The first time I took the bar, I relied heavily on the commercial bar prep programs’ essay questions and graders’ responses to gauge how I was doing. I stayed away from the topics I was having a harder time remembering rules to, and I maybe did three MPT questions total. Now, I did okay on that portion of the bar, but if I had done just a little better, I would have passed. I used the tips below the second time around and passed with flying colors (not kidding – I increased my essay scores by 47 points), and I think if you were to incorporate them into you’re studying, you would also see an increase in score.
Find the Most Heavily Tested Topics
The first step I took at the beginning of my second bar prep was to figure out which topics were most likely to be tested. Now, this process isn’t 100% fool proof (see every July 2017 UBE examinee who expected to have a Family Law question), but it definitely will help you prioritize your memorization practice. [I want to be clear for a moment – I am not suggesting you only study the most heavily tested subjects, but that you study all the subjects that might appear on an essay in their entirety. Then, when you are about two weeks out and really start memorizing, focus on the most heavily tested subjects.]
The Brainy Bar Bank organizes this information quite neatly and made it super easy to see the most heavily tested topics in each subject. Also, it kept track of which essays I’d already completed, and nothing gets me more excited about studying than watching the task bar change colors.
Focus on Topics You’re Having a Hard Time With
If you’re a Bar Exam Toolbox student, you’ve probably heard a dozen times how important it is to focus on the topics you’re having a harder time understanding. Doing a hundred personal jurisdiction essays because they are easier won’t help if all you get is a single sanctions question. Focus on the topics that you are confused about. Take the time to create the muscle memory that goes into writing out those rules – it’ll make a world of difference.
When I first started studying, I was terrible at essay questions that involved deeds. I could write all day long about adverse possession, but I consistently got questions wrong that were about how a deed affected ownership. I started focusing most of my real property prep in the last few weeks learning those nuances, and it paid off in heaps on the exam. In addition, when you take the time to figure out what you don’t know, it sticks a lot better. I’ve always learned more from wrong answers than from right ones.
Read Through as Many Questions and Answers as You Can
The second time I studied for the bar, I took 13 weeks to do so. I was between jobs and had just moved back in with my parents and it was either study or do house chores until January. After nine weeks of studying, with four to go, I was becoming apathetic towards bar prep and knew I needed to shake up my schedule. I started reading through extra essays each evening. I would print the question and answer and comb through each. At the bottom, I would quickly outline in IRAC, then go through the answer and highlight the IRAC they had used. This practice helped me see a lot more questions than I had the first time and solidified how important IRAC and organization are to answering a question. It also really helped me get comfortable doing quick outlines. Learning to outline properly was a game changer for me. I have a creative writing background and learning to not fluff up an answer was really difficult. Outlining questions at night became a game, with no pressure, to see how little I could say. Saying less, but hitting all the issues, racked up the points whenever I turned an essay in for review by my tutor. And that wouldn’t have been possible without the Brainy Bar Bank.
Additionally, if you’re a repeat exam taker, I found it beneficial to review the essay questions from the last exam I had taken. Brainy Bar Bank made finding these questions simple. By going through them, I was able to see what I had missed and most of the time it boosted my confidence to see what I had remembered this time around.
All of these points are valid for the MPT as well. Before the second time I took the bar, I had no idea how to write a brief, or one of the myriad of wildcard tasks they could ask from you. Luckily, Bar Exam Toolbox had Brainy Bar Bank for the MPT as well. I made a plan at the beginning of prep to get through at least one of every task that could come up, and read through questions and sample answers for ones I was not comfortable doing (for me that was a brief). In consistently reviewing extra MPT questions, I was able to get a good idea of how the answers should be written, how to write them quickly, and how to not get bogged down in all the extra unimportant information the library contained.
One half of the bar exam is essay questions, and though many bar exam forums might lead you to believe that the MBE is weighted more than the essays, it’s simply not true. You get equal opportunity to show off your writing ability or let your multiple-choice skills shine. If you use these tips while studying for the exam, I am beyond positive that your essay scores will not only increase, but you’ll show up to the exam day confident because you had more exposure to question types that could arise.