The performance test (PT) section of the bar exam is somewhat of an enigma. It is unique to study for in several ways. The tricky thing about the PT is that there is no material to study. On the performance test section of the bar exam, you will complete a “task memo” requiring you to review a “file” and a “library” (basically a set of facts and laws). Using these two resources, you will need to complete the assignment described in the “task memo.” All the law is given to you. So, what do you need to study? How can anything go wrong?
You need to study and practice a method.
The most common issues students have with the PT is that they either run out of time, have poorly organized answers, or both. The solutions to the issues have everything to do with how seriously you prepare for the PT section of the bar exam. Here are some reasons why students don’t pay much attention to the PT:
- They think that since essays and the MBE take up two-thirds of the total grade, all study time should be devoted to those two sections.
- They think that since there are only two performance tests compared to six essays and 200 MBE questions, proportional study time says they shouldn’t spend much time on the performance test.
- They think that no memorization is required so there is nothing to study.
- They think the PT section is a time for a well-earned break since it is the last section of the bar, so they coast through it.
All of these excuses for not studying for the PT inevitably lead to issues involving mismanaged time or poorly organized answers. But there is hope! There is a clear cut solution to the problems students face when taking the PT:
Develop and practice a method.
Since all PT’s follow the same format, the time you spend practicing answering PT’s will more proportionately improve your performance compared to other sections. Answering PT’s is a skill that you can develop, practice, and perfect. 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. Your goal should be to get to the point where once you see the first PT question on the bar, your first though it “Ok, here we go again,” rather than “how do I do this?” or “finally, I’m at the easy part that I didn’t have to study for!”
Each section of the PT requires specific attention. With the task memo section, you need to practice identifying the instructions of the task above all else. If you don’t write what the task is asking for, your answer is doomed to fail. Be sure to complete the task in the exact manner that the memo asks you to!
The file section requires discipline and practice in identifying relevant information. This section can potentially suck away valuable time, so experience with the formats of the file is a definite plus. You need the most relevant facts, not every fact given.
Finally, the library section also requires great discipline. It is tempting to highlight all of the sections of the statutes and laws you see as relevant. But don’t do this! With practice, you will have a feeling for what balance of references to statutes and cases you can afford to make in your limited time. If you go into this section without having practiced, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the material provided to the point where you think there is too much to highlight.
Your key takeaway from the PT should be that many of the common issues can be avoided with practice and feedback. The earlier you begin to practice and get feedback on your answers, the better. If you just failed the bar and the PT had a lot to do with that, remember our steps for moving forward after failure:
Give yourself time to grieve, figure out what went wrong, make a plan, determine whether or not to take the next exam, and finally, move forward!
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- The Performance Test: Why You Should be Studying Now
- The Key to the Performance Test: Find Your Approach
- Can Paper Clips Help You Pass the Performance Test?
- Are You Evaluating Your Work? You Should Be!
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