Bar Exam Advice
First of all, Adaptibar is a must! It allows you to practice with real MBE questions. It took me 1200 questions before I saw the pattern. I did 2600 questions before I took the bar exam. I also paid for Themis and followed their schedule but I could not retain any of the information and I became extremely frustrated and worried after the first month. After venting my frustration, my friend told me about Adaptibar, because the bar exam tricks you so nothing is as it seems. Practicing with real MBE questions on Adaptibar allows you to see where the traps are. I even saw a few of the practice questions on the bar exam because Adaptibar uses real MBE questions. The 200 MBE questions are worth 50% of the test and Adaptibar focuses solely on these topics which even may appear again on the essays. I spent the first month strictly following Themis’ schedule while trying my best to memorize the law by watching their videos, but I simply could not retain any of it. The second month, I took the school’s Bar Passage Program (BPP) and met with my mentor who gave me permission to focus on memorizing the law by testing each scenario on Adaptibar, and I found that I was able to retain the law much better than by just watching the videos alone on Themis. I took the bar exam without even getting to 50% completion on Themis, and passed because of Adaptibar. I do not recommend straying from the bar exam schedule if you can help it, but it you are a single parent like me and there is not enough time in the day, I think this is a good tip.
Second, another classmate recommended Critical Pass, which I had never heard of before she told me. This will save you time by not requiring you to write down the law on your own 3×5 index cards. Believe me, I tried to write my own laws for the first month, and my hand ached and I still did not retain any of it because there was so much law to learn. The Critical Pass cards break the law into small chunks, and they only give you the major stuff on which you are likely to be tested. Critical Pass also focuses on MBE subjects because they are very likely to appear on the essays. I would do a practice question on Adaptibar, and when I did not get an answer right, I would go to my Critical Pass cards to see why. I know there are explanations on Adaptibar but somehow this interaction between going to Adaptibar and finding the answer on Critical Pass made it more physically involved which allowed my brain to retain the information better than just going from question to question. When I was getting the same question wrong over and over, I would type out the question and answer; this allowed me to see patterns that I had not seen before. I also walked around the neighborhood with my Critical Pass cards so I could study for the bar exam while getting some exercise too. I can’t emphasize how important exercise was in order to fight the mental and emotional stress during this time, and I felt better exercising knowing that I didn’t have to lose any study time because I took my cards with me.
Third, I watched YouTube videos for tips on passing the bar exam. The most useful advice I got from those was to time out the MBE questions. Since there are two MBE sessions on the first day that are each 3 hours long, you want to time out where you should be on your questions before you begin your test. For example, on question 34 I wrote out the time one hour from when we started, on question 78, I wrote the time two hours from when I started so I knew how to pace myself and not get behind.
Fourth, check what number you are in your MBE questions to your scan-tron periodically. Ten minutes before the end of the afternoon session I discovered that I had skipped a question which made my entire scan-tron off by one question. I know this is easy to do when you practice, but it is easy to forget under pressure. What saved me was that I had circled my answers in the booklet, so luckily I was able to fix most of it before I ran out of time.
Fifth, don’t let the answer key on the essays and MPTs scare you. No one is able to write a perfect essay or MPT under the time restraints. No matter what you do, don’t give up trying to write those essays like I did. You will learn the law just from trying, so whether or not you know the correct answer, just try it.
Sixth, learn to “cook” your essays. I found this article online telling me to cook my essays, and my mentor said basically the same thing. First, you want to take a few essays using the entire 30 minutes given. Then, after you are comfortable with the first few essays, instead of taking 30 minutes to write out each essay, just write out the main points, rule of law and then the facts, all in short form. This way you can get through three essays instead of one in 30 minutes, and practicing more essays and MPTs gives you the best chance to cover more material that could be tested on the bar exam. After I cooked each essay, I typed out the sample answer and saved it to a folder. Each subject was saved to a different folder. The days before the bar exam, I retyped out the sample essays again from each folder to get an idea of what the bar examiners are looking for in those essays.
Seventh, I could not figure out how to finish an MPT in 90 minutes. I took way too long and ran out of time on every one. The same classmate who recommended Critical Pass also recommended that I take the BPP from the law school. At first, I did not understand the importance of this since I had just spent a large amount of money paying for Themis. But when I realized, even after watching the Themis videos over and over, that I still didn’t know how to approach an MPT question and finish it in 90 minutes, I knew I needed more help. I needed someone to point out what I was doing wrong and help me correct it in order to become faster so I could complete an essay in 90 minutes. I simply couldn’t connect the dots with just Themis sending me the sample answers because each MPT was different. My classmate said that if I signed up for the BPP, I would be assigned an attorney mentor who would help me understand exactly what I was not getting, and the mentor would teach me each step to get there. When I signed up for the BPP, I could not believe the caliber of faculty and outside attorneys who gave up their time to help us pass the bar exam. I was fortunate to be paired with the same mentor that my classmate had, who happened to be practicing attorney Pamela Nicholson. I did not understand the importance of having a real live person helping critique my essays until I met Pamela. She explained why each item was in the file and which piece I had to really focus on and which could be skimmed over to save time. I truly believe she was the reason why I passed the MPT portion. But her help did not stop there. She gave me great tips on my essays too, and my essays went from barely passing to passing each time. Because she is very down to earth and thorough, it is very important to swallow your pride when she critiques your papers. I had to quickly learn that she means business when it comes to helping you pass the bar on the first try. Pamela was so caring and wonderful that she even drove to my house the day before the exam to help calm my nerves. Although the law school no longer offers the BPP, you can probably convince Pamela Nicholson to help you too. Her number is 503-898-0168. If Pamela is not available to you, the best YouTube video I found to help understand the MPT can be found at https://youtu.be/8WyHCDYj6ts.
Eighth, reserve a room at a hotel. I also found this advice online, and I debated whether or not to take this advice due to the costs. However, I was so glad I did because the bar exam was at the Portland Expo Center, and the traffic was so horrible that there were many empty desks on exam day because some people couldn’t make it there on time. My friend took 2 1/2 hours one day to just go home from the Expo Center, and I was at my hotel room after a short 10-minute walk. Having a hotel room also allowed me to get away from my kids and get some last-minute cramming done without any interruptions. Fighting traffic on the day of the exam may alter your ability to truly focus on the enormous task at hand. I know it was expensive to book two nights at the hotel, but it would cost even more to take the bar exam over again, not to mention the additional anxiety and preparation of doing it another time. Don’t risk being at your very best just to save a few hundred dollars.
Nineth, I started each day listening to a motivational video on YouTube. This allowed me to focus my mind to be strong when thoughts of quitting or how impossible this task was came trickling in. Mental strength is everything during this time. I ended the evening with another motivational video.
Lastly, envision your name on the bar admissions page before you take your test. On each exam day, before I began the test, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and imagined seeing my name on the bar admissions page. There is power in envisioning what is to come because it sets your mind to achieve it.
Best of luck to you as you take your bar exam! Remember, this is just a test. No matter the result, you are worth far more than the results of one test.