McGeorge Bar Prep

What You Need to Succeed on the CA Bar Exam

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Study Tip: Handling Racehorses

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 1, 2015

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.

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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Extra Feedback Con Law Essay Due Tonight

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 29, 2015

We love seeing so many graduates participating in the Extra Feedback Program and doing everything possible to ensure that they are One and Done this summer!  The next essay, Constitutional Law, is due tonight by 5:00 p.m. at  Next up:  the most commonly tested subject, PR, due July 13.

Con Law Essay Question

2015 Summer EFP Schedule

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Study Tip: “Help! I still don’t know the law yet!”

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 28, 2015

It is very common around this time, when June draws to a close and Bar Month approaches, for bar 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, start today!

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?!  As noted in an earlier post, that’s why it’s called “practice,” and mistakes now are cause for celebration, because you have time to address them before it matters.

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 (probably 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.  One and done!


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The Only Way Out is Through

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 25, 2015

You’ve been at it for a while, and all the excitement and adrenaline surrounding graduation has diminished.  You’ve been diligently attending lectures, filling in bubbles, and even the sequence of your dreams follows IRAC format…but lately it seems like you’re thrown into a new substantive topic long before you feel comfortable with the previous one, and you wonder whether you’ll ever be given a moment just to come up for air.

You are not alone! Everyone studying for the bar exam hits this wall. Some hit it now, some later. You just have to take a deep breath and keep your eyes on the prize, and you will climb over that wall. You still may have moments of frustration and exhaustion, but you WILL overcome it.

Just keep going, and do not give up!  “Give up” obviously means ceasing your preparations altogether, but it also includes cheating.  You cheat when you take more than 60 minutes to write an essay or three hours to complete a PT, when you peek at the answer before (or while) writing your own, when you just issue spot when you know you should be simulating, when you reference your outlines when writing your answers, or when you complete MBEs at the expense of writing practice (you certainly should practice MBEs, but doing so is not a replacement for writing simulation, even though it feels like you’re being productive).  Some of these tactics might have been acceptable early in your bar prep, but as we get closer to Go Time, it’s time to let them go and “train like you fight.”  Cheating, especially at this stage of your bar prep, is a horrible idea — no matter how inadequate you may feel right now, or how tempting it is to submit a beautiful essay or PT answer for grading just so you can see a reassuring, high score.  Do not delude yourself into thinking that cheating is still bar prep and therefore is helping you, because it isn’t.  June is almost over, and now is the time to face reality and force yourself to slog through the tough stuff.  The more you do so, the more you’ll improve.  It’s no fun, but the only way out is through!

Practice is called “practice” (not “perfect”) for a reason, and the more mistakes you make now, the fewer you will make when it counts.  During bar prep, mistakes are cause for celebration, not avoidance!  As hard/boring/discouraging/etc. as this journey is, you graduated from McGeorge and you’ve got what it takes to make it.  Believe that, because we certainly believe in you!

Just keep going.  You’ve got this, and we’re very proud of each of you!

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Next Bar Meditation Session TODAY at 1:00

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 22, 2015

Please join us for a few moments today for the next Mindful Meditation for Bar Takers session:  1:00 p.m. in Room S-2 (just outside the Lecture Hall).  Hope to see you there!

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The Importance of Self-Review

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 10, 2015

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 that might 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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More Mindfulness for Bar Success

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 9, 2015

The guided meditation session went well today.  Thank you to those who joined!  Your participation amplified the feelings of mutual support that we share.  Some graduates emailed their disappointment at not being able to attend, and due to the positive reception, we are glad to offer a few more sessions, all in Room S-2 in the Lecture Hall lobby:

– Thursday, June 18, noon

– Monday, June 22, 1:00 p.m.

– Thursday, July 2, noon

Depending on the preferences of attendees, these sessions likely will last between five and ten minutes.  If you and at least one friend would like to propose an additional time(s), please contact Courtney Lee.

One and [calmly] done!


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Two Reminders

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 9, 2015

A couple of friendly reminders:

1.   The next Extra Feedback Program exam is the Performance Test, which is due this Monday, June 15, at 5:00 p.m. at  If you would like a printed copy of the question, please email Professor Lee before this Thursday, June 11, at 5:30 p.m.  (Note:  Please be sure to write People v. Duncan (PTB).  Submissions that answer a different question or are late cannot be graded.)

2.   Today at 1:00 p.m. (or after the commercial review session in the Lecture Hall), in Room S-2, we will host a brief “Mindful Meditation for Bar Takers” session.  For more information, please see the post immediately below this one.

One and Done!! 😃 👍

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Do You Have 5 Minutes to Enhance Your Bar Prep?

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 2, 2015

As most of you know, I (Courtney Lee) was in an accident last spring that left me with Traumatic Brain Injury.  As a result, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about how the brain works and heals.  One of the things that surprised me most was the role that meditation plays in brain health, for the injured and non-injured alike.  I’d heard positive things about it before, but once my neurologist strongly recommended that I begin a regular practice to help rebuild my damaged neuropathways, I started to do more research on the topic.  I won’t get into the details here, but suffice to say that it is a tremendous factor in everything from reducing stress to enhancing memory, with advocates from Anderson Cooper to Russell Simmons.  Even Justice Breyer has a practice.  The best part?  It only take a few minutes a day to see benefits!

It follows that taking those few minutes a day for mindful meditation might play a big part in successful, sane bar preparation.  You certainly can meditate on your own — and I encourage you to do so — but I’d like to offer you the opportunity to participate in a supportive practice here on campus.  (There’s just something about meeting in person with others who are similarly situated that helps.)

The first meeting I propose is Tuesday, June 9, at 1:00 p.m. in Room S-2 (in the Lecture Hall lobby), for a simple, guided session of about five minutes or so, unless those present would like to extend it.  After the session, we can discuss generally how bar prep is going for you and any questions you might have.  If there is sufficient interest, we can schedule more regular dates throughout the summer.

Still not convinced?  Check out the resources below, or just do a simple search online; there are thousands of others.  (Please note that these links are just provided for your general information and are NOT endorsements by Pacific McGeorge.)

How Meditation Might Boost Your Test ScoresYour Excuses for Not Meditating: DebunkedMindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (this is the program recommended by my doctor — 100% free); The Anxious Lawyer

I hope to see you next Tuesday at 1:00 in Room S-2!

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CDO Bar Power Boosts

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on May 26, 2015

Join the CDO this summer for free snacks and treats as you study!

Message from the CDO:

Tuesday, June 9, 8:30 AM, Lecture Hall Lobby:  Jamba Juice or Starbucks Delivery (for 10 Raffle Winners)

Tuesday, June 23, 10:00 AM, CDO Lobby:  Power-Up Snack Break & Raffle Contest

Tuesday, July 7, 8:30 AM, Lecture Hall Lobby:  Jamba Juice or Starbucks Delivery (for 10 Raffle Winners)

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