The smartest you’ll ever be is right before you take the bar exam…

… I was told this by a law school ambassador when I was visiting the first law school I went to.  We all laughed, but she was 100% right.  I’ll start with a run down of the exam for the non-lawyers.

THE BAR EXAM

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as the Coors Light commercial.

Each state has a different exam.  Parts of the exam are “multistate”, which most states use.  This means that the law tested is not the state law, but the common law or the law the majority of the states use.  I’m taking the Colorado exam which is two days.  Some exams are longer, for example Texas.

Day 1 is 7 hours: 8 essays and 2 multistate performance tests or MPTs (they give you a fact pattern and cases and/or statutes from a fictional state and you have to analyze and write whatever document is asked of you).  The essays are 30 minutes each and could be on about 20 different topics.  The MPTs are 90 minutes each and is more focused on your analytical and writing skills more than your knowledge of the law.  For the most part, you are given what you need to know in the packet.

Day 2 is 6 hours: 200 multiple choice questions or the MBE.  This covers most of the subjects you took your first year in law school (and are supposed to remember): Criminal Law and Procedure, Contracts, Torts, Constitutional Law, Evidence and Real Property.

Two days,13 hours.  Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?

BAR REVIEW

Most law school grads pay $1,500 to over $2,000 (varies by state and course) to start a bar review course the Monday after graduation.  (There are two major companies offering these courses and several smaller ones; obviously, I can only talk about the one I am taking)  I was lucky enough to at least get a week long break between graduation and my bar review course.  These courses include lectures and an online system which includes practice questions, videos of the lectures if you miss them (or just don’t go) and other “helpful” stuff.

At the beginning of the course, you start with 6 full days of class.  The morning is devoted to taking a 50 question practice quiz and the afternoon is a lecturer going over the questions and answers.  Makes you feel dumb right off the bat.  They tell you it’s normal to only get about 40-50% of those questions correct.  What about less than that?  They never tell you what to do there except study harder.  Starting the next week are lectures from 9-1 every day.  Each day is focused on one subject and some subjects they see as important, or are just more in depth and have more information, get multiple days.

Half way through the course you take a full practice MBE.  200 questions, 6 hours, to assess your progress.  Here’s my problem with that.  After having sat through days and days of these lectures, I haven’t really retained anything.  Yes, I’ve learned it once before, but I don’t feel like I’m really remembering it all.  I’ve diligently taken my notes into our pre-printed bar notes book and tried to review them each night, even doing practice questions like we were supposed to.  So, I quit going to class and starting making flashcards; my tried and true method that got me this far.

Everything is supposed to be a review of what you learned in law school, which it is.  However, I am feeling slightly overwhelmed that my brain cannot possibly retain THIS much information at one time.  Sure, if you ask me to rattle off the elements of burglary, I can, but I feel like it’s not enough.

I also know that for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a crammer.  I wait until the last minute when the pressure is really on to really get some good studying done.  This got me through undergrad and law school and I’m afraid I’ll have the same mentality with the bar exam.  I’m trying not to, but I am finding it hard to get the motivation to study the 7 or 8 hours I day I probably should be.  I thrive under pressure.

The bar exam is exactly 3 weeks from today and I can almost guarantee that if I took it today, I would fail it.  Is that enough pressure for me to get me to work on getting some good studying done?  Nope, not yet.  Even knowing that I cannot afford to fail (literally, I had to pay $785 to take this), I’m finding it hard to be a good little student.

I know that everyone studies differently, but, does anyone have any good study suggestions (not necessarily for the bar exam, just in general)?  I’ve already figured out that studying at home is pretty useless because the dogs and my husband are big distractions.

THE WORST PART

After you take the exam, you don’t get your results until OCTOBER!  The beginning of October, but still, that’s two and a half months of waiting to get back the most important test results of most of our lives!  Different states are different here, too.  Texas exam takers have to wait until November for their results (their exam is also longer, aka, more to grade).

Worst care scenario: I fail, but then what?  Do I take it again?  Try to learn from my mistakes and start studying in October for the February bar exam?  Or, do I bail on the legal field altogether and finish my MBA and find some nice marketing job somewhere?  These are all things I’ve already considered.  That’s just me.

Even with all the stress going around (ask my husband, I am a freakin’ mess!), I can still assure you that when 8am rolls around on July 26th, I will in fact be the smartest I will ever be.

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