McGeorge Bar Prep

What You Need to Succeed on the CA Bar Exam

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Handling Racehorses

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on February 5, 2016

Several graduates have expressed concern about how to handle “racehorse” essay questions (questions with more issues than it seems there is time to answer).  If you also struggle with racehorse questions, read on:

It may not be exactly what you want to hear, but the best way to improve at writing racehorse questions is to keep practicing.  Plan to simulate as many racehorse questions as practicable (often Evidence and Remedies, although other subjects qualify, depending on the fact patterns).  You’ll likely continue to struggle at first, but each time you simulate an exam in realistic conditions, you improve your time management skills.  As you do, you also sharpen your understanding of the law; writing practice is great like that.

Here is a great way to work with racehorses:

  • Keep the watch that you’ll use during the bar next to you, and set it at 12:00:00.  (Don’t have a reliable, analog, easy-to-read watch yet?  Borrow or buy one ASAP.  Usually there are no clocks in the exam room.)  Start it when you imagine the proctor telling you to begin.
  • Read the fact pattern at least three times:  (1) once as a quick overview, (2) once to make notes on the fact pattern, and (3) again to outline.  Outline your response by hand, stopping by 12:20. See this Outlining Chart if you’d like a template.  Either way, remember that every outline should contain three (abbreviated) things:  issues, rules, and most importantly, lots of FACTS.  Almost every fact from the question should appear in your answer somewhere.
  • At 12:20, pause to review your outline and consider weighting:  Generally, how much of the remaining 40 minutes will you use for each issue?  If you use the chart linked above, you will have a nice visual cue to help you (i.e., more facts will be associated with “heavier” issues that require more time).  Write those time allocations in the margins of your outline next to each issue.  Weighting only takes a minute or so, and it’s the most helpful strategy for applicants who run out of time — yet, sadly, it’s the step that most applicants omit.
  • Write your answer, sticking to your schedule.  You may adjust it slightly as you go, but keep your watch next to you (not on your wrist) and remain constantly mindful of the time and the weight of each issue.

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It still won’t feel like enough time, and it probably never will; that’s the nature of a racehorse question.  But following this plan will guarantee that you make it through everything and finish, even if it’s not perfect — which it does not have to be in order to pass.  As Voltaire wisely said, “Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  Furthermore, the more you simulate this method, the more information you’ll be able to fit into those weighted time blocks.

If you struggle with time management on PTs, the same advice applies.  Set your watch, take 90 minutes to outline effectively, weight your answer before beginning to write, and stick to your time allocations.  Here is a similar PT Outlining Chart, which includes reminders as to your tone (objective or persuasive), goal (what are you trying to achieve for your client?), and audience (opposing counsel/judge/supervising attorney/etc.) — vital points that stressed bar writers tend to forget.  Be sure to abbreviate in all of your outlines to save time, and remember that the “Facts” column always contains the most content.

Just keep practicing, and don’t be discouraged.  Everyone else taking the exam has the same amount of time that you have, and you’re not the only one who struggles with these types of questions.  It can be done, and you have the tools to do it!

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Diversity Bar Scholarships

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on January 29, 2016

3L Diversity Scholarship to Cover Bar Exam Expenses

The California Bar Foundation 3L Diversity Scholarship is now open! Any diverse 3L who plans to practice public interest law in California, and who plans to take the July 2016 California Bar Exam, is eligible. Winners receive a free Barbri bar prep course along with a living stipend. Deadline is Tuesday February 16, 5pm. Application can be found here: http://www.calbarfoundation.org/3l-diversity-scholarship.html

And for the first time, we are thrilled to offer co-sponsored 3L Diversity scholarships with the following five affinity bar associations throughout California:

Asian American Bar Association Law Foundation

Orange County Asian American Bar Association

East Bay La Raza Lawyers

Black Women Lawyers Foundation

The Charles Houston Bar Association

In partnering with these groups, we are connecting with even more diverse law students throughout California. Specific criteria for these special co-sponsored scholarships are available on the application registration page.

We are committed to supporting diverse California law students who are devoted to improving access to justice in California, and this scholarship is one important way we are doing so.

Please email me with any questions at sheilab@calbarfoundation.org

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Help! I still don’t know the law!

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on January 25, 2016

It is very common around this time, with Bar Month around the corner, for applicants to feel like they do not know the substantive law well enough.  First of all, that feeling is totally normal, and it is shared by applicants across the country.  Second, rest assured that if you maintain your momentum, it gets better.

If you feel like you don’t know the substantive law well, or well enough to write practice essays . . . [wait for it] . . . you should write more practice essays.  Really!  It seems counter-intuitive, but wrestling with the law in the context of a factual scenario for an hour  — even if you are somewhat unfamiliar or uncomfortable with that law — truly is the best way to improve your understanding of it, which is SO much better than just memorizing it from an outline.  There is a time for studying outlines, of course, but the most common repeater comment, heard year after year after year, is, “I didn’t feel like I knew the law well enough, so I didn’t write enough practice exams.”  Please break that awful cycle!  If you’re not simulating practice exams yet, start today (maybe with the Extra Feedback Program essay due tonight)!

Warning:  Even if you’ve been writing dozens of practice exams, realistically simulating essays in uncomfortable subjects may be ugly at first.  You might produce some of the worst work product you’ve ever written . . . but who cares?!  That’s why it’s called “practice,” and mistakes now are cause for celebration, not dismay, because you have time to address them before it counts.

If you’d still like a supplemental method to writing practice exams to help you memorize (not necessarily understand) the law, many people find flash cards helpful.  The key is to make them yourself, not purchase a set or use one from someone else.  The mere act of writing the cards helps cement the concepts in your brain, provided you do so mindfully and not while distracted by the TV, friends, etc.  We also recommend keeping the content on the cards reasonable; it is not as effective to write so much that reviewing them essentially is like reading your outlines on smaller pieces of paper.  The purpose is rule memorization, so stick to element tests and similar structures.

Finally, there is even more hope!  You’ve got at least a week (maybe more, depending on your commercial review schedule) coming next month where you will no longer be attending lectures and learning new material.  That period is like Memorization Ground Zero, and most applicants say that their knowledge of the law skyrockets during that time.  You’ll NEVER walk into the testing center feeling completely ready — that would be inhuman — but you should feel so much better than you may feel now.

The goal is not to enter the testing center knowing everything, but rather knowing that you did everything you possibly could to prepare.  That’s what it means to be ready for the bar exam, and that’s how you’re going to feel.

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The Importance of Self-Assessment

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on January 14, 2016

It should be no surprise that realistic practice is the key to success on the bar exam…but what about review?  Answer review is almost as vital as the act of writing out exams under timed conditions, but applicants cannot get professional feedback on every essay and PT they simulate, especially if they simulate as many as they should.

Many applicants think that they are incapable of reviewing their own exam answers, and this sometimes dissuades them from simulating exams on their own if there is no one available to provide feedback.  Not so — you ARE capable of reviewing your own answers!  Getting feedback from outside sources is great, but self-critique is just as great, if not better.  The better you get at recognizing flaws in your own writing, the easier it will be to eliminate those flaws as you write.  You need to be your own best critic when you’re sitting in the exam room next month.

Below are two charts to help you methodically compare your answers to the sample answers.  If you complete them for multiple exams, you should start to see patterns for improvement — e.g., not using enough specific, relevant facts, regularly missing certain issues, following a different argument order than that recommended by PT task memos, etc.

So yes, feedback is great, and you should take advantage of it when possible (through the Extra Feedback Program and your bar review company, for example)…but don’t be discouraged by the prospect of self-review.  And most of all, keep practicing!!

Essay Answer Comparison Chart

PT Answer Comparison Chart

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Feb. Bar Meetings

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on January 11, 2016

February bar takers, you can meet individually with Courtney Lee this and next month for some extra support, to check in about your progress, to vent if needed, and/or to get your questions answered. You may have received an email at your Pacific account with specific times available, or you can just email her directly at clee1@pacific.edu (be sure to include the “1”) to arrange an appointment if you haven’t already.

Also, a friendly reminder: the Extra Feedback PT is due tonight by 6:00!

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Bar Prep Dos & Don’ts

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on January 4, 2016

You want to pass, and we want you to pass. Here’s how to do it:

Do NOT underestimate the bar. 

You made it through a tough law school curriculum.   You have what it takes to pass the first time, and in fact you’ve probably passed every exam you’ve ever taken.  You’re tired and studying this much after all of that is exhausting. BUT: You’ve still got to push through and work as hard as you can – maybe even harder than you’ve ever worked before – to pass the bar. Take preparing seriously from the beginning all the way through. No lounging with Netflix everyday telling yourself that you’ll start really studying tomorrow…or you’ll really start studying again in six months.

DO adopt an “attack” attitude. 

Respect the exam, work hard, and take it seriously from the start, but do not psych yourself out into thinking that you might fail. No one ever feels fully ready, but if you prepare wisely, you WILL pass. Go in knowing that, and attack the exam with everything you’ve got. If you run into a tough question (essay, PT, or MBE) that you just don’t know – like everyone does – do your best and move on with the same “attack” attitude. One question won’t kill you, but giving up will.

DO take advantage of the support programs available. 

Take advantage of programs offered by the school, such as free lectures and discounts on preparation software (check your Pacific email account for more info), and the free Extra Feedback Program. Follow this blog and/or like the “McGeorge Bar Prep” Facebook page for more info, advice, and support, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or need a pep talk.

DO simulate practice exams & compare your work to the sample answers. 

That means timed, in a realistic environment, and no cheating!! And then when you’re done simulating those practice exams, simulate some more. This is the key to success, and it is the most common regret among those who fail the exam. As they studied, they either felt like they didn’t need to write that much, or they felt like they didn’t know the law well enough to start writing…but you will NEVER feel like you know the law well enough, so just do it. You can mess up; that’s why it’s called “practice.” Just issue-spotting is not enough. Plain and simple: You will not pass the bar if you do not fully simulate practice exams and compare your answers to the sample answers.

DO be real with yourself and do NOT set yourself up for failure. 

If you know deep down that you will pay attention better if you physically come to campus to attend the commercial bar review lectures or to study and write practice exams – and that’s most of us – then do it! Staying holed up in your bedroom only partially paying attention to online lectures will not work. When the big review companies started offering access to online versions of their programs at no additional charge, the overall CA pass rate dropped significantly. Coincidence?

DO take care of yourself. 

Eat healthfully, exercise, and take some planned time off to relax (i.e., an afternoon here and there, not a trip to Vegas). It’s true that the bar exam is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ve got to be mentally ready, but also emotionally and physically up to the challenge.

DO believe that if you can graduate from McGeorge, you can pass the bar!  Focus, work hard, and we’ll see you at the Swearing-In Ceremony!   

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July 2015 Answers Released!

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on December 28, 2015

The State Bar has finally released example answers for the July 2015 bar exam essays and PTs.  This is a great, free resource, but remember, all we know is that these are “passing” answers; we do not know exactly what scores the answers received, and they might contain errors you want to avoid in your own writing.  For example, a format might be odd, or a heading might not fit particularly well, but usually the released answers make up for any such deficiencies with solid issue-spotting, clear and accurate rule statements, and most importantly, strong factual analyses.

If you took the July 2015 exam and would like to meet to review your answers, I’d be happy to meet with you. If so, I require that you complete one essay or PT comparison chart for each answer you wish to discuss, and that you come prepared to explain to me in detail how your answers differ from the example answers, and what would have made them better.  (Please note that the campus is closed now through Jan. 3.  I then have to travel for work purposes in the first week of the New Year, but I will be available to meet starting the week of Jan. 11.)

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First Extra Feedback Essay Due Monday

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on December 26, 2015

Don’t miss the first opportunity to get individualized feedback on your practice exams!  The first essay, Property, is due by 6:00 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 28.  See this post for more information and a copy of the question.

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Don’t wait to prepare for February!

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on December 15, 2015

Today is the last day of final exams at McGeorge. While students still taking exams now have cause to (responsibly) celebrate their completion tonight, any graduates planning to sit for the February bar exam will need to get back to work ASAP. Far too many graduates — both those taking the exam for the first time and those returning for another round — believe that they can take a break during the holidays and begin preparing in earnest in 2016, but they are mistaken!

If a graduate waits until January 2 to begin studying and practicing, she only will have seven weeks — just over 50 days — to review all 13 subjects, write simulated essays and PTs, and practice MBE questions. A common recommendation is to complete 50+ timed, realistic (no cheating!) essays, 5-6 PTs, and about 1500-1800 MBEs during the bar prep period, including meaningful, methodical review of every question (try this chart for the written portion)…and that does not count studying the law itself! If a graduate is taking the February bar exam and begins preparing today or tomorrow, she will have almost three more weeks of prep time than she would have if she waited until after the holidays.

Many people have asked me why I think the February first-time pass rate is lower than July. There are several factors, although it is NOT a more difficult exam, but I think a big one is time. There are two to three fewer weeks available to February applicants who wait until after the holidays to prepare than there are for May graduates who begin preparing then and continue through July. February applicants, be sure to use your time wisely in December so you can have a similar advantage! Sure, you can take some time away if you celebrate Christmas on December 24-25, and on New Year’s Eve/Day, but sitting out for a whole week, appealing as it sounds, should not be an option.

A special note to retakers waiting to receive your answers from the State: One of the worst things you could do is wait to start practicing again until you get those answers back, because you might be waiting until mid-January. Furthermore, there are no comments on them, so you would be completing the same methodical comparison to the sample answers as you would for your own practice, so get started NOW. (Side note: If you are a McGeorge graduate, I am happy to review your answers with you once you get them back, but I require anyone wishing to do so to complete this chart for every question you wish to discuss, and come in prepared to explain to me why you think you received the score you did. This is far more useful for you than if I completed this comparison myself and then told you about it.)

There are several free programs available for McGeorge graduates sitting for the February bar, many of which begin this month. First, there is the Extra Feedback Program described in the post immediately below this one (the first exam is due Dec. 28). Second, you should have received at your Pacific email account information regarding enrollment in Adaptibar at a reduced rate, as well as some group presentations with a local bar tutor (meant to be a supplement to your commercial review course). Graduates from any year are welcome at those sessions. Please see your Pacific email for details, and contact sacstudentaffairs@pacific.edu with questions and to RSVP.

May you have a peaceful and rejuvenating holiday season with loved ones, but with time budgeted for bar prep. It’s not much fun, but it is worth it to help ensure that this is the last time you ever have to do it!

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February 2016 Extra Feedback Program

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on December 4, 2015

McGeorge graduates sitting for the February 2016 CA Bar Exam, here is your chance to receive more feedback on your practice exams!

Feb 2016 EFP Schedule.JPG

PDF: Feb 2016 EFP Schedule

Questions:

Property Question

In re Black

Contracts Question

Remedies Question

Some commercial courses assign these questions earlier than their Extra Feedback Program deadlines; if so, you are welcome to submit them early, but they still will be returned within two weeks of their EFP deadlines.

We look forward to helping you succeed this winter!

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