Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We Invite Alums to Provide
Graduating Students With Tips
on Passing the Bar Exam

Who better to advise graduating students on how to pass the Bar Exam than alums who have already taken it? We invite alumni to click on the "comments" link at the bottom of this post to bring up the comment screen. Type your advice on the screen and we will get it up and running so graduating students can review it as they study for the Bar Exam. Thank you in advance for your participation!

New Grads: Click on the "comments" link below to read the advice.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Distraction aside, as you work on the preparation, make sure you're working on keeping your notes/material organized.

Practice 30-50 MBE Practice questions per day. Every single day. Toward the end of the process, up the practice questions to 70-100. Your bar prep will provide you w/practice tests that you can use. The Kaplan books are a great resource. So are the new Emmanuels books.

For NY, look at as many old essays as possible. Seperac.com is a great resource and has essays going back 10 years. NY presents their Mult Choice questions in a more open-ended way. Get used to them (but don't sweat them - start to look at a few per day about three weeks out).

Stay calm. Do the work. Prepping for the bar can feel like you're getting vertigo at times. Look straight ahead - not down.

Todd Jones, '08

Anonymous said...

If you take Pieper for Bar Review, trust in his words of wisdom. Treat Bar Prep as a job. Put your work and time in during the day. Follow the bar prep study guideline and treat it as Gospel. You will find that about T-2 weeks from the exam, you will begin to panic. You will come to the unavoidable realization that there is just too much law to know and learn in 3 years of law school to cram into 10 weeks of organized study. Push past it and realize that on the exam you are not shooting for an A or A+. You only need a D- minus to pass the bar exam. Moreover, remember that it is a scaled exam and that thousands of other candidates are just as nervous as you are. In that way you are all on equal footing. Lastly, take breaks when necessary to preserve sanity. The day or two before the exam, take it light. Make sure to practice as many MBE questions as possible because most often that is where people fall short.

Anonymous said...

For those of you intimidated by the Javits Center, consider taking the test in Albany. I pass this on because another Touro alum in the class before me told me about it. For many in the downstate region, Albany is a well kept secret. The town is pretty quiet and homey. The people are just nicer. The test center (last year it was the Albany Times Union Center) was far from hectic. The very fact that its a 3 hour drive forces you to drive up there early and take a much needed break from studying.

Anonymous said...

1. Trust yourself. BARBRI provides you with a Study Schedule (paced program) - it's helpful, but ambitious. I fell behind on the BARBRI schedule after about a week, because I spent more time studying criminal law than they recommended. If you find that you need to slow down and spend a reasonable amount of time on a subject, you should slow down and spend time on that subject.

2. Do not compare your progress with anyone else, because it will drive you crazy. At every BARBRI lecture there is a person who studies for 16 hours at a time and finishes 10,000 multiple choice questions a day. Avoid that person.

3. Practice NY essay questions as soon as possible. When I studied, I would attempt to write my answer without looking at the model answer. Then I would look at the model answer and rewrite my essay. It seems silly to copy a model answer, but it helped me to organize my writing. It also helped when I encountered similar questions.

4. Practice MBE multiple choice questions everyday. Keep track of your mistakes. I found that I continually missed the same issues, which meant it was time to re-read the book.

5. Take a nice lunch with you on the day of the bar exam - something you really, really like. If anyone attempts to speak with you about the test during lunch, run away.

Anonymous said...

The advice already posted was the same advice I received when I was studying and I really appreciated it then (and now). I encourage everyone to follow the above tips.

Also...
1. Take that time each day to do those MBE questions. The PMBR books provide a ton of practice questions and explained answers. You learn more from your wrong answers than your correct ones.

2. Review every released bar essay. Separac.com has them with the model answer. Just remember that the answer is not perfect. It is simply above average. Try to write up each essay. At the very least make bullets of the key rules.

3. Find one thing that you can use as your escape. Take some time each week to do that "thing" especially if it means being outdoors and not holed up in a library.

4. If you think you are falling behind or not picking up all the information immediately, it's normal. There is a lot of information but it will all make sense by the end.

5. Stop studying that Sunday before the bar at an early hour. You have to let go and stay calm. That Monday before, don't touch your outlines and go to the beach or something to take your mind off the exam.

6. If you are still panicking, call a friend or alum who went through this in a prior year. They will pass along the same tips and calm you down.

7. If you plan to stay at a hotel for the exam, make reservations NOW! They will fill up and prices will go up. If you don't have a test site, make a few reservations because you have time to cancel (confirm the cancellation policy at each place)

Good luck,
MZ, 08

Jackee said...

I was not a student at the top of the class. I received those yearly notices from the school telling me how I was in the percentile of the class highly likely to fail the Bar exam on the first try. I used that as motivation.

There is no trick or gimmick to passing the bar. I used 3 methods-Preparation, Pieper, and Prayers (a heavy dose of prayers).

1. Understanding the material is key. Before you move onto another class or another topic area in your studies-you must understand every detail of the prior subject matter. You may never write a practice essay on the subject but if the examiners use a similar issue on the exam fact pattern you will be able to spot it and write about it.

2. Be mindful of those students in your prep class that think they have a handle on all the material-they don't. ALWAYS CONSULT THE INSTRUCTOR. This is not the time to be shy.

3. Do as many MBE questions as possible. Anywhere from 700 and up. Plan your time according so you can fit them in, beyond what is required in your prep class. Make time to read the answers to the MBE questions. THIS IS KEY. You will soon notice a pattern.

4. Don't doubt yourself. Have on reserve a friend or relative (phone a friend) that knows you well-someone you can cry to (literally)and they will encourage you to keep going. I melted down a week before the exam. I was tired-my hip hurt from all the studying-and I was not getting many of the MBE questions right during my studying. I called my sister, had a good cry, and she told me how much she believed in my ability and God's ability to bring me through, (all things that were true but I had lost site of along the way). I was able to keep going.

5. Eat well but not unhealthy foods-that would be counter productive-you need your energy. Staying healthy is also important so develop a pattern of taking all your vitamins (and stay away from those that are sick). Stretching and exercise (for me 30-45 mins walks) help a great deal especially when you are feeling sluggish.

6. Take this preparation as your job. Make time to unwind (watch a lot of comedy-laughter is a good medicine). This is not the time to party hard. There will be people in your prep class that go out partying, come to class late etc. This is a job-be on time for class-put in the hours to study and prepare.

7. I believe in you-Prepare and Pray.

Anonymous said...

Don't Panic. Stay Calm. Have the right state of mind.

The truth is after three years of classes, you already have everything you need to pass the bar exam.

You don't need to attend any bar review courses for two months, or practice exams every day. Although they might help.

Being cheap, I didn't attend any bar review courses. I was lazy, and didn't study except for the total of one day before the bar exam.

I went into the exam expecting to fail.

I was calm and composed. I didn't panic, and I finished each section with time to spare.

I passed on the first try.
My classmate buddy failed, and he attended bar review courses.

2006 was a tough year for NY Bar exam takers, and especially for Touro.

Touro '06

Chris Hunter said...

I took the NYS bar exam in 1987 and took Pieper live as my prep course. At the tine NY tested (and Pieper covered)33 substantive areas of law. For each such area I created a separate file folder with my notes (written quickly as Mr. P spoke the "Rules"-I still have callus on my finger!). I declined an invitation to dine with classmates the night before the exam. They (who attended a different bar review course)tempted me by saying their review course instructor suggested a "night off" the night before. I replied that I planned to use the time to catch up on weak spots. The night before, I spread out my 33 files and asked myself: "which of these are you the least confident about?". I picked up my "Article 78" file and brushed up.
The New York exam contained a full blown essay on Article 78 disguised as a matter involving the New York State Tax Commission.
I passed the exam.
My advice? Stay organized and use all the time you have available to you. You can kick back after the exam

Anonymous said...

PMBR had a 4 day course that was very helpful for the multi-state. The BAR-BRI class was very good. The flowcharts were helpful. Practice writing essays for NY. Take NJ and NY at the same time...you'll never have the two for one opportunity again. I didn't start practicing in NJ until nine years after taking the bar, but having two states has proved to be an asset.

Don't panic and waste energy on worrying. Don't talk to other people taking the test on your lunch break or between days.

Taking the exam is a surreal experience. Good luck. You will get through it.

Ken McLellan '95

Anonymous said...

Approach the bar as if you have nothing else that matters, except your health obviously, it is three months of intensive hell, but think of the end result. You may remember the grueling studying and preparation, but you will relive the feeling of passing over and over and never forget taking your oath.

Take a bar prep and follow their instructions, study times, materials, etc. Don't discount what they advise you or think you have a better way. They do this every year.

Stay focused and calm, you have made it through three years or four years of school, you can do this, if you put the right effort in you will succeed. GOOD LUCK!

Richard Wankel 2002

Mike M. (Class of 1989) said...

All prior comments are good.

After the end of the first day of the exam, do NOT crack a book. I had a nice dinner with a good friend, drank a beer, and went to sleep. By the way, my friend was not taking the exam.

Paul Margiotta said...

The thing to remember is that the few weeks preceding the bar exam, which you give up recreational activities determines the beginning of your career. Give up the fun for a few weeks and the benefit lasts a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Dan Okrent, Touro 1995: I passed in NY and NJ on the first try. Eat, sleep, and drink the bar exam for eight weeks, but take regular rest breaks--dinner out, a movie. Tell your family and friends that you'll need to focus on studying for this period--don't allow "any static on the line"--family problems, etc., to distract you from your goal. The easiest and least stressful part of the bar exam is taking it; the worst part is preparing for it and the second worst part is waiting for the results afterwards. Pay close attention to the clock when you take the exam; the easiest way to blow the exam is to exceed your time budget on any one question or set of questions--and then not have sufficient time for the other questions. Always stay within your time budget. Make your answers somewhat briefer than the ones you wrote during law school; you won't have the time, and the graders won't have the time either. And don't panic, no matter what the question, even if you haven't the foggiest idea of what they're asking. Reassure yourself that most people pass the exam on the first try, and most of the rest pass on the second try, regardless of class rank. Also, most of your law school exams were a lot harder than the bar exam will be--it's black-letter law, no shades of gray. If a bar review course were a movie, it would be called "Kindergarten comes to law school".

Anonymous said...

There are 4 things I recommend.

The first is the 3 day PMBR course. Take it the week before the bar exam so it's fresh in your mind. The first day is a simulated multi-state bar exam. It doesn't matter how poorly you do (I only got 69 out of 200 questions right on the simulated exam.) During the next two days you will disect every question, learn the variety of ways the same question can be asked and how to spot the tricks. When I got to the real bar exam, I swore I'd seen the same questions at the PMBR course. I finished early and my score was so high that I waived into the District of Columbia Bar.

The second thing I recommend is being mindful of how the examiners score the written essays. A buddy gave me a CD of a lecture by the person who created the grading scale. He gave numerous examples of how to get a 1/4 point here and there. For instance, if you start a sentence out with "Under New York law," you won't get any points. If you start the sentence with, "Under New York State General Obligations Law," you'll get a 1/4 of a point. The most important thing he said was, "write the word 'because' as often as possible. Circle it. Underline it. The reasoning you write after the word 'because' is what the graders are looking for. It's part of the analysis that will give you a good portion of the points you'll get on each essay. Conversely, don't go nuts trying to remember the different degrees of crimes. You won't get any credit for knowing it. Your head will be full of minute details that may not even get you any points.

The third thing I recommend is to read every single essay and model answer for the past decade.

The last thing I recommend is having a separate notebook while you're studying for the bar exam. Write everthing that you're having a problem remembering or understanding in that notebook. Review those things over and over again a few days before the bar so it's fresh in your mind.

Good luck!

Violet said...

The key to mastering the MBE questions is checking the rationale for the answers. You should do this even for the questions you answer correctly until you are confident that you have mastered the specific issue which is being tested.

JD said...

The only thing I would add to all this good advice is to exercise regularly during the bar prep time. Exercise will never seem so pleasurable. I ended up in great physical shape and I passed the bar.

Anonymous said...

Study for the bar examination as if it was your first year Constitutional Law class!
Live to study, because without passing the bar, you can't practice.
Good luck!
Christine Malafi D'Amaro '91

Anonymous said...

First of all: BEST OF LUCK TO EVERYONE!!!!

2. Much of the advise already posted is good....what I think is true is that everyone has a little bit different way of learning and you have to know what works for you. I truly believe in timing. timing, timing! which means practice, practice, practice with timing yourself. I believe a huge part of the exam is your endurance level and keeping your timing. I would take full MBR exams and time myseld, as many as I could fit in with timing myself to the same as the exam.

2. I did the same thing with the essays. Practiced and timed myself.

3. The last 2 weeks I had a schedule of time allotted for each subject that I needed to cover and I stuck to it to get through everything. Also I bypassed 2 subjects that are typically minor (for example, negotiable instruments) and didn't worry about them. I just cut my losses on them and it was ok, I don't know if that was dumb luck though, but it worked.

4. I only had a month to study hard because I work full time and could not take more time off. Its doable! And I always took one full day off a week, you have to give yourself a break (for your mental health)!

5. Although it was one of the worst experiences that I had to endure I do think half of it is keeping your wits about you, keep calm during the exam and watching your time!

YOU CAN DO IT. IF ANYONE WANTS TO CALL FOR OTHER TIPS ETC., CALL

DEB BROWN, ESQ.
631-463-6044

DeniseD said...

Remember that studying for the bar exam is a marathon, not a sprint. If you start out too intense you will burn out halfway through. Attend the review classes faithfully and expect to spend several additional hours each day studying. Make sure to take actual breaks to eat! Don't just shove food down while answering another essay question. You'll get agada, gain weight and have messy books! You CAN spare 20 minutes to eat dinner.

Try to give yourself an hour at the end of the day, at least, to relax and do something that you like, whether it's exercise,(some may prefer this earlier in the day), a reality-tv show or movie, or a telephone conversation with a good friend. You have to turn off your mind at some point. Try to get 8 hours of sleep a night. Don't overdo the caffeine! It will only make you jittery and shaky.

If at all possible, sleep in your own bed the night before the exam. Set your alarm for an extra-early wake up time and set a back-up also such as a call from someone reliable. (Like your mom). Do not stay up studying past 8pm the night before the exam! At some point you will have to accept that you know what you know. Don't sleep with your book under your pillow. If you don't know it by then you will only get a stiff neck!

Keep saying, "I can do this, I am smart and well-prepared." Make it your mantra. You really can do it. My father was very sick the whole time I studied for the bar exam. He passed away the Friday before the exam and the funeral was on Monday. Yes, I took the test on Tuesday and Wednesday. No, I didn't pass on that try. BUT I only failed by 5 or so multi-state questions. I aced the first day essay questions. So you really are stronger and smarter than you think you are!

Good luck. Work hard. You can do it.

Anonymous said...

Do not over study! If you take Pieper (as I did) the temptation is to study a ton of other stuff as well to supplement what you're doing. (Alot of students got Barbri outlines and look at those in addition to their Pieper work, etc.). DO NOT DO THIS! Trust your bar review program, treat the bar review like a job and just do exactly what you're told to do. I followed Pieper to the letter- worked basically 9am-5pm every day and still enjoyed a healthy social life at night. This strategy kept me relaxed and healthy, and allowed me to pass on the first shot with flying colors! Best of luck to you all!

Anonymous said...

For those who are planning on taking New Jersey and New York and making the bar exam a three day experience this tip is for you. Past experience will show that most people who pass the NY exam also pass the NJ exam. Both Pieper and Barbri devote some time to point out the distinctions and diversions between the two jurisdictions on the law during your prep course. I would adivse that the night before day three, take out a bit of time to look at one to two past NJ bar exams to see the format and the call of the questions. From what I remember, the NJ exam fairly resemble your typical first year law school essay exams e.g. examine all claims. The more you prepare for NY, the more confident you will be for NJ.

Anonymous said...

Once you finish a set of notes-do not study them. Edit the notes, use more precise language, if available. Put them in multiple binders--act like you are preparing them for someone else to read.
Give subsections meaningful titles or subtitles. Make them look good-lots of white space. Do not use more than three types of font or styles to a page, but use bold or italics or underline when you think it needs them.
Make up little rules and stick to them for this massive onging editing job. By the time you are done, you will know the material, be able to breeze through it in the final days.
I had decided due to family problems not to take the bar, despite having paid my fees, but a friend who was retaking called me and started bugging me with 10 days left before the bar. I reviewed my notes, I thought superficially and passed. I also went low carb for several days before the test, took sinus pills the night before and just before the test too another sinus pill. Your head in going to be in the same position for hours.
I did great on the multiple-choice and rushed through not letting myself agonize over any answer too long. When I couldn't decide I chose the answer with more law.