McGeorge Bar Prep

What You Need to Succeed on the CA Bar Exam

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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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