Today we have an interview with our friend Kobelah from Smarter Review. He missed our Twitter chat last month, but was nice enough to send his thoughts on selecting the right bar review provider for you. Without further ado…
Hello, this is Kobelah Svensen Bennah for Smarter Review, publishers of concise New York and MBE bar review study materials. Our company differs from any other. We focus on making test preparation easy, inexpensive, and fast. And that lends itself to the concise, self-study paperbacks we publish.
When students are selecting a bar review provider, what things should they consider?
That differs from person to person. For some, for example, cost is an important factor and a $4,000 in-person review course is simply too much. For others, cost is less important and they may spend more than $10,000 on a review course. Another consideration is time. Some have an entire summer to study, so spending the entire summer studying may not pose a problem. Others, on the other hand, may already be practicing attorneys, looking for work, or busy with other things. For those bar candidates, materials they can learn in a few weeks are ideal. Another consideration is format. Most recent law school graduates are used to a classroom setting. So for them, bar review classes may make sense. But for others who learn by studying printed materials, online or in-person lectures may actually slow their learning process. Those are a few of the considerations our customers have.
Do you think students learn best from live lectures or pre-recorded lectures? Do students need lectures at all?
That really depends on the student. The best advice I can give here is “know thyself.” But I will point out that the overwhelming majority of bar candidates eventually study condensed notes or outlines. And no one I’m aware of keys up a lecture the night before the bar. Most of our customers prefer to start with the condensed notes, instead of spending weeks making them. We take it one step further (and make studying one step easier) by figuring out what law is consistently tested, and making subject digests that omit law that isn’t tested or isn’t tested frequently. What’s left is all the law you need to pass the bar and nothing else. As a result, our materials are shorter, and easier to learn than any other materials we’re aware of.
When do you think a law student should commit to a bar provider?
This depends on the student and their study habits. In reality, most students commit their first year of law school before they even know what the bar is and what it tests. A student should commit when they feel comfortable. But here’s a valuable bit of advice: talk to someone who’s passed a bar exam and get their perspective first. After passing the Florida bar with a large bar provider, for example, I knew that I would do at least as well with a fraction of the preparation they offered me. The reams of materials bogged me down and I spent weeks convinced I would fail. When I needed to pass the New York bar in two weeks, I found bar review materials that were already a manageable size. And, as you would expect, it went great. That’s why I work for Smarter Review. I know there’s an easier faster way for those who want it.
How is technology changing bar prep?
Many aspects of test prep will become increasingly digital for both cost and convenience reasons. But for now, Smarter Review caters to people who prefer studying paper to pixels.
Many bar review programs are 8-10 weeks. Do you think all students need this length of preparation?
No. Our materials, for example, are designed to get candidates ready in 4 weeks or less.
Do you have any tips for repeat takers?
Try something different from what you tried the last time. Did you feel overwhelmed with the material you were asked to learn? Did the law seem to complex? If you answered “yes” to these questions, check out www.smarterreveiw.com. It’s our mission to make test prep easier for you.
Some bar review providers are offering more feedback (essay reviews, etc.) than in previous years. Is feedback an important part of bar prep?
That depends on the feedback. In our multiple choice practice materials, for example, every question has an explanation of why the correct answer is the correct answer. As long as you can understand that, and can guess the right answer for the right reason about 70% of the time, you’ll sail through.
Regarding the essays, I have to be careful here, but we speak with credible sources all the time—people who have been providing bar review materials for decades and people who know how the essays are graded. Suffice it to say, that with regards to essay writing, you simply need to outline the relevant law as you’ll see it done in the model answers.
What do you think your law school class ranking (academic success) can tell you about how you should approach your bar preparation?
Nothing. There are generalized trends, but they don’t translate into accurate predictions for any individual. The bar is primarily a test of how well you can remember and apply a substantial number of legal rules. Don’t get hung up on your class standing. Just learn to remember and apply the rules that are going to be on the test.
Should bar prep be as extensive for all bar exams, even those with very high pass rates? How is it different preparing for, say, CA or MA?
Our company has always taken the position that the bar-none best way to know you’re ready for a bar exam—regardless of the state—is to take previously released bar exams from that state. If you score well enough on the practice, you’ll score well enough on the real thing. That’s why, for example, we partner with the National Conference of Bar Examiners to provide official MBE practice questions. Simulated questions are great for practice; but you need the real thing to be sure. So to answer the question, even though MA has a reputation for “easy essays” and CA has a reputation for being a bear, your bar prep should always be at least as extensive as you need it to be. When you can pass prior tests, you’re in good shape.
Thanks Kobelah! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.
Check out these other helpful posts:
- Selecting the right bar review provider for you.
- What you should consider when selecting a bar review provider.
- Yikes! I failed the bar exam.
- What you can do NOW to prepare for the bar exam.
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Image from Smarter Review.