The “Keys” to Studying Well? Tap The Right App.

GUEST BLOG by Sara Valentine, Graduate of Capital University Law School

Let’s talk about a super helpful bar exam prep tool that I’ve been able to take with me on-the-go. If you’re like me, I get a little anxious when I have to leave bar studying for a while or want to interrupt the monotony of sitting at my desk (yes, I know it’s good to take breaks but hear me out). The BARBRI LawMaster Study Keys have been an incredible resource for these situations.

The BARBRI LawMaster Study Keys App! *ba dum tss*

The best part is that the BARBRI LawMaster Study Key App is portable. So, if I need a change of scenery, but still want to get some review in, I can. These tools boil down the bar exam topic so that I can get an overview of exactly what I need. The big picture is perfectly set out.

Also, you have to get a look at how pretty this app is! I love it when apps are aesthetically pleasing and BARBRI has done this one well. It’s seriously so helpful. I’m able to get all the bar review I need while on-the-go. It’s like I always have the ability to get some quick review in and we all know how important that is at this point in time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve already used this handy app. (Most notably, when I was waiting for the Columbus Clippers game to start and got in some great review. Go Tribe!)

So how did everyone’s first week go?

Tbh, studying for the bar has been exactly what I expected it to be up to this point. Yes, I know that we’re only one week in, but it is the gut-wrenching, soul-sucking, joyous work that I thought it would be. It’s grueling, but as long as we are able to keep up with our PSPs (Personalized Study Plans) then I know that we’ll make it.

Also, don’t freak out (or do freak out and cry it out then get back to it)! If you’re a little behind, that’s okay.

It isn’t the end of the world. The best thing is that you’ll be able to make it up soon, just make sure that you carve out enough time to make up the work.

You also need to make sure that you carve out enough time for yourself too! Just like our videos said, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t burn yourself out now. We’re only one week in. Keep at it – slow and steady wins the race!

Behind? Start Now!

For those folks who are more behind than they should be: it’s okay! Start now. Start today. Literally, stop procrastinating.

This isn’t your typical law school class where you think that you’ll be fine. This isn’t something that you can put off until the last minute and wing it. Start now!

You don’t want it to be the middle of June and you’ve barely touched BARBRI Bar Review. Also, you don’t want to be in a situation where you haven’t put your best foot forward, it’s July, and you’re starting to freak out. Don’t let that be you!

If you start now with the LawMaster Study Keys App, you’ll have an excellent overview of everything that you need to learn. Who doesn’t need a good refresher since your law school classes? I know that I did. Get started now and while you’re at it, download the LawMaster Study Keys App to help you out. It’s helped me and it’ll help you, too.

Stay strong, comrades, and let’s do more than #PassTheBar – let’s #OwnTheBar.

Character and fitness: Not just virtues, requirements

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

If you are a graduating 3L student, you can probably relate to these tweets:

You never realize how many addresses you’ve had for the past 10 years until you fill out the bar’s character and fitness. #lawschoolproblems

It’s fun listing employers like Show-Me’s and Tequila Wyld on my bar application #lawschoolproblems

If not, let me welcome you to Character and Fitness season.

In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, third year law students are making preparations for graduation and beginning to think about the bar exam. Finally, after almost three years of law school, the end is in sight … almost. But now these soon-to-be-lawyers must complete the dreaded character and fitness application.

THE QUESTIONS ARE MEANT TO CHALLENGE YOU

Most people outside the legal profession would probably be surprised to learn that lawyers have to pass a character and fitness test (either before or after the bar exam, depending on the state) prior to becoming a licensed attorney. Or they might joke that lawyers have to prove we have bad character. Or we’re out of shape from sitting and reading all the time. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Depending on what state you’re being licensed in, you will be asked some challenging questions. When I applied for the Georgia bar exam, I had to list every credit card I had ever had and the current balance on each of those cards.

Here’s another example: Pennsylvania applicants are asked to provide pages of information that include:

  • Everywhere you have lived, worked or attended school for a period of more than six months since age 16 (not just cities, but exact addresses)
  • Everywhere you have ever held a driver’s license or had a DUI or been a part of a serious traffic violation
  • Financial history – bankruptcy, delinquent on taxes or child support, past due accounts
  • Academic records – any discipline
  • Criminal history – everything except minor offenses
  • Civil proceedings – everything except divorce or minor motor vehicle accidents

A good place to start is by downloading the free BARBRI Bar Exam Digest, which includes all you need to know for every bar exam in every state.

THEY WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU

And they want to know it in the next few weeks. Keep in mind that some states require you to submit this application before you can take the bar exam and other states allow you to submit it afterward. If you have previously submitted a character and fitness application, you may need to submit an update depending on your state’s requirements.

As you begin completing your application, give yourself plenty of time. The last thing you want to do is miss the deadline because you could not come up with all of the information by the deadline.

AND REMEMBER THAT CANDOR IS KEY

Nothing upsets a character and fitness committee more than discovering something about you that you failed to disclose in your application. It is far better to disclose and explain something from your past than to try to hide it. If you have a question about whether or not to include something in your character and fitness application, you can contact the bar examiners in your state. Your law school’s Dean of Students can also be an invaluable resource during this process.

There are definitely #lawschoolproblems out there. With a little time and a lot of thought, your character and fitness application does not have to be one of them.

Make school easier, less expensive — without the trial-and-error.

When entering law school, many students don’t know what to expect. They haven’t been able to attain relevant advice and aren’t sure of the ways, if any, law school varies from undergraduate. Most students plan to dive in — and hope to succeed — using trial-and-error. That’s not really the wisest approach. Here are several more proven ways to help make law school life much easier.

STARTING FAST AND GETTING AHEAD.

First year law school grades are by far the most crucial. A high GPA is a requisite for big firm jobs and many law reviews and journals. If you fail to do well your first year or even just your first semester, it is incredibly difficult to bring up your GPA.

There’s always the opportunity to catch on faster and get ahead for what’s coming next, what to do and how to do it. At any point during 1L year, you can still take BARBRI Law Preview to better position yourself for success. In just a week, it teaches proven academic strategies and how to take law school exams. It also gives an overview of 1L classes and offers personal service and support throughout law school. Essentially, to use a metaphor, students who use Law Preview are typically the first out of the gate, while other students are still learning to run.

SAVING MONEY ON SUPPLEMENTS.

Many students will wait until the last minute to enroll in or think about a bar review course. But keep in mind all that you’ll be getting: BARBRI offers a laundry list of study aids and resources. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of first-year students who spent an extraordinary amount of money on supplements. You don’t need to do that. Simply enroll in BARBRI and sign up for the 1L Mastery Package (free for a limited time) to start using highly-effective study tools — ready-to-use outlines for all first-year classes, on-demand video lectures for all 1L subjects, plus essay and multiple-choice practice questions. Download the BARBRI Mobile App, too, for added convenience and flexibility in how and where you want to study.

MAKING SURE YOU GRASP THE MATERIAL.

In school, there are always a few professors with whom you might not mesh well. In those situations, you’ll often feel that you don’t fully comprehend the material after lecture and must teach yourself the information. BARBRI professors delivering online video lectures (with 1L Mastery) offer a third alternative. Chances are that if a professor at your school does not fit your learning style for a particular subject, a BARBRI professor will.

STAYING ON TRACK EVERY YEAR.

BARBRI doesn’t just offer material for your 1L year. We also have all the same resources for many of your 2L and 3L classes, such as Evidence, Constitutional Law, and Criminal Procedure. Additionally, BARBRI has a free MPRE Review course to help students pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) that’s required by almost every state and jurisdiction.

Getting a head start on law school by using Law Preview and then using BARBRI’s materials can help you lower your stress and financial expense, get you on the right track immediately and help you stay ahead of the curve throughout your law school career.

Waiting For Your Bar Exam Results

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

With the bar exam behind us, barpreppers across the country are discovering that while it was unpleasant to study for the bar, and exhausting to take the bar, now the truly difficult part has begun – waiting for results from the bar.

It’s almost impossible not to replay essay questions in your mind or to second guess your answer choice on a difficult MBE question. It’s even harder to quiet the voice in your head that keeps asking, “But what if I failed?” The good news is that if you are experiencing any of the stresses, you’re not alone and it’s completely normal.

After every exam I receive panicked emails and phone calls about the exam. I hear stories about essay questions that tested completely unknown rules of law. I have students tell me the MBE questions on the exam looked nothing like the questions they had seen in practice before the exam. In my experience the more someone is worried after the exam, the better they end up scoring on the exam.

On the essays, remember this one simple truth: If you did not know a rule of law, odds are no one else did either since the majority of students prepare with BARBRI. For the MBE, the practice questions you worked and the BARBRI simulated MBE that you took have helped hundreds of thousands of successful bar exam takers. That said, the one thing we can’t simulate in BARBRI is the pressure of the real exam. Think about it. How many times in practice did you skip over or guess on a hard practice MBE question, figuring you’d just learn it from the answer? On the real exam, you don’t have that luxury, but you do have the pressure of feeling like you need to get every question correct. You don’t. In fact, historically the average exam taker misses 70-80 questions and still passes the exam!

There’s no question waiting for results can be stressful. Between now and results day, do your best to relax, enjoy the rest of your summer and remember that the odds are VERY strongly in your favor.

Don’t Stress. Take Control of Bar Exam Fees.

By Hadley Leonard,
BARBRI Legal Education Advisor

Studies show most law school students won’t begin thinking about the bar exam until their last year. That might mean that you, on the verge of said final year, are feeling the creep of anxiety from the looming expenses: the fees for sitting for the exam, the balance on their bar review account, the living expenses during bar studying. Then the panic begins to set in – where is all this money going to come from?

Create a budget

Budgeting is maybe the least glamorous work in the English language. But it’s also one of the most effective and proven ways to manage financial challenges. No one has ever had fun sitting down in front of Excel and allocating out their income or financial reserves to food, rent and savings. Those who do, however, sleep better at night, in control of where their money is going, rather than their money being in control of where they are going.

Find areas to cut back

After looking at your budget, try to find where you can eliminate spending. I know we all feel like we can’t possibly do this, but really you can. The easiest areas are eating out and entertainment expenses. A good strategy for cutting back: plan to eat out one meal per week. And skip the specialty coffee pit-stops a few days a week. It all adds up.

Save

Determine how much you need to save, how much you need to spend each month in necessities and find an equilibrium. Put it on paper and stick to it. Make sure you start saving as soon as possible; it’s never too late. Whatever your income, save a little each week.

If you were to save only $25 a week, over the course of three years of law school, you would have accumulated almost $4,000. $25 a week is not noticeable; the balance you accumulate (plus interest) is.

BUDGETING PUTS YOU IN CONTROL

This may have been the most un-fun post you’ve read all week (and probably sounds like a lot of things your grandpa used to tell you), but there’s a reason people keep shelling out this advice. It works. Taking control of your income and financial reserves puts you in the driver’s seat and frees you up to invest in what’s best for your future.

7 things I wish I’d know when I took the bar exam

By Chris Nikitas, Esq., BARBRI Director of Legal Education

1) HOW TO GET TO THE LOCATION

I got turned around on exam morning. I didn’t know the city that well. Thankfully, I gave myself a large window to get there and made it on time. You’ll want to make a dry run. Drive to the city where you’ll take the bar exam. Start at the place you plan to spend the night before the exam at the approximate time you plan on leaving. See how long it takes. See where best to park, what traffic is like at that hour and how long it will take you to get to the exam room.

2) WHAT TO BRING

You can get away with bringing a lot of stuff into the exam room, provided it is in a plastic bag and off your desk. The person next to me had eye drops. The person in front of me had about 15 after dinner mints. But here are the essentials: black pen, ID, extension cord for your laptop (in case you’re far from an outlet), jacket, earplugs and analog watch.

3) WHAT THE BAR EXAM ROOM IS LIKE

It’s mostly bare aside from a timer, which may be situated pretty far from your spot in the room (hence the analog watch). Some rooms have water fountains or water coolers. Some have bathrooms inside the testing room. The room will be divided between the hand-writers and the laptop writers. It’s going to be cold (hence the jacket). Dress in layers. There’s also a good chance other conferences will be going on near the bar exam (hence the earplugs). When I took the exam, people outside our room started mowing the lawn.

4) HOW OFTEN TO CHECK THE CLOCK

Look up at the clock every 10-15 minutes. Process how much you have left in a section and get back to work. Be conscious of the time but not obsessed with it. There’s a timer in the corner of the room, counting down from three hours. An analog watch may be necessary, depending on your eyesight.

5) HOW TO AVOID “THE SNOWBALL EFFECT”

Emory University School of Law Associate Dean and long-time BARBRI lecturer Richard Freer once described to me what he called “the Snowball Effect.” Let’s say you have four essay questions, each with a suggested time of 45 minutes. You’re working on the first one. Not quite done at the 45-minute mark, you keep going an extra five minutes. On the second one, you go over again – closer to 10 minutes. Third one, another five minutes over. Now, you’re staring down at the last essay question with only 25 minutes remaining. Yikes.

Tell yourself that you’ll stop writing with five minutes to go to the suggested limit. Stop, look over your answer and make a few changes if you have to. At the suggested limit, move on.

6) HOW LUNCH WORKS

You’re let out after the first half of the exam and have usually around an hour until the next part. The proctors will tell you when you need to return. You’re not allowed to bring any food to the exam, but hopefully there’s some decent dining in the area. Things to consider though: What if you get bad/slow service? What if it’s busy? What if the only menu options will leave you feeling sluggish? My advice is to throw a PB&J, some chips, a banana and a Capri Sun in a bag and leave it in your car or hotel room. Yeah, it might get hot, but none of those things are going to spoil and will provide a rapid power lunch that won’t make you sleepy.

7) HOW TO AVOID PANIC

During the bar exam, I hit a wall. There was an essay question I had no idea how to answer. It was at that moment that every ounce of stress I’d endured for the past two months crushed me like an ant holding an elephant. I am going to fail. Who was I kidding? Ah, jeez, I have to find a whole new career. Are the Ghostbusters hiring?

In all likelihood, that moment will happen to you too. Just take a deep breath and look around that huge room. Everyone else is in there with you and they’re just as scared. Shake it off and do the very best you can.

As you may recall from law school, mulling over the exam after turning it in helps no one. You won’t remember the questions you nailed, just the questions where you know you were wrong. It’s easy to do after the bar exam, but there’s no sense in beating yourself up. Focus on what you still have in front of you and how to tackle it.

The fact of the matter is, most people pass the exam, and you’ll (probably) be just fine.

BONUS: WHERE TO FIND THE BEST BARS

Okay, that was a joke. Good luck!

Help! I’m only in the 30th percentile. Should I be worried?

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

Some of the most common inquiries I get this time of year are: “How many MBE questions should I be getting correct?” or “I only answered 54 percent of the torts questions correctly last night. Am I okay?” While these are both good questions, they are not the most important one to have.

The most important question in terms of your MBE prep is: “What is my percentile ranking?”

PERCENTAGE CORRECT IS NOT PERCENTILE RANK

The distinction between percentage correct and percentile ranking is one of the most important, as well as most confusing, aspects of bar preparation.

Percentage correct is the ratio of correct-to-incorrect answers in a particular set of questions. Percentile rank is a measure of how you are doing in comparison to everyone else – the same thing as class rank in law school.

LET’S DO SOME QUICK CALCULATIONS

To better understand this, imagine completing a set of 100 MBE practice questions and correctly answering 58 of them. Is that a good or bad score? You have to calculate percentile rank to figure that out.

Imagine there were 99 other students who worked that same set of MBE questions for a total group of 100 exam takers. Seventy answered more than 58 out of the 100 questions correctly. You answered 58 correctly. And 29 students got less than 58 correct. Translation: 70 percent of the higher-scoring test takers did better than you and you performed better than the other 29 percent. In other words, you were in the 30th percentile – better than the bottom 29 percent but lower than the top 70 percent.

THEN CONSIDER NATIONAL FIRST-TIME PASSING RATES

So is being in the 30th percentile good or bad? Pass rates do vary from state to state. According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the average pass rate for first time bar takers from ABA accredited schools is 77 percent. This means the failure rate is 23 percent. Putting this in terms of percentile rankings, students who are in the bottom 23 percent – the 23rd percentile and below – do not pass the bar exam. Students in the top 77 percent – the 24th percentile and higher – pass the bar exam. With this national average measurement established, being in the 30th percentile is solidly in the passing zone.

WITH BARBRI, YOU KNOW WHERE YOU SIT ON THE CURVE

As a BARBRI student, you have a significant edge when it comes to calculating your percentile ranking. Your score on the BARBRI simulated MBE compares your performance by MBE topic and subtopic to tens of thousands of bar takers nationwide – the group you’ll be competing against on the bar exam. And our StudySmart MBE software gives you regularly updated percentile rankings each day. As a BARBRI student you really will know where you sit on the bar exam’s curve before you take it.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll work many more MBE practice questions and you’ll have a lot of chances to improve your MBE score. Between now and then, keep your eye on the right number – the percentile ranking.

Three keys to success on bar exam essays

By Mike Sims,
President of BARBRI

Essay writing is the only skill required on every bar exam in the United States. More importantly, it’s one that many bar takers fail to adequately practice because they assume (often wrongly) that if they were able to successfully write law school exam essays they should be able to successfully write bar exam essays.

The truth is bar exam essays are very different than law school essays, and bar examiners are different than your law professors.

First of all, the vast majority of bar examiners are practitioners, not professors. Since they are used to reading memos or briefs, not lengthy final exams, you’ll want to make sure your writing is clear and concise and that it demonstrates these three key competencies:

Substantive Legal Knowledge

The examiners want to make sure you know the area of law involved in the question and the specific rules that are relevant under the facts. The key word here is relevant. The bar exam tests your ability to answer the question asked, not to memorize a vast quantity of law. In most cases spouting irrelevant law will not get you any points, and in some cases it can actually cost you points.

Analytical Ability

You must show the grader that you know what to do with the facts. In other words, you have show how the facts, when applied to your rule support your conclusion. This is the number one reason that people fail the essay portion of the bar exam, and in a state like Ohio where the essays are 2/3 of the score it is the number one reason people fail the bar exam.

Effective Communication

Imagine you are a bar examiner. You have over 1,000 essays to grade and all you want to do is finish. What makes it easier to finish? Effective communication. You’ll want to minimize spelling errors and avoid grammatical errors, both of which distract the grader. Most importantly, you’ll want to take the time to outline and organize. A short, well organized, clearly written answer beats a long, rambling wreck of an answer every single time.

Bar exam essay writing is a skill that can be mastered through practice and focus on these three key areas.