[ Makenzie Way, 2020 Law Graduate at the University of Pennsylvania ]
Here we are, just shy of being one month out from the October bar exam. Like most other BARBRI Bar Review students, I sat down for the “dreaded” BARBRI Simulated MBE. Now on the other side of this monumental bar prep assignment, I can honestly say it was super useful – they’re not kidding when they say the BARBRI Simulated MBE is the singular most important thing you can do to prepare for the bar exam.
Although the practice exam is behind me, I do think there are important lessons to be learned that might benefit future bar preppers. Likewise, there are things we can do once we’ve taken the BARBRI Simulated MBE to increase our chances of landing on the passing side of the bar exam’s graded curve. In case you need some help understanding “the curve,” BARBRI explains everything right here.
It may seem obvious but you should make some attempt to study for the Simulated MBE before you take it. By “study,” I mean do something beyond watching the BARBRI bar prep lecture videos and reviewing the outlines. Ideally, do what you plan on doing in the days leading up to the actual bar exam. For me, this meant flash cards.
Taking the BARBRI Simulated MBE has value in itself but the Pass Predictor score report you receive, with percentile ranking by MBE topic and subtopic, carries weight. Although you can re-take the exam on your own time, you’re only graded against the majority of your peers and fellow bar takers once. Thus, it is helpful to go into the practice test in the best situation possible, which requires some active studying on your part.
Take the Simulated MBE under the time/test conditions that will apply to you during the real bar exam. For most test takers, that means adhering to BARBRI’s instructions. However, for some, including many of us taking the October bar exam, the MBE portion will be structured differently. In such cases, figure out how the MBE will be administered for your state/jurisdction and follow suit.
One benefit of the BARBRI Simulated MBE is that you get to experience how exhausting it truly is and that is going to help you prepare both physically and mentally. Another is that you get to judge how well you do with regard to timing – how much time you should allot for each multiple-choice question and how it feels to keep that pace, if you can. For me personally, drilling down on my timing was one of the most advantageous parts of this practice test.
Avoid the temptation to wiz through questions. You’re working under a time constraint, I get that, but rushing through questions leads to mistakes. Just like on the LSAT, you need to determine (a) how long you technically have per question, and (b) how long it actually takes you to work through average questions, so you can figure out how much buffer time you have for the harder ones.
I cannot stress the importance of pacing yourself. Since I split my practice MBE into four sections to mirror my real bar exam structure, I was able to see in real-time how rushing through questions impacted my score. For instance, during the first section when my nerves were still high, I finished with 20 minutes to spare … and I got a good chunk of the questions wrong. In the later sections, I forced myself to slow down, read more closely and critically, and leave myself a small five-minute buffer for revisiting more difficult questions … and I scored much higher.
Receiving your Pass Predictor score report from the BARBRI Simulated MBE can go one of three ways: (1) WOO-HOO! I got an amazing score. I’ve got this bar exam in the bag, (2) Oh no, this can’t be happening … I’m going to … fail?!, or (3) I’m sure other people padded their scores a bit, I’ll be fine if I keep studying … right?
Whatever your feeling, don’t stop
If you did amazing on the practice MBE, congratulations (seriously, job well done), but you can’t place yourself on cruise control now. Others will be working hard to improve their score. If you stop working hard, you may find yourself in a precarious position come test day.
If you didn’t perform as well on the practice MBE, you’re not alone. Lower scores doesn’t mean you’re destined to fail. It means that if you took the bar exam today you likely would have missed the cut score but – and this is a “big but” so pay attention – you’re not taking the bar exam today … you’re taking it in a month. That’s four whole weeks to study and improve. You can pass the bar exam, you just need to put in some extra time and the BARBRI Simulated MBE shows you exactly where to focus your efforts.
If you’re in the middle gray zone, pretend like you’re Dory from Finding Nemo and, “just keep studying, studying, studying.” If you keep up the hard work, target your weaker areas and keep your spirits up, you’re going to be fine. You have a month to perfect that score.
No matter what, just keep studying
To reemphasize, no matter how you scored on the practice MBE, you must keep studying (and do so smartly).
We’re in the home stretch. It’s the time to really drill down and study, study, study – not get lazy or overconfident.
Incorporate more active studying
The first half of the BARBRI bar prep course focuses primarily on passive studying – watching lecture videos. After the simulated MBE the focus shifts to more active forms of studying – working practice questions and writing practice essays. You, too, should be shifting gears when it comes to your personal bar study.
Try to strike a balance between knowledge acquisition, knowledge retention and knowledge application. Knowledge acquisition can be accomplished via the lecture videos, reading the outlines and flash cards. Knowledge retention is primarily done via flash cards and a similar review method. Knowledge application, however, is accomplished through hypotheticals, practice questions, the honey test and practice essays.
After reviewing your BARBRI Simulated MBE scores and percentile rankings, you should be able to determine those areas where you need to revisit the knowledge acquisition phase and those where you would benefit most from focusing on the application phase.
For the areas where you need to acquire more knowledge, consider creating flash cards, reviewing the outlines and taking advantage of the ‘more practice’ feature. Once you’ve acquired the knowledge, it’s imperative that you switch to the application phase. It’s all fine and dandy if you can recite the law, but knowledge alone is useless if you can’t apply it to a set of facts. If you did poorly on the Simulated MBE, you may even consider taking another practice exam once you’ve revisited the knowledge acquisition, retention and application phases for the subjects where you scored lowest.
You have come so far in this journey, don’t let the Simulated MBE – or the stress of studying – wear you down now.
Keep your head up – well, actually, keep it buried in a book – and remember, with the help of the BARBRI Simulated MBE … YOU CAN DO THIS!