Friday, May 30, 2008

One more thing ...

This wouldn't be such a frustrating process if I hadn't been receiving good scores and positive feedback from the tutors I've used so far. And that tends to reinforce the stereotype that our tutors are simply blowin' smoke to make us feel good before the exam. I think that a large percentage of the Bar Prep market is simply ineffective, or more charitably, marginally effective.

On the other hand, if you need motivation, and if you need someone to help you stay organized and on track, then the prep programs are probably worth paying for. However, the predatory pricing policies of some of them are unconscionable. But if it's what the market will bear then who am I to complain? It's good work if you can get it.

Having said that, I'm going to be using either BarGraders or Barperfect. Both are relatively reasonably priced and both focus on adapting one's writing style to the expectations of the graders.

I've also re-upped with Adaptibar. For the money, it's the biggest MBE bang for the buck. Plus, as a repeat offender, I get a discount. I'm eligible for a discount with BarGraders too because I attended their live intro session on Wednesday. And in another fortuitous turn of events, Steve Liosi has agreed, for a substantial discount, to let me assume the remains of a program that one of my friends bought, and didn't use, for the February exam.

Oh, and I'm also continuing my account at BarEssays. Not having received a score higher than 65, it's very helpful to see what the Bar thinks is a passing answer. The benefit there is that, unlike the released answers, we can study an answer that received a passing score (or not, if that's what you're looking for) and we have the benefit of knowing what score it actually received. I don't think there's any other resource out there that shows you what a 70, 75, or 80 looks like. Unless, of course, you have one of your own. I'm going to dissect some of those high scores to see how, exactly, my writing differs.

So I have a few resources that meet my combined goals of protecting the bank account while continuing to move forward towards success on this exam.

And one more, one more thing ... There were a couple of past graders at the BarGraders program. They were very patient in answering all of our questions about the grading process, which helped to dispel some myths and confirm some suspicions. One comment that I found particularly interesting was that one of the graders had tutored a guy who received a score of 100 on an Evidence essay.

Obviously, the guy knew his score because he failed the exam. Law was a second career for him after having spent many years in a law enforcement agency. Anyway, the guy's thinking was that if he absolutely killed the Evidence essay he could afford to do average, or less, on the other essays. Unfortunately, his plan failed. But it shows us that the entire range of scores is available. They don't just say that we can score from 40-100 for kicks. We actually can score 100 on an essay. I haven't yet seen a score of 40 on one but I'm confident that it's possible, and much more common.

Because I mentioned the BarGraders seminar, I'll see what else I can remember from those two hours. I didn't have to sign a non-disclosure agreement so I don't think they'll mind my sharing. Let me also clearly state that this is just my recollection and I'm not referring to any notes. This is all coming from my head and carries with it the burden of my interpretation. The printed material that we received from them contains none of this stuff. So, after that disclaimer, here go ya' ...
  • Something like 80% - 90% of the scores are either 65 or 70.

  • As far as the graders are concerned, a 65 is a clear fail and a 70 is a clear pass.

  • For many years, the average raw written score required to pass was 63. So if we hit the average on the MBEs (~130) and averaged 63 on the essays and PTs, we passed. That's both encouraging and disappointing. It's encouraging because it appears that a passing score is easily within reach. It's disappointing because I've struggled to reach that "easily reachable" standard. Blah.

  • Scores of 75 or higher are uncommon. 75's, 80's and above are remarkably rare. The average person passing doesn't receive high scores on all of his written work. He's just good enough to earn higher than the average scores mentioned above. That's not to say that everyone who passes just squeaks by. As far as I'm concerned, everyone who passes has earned 2000 points. (;-)>

  • They're aware that an essay is in re-read when they're reading it but they don't know what score it received on the first read. Their instruction is to give the essay the same consideration as if it was a first read. But, of course, an element of human nature is involved because they know that they're reading the work of someone who, for all intents and purposes, failed the exam. This creates an automatic taint, if you will, that's difficult to overcome. For those reasons, most people who get into re-read end up failing.

  • The people grading our work are not mean-spirited, baby-eating, elite, ivy-league, protectionists who are trying to keep the number of licensed attorneys to as small a number as possible.

  • The graders genuinely want to see us pass. They are looking for good, lawyerly, writing and analysis. Produce that, and you will get a good score.

  • There is no cut-sheet for each essay. By the time they pick up their first box of essays they know what a good answer looks and feels like. The scoring is largely a holistic process. If the answer looks good, feels good, and complies with the standard, it gets a good score.

  • When they have an essay in front of them, the graders have no clue as to what school the writer went to. There are no "secret-handshake" words that are confidentially revealed only to the students who attended ABA schools. Similarly, when they're reading your answer, the graders have no idea what you scored on the MBE. All they know about you is what you put on paper.

  • A $50 dollar bill clipped to an inside page of an essay has no effect on the score you receive. On the other hand, a $100 dollar bill is worth 5 points.


Anonymous said...

Only in CA would they say they use the holistic approach to a licensing exam. No cut sheets, no score sheet. Holistic means whatever I feel at the time passes. No accountability.

That being said, we are stuck with these holistic bar graders who so seriously want us to pass... but alas, they just don't see this great lawyerly writing like they did when they passed. Isn't is incredible that they were able and so many are not able to do it? Wow, they are just so special and a cut above everyone else, aren't they?

That is ludicrous to think that almost 60% of the State applicants cannot write in this lawyerly manner but these select few.

"We so want you to pass, if only you could write welllllll...(like us!!)" This is the reality of it. Being that they have failed better experts in legal writing (than I am sure they even are), appellate attorneys and fine legal minds from other states and from CA (that Stanford person comes to mind)... their idea that it is the candidate, not the grader is just not the whole story about the never ending saga of the California Bar exam.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused; I thought getting a minimum of 60 on each essay and the PTs will get you to pass the essay portion???

calbar blondie said...

Hi GP,
Make sure you take advantage of bargraders' one free practice essay since you attended their live session. That's what sold me.
They only use real bar exam essays and the graders really tell you like it is, and pinpoint your weaknesses and strengths.
Take care...calbarblondie.

jen said...

To Anonymous-

I believe you need at least a 630 raw score on the written to pass. That means you need an average of 63 on each item on the written portion (with the PTs counting double.) To be one the safe side, that means you need at least a 65 on everything (written) and if you bomb an essay, you really can't bomb by getting less than a 55 or a 60 on it.

Anonymous said...

To GP & everyone,

What about the study plan for PT? I remember GP mentioned about John Holtz's PT class. Do you think it's useful? Or, the methods were too complicated to adapt to exam condition?

As a second repeater this July, I think PT is the key for me to pass. I did above average on MBE and below average on essays. I did not practice enough PT last time. I hated PT but now I need to learn how to love PT. I wonder if I can develop my own strategy from practicing PT. Or, I should just learn from a PT class?

Any comment or advice? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I used the Holtz PT system. I did it half-assed and improved my PT by 10 and 15 pts. I know people that used his methods and are got 75s on the PTs.

If you practice before the exam what he teaches, I think it works.

Anonymous said...

I took BarBri and passed first time. But, there is no one right way to do, other than the one that works for you.

As much as I fought their outlining concept, in the end I relented, and it really did help me organize the issues, and prioritize what to discuss. Ironically, I failed every one of the BarBri practice essays I handed in, but learned something from each one.

In the end, I think the valuable lessons learned were:

a. You can't cover every possible issue and don't try. Figure out the big ticket items and run with them. As they say, they want people who think like lawyers, and I firmly believe triage is critical. There is this natural tendency to not want to leave anything out, but you have to. I remember doing a mock chambers appearance before a Chief Justice. He loved my presentation because of the 3 issues, he liked the fact that I conceded one, was willing to compromise on another, and really only came to fight about the 3rd. He said law is about being practical and fighting the battles you have a chance of winning. So. while there may be 20 issues in a fact scenario, it is likely that there are 3-5 that are the arguments that will be pivotal. Figure those out, present both sides, and you'll win over the Examiner.

b. Figure out how much you can realistically write in the time allotted. For the essays, figure out what you can say in 40 minutes. For the PT's figure out what you can say in 90 minutes. For every essay and every PT I covered all the points I wanted to from my outline, and never had more than about 5 minutes left over - also, I never finished way early and wondered what to do with all my spare time. This also helps the triage.

c. Make you big splash points early. I watched time as I went, and I know that I would cut back on the elaboration of some points to make sure I hit all the issues I felt were important. The key is that I put it all out there and showed them I saw the problem, and gave them at least some tidbits to show I had an idea of the answer.

d. Argue both sides where appropriate. I call it kind of a "he said, she said." In just about every question you can say A will argue this and B will argue that - show the examiner you see both sides of the problem - thinking like a lawyer. As the old joke goes, ask a lawyer what's 2+ 2 and he'll ask you what do you want to be.

e. If you haven't yet, practice outlining and then answering every possible old bar exam question you can. Early on do it open book, so you get used to writing perfect answers, then try it closed book to see how much is sticking. Read the sample answers. Read them out loud. Get used to hearing the voice in your head that trots out phrases like a seasoned pro in court. Seriously, it works.

f. In a PT where they give you case law, look for the test in the case and use it as your outline. In the Thursday PT, the test for getting the Prof. reinstated was laid out element by element in the two cases in the file. It was subtle, but once you sat back and saw it, the answer became obvious, although a real race to get down on paper.

Anonymous said...

G. Poobah:

Two weeks since receiving the disappointing news and you've learned nothing. By now, you could've written out a few dozen essays and done a few hundred multiple choice questions. Instead you've spent your time honing your blog writing skills and going to "work".

Your job until the summer bar should be to focus on nothing but passing. Perhaps you have grown comfortable in bar-prep purgatory. Perhaps you subconsciously realize you don't have what it takes to be an attorney. Perhaps you like the sycophantic back patting that occurs amongst the latest crop of bar takers. The point is that this madness must end.

As you said, "Not only am I going to have to work on my writing, I'm going to have to make a major change to my essay structure." Indeed. The way to work on your writing is to read and write with purpose and focus. The sort of informal blog writing that you engage is inconsistent with the objective bar writing that you need to aim for. If it's necessary, start talking like you want to write on the exam. Kill your dumbed-downed bar-style of speaking and writing and start communicating like an attorney. If you hang out with "laid back" attorneys from the new school, ignore their style and communicate with assertive precision. Act like a lawyer, talk like a lawyer, think a lawyer and you will become a lawyer. Otherwise, you can have a long career in bar prep blogging.

California Attorney At Law

The Grand Poobah said...

CAAL: You're half right, and I agree. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm CAAL might not have such a bad idea there. GP, pick out an essay question. Do it open book with your outline or notes and post your answer. Write it with the idea that this would be what you would give to the bar graders. Try not to go too far over on time. Maybe give yourself an extra 15 minutes to compensate for using an outline right now.

If you outline post that. Then we can see where you are at. Write the answer how you would write it or how you think it should be completed. Maybe some of the problems can be flushed out and end up helping you and somebody else out there.

Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Dear California Attorney at Law,
You may have passed the CA bar, but somehow your life has been reduced to sitting in a dark room at 10 pm on a friday night...typing away witty little comments on a stranger's blog.

It must be terribly lonely to be you.

Anonymous said...


I have been following your blog for a while and I want to wish you good luck with your studies and the subsequent exam this July. You deserve to pass and I believe you will.

I passed the Feb bar as a 1st timer and I have a bit of a different strategy then many people who write on here. I took Bar bri and crappy PMBR but I never practiced when they said nor did very many practice MBE's. I did flash cards for every topic that were very easy to understand and I memorized about 250 mnemonics, some I found online or BarBri, some I created. That is all I did to study.

On the exam, I never outlined anything, not even the PT's. I feel it is a waste of time that you do not really have and because I was a writer, I didn't want to strain myself by over outlining and not writing for points. From your answers to the FEB bar the day after, you got all the major issues and you know how to write. You are smart enough to read the question, maybe jot a little down, and start writing and let your arguments flow, that's all it takes. Have the law and mnemonics to help structure but your main arguments should all be based on the facts of the problem, not really the law. All those fools with hiliters and stands for their booklets don't pass the bar or get lucky when they do, believe me, I know now who failed and who passed from my law school.

On the PT, read the question, read the cases and make a quick note which way they are decided (for or against you), read the file and then start writing, that wil give you enough time to get through those tough areas when they come. Don't outline for 90 minutes and then pressure yourself writing based on an outline that may or may not be what you actually want to write. Again, you are smart enough to figure it out as you write, just trust that.

However you decide to do it, I just think you need to argue a little more based on the facts, the Bar has made that a lot easier now then in the past, and trust yourself fully that you can write on the fly and while that may only be a rough draft if you were doing it for a law class, that rough draft will be a better answer for the bar then a final draft based on a stupid outline. Good luck man, and stay strong.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous up above--wow you didn't practice, didn't outline, didn't do much and you passed..isn't that just so special???

Bet you studied for the bar listening to tapes on the way to the Bar exam and passed the first time, too. I had somebody tell me that... no studying just on the way down there.

Now, what do you think the point he was making when he told me that? He was just so much smarter than the rest of the group.

Sorry, that doesn't help the majority of people.

Anonymous said...

I actually took the exam right by where I live, so no tapes for me. I did do plenty of studying, and Im not saying Im smarter than anyone. I simply expressed an opinion that if you do have any logical reasoning abilities, you can pass the bar without outlining and your answer will actually garner more points the less you bullshit around hi-liting, outlining, and stressing. Just offering GP some advice if he wants to use it, no ill intention whatsoever

Anonymous said...

sorry, I was being an a-hole.

Anonymous said...

I definitely saw evidence of a failure expectation bias in my second read. I had a 1435 (total) after my first read, and in the second read every single essay was marked down- 10 points in four cases and 15 points in two cases (which went to a third grader to resolve). One PT was down 5 and the other down 10. Net score was the average of the reads, which was, of course, not close.

I hate this.

Poobah, how do your practice MBE scores stack up to your performances in the actual MBE?

The Grand Poobah said...

Before the July '07 exam I was scoring in the 80%+ range on all subjects using Adaptibar and the released questions from the NCBEX. I was 70%+ using BarBri, and I stayed away from PMBR. My raw MBE on the actual was 128.

I didn't use Adaptibar for Feb '08 but my percentages in the BarBri material were higher, which was probably due to familiarity. I did the 100 AM session questions from PMBR's 3-day seminar and got 81 correct. And I averaged 85% correct in the Walton & Emanuel MBE book. My raw MBE on the actual was 123.

Confusing as hell, it is. I read the call first so I have an idea of what to look for in the fact pattern. I never run out of time. It must be exam anxiety although I feel very comfortable during the exam, especially the last time.

Blah, to be sure.

The Grand Poobah said...

I scored 80% on the 50 Evidence MBEs I did today on Adaptibar. This is without looking at the Conviser and without so much as picking up anything law related since March.

Based on my scores with the library of MBE material currently available for study, I'm competent.

Did I say Blah?

Anonymous said...

WOW!! That's excellent GP! Might I suggest some pointers for readers studying for bar: your focus should be on the essays. Don't waste time memorizing rules. LEARN the rules. What does each element ACTUALLY mean? The reason why many of are having a hard time is that you've memorized the rules but you don't know what the rules actually mean and it plays out with the facts. Once you really understand what the rules mean specifically, you are able to grasp the analysis portion quite easily. You see, it's not about spitting back the rules that the graders even care about-- it's your analysis. That means taking the rules and massaging it with the facts. That's why you need to understand the implications and overall meaning of a rule. This exam is not about issue spotting. I am certain that if we had 3 hours for each essay we could find a lot of other nit-picky issues. But the point is not to spew off issues. It is to get knee-deep in the analysis for each rule. If you'd like examples, I'll happily share.

ALSO MBE's are hard as hell. As evidenced by GP's awesome prep and then actual result from July to Feb, MBE's are really a crap shoot. The questions are nothing you've seen before-- very vague and just out there.

To prep for essays, I literally wrote essay after essay. I think I wrote out nearly 40 essays before the actual last 2 week crunch period rolled out. By then, I just outlined essays. But if you take 1 hour or 2 hours or even 3 hours to write essas the first time around, that is OKAY! Why?? Because it's not about timing right now-- it's all about understanding. Don't blow off an analysis issue point if you lose track of time. Rather write it out-- struggle the thought process now so that when you get to the exam you'll know how that rule works and what it really means.

Oh, and BarBri SUCKED.


Anonymous said...

I got pretty good MBE scores... and these questions are not exact duplicates of what you get on the MBE.. but at least check out the Advanced drills in Barbri. I think why they work is because they force you to read the fact pattern carefully. Practice different ones..the difficult ones.

GP, and think about why you could have plenty of time left on the MBEs during the exam. How much time did you have to spare during the February exam on MBEs? If you are finishing way too early, check that out... You're reading them too fast and possibly missing a word or fact that is important in selecting the correct answer.

And if you are finishing early, check your answers on that Scantron. For each MBE you do at the exam, circle the answer in the book. That way, if you have spare time, you can check your Scantron to make sure you actually darkened the right circle that you wanted on the Scantron for each one.

My MBE scores jump from 132 raw to 139 raw---that 139 converted into 152 or 153 scaled. But I read slower than some people.

If you know the law, the MBE is the easier part to master. I really think people have to look at human error and make sure that isn't happening. If you are getting high scores during practice, that should be converting over to the exam.

Check out all those human variables that play into it to make sure your unexpected lower MBE score is not a machine error, a recording error, etc.

It really doesn't matter which questions you practice, just do them. Get something out of each one during practice. PMBR questions are okay, but the trouble is some of their answers are incorrect. And during MBE practice, it's great you get them right..but on occasion, stop for a minute or two and explain to yourself why you got it right.

I talked to law professors about this. Their answers are actually wrong. So be careful of that on whichever resource you use. If the answer they are saying is correct, go check it out. Look it up. Just because the MBE tutor people say it is correct, doesn't mean it is.

Also, although AdaptiBar is great, we don't take the MBE on a computer screen. Try a few MBEs by doing them on a sheet. JDJinx has a Scantron on its website that you can download and copy.

And Anonymous 12:03 AM--is ABSOLUTELY right. It is about the essays. I am trying it this way. Learn the law by focusing on the essays. There really shouldn't be this major separate step in memorizing during the last two weeks. Just clean up and refreshing our recall of what we already should know by then.

That being said, I am a repeater like everyone else. Got a 1426 on first read and got knocked down on the second read.

Let's all get it done on the FIRST READ and get on with it.

The Grand Poobah said...

And, I timed myself to make sure I didn't run long or short. The first thing I did was to make marks in the test book as to where I should be at 30 minute intervals. One mark at Q#17, one mark at Q#33, One at Q#50, etc... I monitored my progress as I went and made sure I wasn't taking too long on each question or running too far ahead. I finished each session as planned, with 5 minutes to spare to go back and check questions I had marked to review.

And despite the common wisdom that says you did poorly if you think you did well and vice versa, I couldn't help but feel good about my performance.

All of this begs an obvious question that I don't want to answer.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about these MBEs. I am not usually getting over 75% out of the shoot during practice, but the inverse is happening at the exam. I passed in another state and got a real high MBE score in the high 140s and getting pretty good in CA for the raw score--high 130s - low 140 raw score.

Could that be an indicator of something? Take these questions you are doing and be conscious of your thought process when you are doing your next 25. Consciously recognize or look at what is going on in your head when you are deciding what answer to select.

If this is not converting over to your exam scores, maybe you are getting down to two answers and guessing. That is okay to do, but you have a 50-50 chance of also getting it wrong. And with questions during the exam--taking into account, that they are likely gonna feel different than what we have been practicing... make sure you are not guessing and playing the odds too much.

Maybe that is what is going on. Because if you are getting 75% and 80% in practice, you can RULE these MBEs. Just make sure you determine you aren't a good guesser during practice. It might not be carrying over during the exam with all the stress and different questions.

Anonymous said...

This is a drill. I am honing my blog responder skills. Anybody getting slap happy out there yet?

I was checking to see if CAAL was lurking out there anywhere. lmao.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that practice MBE scores should translate to the actual exam. I don't know my MBE score since I passed in July, but my practice scores were similar to GP's and I thought the actual MBEs were WAY harder so I wouldn't be surprised if my score was quite a bit lower than I got in practice.

Also, gotta disagree with the person who suggested it was ok to take 2-3 hours on an essay right now. BS. You've all gone to law school, an essay is not foreign. Force yourself from the beginning to do it like the exam--in one hour, closed book. It will pay off for you, believe me. Better to suffer now that during the actual exam. It will get easier and more comfortable the more you practice. If you take it easy and take your time, peek at the model, etc. and wait until a few weeks before the test to practice under actual conditions, that's too late. You need a lot of practice doing it like the test. Even if your first few essays are crap and unfinished. You don't accomplish anything by writing a beautiful essay by taking 3 hours and looking at your outline.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I must disagree with you 7:45PM. Ok so you write a garbage essay in an hour. And?? (A) Did you issue spot everything and really struggle through everything to understand the material? NO. (B) Did you issue spot? PROBABLY BUT SO WHAT? BAR EXAMINERS DON'T CARE THAT YOU CAN ISSUE SPOT-- THEY CARE THAT YOU CAN ANALYZE (C) Did you analyze all the issue spotting to get comfortable with struggling with the material? NO.

By the time the exam rolled around for me it was second nature because I analyzed and struggled through everything once or twice before. I knew arguments for most every issue so it was rather predictable how to handle the issues. I didn't even need to outline. EVERYTHING WAS AUTO-PILOT. So even if I was taking a long time in the past, a few weeks up to the exam I practiced within an hour and was able to discern what is important to issue spot/analyze and what is not.

You see, there is NO POINT in writing a piece of crap essay in an hour and then just STOPPING to check your answer. Why would you do that? You don't learn anything and you end up frustrated. YOU ARE CHEATING YOURSELF OUT OF AN EXCELLENT LEARNING OPPORTUNITY/EXERCISE. And MOST of you will think-- "Oh well even though I didn't finish, I did issue spot the issues." Again I say big deal. You don't really own the material if you don't know how to write the analysis portions.

The CA Bar is hard because it's not about issue spotting, it's about complete analysis. So if you struggled now and take that extra time and work out your mental kinks, then a few weeks leading up to the exam you'll be able to say "Oh I've seen this before, this is like X" and you will be a machine.

If you guys feel like spending just an hour on an essay and then feeling utterly disappointed that you didn't finish and that you didn't even properly analyze that's fine. But believe me, you are not LEARNING. You are simply racing against time. Time is not your biggest enemy during the exam. Your biggest enemy is knowing how to spot the nuances and how to analyze fully.

If I can suggest something -- try writing an essay within an hour and then telling yourself what you took away from it. Then, write an essay that is sufficient to complete the answer in your mind. Take the two essays put them aside. Then go back to them and read them and see which you like best. Obviously you'll say the one you took longer on, but that's not the point. THE POINT IS THAT YOU LEARNED AND RETAINED MORE BY STRUGGLING THROUGH IT AND LEARNING THE ISSUES!!!!! Then go ahead and write an essay on the same subject matter for each previous one you wrote the essay on. (Ie, if you write torts essays within 1 hour, then write another torts essay; if you write contracts essay with the time you needed to complete it, then write another contracts essay). I guarantee you that you will write a better "contracts" essay because you took the extra time to learn the material/write out the material in your first essay that not timed, versus the "within 1 hour" time allotment esay.

My two cents. Anyone care to disagree?

The Grand Poobah said...

I'll interject my opinion here because ... well, just because!

I agree with Anon 9:01. I'll just add this; as the exam approaches one should reduce the amount of time allowed to write the essay. The goal should be to write quality essays in one hour during the last two weeks before the exam.

It's like training for anything else. Go slow at first and work on fundamentals. Go faster later when it starts to become second nature.

Be up to speed when the time to perform arrives.

Makes sense to me.

Of course, that's not to say that the "hold yourself to one hour from the start" method won't work for some people. I just know that it doesn't work for me.

Anonymous said...

Same for me. You have to make the skills second nature. Learning to do it properly first, then doing it properly enough times and the speed will come. The more essays you do, the easier it is.

What I am getting out of doing the essays is layout and analysis. I had no trouble spotting issues, but got this blank white paperitis syndrome thinking "Now where do I start?". You do enough and look at enough good essays, it becomes easier and easier.

I am going to cut off the skills building marathon I am on right now and about the beginning of July, I will start timing myself.

Even if I take 2 hours right now to do a full complete essay, I can tell by my word count if I could even manage to write it in an hour.

I type fast, but Emerson brought up a point. Assume your typing speed will decrease, because we will not be just doing straight typing. We type and we stop, thinking of what to say or looking at the fact pattern, etc. He said to count on about 40 to 50 words a minutes. So I can sort of tell if what I wrote is even possible for me to get done in 45 - 50 minutes.

My word count monitoring tells me that what I am writing would take me past the allotted time.

The guy does bring up a good point up there. Somewhere along the line, we have to practice the "thinned out" style of writing, so we can cover the issues but still get done. Some of the bar tutors say load up with the good stuff up front and thin it out toward the end if you are running out of time. Then make sure it looks like you finished.

Anonymous said...

If anybody took the exam in July 2007, how on God's green earth, did you get that Evidence essay done in one hour? It would not shock me in the least that people missed points because wow, even the CA Bar sample answers went a full six pages and on to the 7th page.

Any ideas on how to deal with a monster like that would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

When I look back on how I passed I did three things. Take this tips if you'd like but I think it helped a lot.

First, for the MBE I did 30-50 a day. Whichever I missed I flashed carded it. I put a one sentence paraphrased question, a 1 sentence answer, and possibly a 1 sentence wrong answer that I mistaked was right. Also I knew I was fine on time so I didn't do 50, time it, then go back. I did one question at a time, --take it, see the answer in the back, card it if I got it wrong. That way I didn't waste time remembering what hte question was about. I was able to do 75-100 question close to the bar.

Second, for the PT I did the 2007-2001 PT's. I practiced ALL of them. I started writing out the answers, but later would outline to save time. I really looked at the answers the Bar provides to see what was passing. I would BEWARE of John Holtz class. I took it but, it is cumbersome and not too helpful in my opinion. You could take this class, and then amend how you feel helps. But pratice makes perfect.

3rd, on Essays. I had two outlines. One was the regular outline to memorize -- later boiled down to a cheat sheet. But second outline was me writing out BarBri's rule statement and strucutre on particular essays. You'll see that essays are REPEATED in the Bar, and if you memorize how it is answered then it HELPS. IMPORTANTLY, I went over EVERY Bar essay from 2007 to 2002. For example, on Comunity Property Day I memorized, worked over the Barbri essay (wrote donw essay rule statements), and also looked at BAR QUESTIONS/ANSWERS provided in bar website. You will see issues repeat. But I would try to write it. Later outline it when time was tight.

I think many tutors give false confidence. The BAR gives you what it thinks is a passign answer. Just try to mimic it and give the bar what they want.

I hope this helps. A lot of this may seem like overkill. But pratice makes perfect

Anonymous said...

Hello, anon 7:45 from June 1 here.

I still disagree with you take-your-timers. I passed on the first try July 2007. In my case, my first timed essays were not crap and I didn't miss issues (I passed the BarBri graded ones too). My point was if you do write crap at first, you are still gaining skills. But it sounds like some of you just will not be convinced. How did y'all get through timed law school exams? At my school they were just as if not more rushed as the bar exam (and harder, because we only had the one subject at a time to worry about). The proof is in the pudding for some--no offense but some of you here did not pass your first or even second trys. Perhaps more practicing of essays under simulated conditions is warranted.

Re the evidence Q July 2007: I actually finished that one early. Thought it was relatively easy--civil, not criminal, and no confusing character evidence issues. It was a bit of a racehorse due to the number of calls of the question we had to answer. I did waste time mentioning CA distinctions, even tho they did not ask for them (oops). Fortunately I did not fail because of that failure to follow directions--and one of the two model answers actually made the same mistake.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it was a racehorse exam. However, if you notice on the CA bar samples, those candidates did not write it like a racehorse. They did some pretty long analysis on each call and each section.

The CA bar exam is in a league of its own. Attorneys pass in many other states and have trouble passing here. It has nothing to do with how they did in law school.

In my opinion, you are correct, to a point, though. The timing does have to be taken into consideration, when we are studying to take a bar exam. However, there are two phases for most of us here. Part of the study is practicing how to come up with layout and analysis that the bar exam graders want and recognizing all of it in an exam situation.

And next, there is the practicing under timed conditions. I do work with the essays, with no time constraints to see the layout and how in depth the analysis has to be to pass. Then I take the exam, and because I don't have the law down completely (I say I have it down okay now), I give myself an extra 10 minutes to do the essay.

My tutor told me when you actually practice "exam essay writing", not to go over 10 minutes even in the beginning. When you are practicing a component of the bar essay exam, that is something different.

Not all of us are natural born's a skill we have to learn during bar study--this writing on the go. How much is enough vs not enough, etc.
What goes against the grain for so many is we want to think about it during exam time. That is what lawyers do. The bar exam doesn't really give us enough time for that luxury. So we are now trying to find our own ways to get past the exam by methods that will at least compensate for that.

Think about it ALOT before the bar exam..have all your plans down so they are second nature. The theory is that we can then go into the bar exam and basically do mostly writing. The pre-planning has been already done.

So, yes, timing is crucial but so is preplanning. That is a lot of what goes on during the untimed portion. It's not even about writing a beautiful essay at that point.

And sir or maam, you said you were a writer. That's great. But as a lawyer, the planning and thinking about the problem before hand is important to the client and to the Court. How we slap something together for a bar exam essay would be grounds for malpractice in the real world. That is what causes all the problems.

Anonymous said...


Quick question for the readership -- is anyone a part-time studier? I took a leave of absence from work for the bar in Feb and am a repeater after missing by 30 pts. Given that I was close, I know I should take it again immediately.
I am not in a position, however, to take a leave of absence again. I'm finding it grueling to study at night and I'm incredibly distracted so far on the weekends. (Disclaimer: I don't want to practice law - ever - if I can help it ... the bar is to be an accessory to the JD, pad my resume and keep options open if I'm ever in need of a job and have to consider entering the profession. I know it's not a good recipe for motivation, particularly during the summer months. :)) BTW, is anyone else ultimately not interested in practicing but still taking the bar? I think there are actually a lot of us out there ....

So far, I've been doing 30 MBEs every night after work, which is the part I failed and doing MBEs and reviewing substantive law on the weekend. I am not flash carding this time around since I still have my old ones. Instead, I'm annotating each answer I get wrong in the margins and white space and describing key parts of the question that I glossed over with the intent to go back in a few weeks -- has anyone tried this approach before? I passed the essays, but am adding BarGraders to the mix in mid-June to make sure I practice my essays this time around. Plus, I figure it won't hurt to try to get a few extra points there in case the MBEs are a struggle again.

For any other part-time studiers, what's your plan of attack?


legis said...

I really don't know what CA wants. You seem to be very diligent and doing everything you are supposed to. I can't pretend to give you advice, since I'm still a fellow re-taker. But I can tell you what has been holding me back: that first failure. I was more diligent about that first exam than I usually am about anything, and I failed because I just didn't know the law. My law school foundation was just not good enough - in fact, it was nonexistent. I just wasn't ready for the exam. Also, two weeks before, when I should have really been doing some snappy review, I kind of slacked off, because I hadn't been as organized as I should have been up until that point. By bar time you should have reduced outlines/lists/summaries for each subject and be able to recite elements of rules from memory. I was nowhere near that, and I never did get close to it. That is what has been hurting my essay performances - not knowing the law well enough to state it clearly enough to write a thorough enough answer to be a passing answer. Preparation and passing seem to be closely linked together, and I've simply not prepared enough because of the emotional and psychological roadblocks I've got mainly because of that first failure. Every time I sit down to study, I remember how futile my last attempts were and it depresses me. And then i prepare poorly again and repeat the cycle. I have to break that cycle. Get back on the ball. Get back on the schedule. Practice extensively so that I know what game day will feel like and what passing answers will look like. Make sure I have certain things accomplished by two weeks before the exam. Break the cycle of failure and do what is required of me and in fact, even more than is required, so that it is guaranteed I pass. Some of my own personal reflections, hopefully they help you a bit.

teeniekp said...

Sorry GP, this is to the lady in your previous post looking for accommodation in Ontario, if she still needs a room, I will be releasing my reservation at Doubletree. She can email me.

Anonymous said...

Grand Poobah:

Don't use Barperfect. I did and failed. They don't help you very much for their online stuff. You will get lost in the shuffle.

If you go down to OC, maybe it will help, but online, you don't get very much direct feedback.

Plus, Steve Liosi blows a lot of smoke.

CalBarNone said...

GP: I'm looking around your old posts for your feelings about Adaptibar.

I am considering paying the $345 but wanted to see your feelings (and maybe some comments from others as well).


James said...

i looked into adaptibar and i don't know if their questions are different than the questions you can get from the ncbe website (considerably cheaper, but not all the questions are available via download). adaptibar does time you and give you the basic categories of questions you get wrong and right, but is that worth the extra money? furthermore, does practicing with released questions really help? if you look at the ncbe released questions, they are all pretty old and the ncbe disclaims that the questions and answers may not be applicable anymore. i'm guessing adaptibar uses the same questions and answers because i called them to ask them how many questions they had in their bank--1300. i believe that's the exact number available through the ncbe. what do you guys think?

Anonymous said...

Anyone know when the sample Answers for the FEB 2008 Bar will be released? Thanks

Anonymous said...

I liked BarGraders. Really allow yourself to listen to them, though. They help you boil your essays down to the essence that the graders are looking for.
With them, I passed on my second try.

Anonymous said...

GP, I am going to suggest something that may seem crazy...write the exam. Don't type it.

Writing forced me to hone in on the issues as you have to conserve your energy and strength for what's truly important. I read typed essays from that bar essays web site that went on forever and made absolutely no point.

I am not saying that is what you did...but writing does impose a certain discipline that can be helpful.

Also, outline on the actually test question. After an initial a second closer read and 1) Section off each paragraph of the essay
2) Write in the margin the ISSUES the bar graders are looking for, and ANSWER you are likely to give, right there next to the facts.
This helped me remember my road map under intense time pressure.


Acme Paint Company (Acme) was sued when one of Acme’s trucks was involved in an
accident with a car. [ACME is defendant. Case is a tort. Damages are likely high, all will affect client if June breaches duty] June, an attorney, was retained to represent Acme.[Is Acme June's Client? yes; will June have direct conflict and actual conflict, likely yes, discuss both] She has done
substantial work on the case, which is about to go to trial.
[Can June's withdrawal prejudice Acme? likely yes]

The Grand Poobah said...

Anon 11:22: I was thinking the exact same thing for the exact same reason.

I'll have to test the theory in the next few weeks.

The Grand Poobah said...

CalBarNone: I like Adaptibar, but it's not the single most effective MBE tool. I don't think there is one MBE resource that stands out as the best. They all have their own unique benefits.

I like Adaptibar because I can practice online, even on my phone/pda that runs WindowsMobile.

The down side to Adaptibar is that the questions are older released questions that bear little resemblance to the questions the Bar is now using. But on the other hand, no one has questions like the ones currently in use.

So, if you're looking for a MBE tool that's easy to use and has none of the wrong law in the answers (like the ones I found in PMBR), then Adaptibar is a good choice. Whether it's worth the $345 is a question only you can answer. I paid full price last year, but I got a 50% discount this time because I'm a return customer.

Check the CaliforniaBarExamRepeaters group ( and the CaliforniaBarExamPrimer group ( for more opinions, both pro and con, on Adaptibar.

stella said...

GP - You do what you need to do, what you think works for you b/c you know yourself best. Just beat it to death this time around. Third time's a charm, buddy. A friend of mine took it 3 times, found a job and is now a very successful in-house atty.

Stay positive!!! I'm rooting for you!

Anonymous said...

I've seen and read your blog (and others' as well) for some time now. After my quick perusal of such sites, I always wonder: 1) how we got to the point where it is socially acceptable to post one's private musings on a forum that the whole world can see, and 2) why in the world anyone studying for the California Bar Exam would spend any time at all doing so.

The Grand Poobah said...

anon 9:25: Re: 1): Bugger all if I know. I come from a generation that frowns on people getting all weepy in public, and all. However, for the purpose this blog has served, I've rather enjoyed having it. And re: 2): Bugger all if I know.

And now that you've expressed your disdain at the fact that this blog exists, and are no doubt feeling all smug and full of yourself for having successfully, and anonymously, tweaked my nose and the noses of bloggers everywhere, if this blog and blogs like it offend you so much, let me offer you this little piece of advice ...

... look away.

That's the best piece of advice you'll ever get, son. Now why don't you mosey on home - I'm sure your little sister's diaper needs changin'. And, even if you ain't good at nuthin' else, you do seem to have a knack for slingin' poop.

Say, you're not a monkey, are you?

Anonymous said...


Two weeks since receiving the disappointing news and you've learned nothing. By now, you could've written out a few dozen essays and done a few hundred multiple choice questions. Instead you've spent your time honing your blog writing skills and going to "work".

Your job until the summer bar should be to focus on nothing but passing. Perhaps you have grown comfortable in bar-prep purgatory. Perhaps you subconsciously realize you don't have what it takes to be an attorney. Perhaps you like the sycophantic back patting that occurs amongst the latest crop of bar takers. The point is that this madness must end.

As you said, "Not only am I going to have to work on my writing, I'm going to have to make a major change to my essay structure." Indeed. The way to work on your writing is to read and write with purpose and focus. The sort of informal blog writing that you engage is inconsistent with the objective bar writing that you need to aim for. If it's necessary, start talking like you want to write on the exam. Kill your dumbed-downed bar-style of speaking and writing and start communicating like an attorney. If you hang out with "laid back" attorneys from the new school, ignore their style and communicate with assertive precision. Act like a lawyer, talk like a lawyer, think a lawyer and you will become a lawyer. Otherwise, you can have a long career in bar prep blogging.

California Attorney At Law

May 30, 2008 9:44 PM

The Grand Poobah said...

Anon: 9:25: Said you, "... I always wonder: 1) how we got to the point where it is socially acceptable to post one's private musings on a forum that the whole world can see, and 2) why in the world anyone studying for the California Bar Exam would spend any time at all doing so."

Says me:

1) I always wonder why some people deem it socially acceptable to wander around, with a mask over their face, criticizing other people. I see it all the time in the comments to news articles. People hide behind a generic moniker and say the most god-awful things. Things they wouldn't say in polite company. It makes me wonder what kind of value system such a person must have if he: a) enjoys such activity; and/or b) thinks the person to whom he's speaking cares what a disembodied voice with an obviously hostile hidden agenda thinks about anything; and, 2) anyone who knows anything about this process, knows that it only takes about 30 minutes to write, edit, proof, and post something on a blog.

Finally, with the entire rest of my day being consumed with essays,outlines, MBEs and PTs, I rather enjoy taking 30 minutes every few days to tend to the blog.

Frankly, dealing with anonymous critics consumes more of my time than does the blog.