I finished law school, and I was pretty sure that the bar exam was going to be a formality. Having been through the process, let me tell you that it was not a breeze. In fact, it is a very challenging exam. I would not wish that exam and the stress that follows as you wait for the results upon anyone. It is, quite simply, the worst.
The good news is that I am pretty sure anyone can pass the exam with enough practice. Heck, even I passed! Below, I have listed a high level overview of how I took the exam for each of the different sections. Without even seeing the questions, I had a plan in terms of how I was going to manage my time and what things I absolutely had to do. For example, in the essays, I made sure to write down all of the names at the beginning to make sure that I at least referenced them once in my answers. My nightmare was answering a question and omitting a character. That could be disastrous to your score, and I had a plan going in that would not allow such an oversight.
As promised, below is my rough plan going into test day.
I studied with Barbri, and I thought it was pretty helpful. In terms of a routine, I would attend the classes and do the assignments afterwards. There are a lot of assignments, and I don’t think that you need to do every single one of them. But you should definitely do as many as you can.
More generally, I would make sure to have some balance. Study, go to the gym, spend time with friends, and study some more. Since the bar exam is a very big deal, you have got to be serious about it. I would highly discourage taking an extended vacation or working during this time.
Read the question. Read the prompt. Read the question again. Read the prompt again. Do a rough outline of your answer with headings. Drop the facts into that outline.
And now, you may start typing. I might even re-read the prompt and question one more time to make sure that I’m not missing anything. The last thing that I want to do is spend 20-30 minutes writing an answer that doesn’t make sense in context of the question.
On test day, there are 3 essays. I would recommend 1 hour per essay. At most, I would go over 10 minutes on the first essay, but then you just need to keep track of the time and save some time later. Time management on this exam is critical. For a few important highlights:
- Use headers to make sure that your essay is easy to read
- IRAC everything to show that you’re organized. You also don’t want to miss points because you did the I, R and A, but no C. Moreover, make sure to that you have analysis to support the issues and do not just jump to the conclusion.
Time management is key. It breaks down to 1 minute and 48 seconds for each MBE question. DO NOT spend an inordinate amount of time on any one question. If you don’t know the answer, skip it and come back. I find that when I let my mind chase other answers in the MBE I will remember the answer to a previous question. Weird how that works.
In terms of each question, I feel like they are trying to test the same stuff year after year. So if you don’t know the answer, just guess the more popular topics. Again, they test the same principles repeatedly.
This is 1/3 of the exam, and I would really encourage you to do a few of these in your preparation. Maybe 1 PT a week or so. It’s also one of those things where you can’t just read someone else’s answers and think that it is enough. It’s really important to get in the process of unpacking the library and doing the assignments yourself. At first, they will inevitably take you a long time. But once you get the hang of them, they go by much quicker.
I’ve heard people say that you can’t practice for these exams, but that is BS. You need to train yourself to craft an effective PT answer. This skill can be learned. Also, I think that the PT is a great place to earn extra points. Inevitably, everyone glosses over this part of the test. Don’t be that guy.
Those are my points from a 30,000 foot view. In the coming weeks, I will go more in depth in each section of the exam: Essays, Multiple Choice, and PT’s. Most importantly, I’ll detail how I prepared. I had prepared so well that when test day arrived, I was really just going through the motions. For the essays, even though the fact patterns were new, they were just variations of essays that I had seen long ago. With enough practice, the Cal Bar can be a real breeze.