Howard University

Neal F. Newman, L’98 (Georgia)

Passing the bar exam is easy if you are willing to do what it takes to prepare. I mean this sincerely. In my recommendations, I will try and keep the information succinct and to the point. Although the advice below is comprehensive and detailed, I urge you to read it in its entirety:

FORMULA FOR PASSING THE BAR:

Pass Bar = (A) PMBR + (B) BarBri + (C) Practice, Practice, Practice!

It’s that easy. Each of these components, if utilized effectively, will get you to where you want to be, a member of the bar in your respective state. I will discuss each one in turn, and why each component is an integral part of your success.

A. Take a Multistate Bar Review Course Like PMBR:

For those of you who are unaware of what this acronym stands for, it stands for Professional Multistate Bar Review. Taking this course (in my opinion) is key to passing the bar. PMBR is a professional bar review course that specializes exclusively in preparing you for the multiple choice section of the bar. PMBR offers two sessions, an Early Bird 6 day session that occurs in May (right after graduation), and a three day session that is held a week or two prior to the bar exam. I urge you to take both.

The structure of the 6 day early bird is as follows: Each morning you are given 50 multiple choice questions on 1 topic (Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, Con. Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence). In the afternoon, you will go over the answers. This early bird session is crucial because it exposes you to reviewing the material early and gets you into working multiple choice questions early. Also, the instructors give you insight into how the test makers construct the multiple choice section of the exams. They will highlight areas of focus where the test makers like to target their questions. Additionally, getting an early start relieves stress down the line when you have not only the multiple choice sections about which to worry, but the essay topics as well.

After taking the 6 day course, put yourself on a steady diet of doing questions at least 5 days a week. Start off with 25-30 questions a day. Stick with doing one topic a day when you first start. That will keep you from getting concepts from one area (i.e. Criminal Law) confused with concepts of another (i.e. Criminal Procedure). Pace yourself. Those of you who are serious about passing the bar exam will want to do as much as early as possible. You need to be diligent, but you need to pace yourself. You don’t want to peak too early and get burnt out. By the time the exam comes, you want to be champing at the bit. Confident, rested, and ready to go.

The PMBR course is unique from BarBri because the questions are more difficult. You will find that when you work PMBR questions, you may get more wrong then if you were doing the BAR-Bri questions. Don’t worry about getting the questions wrong! Just do them. Then study the suggested answers and move on!!! As you become familiar with the subtleties and nuances of the questions, you will be tuned in to the tricks.

However, review very carefully the questions you got wrong. And do so the following day. I can’t stress this enough. You may feel overwhelmed with the level of material you have to process and may feel that you do not have time to review. Review helps you to “iron out” the concepts with which you may be having trouble.

Don’t Waste Time Trying to Memorize Outlines: The exam is not going to ask you to rehash an outline. The exam is going to ask you to apply legal concepts to factual scenarios. The best way to do this is to do questions daily. The PMBR instructors will tell you to read the outlines once or twice! After that, they will suggest that you spend the rest of your time doing questions.

I answered more than 2,200 questions in preparation for the bar exam and read my outlines once or twice (and only referenced sections to solidify concepts). It may seem like a lot, but if you start early, make a schedule, and stick to it, it’s not that bad.

Finally, I also urge you to take the three day course at the end. The three day course is more focused. The three day course material consists of a simulated 200 question MBE exam. This test is guaranteed to be more difficult than the actual test you will face on the bar exam. However, this test is good because it anticipates what will be tested on the upcoming MBE. Speaking from personal experience, PMBR was right on point with the questions that were asked on the bar exam.

COST CONSIDERATIONS: Some of you may decide to forego PMBR for cost considerations. I believe the cost may run you between $400 and $600. This may seem like a lot. However, let me ask you. Consider the cost of failure: (1) you will have to take it again; (2) instead of focusing on honing your legal skills, you are taking the bar exam again; and (3) the bar exam is not something you want to deal with more than once. I’m not saying that PMBR will guarantee success on the bar exam, but I will say that the pass rate for those who take this course averages in the 90% range.

Take the course. Take both the Early Bird and Three Day courses if you can. Beg or borrow the money if you must but take at least one of these courses!

B. Take a Bar Essay Review Course Such as BarBri:

Taking BarBri is also a must. BarBri will prepare you for the essay portion of the exam. The essay portion consists of areas of law specific to your jurisdiction. BarBri gives you nice condensed outlines and stresses the areas that the examiners are most likely to test. Become familiar with those outlines, but again, don’t spend your time trying to memorize every page. Listen to the instructors. They will cue you into what the examiners are most likely to test. Then do a practice essay that tests those main topics. BarBri will provide you with an essay book. The essay book has an index that tells you what essays test what subjects. Writing an essay will help you to solidify a concept, and see how that concept is tested in on a bar exam.

C. Practice! Practice Some More. Take a Break and Then Get Back to Practice!

I can’t stress this enough. 85-90% of your study should involve either writing an essay or answering multiple choice questions. A typical mistake most exam takers make is that they don’t spend enough time practicing the skills they will need for the test. You will find that by doing practice essays and practice questions, that you will learn the concepts more thoroughly and more efficiently.

WRITE ONE OR TWO ESSAYS A DAY! You will find that after going to class, reviewing outlines, and doing MBE questions, you will not feel like writing essays. You will keep putting it off until one or two weeks before the exam. Make a schedule and force yourself to do one or two essays a day. It will pay off in the end!

In preparing for the bar exam, I wrote 55-60 essays. But I only wrote one or two a day.

A FINAL NOTE ON ESSAY WRITING:

For those of you who have read this far, I congratulate you. I know I have said a lot. However, I have one last piece of advice to share and I think it’s important.

Writing essay exams for a bar exam is not the same as writing essay exams in law school.

Let me repeat. Writing a Bar Exam is Not the Same as Writing an Essay Exam in Law School. For one thing, if you are prepared and know what is expected, a bar exam essay is much easier than a typical law school essay exam. Of course, if you are not prepared or do not understand what is expected of you, coping with a bar exam essay will be one of the most difficult ordeals you will ever face.

The persons who will be grading your exams are not professors who are looking for you to discuss both sides of the issue. Bar examiners want to know whether you understand and can apply the black letter law to a specific set of facts. Bar exam essays typically are 45 minutes to an hour long. So you don’t have a lot of time to mess around. I recommend you read “Writing Bar Exam Essays;” it’s a paperback and does not cost much. However, it takes you inside the mindset of Bar Examiners, and (1) explains what the graders are looking for; (2) how to structure and essay; and (3) gives you a systematic approach on how to break down bar exam essay fact patterns and give the grader exactly what they need from you so that they can give you a passing grade. The book is available at Lerners. It might even be available in Howard’s book store. Get it. Read it.

CONCLUSION

Some would say that I may have over prepared for the exam. They may be right. I had the mindset that failing the bar exam was not an option. For about 10 weeks, preparing to pass the bar exam was my full-time job! Please clear your calendar so that you can dedicate a small portion of your life to this event. Ten weeks is nothing. You’ve just spent more than $40,000 on your legal education. Spend a little more to make sure you have the information you need to pass. The bar exam is not hard. It only takes the equivalent of a “D” to pass. Diligent preparation, knowing how the game is played, and knowing what the test makers are looking for is all it takes. If you do half the things I have suggested, you will probably pass. If you do ALL of the things I have suggested, I guarantee you will pass. Good luck.

NOW GET IT DONE!