Today we’re excited to have MBE-expert Sean Silverman here to answer some questions about preparing for the bar exam. Sean is an attorney, a lecturer for a New York based bar review company, and a personalized tutor for the bar exam. He also runs a blog about the MBE.
Without further ado…
You are a lecturer for a bar review company and personalized tutor for the MBE and written portions of the bar exam. What got you interested in working with students to help them pass the bar exam? How long have you been doing this work?
I’ve been preparing students for the bar exam for about five years now. I actually first became interested in teaching law while in law school. There was a program in which 3Ls would teach tutorial-style classes to 1Ls who were struggling, and I was asked to take part in the teaching aspect of the program. I immediately took to teaching law, and teaching, in general. Shortly after I passed the NY Bar Exam, I began offering my tutorial services to students preparing for the bar exam.
You blog about the MBE portion of the bar exam. Why do you think multiple-choice is such a challenge for so many bar takers?
I have thought much about this, and I have a few theories. When I was in law school, and I assume it is to a large extent the same today, multiple-choice tests were not the norm.
In fact, law doesn’t really lend itself to the absolute answers required by a multiple-choice test.
One of the goals of a law school is to teach its students how to think like a lawyer, and the analysis necessary for writing an essay is certainly geared more towards that goal than answering multiple-choice questions. As such, essay exams in law school are the norm, but unfortunately students do not have much opportunity to practice analyzing the law through multiple-choice questions until it’s time to prepare for the bar.
Another issue is that you can know the law quite well (well enough to write a very good essay on a given topic), but still get tripped up on tricky incorrect answer on a multiple-choice exam. Multiple-choice exams require a different mode of thinking than an essay exam, and oftentimes it can be quite difficult to train your mind in that style of thinking in the short time allotted for bar exam preparation.
Why did you decide to start a blog where you answer MBE questions students send you?
I originally conceived the blog as a spot where I would offer notes on a variety of topics. The notes would encompass areas that my students were having difficulty with throughout our lessons.
I assumed if my students were having difficulty, these are likely to be areas that others are struggling with as well.
I started to receive questions from readers by e-mail, and realized that providing notes alone would likely cause me to over-look topics. The questions I’d get through e-mail were excellent, so rather than simply responding to the person who sent the e-mail, I decided to post on the blog the questions and answers that I received through e-mail. Interestingly, many of the most popular posts on the blog are questions and answers that I’ve received through e-mail.
For students currently studying for the bar exam, what three tips would you give them to be best prepared for the MBE (or the bar in general)?
- My first tip would be not to neglect the essential aspect of learning the law before jumping into extensive practice of multiple-choice questions. To do well on the MBE will require applying the law you’ve learned to many practice questions (hopefully in the thousands), but you need to build the foundation first.
- My next tip would be to work through, to the greatest extent possible, the questions that have been released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. It’ll be necessary to supplement these questions with questions created by various bar review companies, but it’s best to practice with questions directly from the source, so don’t neglect that opportunity.
- A third tip is to be sure to take a few full-length practice exams under timed conditions. Do 100 questions, take an hour off, and then complete 100 more questions. I always stress to my students that the MBE is as much a test of endurance as a test of knowledge. If you become mentally fatigued on the day of the exam, it is highly unlikely you will score high regardless as to how well you know the law. And the only way to prevent that fatigue is to train your brain to remain focused, and work steadily, through a 200-question exam.
For students taking the bar exam down the road, but already nervous about the multiple-choice portion of the exam, is there anything they can do before bar prep to help get ready?
The MBE tests subjects that all law students are required to take in law school.
I’d highly recommend that students, while still in law school, get a hold of some bar prep materials, and while a subject is fresh in their mind, work through some MBE questions on that subject.
Not only will this make it easier when it comes time for bar prep, but working through the questions, and reading the explanations to each question, will also assist in learning the law for law school exams. Most importantly, the head start, having already worked through MBE questions, will be a huge confidence builder when it comes time to prepare for the bar, and confidence will take you very far.
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Thanks, Sean! Feel free to leave questions in the comments!
Sean Silverman is an attorney and instructor for a New York based bar review company. He has prepared numerous students for the MBE, both in person in New York, as well as over Skype for those located outside of New York. In addition, his blog provides readers strategic advice for effectively preparing for the MBE, as well as providing an opportunity for readers to ask questions regarding any of the content tested on the MBE. Visit his blog @ http://www.mbetutorial.blogspot.com, or contact him directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
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