Charles Moore, Esq., L’98 (New York)
The most important thing to understand is that the bar is an exam. When all of the studying and worrying is done and it is time to sit in that big room with all of those people and begin testing, you will find that it is, to some extent, just another exam.
In some ways, it is easier than a law school exam. Examiners only test students on settled areas of the law and the facts generally are written to ensure a limited number of right answers. The important thing is to believe, deep down, that you will pass. Remember, it is a minimal competency exam.
STUDYING FOR THE EXAM:
I found it helpful to view the bar through my non-lawyer family members and friends. That is, I asked myself what subjects a family member or friend would expect me, as a lawyer, to know. Subjects like contracts, tax, wills, torts, etc. come to mind. Therefore, I studied all of those subjects pretty hard, and, sure enough, all but tax were essay subjects. Remember, the bar is a minimal competency exam, and all the examiners want to know is that you’re able to handle basic legal concepts. The exam itself is basically an exercise in malpractice — that is, you’d never give someone advice without looking stuff up.
As for substantive tips, I suggest that you choose a study schedule that works well for you and stick with it. I took the morning Bar/BRI class (9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), took an hour or so for lunch, and studied each night until 10-11 p.m. (which reminds me, if you don’t have to work, DON’T!!). I made flash cards, because I could use them to test myself each night. I also did one essay per day and at least 35-50 multistate questions per day, as PMBR recommends (Also, do PMBR if at all possible!).
That last statement is the most important. WHATEVER YOU DO, PRACTICE EVERYDAY!!! You will NOT retain information by passively reading it every day. You learn it by making it a part of you. The other important thing about practicing is that you get a sense of your timing and how to write or guess your way out of situations where you have no idea of what the law is. All of that makes you more comfortable with the exam, and therefore, more confident going in.
TAKING THE EXAM:
As for taking the exam, remember just a few things:
(1) Define all legal terms. You get points for that, especially in N.Y. That has the additional benefit of helping you focus on the issue at hand.
(2) Always tell the examiners the issue. They want to know whether you recognize the legal issue you presented.
(3) Always analyze the question. Never give a conclusory answer to the question. The examiner cannot tell whether you know what you’re talking about, even if you’re right.
(4) Pick a side and stick with it. Whatever you believe the answer to be, go with that. Waffling is not often rewarded.
(5) Don’t tell the examiners all you know about a particular subject. ANSWER THE QUESTION ASKED!!! Remember, most examiners take less than five minutes to read each of your responses, so getting to the point, and doing so clearly, will make your exam easy to read and the examiners will like you.
(6) Finally, calm down, eat well, sleep well, etc. Remember, you don’t have to beat everybody. In most states, you only need to beat out 20-30% of the folks sitting for the exam.
I hope all this information is helpful. Good luck and best regards. God Bless.