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.