McGeorge Bar Prep

What You Need to Succeed on the CA Bar Exam

  • Previous Posts

  • November 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Oct    
     1234
    567891011
    12131415161718
    19202122232425
    2627282930  

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!!

And-now-that-you-dont-1

 

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

A Score Is Just a Number

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 20, 2017

Scores on written practice exams may seem like perfect little indicators of how you’re doing, but they can be deceptive.

One problem is that bar applicants tend to fixate on the number at the end of an exam instead of internalizing the comments.  Many over the years have come to me in distress because they failed their practice exams and are convinced that means they are going to fail the bar, or they get different scores from different graders and think there’s something wrong.  When I ask what scores they’ve been receiving, they can answer in a snap; but when I ask what the comments said, often they are less able to respond.

I have seen hundreds of practice exams that were really strong answers, but that made fixable mistakes that prevented them from passing (e.g., writing a memo instead of a letter for a PT, missing issues in an essay, not using headings, etc.). The mistakes were easy to rectify, but if the applicants had just focused on the number and not the feedback, they would not have made progress.  So when you receive a graded practice exam, instead of zeroing in on the score, look instead to the comments, because that is by leaps and bounds the most important part.  I know some bar tutors who do not provide scores at all for that reason.

As for getting different scores from different graders, unless they are more than ten points away from each other on the same exact answer, do not waste time worrying about it.  No matter how experienced your practice exam grader is, that person will not be your bar grader.  Moreover, when certain bar exam answers move into a second reading phase, even they do not raise a red flag to the Bar unless the two scores are more than ten points apart (see “Phased Grading” near the bottom of this page).

Scores might be helpful to show a progression, and to indicate improvement, but even in that context they’re not perfect.  It is entirely possible for a person to write one practice exam and receive a failing score, and then write another practice exam, make different errors, and receive the same score.  The key is that this person got the same score for different reasons, and she may very well be improving even though that number did not change.  In fact, one seasoned PASS instructor confirms that she failed every one of her graded commercial course practice exams, but she still passed the bar on the first try.  So if you get some scores that are lower than you would like, or if your score trajectory fluctuates, do not despair!  Look at those practice exams as the learning tools they are, make sure you understand WHY you received those scores, and then work on addressing those problems as you continue to practice.

Of course if the comments you receive on a graded practice exam aren’t very clear, that’s a different issue.  We created the Extra Feedback Program years ago to address graduates’ concerns that their commercial companies’ exam feedback was not that effective.  EFP graders provide specific, individualized feedback–and, yes, a score, although in the first year of the program scores were omitted because they can be so misleading.  And for the exams you write that aren’t graded at all, you still can get some great feedback–maybe the most effective feedback of all, since you are performing the assessment yourself–if you complete an essay or PT comparison chart.

If your MBE scores are not improving, the same general ideas apply.  You are still in the middle of bar prep, and you are still learning the law.  This process takes time–which you still have!–so be gentle with yourself.   Study the answer explanations and determine why you missed certain questions (or got them right for the wrong reasons), and then internalize that assessment and add notes to your outlines/flow charts/flash cards/etc. so you are less likely to make the same errors in the future.

So keep practicing, but remember, a score is just a number.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Windows 10 Creators Update NOT Compatible with ExamSoft

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 16, 2017

If you plan to take the July 2017 CA Bar Exam, please note that the Windows 10 Creators update is NOT compatible with ExamSoft.  Here are instructions for how to delay the update, and here are instructions for how to uninstall it if it’s already on your computer.  There also is a workaround, but when contacted about it, the CA State Bar said, “We will be advising takers that Windows 10 is not supported and if someone shows up for the exam and his/her computer doesn’t work because of that issue, he/she will be required to handwrite the exam, which is the case in any event where an applicant is unable to use a computer.”

We are waiting for the CA State Bar to release an official announcement, and we will link it here when they do.  We do not have any further information at this time, so if you have questions, you may contact ExamSoft Support, Technology Specialist Dan Breuer, or the CA State Bar (press 0 when calling on the phone to speak with someone directly).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Free Feedback & Tacos

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 14, 2017

**Reminder:  Submit your answer to the Extra Feedback Program Property essay by no later than tonight (June 14) at 6:00 p.m.**

And if you need some fuel before writing it, come to the Quad between 12:15 and 1:30 for a taco lunch sponsored by the CDO.  From the CDO:

Are you studying for the bar exam on campus? Stop by the Quad WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14 from 12:15 p.m.–1:30 p.m. for a taco lunch provided by Bon Appetit. Food is available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you passed the February bar or aren’t studying for the bar exam in Sacramento, please let us know!

tumblr_o4g7ngOpLD1v4wmt3o1_500

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Bar Practice Opportunities

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 12, 2017

All McGeorge graduates planning to sit for the July 2017 California Bar Exam are welcome to attend the following writing simulations.  RSVP* to clee1@pacific.edu (be sure to include the “1”) by the deadlines noted below to secure your spot and ensure that we have question and answer packets printed for you.

Preference for space will be given to graduates in BEAT and those who RSVP.  All sessions will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. in Classroom H, so arrive early to set up, and be ready to begin writing at 9:00. Typists will be using Word, not ExamSoft.

 

1. Half-Day Essay Simulation (3 Essays)

Friday, June 23 -OR- Saturday, June 24

RSVP with your date preference by no later than Thursday, June 22, at noon.*

 

2. Full-Day Writing Simulation (5 Essays & a PT)

Saturday, July 8

RSVP by no later than Thursday, July 6, at noon.*

Like the bar exam, there will be a 90-minute break during this session from noon to 1:30 p.m.  Lunch will not be provided, so please plan accordingly.

 

*Note:  Graduates in BEAT do not need to RSVP. 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Focus on Tasks, Not Time

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 8, 2017

Several graduates recently have asked how much time they should be spending on bar prep each day.  That is a common question, but the answer truly depends on every individual.

For example, imagine that someone told Person X and Person Y that they need to spend eight to ten hours each day on bar prep.  So X and Y dutifully wake up and head to their preferred study spaces to begin, and each stays there from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. (with a few breaks).  If X is focused and engaged in the material but Y tends to daydream or is easily distracted, Y will get far less out of that time than X.  Yet if X and Y only were tracking how much time they were spending each day, both could say that they were “on track.”  If this remains true for the entire summer, and X passes the bar exam but Y does not, Y will not understand what happened, since Y “spent 10 hours a day studying, just like X.”  This is one reason why focusing only on how much time you spend is dangerous.

Of course bar preparation is a very time-intensive endeavor, and you should be spending the majority of your days working at it; but instead of tracking how many hours per day you spend at your desk, focus instead on the tasks you want to complete each day.  Instead of beginning the day by thinking, “I need to spend ten hours studying today,” try, “Okay, today I need to write two practice essays and review the answers, review the Contracts lecture outline, complete 34 MBEs, and work on my attack sheet for Property.”  That may take you ten hours, and it may not.  Instead of adapting the tasks you complete to fit how much time you want to spend, adapt how much time you spend to fit the tasks you want to complete.

A sizeable chunk of every day should be spent preparing, but every day will be different; it may take ten hours to complete your tasks on one day, and on another day it may take seven.  On yet another day, you may not finish before needing to go to sleep (or perhaps you need to budget for some time off for a planned event), so you will have to move a few tasks to different days.  Regardless, you will be using your time far more effectively than if you were just going through the motions to say that you spend X number of hours per day “studying.”  To give you an idea of what tasks you should be working on in addition to reading outlines and viewing lectures, by the end of the summer you should have completed at least 45-50 timed essays, 5-6 timed PTs, and 1600-1800 MBEs.

So focus more on the tasks you complete and less on the time you spend (unless you’re writing a timed practice essay or PT, of course!), and your bar prep should become much more efficient and effective.

to-do-list[1]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Therapy Dogs on Campus

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 6, 2017

If you could benefit from spending a little time with a friendly pup (who couldn’t?), stop by the Quad tomorrow, June 7, from around noon to 1:00 to visit with some sweet therapy dogs.  For more information, contact the CDO.

Spotlight_Image_1[1]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Do you have 10 minutes to enhance your bar prep?

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on June 3, 2017

As many of you know, I was in a severe accident a few years ago that left me with Traumatic Brain Injury.  As I still continue to recover, 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 mindfulness 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 meditation practice to help rebuild my damaged neural pathways, I started to do more research.  I won’t get into the details here, but suffice to say that it is a tremendous contributing 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 mindfulness might play a big part in successful, sane bar preparation.  To help, I recorded a few guided sessions focused on the bar exam that are available for free at any time.  Please note that these were not recorded in a professional studio with high-tech equipment, and I am not a certified meditation instructor (yes, they do exist!).  Most sessions are in manageable time blocks of around 10 minutes.  (Please also note that the visualization of Day 1 or 3 no longer applies in CA.)

Meditation is personal, so although I tried to craft sessions that apply to most bar applicants, you might not relate to all of them.  You may even not care for the sound or cadence of my voice.  If for any reason these do not work for you, you are welcome to adapt the ideas for your own, individual practice.  Of course you also can just meditate in silence and focus on your breath; you do not have to think about the bar exam to reap benefits that might boost your performance there.  You do not even have to meditate at all; there even are mindfulness exercises centered around eating or walking.

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

NY Times: 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

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

First EFP Exam Due Tomorrow (5/31)

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on May 30, 2017

This is a friendly reminder that the first Extra Feedback Program exam, the performance test, is due tomorrow, May 31, by no later than 6:00 p.m.  Find submission instructions, the question packet, and the sample answer here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

To Flashcard or Not to Flashcard

Posted by mcgeorgebarprep on May 29, 2017

1395046_p_060915During bar prep, THAT often is the question.

If flashcards worked for you in law school, they can be very effective for the bar exam; but you should not use them just because they’re popular with other people.  If that method of studying does work for you, however, the ideal way to use it is by creating your own.  Going through that process is far more effective than just reading someone else’s words, and many studies show that there is a big memory benefit to physically writing things down, as opposed to just reading them.  Furthermore, a common complaint about commercial flashcards is that they are more like outlines just printed on smaller pieces of paper.  We are well aware that your time is extremely limited this summer, and that you may not have time to create your own flashcards for every subject; so we recommend focusing on your most difficult subjects, and even then just on the most troublesome topic areas within those subjects.

We do not advertise bar vendors on this blog, because bar study plans and aids are one-size-fits-most, and making those choices depends on each individual’s needs.  That said, and although creating your own flashcards is the best choice if at all possible, of all the commercial bar flashcard options out there, Critical Pass is the most well-respected.  They are color-coded, and they have spaces on them for you to write your own notes, so you can have a little of that memory benefit (even though making your own cards is better).  Again, this is NOT an official endorsement; but we wanted to share that if you do your research, consider your needs carefully, and decide that you would like to purchase these flashcards, we just received a discount code for $20 off and free shipping:  20PACIFIC2017.  It is good only for McGeorge students, and only from May 30 through June 9.  (Please note that these flashcards just cover MBE subjects, not CA subjects or law, although you could write the CA distinctions on the cards yourself.)

Of course there are other options if flashcarding did not work for you in law school:  You can keep a blank notebook handy as you study and write down the rules that you find most confusing, or you can use whiteboards or tape blank pages of paper to a wall and chart out the relationships between the rules, etc.  Whatever worked for you in law school is your best choice in bar prep.  Now is not the time to change proverbial horses mid-stream, even if it feels like “everyone else” is using one particular method.  To thine own self be true!  Success comes when you honestly think about what works best for you, continue to assess yourself and your study habits throughout the summer, and adjust accordingly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »