McGeorge Bar Prep

What You Need to Succeed on the CA Bar Exam

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  • December 2016
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2 Bar Preparation Lectures with Belia Ramos

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on December 1, 2016

All McGeorge students and graduates are welcome to attend the following lectures:

(1) “Bar Exam 101,” a lecture with Belia Ramos, will take place on Wednesday, December 14, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Bar Exam 101:  Belia Ramos is an ex-CA Bar Exam grader and longtime tutor who will walk you through real-world information about how the bar exam is graded, practical study tips and advice on how to structure your study schedule, and specific suggestions about how many practice exams and MBE questions you need to complete to succeed.  To RSVP and get room location information, please email


(2) Ms. Ramos also will present her well-received “Sterile IRAC” lecture twice in January:  Tuesday, Jan. 3 –OR– Wednesday, Jan. 11 (same lecture on both dates), also from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Sterile IRAC:  Ms. Ramos will guide you through a proven strategy for attacking essay questions on the California Bar Exam. You will walk away with concrete examples about how to outline an essay exam answer by identifying the issues, rules, and, most importantly, the relevant facts in the essay prompt, all of which translate into a strong and passing essay answer.  Please email to RSVP for one of these dates and receive room information.



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For Those Not Celebrating Yet

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on November 19, 2016

While we are thrilled for those who received positive results last night, we are mindful of those who are not celebrating yet.  If that applies to you, please know first that this score does NOT define you or your ability to have a successful career.  More tremendously successful lawyers than I can count were not successful on their first CA Bar Exam (previous Dean of Stanford Law, anyone?).

When you receive your score sheet, you are welcome to take a picture of it and email it to me so I can review it and see if it suggests any areas on which to focus moving forward.  If you plan to take the February 2017 exam and graduated from McGeorge, I encourage you to participate in the free Extra Feedback Program, the schedule for which will be posted here on the blog as soon as it is ready (likely later in December).  Any McGeorge graduate in the area also is welcome at the upcoming bar lectures held on campus:  Belia Ramos will host “Bar Exam 101” on Dec. 14 at 6:00 p.m., and “Sterile IRAC” on Jan. 3 or Jan. 11, also at 6:00 p.m. (RSVP & get room info at

If you do plan to forge ahead and attack the February exam, do yourself a favor and make the most of the next few weeks.  It may be tempting to put things off and give yourself a break until after the holidays, but that will cause you to lose over a month of time — which, as you know, makes a big difference!  You don’t necessarily have to dive in at 100% right now, but sit down and make a definitive plan for how you will use this time to your advantage.  Just saying generally that you’re going to “study” won’t cut it.

For example, there are 42 days (six weeks) from November 20 until January 1.  If I were studying during that time, I might focus first on the seven MBE subjects, devoting six days to each.  Here is a sample breakdown:

Day 1: 10 Con Law MBEs with quality answer review, making flash cards or notes for those rules, and review 1/3 of the substantive Con Law outline & make flash cards or notes

Day 2: Same (10 Con Law MBEs w/ answer review and second third of the Con Law outline, adding to flash cards/notes)

Day 3: Same (10 Con Law MBEs w/ answer review and final third of the Con Law outline, adding to flash cards/notes)

Day 4: 20 Con Law MBEs with quality answer review & flash cards/notes

Day 5: Review flash cards/notes; write & review 1 Con Law essay

Day 6: Day off (It’s okay to take a day off now, but don’t take a day off each week during “crunch time” in January & February!)

[Repeat for the other six subjects]

You might think this schedule is light compared to how you studied last summer, and it is; the holidays are busy, and you should spend time with loved ones if you can.  Quality review of the MBE subjects — to re-familiarize yourself with them, not to memorize them yet — will give you a solid foundation moving forward into the more intense study period after the new year when you do need to start memorizing, and it will reduce the likelihood of burnout.

That said, make the time your own.  You know yourself best, so focus on your weak areas first so you can revisit them more often later, and if you want to do more, go for it.  Just make some kind of daily schedule for yourself so you will be far more likely to make it happen.

If you would like to set up an appointment to discuss your schedule or preparation strategies, you are welcome to email me and we can arrange it.  Either way, I wish you all the best moving forward!


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Everything will be okay.

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on November 16, 2016

If you took the July 2016 bar and feel a little on-edge right now, you’re not alone.  To me, this period of waiting and uncertainty was the worst part of bar prep, and it all came to a head during the week results were to be released.  It’s much easier said than done, but please try to remember that no matter what happens on Friday night, IT WILL BE OKAY.  It may feel like your entire life hinges on these results, but it really doesn’t, so try to keep as healthy a perspective as you can.  Remember that the people who love you on Friday afternoon will not stop loving you on Friday night, regardless of what the outcome is — and don’t those people matter more than anything else?

I know this is hard, and I know it’s no fun.  I also know that whether your score is high or low, it does NOT define you or your ability to have a successful career.  So take a deep breath (or 20), and remind yourself that everything will be okay no matter what.

I’m rooting for you!  Please keep me posted either way.

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Mastering CA PTs Lecture

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on October 8, 2016

Any McGeorge graduate planning to sit for the CA Bar Exam this February is welcome to attend one of the following lectures focused on CA performance tests (PTs):

Tuesday, October 25, 6:15 p.m.

Friday, October 28, 2:45 p.m.

Tuesday, November 1, 2:45 p.m.

These lectures are all the same, so you only need to choose one.  If you do not know about the three-hour PTs that will appear on the February 2017 CA Bar, or if you know but would like a refresher regarding how to attack them, this lecture is for you.  It likely will last around 2-2.5 hours.

If you are interested in attending, email Professor Lee with your date choice and she will provide you with the room location and materials to read in advance.


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MBE Changes

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on September 1, 2016

The NCBE has announced that starting in February 2017 there will be 175 scored questions on the MBE, and 25 unscored “pretest” questions. (In the past it was 190 scored and 10 unscored.)  From the NCBE:

“MBE scores will continue to be expressed on a 200-point scale. Because MBE scores are equated and scaled, scores will still be comparable to those earned when there were more scored questions. The change was made in consultation with our testing and measurement staff with the goal [of] further strengthening of the MBE. The change should require nothing different in terms of preparation for the test.”

Although they assure us that this does not affect the difficulty of the test and that it does not mean that applicants should prepare differently, fewer graded questions means that each individual question will be worth a little more.  And that’s okay, because you have plenty of time and the tools you need to prepare to knock that portion of the exam out of the park.

My advice for getting a head start on your MBE prep is to use Adaptibar every week, starting now (even if you plan to sit for the exam in July).  On the weekend, pick a subject and complete 5-10 untimed questions and review the answers — that’s it.  You don’t need to kill yourself, or even to start memorizing the law right now; but this will help you revisit rules that you may not have seen for a few years.  Don’t worry if you don’t answer all (or any) of the questions correctly right now, as long as you review every answer.  Careful, slow consideration of the questions and answers is vital, and it will help you understand the law, setting a firm foundation for when the time does come to start memorizing.

You also can use that time as an opportunity to make some flashcards, or whatever other study aid you prefer.  For example, if you review just five questions each week and make a flashcard for each rule tested, you would have a stack of 80 cards by the end of December.  Taking little steps like this now can give you a major head start later.

If you are graduating in winter 2016 or spring 2017 and do not know how to purchase Adaptibar at the special McGeorge rate, you are welcome to email me at That software is required in PASS I and Remedies, but even if you are not taking those courses until next semester, you still can purchase it now, start practicing early, and retain access through your 2017 bar exam.

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Anxiety Buster: Jot Down Your Worries

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 21, 2016

Feeling anxious?  Welcome to the club!  Nervousness and a degree of anxiety around this time are very normal for bar applicants.  If you weren’t nervous at all, 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 when the proctor says, “Begin,” 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.  It sounds dubious, but writing down your worries appears to free up your working memory, and high-stakes test takers who do it consistently 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!

One and done!!

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Using the Remaining Time Most Effectively

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 19, 2016

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 next week, but few (if any) people ever feel fully ready; there is just too much information.  What it really means to be “ready” for the bar exam is very different than, for example, what it means to be ready to present an oral argument, where you are expected to be an expert in the topic at issue.  Being ready for the bar means having 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 roughly 45-50 essays, 5-6 PTs, and 1500-1800 MBEs this summer?  Did you review every answer and take advantage of opportunities to 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 ideal and are really not ready — then I encourage you to contact me ASAP to discuss your options if you postpone to February, because you do have options if that’s the case.)

If you largely have been able to use your time effectively this summer, great!   Unfortunately it does not mean that you can sit back and relax this week, of course.  So what should you be doing?

The answer varies from person to person, but generally speaking, IF you have been dutifully simulating and reviewing practice essays and PTs, you might consider focusing more on outlining essay questions now.  This is not because outlining your answers is better than fully simulating them — it’s not — but this week is all about maximizing your time, and this will allow you to see more fact patterns and answer organizations in a shorter period of time.  Just make sure that you’re thinking about the applicable issues, rules, and what facts apply to each analysis, and then compare your outline to the sample answer.  There is a caveat to this strategy:  If you have NOT been fully simulating practice exams this summer, or if you are not comfortable with time management and weighting, using IRAC, or factual analysis, then you should keep fully simulating and comparing your answers so you can work on those vital skills.

Secondly, more MBE practice and review will help you keep drilling (and memorizing) the substantive law.  You may find that shorter, timed MBE exams are helpful — maybe 33 questions at a time, which equates to roughly one hour.  That way you can work on your timing skills and also review the answers before forgetting the questions.

Third, you also can work on straight rule memorization, 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 (front-only, two columns) that I read and reread.)

All of these suggestions — outlining and reviewing written answers, MBE practice, and straight rule review — depend on where you feel most and least comfortable.  If you feel great about your MBE practice, for example, then maybe you should work more with the writing component.  If you feel really confident about Torts but not so much with Con Law, then your focus should adjust accordingly.

If you would like to discuss your study plan this week, don’t hesitate to contact me.  Otherwise, keep pushing forward — you’re almost there!  If you start to feel panicked, think back to all of the hard work you’ve done to prepare, proving that you’ve got this, and that you really are “ready” to show off the results of that hard work next week!


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Prep Tip: Mimic the Bar Schedule

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 14, 2016

Now that we’re about two weeks out, it’s a good idea to start mimicking the bar schedule:


  • Wake up and eat breakfast when you plan to do so during Bar Week.  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.  (You can write and review more later as well, if necessary.)  If you only planned to write one or two essays that day, practice some MBEs during this time, too.
  • If you plan to drive to the bar and did not attend the Convention Center Meet-Up this week, pick a day to drive to your test center at the same time you will do so during Bar Week to scope out traffic and parking — preferably on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.


  • Eat lunch between noon and 1:30, and try to eat similar things to what you will eat during Bar Week (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.  That way 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 if a family member will be nearby s/he 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!
  • You do not need to simulate a PT every day, of course, but if one is in your study plan — or perhaps more MBE practice is — complete it between around 1:30 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 29 to quit!), but you won’t want to take 5-10 minutes away from your exam time because your body is craving a cigarette.


  • 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 later this month, you will help train your mind and body to be as prepared as possible.

One and done!!



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Convention Center Meet-Up

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 11, 2016

If you plan to sit for the bar at the Convention Center downtown, you are welcome to come check it out with me and some of your fellow graduates at 8:30 a.m. this Wednesday, July 13.  This will give you a chance to experience what general traffic is like at that time of day/week, and you can scope out the parking situation and other logistics.  (The contact person at the Convention Center recommended Memorial Garage for parking during the exam, which has a full-day “Early Bird” rate of $6.00. For more info about area parking, see this site.)  I just received confirmation that we will not be permitted into the actual exam room on Wednesday due to security purposes, but we at least can get into the main hallway area.

It’s important to remove every source of stress that you can in advance, so even if you do not come out on Wednesday, it’s a good idea to visit your testing location on your own on another Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning this month so that your first time making the trip is not July 26.

If you would like to join us this Wednesday, we will meet at the entrance at J Street and 14th Street at 8:30 a.m. (see photo below).

sacramento-convention-center - Sacramento Convention Center-1ece9a642d90424e55324a7721ac5a48

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Simulations Everywhere!

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on July 6, 2016

First of all, congratulations and great job to everyone who submitted the PR Extra Feedback essay last week!  If you need the sample answer, you can find it here.

There is only one more Extra Feedback exam left:  Contracts, which is due by 6:00 p.m. on Monday, July 11.  For more information and a copy of the question, click here.

But wait, there’s more!  There will be a full-day writing simulation on campus on Saturday, July 9, at 9:00 a.m. in Room C (it will start promptly on time, so arrive early to get set up).  You will write three essays, break for lunch (not provided), and then write a PT.  The review session for this simulation, conducted by bar tutor Belia Ramos, will take place the following Friday, July 15, at 5:00 p.m. in Room A.  All graduates are welcome at the simulation and review, including those not taking the exam for the first time this summer.  No RSVP is required.  UPDATE:  The review session now will occur on THURSDAY, JULY 14, at 5:30 p.m. in Room A.

As if that’s not enough, most bar review companies also plan to hold simulations this week.  And that’s great!  Every time you simulate the exam, you will be that much more prepared to attack it on the Big Day(s).  It will be exhausting, but it’s still early enough to allow time to recover both physically and mentally.  I compare it to running:  If you decide to wake up early to go for a run, when your alarm goes off, there will be a thousand reasons not to follow through — your clothes aren’t clean, your shoes are broken down, you need to make breakfast for someone, etc., etc. — but you know that if you just lace up those shoes and get out there, you will feel better.  Even if it’s awful, and your knee hurts, and you’re slow, you will be so glad that you did it, and you will that much better next time as a result.  Think of simulations like that:  There are a thousand reasons not to get up and drive to the exam and slog through the questions, but if you do it (and review the sample answers), you will be that much better next time.

So hooray for simulations, and for being one and done!

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