McGeorge Bar Prep

What You Need to Succeed on the CA Bar Exam

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Starting Early

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on December 5, 2013

For February bar takers, the holidays often create a lull between the end of law school and bar prep.  Although the temptation may be to take the month of December off, winter applicants should remember that they also get two fewer weeks of official prep time than their summer counterparts, if they start studying at the beginning of January.  And two weeks is a lot!

If you are taking the February bar and you’d like to get a head start on your studies, here are a few things you can do:

  • Write and review performance tests.  The PT gets a bad rap because it’s long, but really it should be your favorite part of bar prep!  Think about it:  PTs are completely closed-universe, so you don’t have to remember any law.  They’re really just puzzles that you have to assemble into a lawyerly-looking product in three hours.  Don’t get caught up in the “three hours” part, or the fact that the packets are hefty.  PTs are totally doable, if you practice — and because they’re closed-universe, you don’t have to wait until you know the law to start!  You can write PTs anytime.  If you can crank out three or four by the end of December, you will much further ahead in January and February.  (That doesn’t mean you can ignore the PT during those months, though!)  You can find CA PTs from 2008, with two sample answers each, here.
  • Take Multiple Choice Questions.  The MBE is not easy, but it is conquerable.  The key — as it is to every other part of the bar — is practice, practice, practice.  At this early stage, you won’t know as much as you might prefer, and your scores might be terrible; but that’s to be expected, and it’s fine.  Incorrectly answering questions still helps you learn and remember.  (The same is true of essay writing, so once you get a little handle on the substantive law next month, start that too!  Don’t worry about messing up; this is all practice!)  Many bar review companies now include an online MBE program that they encourage participants to start the month before the official lectures begin.  If your review company does not, then get an MBE book and start on your own.  (Great resources include the Strategies & Tactics series, also available in the Pacific McGeorge Library.)  You also may purchase MBE exams released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners here.
  • Start reviewing the substantive law.  As a student, I was a devotee of flash cards — my own flash cards, not the pre-made, boxed kind.  The process of creating them helped solidify the law in my brain, and then I kept a stack on my nightstand to flip through for a few minutes each night before going to sleep.  If you learn well by making flash cards — or flow charts, decision trees, lists, outlines of outlines, etc. — then now is a good time to get a jump on creating them.  When you start your review course, chances are you will feel overwhelmed and like you can’t get through everything.  That’s normal.  Creating your own study aids now, before that panic sets in, will pay massive dividends later.  Furthermore, at this point you can take a little extra time to really think about your aids as you create them, rather than rushing and not getting the full benefit.

Everyone needs a little downtime, and if you’re able to spend the holidays with your family and friends, you should!  Just remember that success on the bar depends on practice, planning ahead, and eliminating any potential sources of stress as soon as possible.  Trust me, February You will thank December You if you get a head start now.


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