t matter because I passed the exam as a whole. I was also “lucky” enough to encounter a couple of other questions (not just one) that I did not expect to see at my sitting. On top of that, I felt confident about five MBE questions. Literally, FIVE out of two hundred! (I found them so difficult that I kept track.) Again, though, it doesn’t matter, because I passed as a whole — just like you will!
So you encounter a curve ball, and you swing and miss. So what? That’s only one strike. If you throw down your bat and walk away, you might miss out on hitting the game-winning home run! Cheesy analogies aside, you simply have to stay positive and keep attacking each question with confidence, even if you have to fake it.
The title of this entry is a quote from Bernard Hinault, who won the Tour de France five times in the 1980s. Translated to English, it means, “As long as I breathe, I attack.” Take that attitude with you into the bar exam for the next three days, and no matter what they throw at you, don’t let it phase you. As long as you breathe, you attack!
Know that I will be thinking of and rooting for every one of you this week!!