Passing the Bar Exam: 4 Easy Steps

Four Steps to Achieving Your Goal

You’ve survived law school and graduation is right around the corner. Soon you’ll be a juris doctor. There is one more hurdle before you can achieve the ultimate goal of putting “esquire” after your name. You must prepare for and pass the bar exam.

The bar exam is a bit intimidating. You’ve heard the myths, legends, and horror stories. You’ve seen your friends morph from confident law students into unkempt, irrational, unsure bar studiers. The bar exam does not seem like fun at all. You may not be sure you are up for it. Trust me, you are. The bar exam will not defeat you. You will take it one step at a time and you will achieve your goal of becoming a lawyer.

Step One: Break it into steps. When you first set the goal of becoming a lawyer you knew there were smaller goals you had to achieve: First you had to graduate high school and be accepted into college. Next you had to earn good grades in college and get a strong LSAT score in order to be accepted into law school. Now you are facing the final goal of passing the bar exam. The distance between where you are now and where you want to be probably seems very far. This is why you need to take steps towards the goal. Studying for the bar exam has been analogized to running a marathon. Just as you wouldn’t attempt to run 26.2 miles on day one, you don’t tackle the bar exam all at once. Identify the steps you need to take in order to pass the exam. Sometimes the steps will be too big but that doesn’t mean you quit. It means that you break it down a bit more. Some days you might not feel like you’ve moved forward at all but looking back over a week or month you’ll see how far you’ve progressed.

Step Two: Make a plan. Once you’ve identified the steps, you have to plan how you will do it. Identify the tools you need from the very basic “signing up for a commercial bar prep course,” to creating a detailed daily and weekly study plan. Create a plan that is comprehensive and flexible. Write it in pencil, not permanent marker. So many students have these grand plans of 12-hour study days, 7 days a week, for 10 weeks. They will complete 100% of the commercial bar prep course and be on-task all of the time. I tend to see these students about a week or two into bar prep and they are a bit of a mess because, surprise, their plan isn’t working. On paper it looked great but they forgot to account for this thing called life. Don’t be discouraged if your initial plan doesn’t work. Instead, adjust the plan and keep going.

Step Three: Do it. This seems obvious  but oftentimes people are so afraid of a mis-step path-to-successthat they take no action at all. However, inaction is a sure way to fail. Taking action is imperfect but it is movement and it will get you to your goal.Having a goal, steps, and a plan takes away a lot of the scary unknown. You will not be perfect but you will have a sense of where to go and how to get there.  Imperfection is not failure. Quitting is failure.

Step Four: Repeat steps 1-3 as needed.  If you look back at the journey that got you to this point, you will see that you did not travel a perfectly paved straight, flat road. You will see a foot path with twists and turns, mud puddles, a few uphills and downhills. But you traveled this path and you will continue to do so. The goal is close and you can and will achieve it.

-KSK, juris doctor, esquire.


Preparing for the MPRE

Less than two weeks until the March 2017 MPRE which means you need to start studying now. In a previous post I talked about the MPRE in general so today I’ll focus more on how to make the most out of practice questions.

Doing practice questions should be a key part of your MPRE study plan. You need to see what material is tested and how it is tested. You want to know what questions you get right and what questions you miss. However, you have to do more than look at the results. Knowing that you got 55% or 75% correct isn’t enough. A number is not feedback.

  • You have to know how you got that score: Did you know it or did you guess? Did you answer questions immediately after reviewing material?
  • You have to know why you got questions wrong: Did you not understand the topic? Did you miss the issue? Did you miss important facts? Did you misread the question?
  • You have to know why you missed some questions but got others correct: Did you miss tough questions and get easier ones right? Did you consistently miss/get correct questions on a particular topic? Did you miss more at the beginning? End?


In order to change the outcome, you must change the input. You must analyze the process- what you did and why you did it- to determine how you achieved the outcome. The good news is that this doesn’t require doing hundreds of practice questions. It does require focused effort and a little patience. The best part about doing self-assessment is that it’s really good practice for the MBE. More on that in a future post…



Choosing A Commercial Bar Prep Course

Choosing the “Best” Commercial Bar Prep Course

The bar exam is the final hurdle to becoming a lawyer. It’s not a time to take chances so you do need to purchase a commercial bar prep course. There are several reputable companies that all want your business, so how do you pick the “best” one?  A few things to look out for:

  • Pass Rate: Not as important as you think. Companies post their pass rate in big numbers but they’ll also include an asterisk. Take a look at that information because it usually says something like “pass rate for examinees who completed X% of the course material.”
  • Guarantee: Again, not as important as you think. That guarantee is not absolute. Look for the fine print that qualifies the guarantee. It usually requires you to complete a certain percentage of the course, minimum number of practice questions, essays, etc.
  • Bells & Whistles: “We’ve been around the longest.” We’ve got the most cutting edge technology.” “We provide the most flexibility.” This is called advertising and it is designed to promote and sell the particular product. Look beyond the commercial and evaluate the actual product.

Based on my experience, I haven’t seen a correlation or connection between passing the bar and any one particular commercial prep course. The connection I have seen is people who work hard and work smart pass the bar exam.

Don’t let a salesperson tell you what you need or that their company is the best.You have to decide what is best for you. A salesperson doesn’t know your academic foundation, learning style, or your lifestyle. You do. If you are unsure of what is the best option for you, find an objective person to help you evaluate the pros and cons of each company.

The bottom line is that you need to purchase a reputable commercial bar prep course but don’t expect to get a shortcut or secret formula to passing the bar. Reputable commercial bar prep courses provide comprehensive material, a detailed study schedule, opportunities for feedback, and multiple ways to learn and practice. Make the commitment and do the work: 10-weeks, full-time. Use the commercial bar prep company and learn the material, understand how it will be tested, and practice the skills.


Ohio Bar Exam Application

If you plan on taking the July 2017 OHIO bar exam, then continue reading.

Ohio has a two-step application process: (1)  Application to Register as a Candidate for Admission (C&F Application) by mid-November of 2L year; and (2)  Bar Exam Application by April 3, 2017.

The C&F Application results in provisional approval and is valid for four years. The Bar Exam Application is your intent to sit for a specific exam and is valid only for that specific exam. The Ohio Office of Bar Admissions does not process Bar Exam Applications until the previous bar exam has been administered. The February 2017 exam was last week so the submission window is now open.

Items YOU must submit by April 3rd:

  • Supplemental Character Questionnaire*
    • update information provided in C&F application, including three additional character references.
  • Exam Application
  • Applicant Affidavit*
  • Law School Character Certificate
    • the law school must certify it has no knowledge of anything that would cause doubt regarding your character, fitness, or moral qualifications to practice law.
  • Non-Refundable Payments
    • bar exam fee and MPT fee. Must be certified checks or money orders.

*These items must be notarized.

Items your LAW SCHOOL must submit at least 30 days before the exam:

  • Final Law School Certificate
  • If applicable– Substance Abuse Instruction Certification
    • You do not need this if you received substance abuse instruction through a law school Professional Responsibility course. 

If you have questions about either the C&F Application or the Bar Exam Application, contact your law school’s bar support person or the Ohio Office of Bar Admissions.


The Bar Exam: It’s Finally Over

It’s finally over. All those years of school, the weeks of studying, the stress, the uncertainty. The bar exam is now behind you. Yes, you’ve got to wait a few months for results but it’s out of your hands. You did all you could to prepare, you did your very best during the exam. Worrying won’t help anything and it won’t change the results. Thinking about all your perceived mistakes accomplishes nothing. It’s time to move forward and get back to real life.



The Day Before the Bar Exam

Bar Exam Etiquette 

It’s been all about you for the past two months. There is no denying that you’ve been *slightly*selfish or that your friends and family waived the rules of etiquette so you could focus on bar exam prep.  Lucky for all of us, this is about to end. The bar exam starts tomorrow and you are not the only person taking it. There will be hundreds of other people in the testing center including examinees, proctors, computer techs, and bar examiners. If you are in a multi-use facility, there might even be other events going on at the same time. Let this sink in…


If your first reaction was to be ticked off, think again. It’s not about you anymore. You can be focused but you may not be self-centered or rude. There is a difference between the two and it involves social norms or expectations about how people should act. Since you’ve been out of the loop for a few months, here is a short refresher on the unwritten rules of appropriate social behavior:

  • Be patient. On your way to the test center, don’t honk or yell at other people who aren’t driving exactly how you think they should. Don’t get angry at the person reading the instructions. Listen and use the time to center yourself.
  • Be kind. This isn’t a social gathering but it isn’t a gang fight. I’m not saying you actually have to interact with anyone but at the very least you can make eye contact and smile at your table mate.
  • Be practical. Don’t over-react when something doesn’t go exactly as you think it should. No one is perfect so expect a few minor glitches and take them in stride.

When you find yourself getting irritated by the slightest perceived inconvenience (i.e., your table mate’s presence) and when you are tempted to act like rules don’t apply to you,consider doing some meditation. For example, if you just rolled your eyes at the very thought of meditating, you need to meditate.

Quick and Easy Meditation: Breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold it for 7 seconds. Exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat 2-3x as needed.

Yes, the bar exam is a high stakes test but that doesn’t give you license ignore the rules governing socially acceptable behavior.