McGeorge Bar Prep

What You Need to Succeed on the CA Bar Exam

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CA Cut Score Stays the Same

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on October 18, 2017

Today the CA Supreme Court officially declined to lower the cut score for the CA Bar Exam. Although you might find this news disappointing, all it means is that nothing will change; the cut score will not increase, either. Some good news is that national MBE scores are trending upward, so I hope you will join me in continuing to feel optimistic for next month. 

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The Bar Is Finally Over Reception

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 24, 2017

McGeorge bar conquerors, please join staff and faculty immediately following the bar on Wednesday, July 26, at the Sheraton Grand (right next to the Convention Center–Glides Market Bar area) for drinks and appetizers to celebrate the end of the bar exam.  For more information, please contact the CDO at (916) 739-7011 or lawcareers@pacific.edu.

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Tant que je respire, j’attaque!

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 21, 2017

It’s FINALLY here! Hopefully you have set a time on Monday to stop preparing so you can relax and attack the exam with a fresh mind Tuesday morning. (You’ve been studying for months; 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!

No matter what, DO NOT EXCEED 60 MINUTES ON ANY ESSAY QUESTION!!  No good will 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 spent about 10 extra minutes on the first (racehorse) question on Day 1. He got an 85% on that answer…but guess how we know that score.

Follow IRAC!

You have no greater friend on the bar exam (aside from your watch) than IRAC. Even if you encounter a “throat-clearer” issue, you still can 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, and the common law governs the sale of services and all other contracts. Here, the dispute centers around the sale of a car, which is a tangible, moveable object, so the UCC applies.”

That is a very short analysis, but it still follows a strict IRAC format. IRAC is what your graders 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 decided differently on the UCC/CL issue. Can you imagine if those two applicants had discussed their answers with each other after the exam? They would have spent the next four months fretting about failure, when in reality they both wrote the published answers.

Don’t panic!

This one is difficult, but very important. If you encounter a question on which you draw the dreaded blank, DO NOT PANIC. 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 commercial bar review professors promised would hardly be anywhere on the MBE, 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 few seconds), 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, the essays are not written to trick you. If you think about them logically, you may be able to kick-start your brain, pick out the issues, and remember some (or all) of the rules.

Reverse Engineering

Those of you who took PASS may remember this technique. If you draw a blank regarding a rule, read through the facts again with a hyper-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. Reading through the facts and hunting for clues might help you “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 100% 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, and no matter what they throw at you, don’t let it phase you. As long as you breathe, you attack!!

I will be thinking of and rooting for every one of you this week!!

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Anxious? Jot Down Your Worries!

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 19, 2017

Feeling anxious?  Welcome to the club!  Nervousness and a degree of anxiety are very normal for bar applicants; if you weren’t nervous, that might be something to be anxious about!  Try to use those butterflies in your stomach to your advantage:  Imagine your nervousness turning into energy, funneling down your arms to your keyboard or pen, keeping you awake and alert throughout the exam.

If your anxiety has a less desirable outcome, such as causing your mind to go blank, there might be something else you can do.  One reason this happens is because your working memory—the part of your brain that you use to retain information from the fact pattern and link it to the law so you can craft stellar analyses—finds itself preoccupied with worries: “What if I can’t remember the law?” “Oh no, I hate [subject x]!”  “What if I didn’t practice enough?”  And so forth.  Instead of allowing you to filter through the facts given in your essay, MBE, or PT question, your brain is wasting time and energy juggling all of those concerns, and it can’t be bothered to pay attention to what D did to P or V.  So how can you empty your working memory and allow it to help you perform better next week?

Trying writing down your worries.  Seriously!  Studies show that people perform better on tests when they take ten minutes to write down everything that concerns them—from the specific (“I’ll never remember all of the hearsay exceptions for when the witness is unavailable!”) to the big and general (“I’m not going to pass!”).  Write down everything.  Doing so should clear your working memory, because your brain will stop trying to remember your concerns.  High-stakes test takers who do this score higher than those who do not.  (See the full study here.)

What have you got to lose?  Before you go inside the test center, jot down what troubles you about that day’s exam.  Open up your working memory to give you every opportunity to shine on the bar like we all KNOW you can!

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Mimic the Bar Schedule

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 16, 2017

Now that the bar is just around the corner, it’s a good idea to start mimicking the bar schedule each day so your body can fall into good habits now, making it much less difficult to do so next week.

Mornings:

  • Wake up and eat breakfast when you plan to do so during the bar exam.  If you work out in the mornings and plan to keep that up during the bar, add that in, too.
  • If you plan to simulate essays on a particular day, do so between around 9:00 and noon and/or between 1:30 and 3:30.  If you plan to complete MBEs, do so between 9:00 and noon and/or between 1:30 and 4:30.  (You can simulate more at other times as well, if you’d like, but start getting into those habits now.)
  • If you plan to drive to the bar and did not attend the Convention Center Meet-Up last week, drive to your test center on Tuesday or Wednesday at the same time you will do so during the bar to scope out traffic and parking.
    • You probably will not be able to get inside the test room, but we were lucky that it was open when we were there.  I took the photo below:
Exhibit Hall Photo

All furniture pictured here is for an unrelated event and may not be the same as that used during the bar exam.  The temporary wall shown on the left side of the photo will be removed, making one giant space.  Usually* bar takers sit two per typical banquet-style folding table, all facing in the same direction, and usually the chairs are metal folding chairs.  There also will be a LOT more tables and chairs in the room than is depicted here.  [*subject to change]

 

Afternoons:

  • Eat lunch between noon and 1:30, and try to eat similar things to what you will eat during the bar (i.e., if you wouldn’t eat a heavy, sleep-inducing meal then, don’t do so now).
    • It’s not a bad idea to pack your lunch during the bar, if possible, so you do not have to stand in the looong lines at nearby restaurants, or move your car and drive somewhere (adding unnecessary stress to your day with traffic, parking, etc.).  You can leave it in a cooler in the trunk of your car or in your hotel room, or perhaps a family member can bring it to you.  You are permitted to leave it in the main hallway outside of the exam room, but it will not be monitored.
    • If you do choose to walk somewhere and buy your lunch, do NOT talk about the exam or listen to anyone else talking about the exam!  True story:  Certain attorneys who work nearby find it entertaining to go to a restaurant during Bar Week, stand in line with frazzled bar takers, and loudly share made-up stories about mythical hidden essay issues.  (“Did you notice the Torts crossover in Question 2?” “Yeah, I almost missed it but thank goodness I didn’t! I bet it was worth half the points!”)  Don’t listen to other people!
  • If you plan to simulate a PT, do so between 3:30 and 5:00.
  • If you are a smoker, adjust those breaks to accommodate the bar, too.  Now is not the time to change habits (wait until July 27 to quit!), but you won’t want to take 5-10 minutes away from your exam time because your body is craving a cigarette.

 

Evenings:

  • After 5:00, use the time as you’d like: dinner, exercise, more practice, flash cards, etc.  The most important thing you can do now–and probably the hardest thing–is to go to bed when you plan/hope to go to sleep during the bar.  Being fresh and able to focus is one of the most important weapons in your bar pass arsenal, and making yourself go to bed at a particular time (even if you can’t fall asleep right away right now) will make it more likely that you will be able to sleep at that time during Bar Week.

 

By waking, eating, practicing, and sleeping at the same times now as you will during the bar exam, you will help train your mind and body to be as prepared as possible.

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Last Chance for Extra Feedback!

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 11, 2017

The final Extra Feedback Program exam–PR, the one subject you are almost guaranteed to see on the written portion of the exam–is due tomorrow, Wednesday, by 6:00 p.m.  For more information, the question, and the sample answer, see this post.

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Being “Ready” for the Bar Exam

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 10, 2017

If you follow this blog, chances are you also have been using your time this entire summer as effectively as possible.  You still may not feel “ready” to take the bar, but few (if any) people ever feel fully ready; there is just too much information.

What it means to be “ready” for the bar exam is very different than what it means, for example, to be ready to present oral argument, where you are expected to be an expert in the topic at issue.  Being “ready” for the bar does not mean that you are an expert in the testable subjects; it means that you have done everything you reasonably could do to prepare.  Looking back, we always feel like we could have done more, so think about it objectively:  Did you take studying seriously from the beginning, simulating at least 45 essays, 5-6 PTs, and 1600-1800 MBEs over the summer?  Did you review every answer and take advantage of opportunities to get feedback, self-analyze, and improve?  If so, you should be in a pretty good position for bar success.  (If not, and you definitely feel unprepared–not just nervous, which is normal, but certain that you completed significantly less than what’s required and truly are not ready–then I urge you to contact me or Dean Colatrella ASAP to discuss your options if you postpone to February…because you DO have options if that’s the case.)

If you largely have used your time effectively so far this summer, that’s great!   Now what can you do to maintain that forward progress?  The answer varies from person to person, of course, but here are some suggestions:

1.  Simulating timed practice essays and PTs almost always is a good idea.  You may feel as if you don’t know the law well enough yet to simulate closed-book practice exams, but doing so is one of the best ways to memorize the rules.  You may not feel like you are memorizing in the traditional sense, but you are.  We are far more likely to remember rules with which we struggle in the context of applying them to a fact pattern than we are to remember a list of rules we read in an outline.  (It’s like a grocery list:  If you just read a list of ingredients a few times before going to the store, you’ll probably forget something(s); but if you have worked with those ingredients to make the dish before, you’re much more likely to remember what you need.)  And in addition to memorization, timed simulation and answer review will allow you to hone your time management, critical reading, issue-spotting, organization, and factual analysis skills.  It’s hard not to benefit from simulating essays and PTs!

2.  Continued MBE practice and review also will help you memorize the substantive law.  You may find that shorter practice sets are more helpful now–maybe 33 questions at a time, which equates to roughly one hour (if you’re working on timing).  That way you can review the answers while the questions still are relatively fresh in your mind.  Aim for an overall accuracy rate of about 60% by next week–and if you’re not there yet, don’t despair!  Continued practice and answer review, using at least two sources (e.g., your bar review company’s questions and Adaptibar), will keep strengthening your skills and substantive recall.

3.  Finally, if you keep up with your practice, traditional rule memorization also can help–whether with flash cards, reading and rereading subject outlines, writing the rules out by hand, or whatever works best for you.  (Personally, I condensed my outlines down to single-page checklists that I read and reread when I wasn’t practicing.)

All of this should be a balance, with more focus on the skills where you feel weakest, but with regular refreshing of your stronger skills so you can maintain that edge.  If your bar review schedule does not reflect what you think you need to do, you do not have to follow it strictly.  For example, if you feel confident about the MBE but not so much with essays, and for one day your bar company recommends a long MBE exam but only outlining one essay, it’s okay adjust and complete fewer MBEs but write out that essay (and maybe even add more).  Just be careful not to take this to extremes or favor the areas where you are strong just because that makes you feel better.  At this point, you should work more with the subjects and types of questions that make you least comfortable.

Keep pushing forward–you’re almost there!  If you start to feel panicked, think back to everything you’ve done to prepare, know that you’ve got this, and you really will be “ready” to show off the results of all of your hard work!

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Meeting at Convention Center

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 3, 2017

It is a great idea to choose a Tuesday or Wednesday this month to travel to your test center so you can assess traffic, parking, where to go for lunch, etc.  Do so at the same time you will travel during Bar Week to get an accurate picture.

McGeorge graduates planning to take the exam at the Convention Center are welcome to attend a brief meeting there next Wednesday, July 12, at 8:30 a.m.  We will meet inside the doors at 14th Street and J Street.  (That is NOT the entrance by Starbucks!  See the photo below.)

Please note that while we should be able to get inside the Convention Center, due to security concerns we will not be permitted to enter the actual exam room (although you may be able to peek in through the doors).  If you would rather do a “test run” on your own on a different Tuesday or Wednesday, you are welcome to do so.

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Convention Center Entrance at J & 14th Streets

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EFP Torts Essay Due Tomorrow @ 6

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 27, 2017

The next Extra Feedback opportunity is a challenging Torts essay, which is due by no later than Wednesday, June 28, at 6:00 p.m.  Find submission instructions, the question, and the sample answer here.

 

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Mid-Prep Motivation

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 26, 2017

With Bar Month approaching and more bar applicants hitting the wall of stress and exhaustion, now might be a good time to share some motivational thoughts for the last half of the journey. I have been where you are: I felt frustrated, tired, scared, overwhelmed, and sometimes like an imposter (like it must have been a typo somewhere that let me graduate from law school in the first place). Hundreds of thousands of others have been there, too, and thousands more are here with you now. We did–and you will–get through it. Here are some things to keep in mind as you climb that wall:

The bar is an opportunity, not a punishment. 

You may feel like you “have” to take the bar because you’ve spent so much time and money and you need to get/keep that job, etc., but taking the bar is a choice.  Even if it may feel like the only one, you still GET to take the bar…and we are so lucky to have that opportunity!

There are so many people who never get to this stage and would give just about anything to be where you are: people living in repressive cultures, people who could not make the grades or find the funds to go to law school, etc.  You do not have to look far to find them.  We are lucky in so many ways, and being able to make the choice to take the bar exam is a big one. Be grateful.

This may be the last time in your life that you’ll only have one thing to do.  Enjoy it! 

Okay, “enjoy” might be a little strong, but honestly, often I am nostalgic for my bar prep days.  Every morning, I knew I had only one thing to do (even though that one thing had many components, like writing practice, MBEs, flash cards, exercise, etc.).  It was tedious (understatement), but I could be selfish with my time, and the people around me allowed it. Once you begin your career, it probably will be the opposite, as people pull you in all different directions at once and your devices don’t stop ringing and beeping with problems you need to fix yesterday…but for now, you are in control of your time.  Try to appreciate that.

No matter what, everything that really matters will be okay.

The bar exam is a test–that’s it.  It’s an important, difficult test that we all want you to pass on the first try, but it’s still just a test. Think about the things that really matter to you:  your family, your friends, your pets, your faith, your values, etc.  You have been working so hard, and you are going to pass the bar; but regardless of the outcome, your family and friends will not go away or stop loving you, and those things that really matter will not change.

The graders want you to pass. 

Graders are regular people with regular legal jobs who grade as a public service and who want to see applicants pass.  They did not write the questions, and they are not the enemy!  The bar is your chance to show off all the hard work and preparation you’ve done.  Graders have to get through huge boxes of answer books in very short periods of time, but you know how to write your answers in such a way as to make it easy for them to toss your papers onto the “pass” pile. Don’t dread the bar exam; be excited to show the graders how hard you’ve worked, and how awesome of an attorney you will be when they pass you.

Doable goals can help. 

I’ve talked with a lot of graduates so far this summer, and almost every one — from the top of the class to the bottom — feels like s/he is behind in some way. If you feel similarly, don’t look at the list of tasks you still have to complete as one giant mass; break it down into pieces.  For example, if there are four essays and 30 MBEs you needed to simulate but haven’t yet, don’t assume you need to find an open span of five hours to finish them.  Move one essay and maybe ten MBEs to one day, another essay and another group of MBEs to another, and so forth.  Set smaller, doable goals each day, and create a checklist for them.  (Do not underestimate that joy that comes from crossing something off!  I still do that every day and it makes me smile each time, no matter how small the task was.)

Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

Law students are accustomed to working as hard as humanly possible to be the best. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s good to aim for perfection, but don’t lose sight of the fact that there is no Witkin for the bar exam.  Do not get so caught up in “bar drama” that you lose sight of this; yes, it’s hard, but acknowledge that and keep going rather than wallowing in it.  The only way out is through, and as noted above, hundreds of thousands of others have made it before, and so will you.

Related to that, be careful not to allow anxiety to sabotage your efforts.  You graduated from a law school with a rigorous academic curriculum, and you can do this, too.  Keep practicing and working hard, and know that you absolutely, positively CAN PASS the bar exam!!

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