Brian Hahn, founder of Make This Your Last Time and a second-time passer of the California bar exam, is back with a post about avoiding turning the performance test into a bad decision. Welcome back, Brian!
You know you’re living in the future when you can huddle up with your buddies and have pictures of girls beamed in from space.
There I was eagerly waiting for my classmate to show me on the Facebook app the girl he had a crush on. Three 1Ls giggling at one another surrounded by cultural institutions of the U.N. Plaza.
“This is it,” my eyes glistened despite reflecting the dull sky of San Francisco, “We’re truly living in the 21st century.”
But now… I don’t know. I think they’re catching on with “privacy settings,” and the News Feed is flooded with clickbait links and pictures of inanimate objects instead. The amorous dream has become frustration.
Some things never change, though:
– highly outgoing people posting about how they’re such an introvert based on a quiz that took some clown 4 minutes to make
– checking the friendship history to confirm my suspicion that the person I just wished happy birthday to has never returned one in the last 6 years
– tagged friends celebrating recently made bad judgments with vague inside references (everyone knows nothing really happened in Vegas, though)
Basically, Facebook is a socially acceptable way to showcase your faux pas and trade approval to pay one another off. Approval is the currency of the biggest circlejerk in history.
But on the bar, your faux pas will be ruthlessly punished rather than glorified. I don’t want you to turn into the bar of all things into a terrible mistake. There is one area of the California bar that is particularly susceptible to regret, and you should at least be aware of it sooner than later for the reasons I discuss below.
Many a bar examinees see the California Performance Test as a tame entity they can neglect and treat like dirt until it’s too late. By then, they’ve turned a totally manageable section of the bar into a gamble.
But regret is always manageable when you have photos with friends to justify it! As the clock ticks down, let us also count the ways we can justify neglecting the sleeping beast known as the performance test. After all, bad judgments can be swept away with a little mental gymnastics.
- Essays and the MBE take up two-thirds of the total grade. It’s clear which part of the bar we should focus on!
- Psh, we only have to do two performance tests. Compare this to six essays and 200 MBE questions!
- Aww cute, performance tests just are worth twice as much as essays. Uh oh, double trouble!
- We don’t have to memorize anything on the performance test. It’s not like there’s anything to study if there’s nothing to remember!
- The final section of the bar is the performance test. What a great way to wind down as we celebrate being almost home free!
I just spent like a year’s worth of sarcasm there. If I had to take a wild guess, you wouldn’t look forward to making more precious memories of more bar exams and how you could have done better on the performance test with all your bar homies.
As we strive to ground ourselves in reality, let’s see why one should have a solid practice regimen for the California performance test.
Performance Tests Are Worth a Good Chunk of Your Total Score
If you’re taking the UBE, each MPT is worth 10% of your total score, 20% total. Sure, that’s not as much as the MBE or the MEEs, but it’s nothing to sneer at either. The bar has a way of sneaking up behind you and getting you when you least expect it. And you never know if a few points would have made or broken you.
Starting July (2017), California’s new two-day format will have just one PT on Tuesday. It’s going to be worth about 14.3%, which is actually a bit more than before (13%). You also get only one shot at it.
If you’re taking the bar in California, here are some exemplary PTs ranked by tier:
Straightforward ones—start with these
- Snyder v. Regents of the University of Columbia, Feb 2008 PT-B (objective memo, statement of facts)
- Estate of Small, Feb 2006 PT-B (persuasive brief, statement of facts)
- In re Snow King, Feb 2004 PT-A (persuasive brief, memo to client)
- Pearson v. Savings Galore, July 2008 PT-A (objective memo)
Mid-tier ones to try—get these under your belt
- State v. Dolan, Feb 2012 PT-B (closing argument, persuasive)
- Vasquez v. Speakeasy, July 2010 PT-A (persuasive brief)
- Farley v. Dunn, 2009 July PT-A (brief in support of summary judgment, statements of uncontested material facts)
Insanity—if you can handle these, you’re good to go
- People v. Draper, July 2013 PT-B (objective memo)
- In re SIA, July 2013 PT-A (objective memo)
- I have heard from more than one source that at least one of these induced actual tears and crying during or after the actual thing
You Only Get One (CA) to Two (MPT) Shots on the PT
If you decide you don’t like an MBE question, you can guess on it. If you get your worst subject as an essay, you can kind of stumble your way though and have other essays back it up. Bombing a PT most likely means bombing the entire exam because each PT determines a good chunk of your score.
Each PT Is Worth Twice as Much as an Essay
And you don’t get to mitigate your risk by spreading your work over two essays.
Perhaps it’s difficult to visualize how much double actually is. Try playing the piano with one hand or halving your lifespan to 40.
Consider this if you’re in California: The PT is 1.5x as long as an essay (90 vs. 60 minutes) but worth 2x as much. It’s worth more points per minute.
Furthermore, extra 5 points on a PT are equivalent to extra 10 points across one or two essays—and your scaled score possibly tipping over 1440. Imagine that, to pass, you needed 65s on both your PTs and all your essays. Compare that to getting 60s on your PTs, in which case you would require 20 more points across your essays for the same score (e.g., 75, 70, 70, 65, 65, 65). It would be even harder to recover if you get 55s on the PTs.
PTs Are the Easiest Section to Improve on Because They Are Skill Based
That is, this is one section you should not neglect because it gives you the best bang for your time buck. As you spend time practicing PTs, you will improve a disproportionate amount compared to the other sections. PTs are heavier on the analysis compared to essays. Once you know how to apply the rules and make good use of the facts, it will become a skill you can apply over and over. Same with the application portion of essays, which is why I advocate phasing out of doing full one-hour essays for a subject as you become proficient at essays in that subject.
Each PT Is in the Afternoon, a Time of Disadvantages
What’s different about the afternoon compared to morning? You are more susceptible to lethargy after having done a three-hour essay session. You will be in a different state of mind after having been in the actual bar setting. Maybe you saw a freakish essay earlier. Maybe you know checked your outlines later and realized you misstated some rules or didn’t discuss certain issues. Maybe your initial adrenaline and confidence are nowhere to be seen after lunch break.
On the third day of the exam, these effects will be more pronounced. You might feel doubt as to whether there’s any point in continuing. Maybe you’re really tired and want to go home. Maybe you just had lunch and got food coma, or you didn’t have lunch and are feeling hungry.
There’s no avoiding that the afternoon is somehow different from the morning. But having practice under your belt will make the PT feel more natural. Having a clear path is less likely to give you trouble on game day.
So How Much Practice?
Now you might be wondering how much you should practice the PTs. While it is advisable to practice full PTs, some people will just do one (or none), and some will go overboard and do 20.
I think 4–7, depending on your comfort level, will give you sufficient experience to handle it on bar day. I personally did three full PTs the first time and five the second time. If you’ve done one every week (such as every Tuesday or Sunday) since you started studying, that’s probably enough.
At the end of the day, almost all PTs are objective or persuasive in nature. Thus, you’ll get the most bang for your time buck by directing your focus to how to form objective and persuasive arguments with various memos and briefs.
If you’ve decided to just focus on other things, even one or two full PTs will be a lot better than nothing.
The performance test might be like the person you friendzoned (“We don’t see each other like that at all! hehe”) whom you may appreciate after you realize that they’ve been by your side all along, or at least have orbiting around you for your convenience.
In any case, I urge you to pay attention to the performance test as the bar exam approaches. You can find a bunch on the State Bar website. Those might be the only free things you get from them.
The earlier you start, the fewer you’ll have to cram later. Get a consistent regimen going (for example, every Tuesday is PT day).
Like with the essays, you may self-evaluate your answers using model answers and/or sample answers. This time, focus on:
- whether you actually answered what was asked of you by the task,
- whether pulled out and used the right rules, and
- whether you used the right facts to make your argument.
Do you want more information and strategy on how to kill the PTs for good? Check out my free guide: Make This Your Last Time – Performance Test Toolkit (ver. 1.5a).
Brian Hahn is a second-time passer of the California bar exam who thinks prospective candidates and repeaters should listen to him over people who happened to pass the first time. Visit Make This Your Last Time for more actionable and real discussion of bar prep and other free goodies.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Deliberate Practice: An Approach to Minimum Competence Part 1
- Deliberate Practice: An Approach to Minimum Competence Part 2
- 5 Things I Did Differently The Second Time to Pass the Bar Exam
- Memorization as Simple as 1,2,3
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