Bar Exam: Practice for Performance

It’s the end of January and the bar exam is three weeks away. Don’t panic. You think you need more time but you don’t. You are right on track. Besides, you have got to be ready for this to be over. Can you imagine having to study another week or two? No thank you. Commercial bar prep lectures are (almost) over so it is time to shift from practicing how to learn to practicing for performance. The bar exam tests two things: (1) knowledge and (2) skills, so your preparation should reflect this. Stay the course and keep moving forward. Remember, you haven’t just been studying for 6-7 weeks. You’ve been preparing for three years and the past several weeks have solidified the foundation you need for the exam.

Practice for Performance.

All the information is in your brain (really, it’s in there) so you’ve got to practice using it and focus on the skills tested. That means answering questions using your brain and not your notes or outlines. This seems daunting but it’s time and the longer you wait the more dependent you become.  You’re never going to know everything but your brain is amazing so give it a chance.

It’s like learning to ride a bike- you start out with training wheels    but at a certain point you don’t need them. You think you do but you really don’t. You see other people riding two wheelers and think maybe you can do it but you are scared. You might fall. Finally your dad/mom/grandma/sibling gets tired of it and takes those training wheels off. You are so scared. You make that person promise to hold your bike and not let go. They say, “sure thing,” and give you a push. You wobble a bit, maybe even fall, but you get up and do it again and then… you are riding a bike.

Do you really want to be like this guy?

Going off-note is scary and, like riding a bike, initially you will wobble and maybe fall. The first few attempts will be ugly. You will struggle. You will see issues but not be able to pull the rules out of your brain. You will miss issues because you are so busy wishing you could look at your notes. You will curse me and want to yell at me- how dare I believe in your abilities or think you can do this. That’s fine. I can take it. Push through and give it some time. I know you’ve put the work in and I know you can do it.

If the thought of going cold turkey is too much, you may taper but not for long. You may use notes/outlines as a resource (there if you need it) for the next few days, but on Feb 1: NO. MORE. NOTES.

Want more information about what to do when commercial bar prep lectures end?  Check out this post on the Bar Exam Wizard for some ideas on what to do.


Feb Bar Exam: No MacBook Pro with Touch Bar function

Important Information for February 2017 bar takers:

Several jurisdictions have banned use of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar on the February bar exam.

As of 1/28, the following jurisdictions will NOT permit bar takers to use the new MacBook on the February bar exam: CA, CO, OK, TN, MA, NY, and WV.

IL will allow use of the MacBook as long as you disable the Touch Bar function. If you have a MacBook you must contact the IL bar examiners ASAP and disable the Touch Bar function. If anyone is found using a MacBook with an enabled Touch Bar during the exam, they will be immediately dismissed.

If you own a new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar function, check with your jurisdiction to see if you are permitted to use it.

1/29 Update: MD and PA have also banned the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar function.

1/31 Update: Add OH and TX to the list of jurisdictions banning use of the new MacBook Pro. NC will permit use but the touch bar must be disabled prior to entry into the testing facility and at the exam, proctors and techs will verify that is disabled.

1/31 Update: Looks like FL and SC will ban use of the new MacBook Pro.

2/1 Update: AL has just announced it will ban use of the new MacBook Pro.

2/2 Update on Exam4 jurisdictions: Greg Sarab from Extegrity (Exam4) provided the following regarding Exam4 jurisdictions:

  • Allow: Pro: AZ,  KY, LA, ME, PR.
  • Ban: DC, NE, VA.

According to Sarab, “Extegrity fields a full team of highly qualified tech staff… at all of our bar exams… This gives us the capacity to comfortably assist examinees before each session, and be able to keep an eye on things while they type.” You must manually disable the Touch Bar function but according to Exam4, techs will be at the exam to assist with disabling the App Controls, and confirm it has been done. Sarab also said that once in Exam4, you can’t get back in to change settings. There is no fee for registered examinees to re-download Exam4 on a different laptop, regardless of whether the jurisdiction has banned Touchbar MacBooks.


Study for the Bar Exam by Taking a Break

Lily Pads

Six weeks of studying. Six weeks of watching video lectures, taking notes, reading outlines, answering multiple choice questions, writing essay responses, working through MPTs, reviewing flash cards…

What do all these things have in common? They involve sitting. You’ve basically been sitting 40+ hours a week for six weeks. This is not good. Why? Because sitting is the new smoking. Researchers have found that sitting more than six hours a day will greatly increase your risk of an early death. Yikes.

Ok, so 10 weeks of sitting probably won’t kill you but it sure isn’t extending your life. You’ve only been sitting for six weeks but don’t pretend that your back, neck, shoulders, aren’t stiff. When you go to stand up, you creak and groan like a 90 year old. You probably feel more lethargic and less motivated to move. You may be accountable for your bar studying but you’ve stopped being accountable for your movement.

It’s amazing how, when you are aware of what you are doing in the moment, it is easy to see how the little things can lead to major changes.

You may not stop studying for the bar exam. But you should take breaks and move.

Try a little office yoga.

Take a five minute walk around the block or building.

Vacuum one room in the house.

Have a mini dance party to one song (don’t even pretend you don’t already do this).

Get up and MOVE.







Preparing for the MBE: Do & Review

The Multistate Bar Exam. AKA: the MBE. 200 multiple choice questions on seven subjects. Almost every jurisdiction requires it so you can’t avoid it. And with more and more jurisdictions adopting the UBE, which weights the MBE 50% of your total bar exam score, you better learn to love it.


Everyone has advice about the “best” way to prepare for and do well on the MBE. However, be wary of  strategies that involve gaming the system or require little effort. The best way to do well on the MBE is the same way to do well on an essay exam: Know the material, practice the process, assess your performance. Assessing your performance does not mean looking at your score. It means figuring out HOW you got that score and WHY you missed particular questions.

This is not fun and it takes time. But it works. That is because time reviewing should equal time doing. What is the point of doing 17, 34, or 100 MBE questions if you don’t take the time to review? Reviewing means more than reading answer explanations. This is important but it only addresses one aspect of the test, the substance. You also need to review your process: the analysis you engaged in that lead you to choose a particular answer choice.

One way to review your analysis is to keep a log as you answer MBE questions. Write down your thought process as you eliminate and choose different answers. Again, this is not fun and it takes time. But it works. You’ll notice patterns in how you approach different questions and different topics. Are you missing Property questions because you don’t understand Property or because you don’t like reading the long hypo and get lost in the all of those facts?  Figure this out and you’ll be able to correct yourself adjust your process.

Want more on how to do well on the MBE? Check out this post  on how to use IRAc and this one for general strategies.




Bar Exam Focus (Tough Love, Part II)

Warning: If you are weak-hearted (or haven’t been studying) then you might not like what I’m about to say. Now is the time to focus.

Not tomorrow. Not February. Now. We are five weeks out from the exam and there is no more time for foolishness. Pretty much everyone studying for the bar exam is a little slap-happy and social media is filled with bar exam posts, photos, tweets, and hashtags. I get it: you are a bit tired and it’s hard to focus. This is totally normal but it’s time to stop. You need motivation, the psychological drive that compels you towards a certain goal. It is intrinsic and comes from within. You must attribute your results to factors under your control and believe you have the skill to reach your goal. Think about what you want to achieve and how to do it instead of going through the motions and making excuses. You will pass the bar exam because you’ve been preparing for three years and this summer is the final push. You have to want it and keep working for it.
Social media is a wonderful way to find and share motivation but please resist the urge to create a bar exam meme, post a picture of you “studying” or your cat or dog “helping” you study. For goodness sakes, don’t post pics of caffeine, bar outlines (so overdone) and stop tweeting screen shots of your progress bar (no one is buying it). Enough with the #barprepproblems and #barprepsucks. Stop lamenting about the gorgeous day you’re missing (as if everyone your age doesn’t have a job).

Instead, remind yourself: I am a law school graduate. I am better than this.


Bar Exam Perspective (and a little tough love)

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The above MLK quote is obviously not about the bar exam. I’m certainly not going to compare bar prep to the fight for fundamental civil rights and neither should you. So why did I lead off with this quote?  Perspective.

Yes, bar prep is hard, you’re tired, you have no free time. But how lucky are you that your biggest struggle right now is about the bar exam? Growing up, anytime I’d whine complain about the sad state of my life, my mom would let me wallow in self-pity for a bit and then she’d say, “do you know how many people would love to be in your shoes?” This was way before “first world problems” became a thing, but it was the same idea.

The point is, you don’t have to be chipper and happy all the time. It’s ok to get discouraged and frustrated. You can wallow in self-pity for a bit but don’t lose the context. You get to take the bar exam. It is a privilege.

Read the MLK quote again:mlk

Think about what it means and put the bar exam into perspective. You can do this.


In a Bar Prep Slump? Push Through Negative Thoughts

Not too long ago I read a great article in the Harvard Business Review  by Sabina Nawaz called Silence the Critical Voices in Your Head. The title says it all but the first paragraph is what really hit home:

“There’s one debilitating behavior that most of us fall victim to with great regularity: listening to critical voices in our heads. Whether they originate from external criticism or our own fears and doubts, these negative voices tell us we’re not good enough, kind enough, or productive enough. Research shows that echoing negative thoughts inside our heads increases our chances of depression, isolates us from others, and inhibits us from pursuing goals.”

We all have negative voices in our head but what takes us off-track is letting those voices get too loud.  Nawaz says we need to develop a strategy for pushing through the negative so we can be productive and successful. Read the article to see what that strategy is.