Are you a 3L and getting ready to start thinking about the the bar exam? Are you planning on taking that exam in Michigan? Well great news, you’re in luck!! I had the (dis)pleasure of taking the Michigan bar exam in July and survived the two day ordeal! Meaning, I can tell you everything I know to help you get yourself psyched up for the bar exam!! Personally, bar prep and the bar exam were the most stressful times of my life. I hate to be such a debbie downer but that is the reality of such an important and difficult test. I would study all day at my desk while the world was spinning around me. And if I took time to do something other than practice tests, lectures, and obsessively highlighting my outlines, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough or that I was going to fail. But, like I just said, I SURVIVED IT!
Although the bar prep period seems like an endless void that lasts forever and the bar exam feels like two anxiety-filled days of torture, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!! The relief I felt once I put my pencil down on day 2 was UNREAL. I felt the pressure on my shoulders disappear; I felt 100 years younger; I felt like I could conquer the world!!! (Okay maybe I also felt absolutely exhausted and couldn’t wait to be home but still…) I am sure you are feeling a rollercoaster of emotions right now and can’t wait to be on the other side of the bar exam (trust me, I was there). So let me break down the Michigan bar exam for you so you know what to expect when you go to East Lansing for the real thing! My goal is to help clear up some confusion about the Michigan bar exam and ease some of the anxiety you may have!
What: Michigan bar exam, a two day examination that determines if you are minimally competent to practice law in the state of Michigan.
When: Administered twice a year – the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and the last Tuesday and Wednesday of July.
Both days are exciting and scary in their own ways. You don’t know what to expect at the testing center, you don’t know where your seat will be, and you don’t even know what you should expect. At first I really didn’t know what to expect either. I was told that the testing room is a big open room with rows of tables and to wear layers because the temperature of the room tends to fluctuate. I was also scared to death of the administrators and probably checked my ticket and the “do not bring” list a million times. I stayed at a hotel that was a 5 minute drive from the testing center both nights of the exam. My fiance stayed at the hotel in order to drive me, feed me, and take care of all the other necessities that my “focused on bar exam” brain would not think of. Each morning I pumped myself up with some music, got my “war paint” (makeup) on, and did some light review to refresh myself. Specifically at the Breslin Center (where I took my exam) you can have someone drop you off or you can drive and pay for parking (note – leaving the test each day will take some time if you park close). Outside of the center, there will be some tables set up offering give aways of things you may have forgotten for the test (this is where the therapy dogs will be at lunch too!). Once you enter the building, you will have to go to the main floor of the auditorium, find your seat (should be on your entrance ticket), get yourself set up and comfortable (to the best of your abilities) and wait for the test to begin!
Day 1: Essays
The first day of the Michigan bar exam is the “Michigan” portion of the exam – the essays. There are a total of 15 essays that you must complete in the allotted time (about 20 minutes per essay). For the first half of the day, you get 3 hours to complete 9 essays, there is a break for lunch, and then you get 2 hours for the second half of the day to complete 6 essays. Although the testing for the first day is technically an hour shorter than the second, it ends up being approximately the same amount of time with all of the initial pre-test configurations that need to be done. There are a total of 24 areas of law that can be tested on the Michigan bar exam (see Rule 3): Agency; Conflicts of Law; Constitutional Law; Contracts; Corporations; Creditors’ Rights; Criminal Law; Criminal Procedure; Domestic Relations (Family Law); Equity; Evidence; Negotiable Instruments; No-Fault Insurance; Partnership; Personal Property; Professional Responsibility; Real Property; Sales; Secured Transactions; State & Federal Practice (Civil Procedure); Torts; Trusts; Wills; and Workers Compensation. The Michigan Bar Examiners have not given guidance on what questions they may ask, so any topic in these areas of law are technically fair game. Also, in recent years (especially my exam) they have been testing unusual or less frequently tested topics. So make sure you go over all of these areas because they could come up on your exam. These essays test purely Michigan law so make sure you don’t get the Michigan-specific information confused with the MBE information. You can also elect to take your essay exam on a laptop for an additional fee. (Personally, I did this and it is well worth it)
Day 2: Multiple Choice
In Michigan, the second day of the bar exam is dedicated to multiple choice. Specifically, you will be taking the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). The MBE is a six-hour exam that consists of 200 multiple choice questions. The test is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., and you have 3 hours for the first set of 100 questions. Then you will get a lunch break and your next start time will likely be at 2 p.m., and you will have another 3 hours to complete the second set of 100 questions. (Note: please follow whatever instructions you receive before or during the test regarding timing!) Of the 200 questions, 175 will be scored and 25 are considered unscored “pretest” questions but will not be marked as such (similar to the LSAT “experimental section” or the MPRE pretest questions). There are 7 total subjects that are tested on the MBE: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and Procedure, Contracts and Sales, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. These subject test nationwide majority law, so make sure you know any distinctions from Michigan!
The Michigan Bar Doesn’t Have to Scare You!
The bar exam is not an easy feat (that’s for sure). It is a difficult exam that causes extreme stress in law school graduates. However, it CAN be defeated and you can survive it (just like me)! Hopefully my breakdown of the Michigan bar exam answered some of your questions and helped you understand what to expect on game day. Although I have first-hand information, you should still check out the State Bar of Michigan website and the Michigan Board of Law Examiners website for more detailed information.