Antony E. Ghee, Esq., L’98 (New York)
The challenges posed by a bar exam are very real; however, the hype that is often associated with it is very much exaggerated. Focus on the challenge and not the hype and you will be successful on the bar exam. The key is to commit to, and remain focused on, your mission!
WHAT IS YOUR MISSION? Your mission should not be to achieve a perfect score on the bar exam. It is not necessary. After all, the bar exam is a minimal competency exam. Therefore, your mission is simple: PASS THE BAR EXAM. In NEW YORK, approximately 70% of test takers pass the bar exam on the first attempt. Thus, you should first realize and BELIEVE that it is not just a possibility … . it is highly probable that YOU WILL pass the bar exam.
THE VALUE OF BAR REVIEW COURSES
The out of pocket costs that you incur for bar review courses such as BAR/BRI and PMBR may at first glance appear to be substantial. But consider the true VALUE. I do not believe that it is possible to estimate or assign a monetary worth to the usefulness or importance of BAR/BRI and/or PMBR. Taking either of these courses will undeniably be extremely helpful. However, taking both courses dramatically improves your chances of passing the bar exam on the first try. Here are the facts - approximately 90% of Howard University School of Law students who sat for the New York bar exam last July and prepared by participating in BAR/BRI and PMBR were successful. However, be advised that merely attending the classes offered by these courses will not suffice. Participation also (and more importantly) includes the preparation outside of class. Simply put: you must do the work!
To be successful on the bar exam, you must COMMIT to a study schedule. The most important thing about establishing a study schedule is to be honest with yourself. Not everyone has the same study habits. Some people study better during the day, while others are more effective at night. Choose a schedule that best suits you and stick with it — no matter what!
My schedule was, in the words of some of my dearest friends, “ANAL”. My daily routine began each day at 6:00 a.m. Followed by a morning run, fruit shake/light breakfast and 20-25 NY multiple choice questions. I went to BAR/BRI classes from 9a.m. -12:30. After class I would have lunch and was studying again by 2 p.m. Between 2-6 pm, I reviewed the day’s lecture and did 50-75 multi-state questions. Between 6-8 pm I would workout and eat dinner. From 8-11 pm. I was back to studying, doing essays and previewing the following day’s lecture. From 11 pm - midnight…well, this was what I like to call “Tony Time” (watch TV, talk on the phone, do whatever I felt like doing). The weekends were reserved for simulating the two day bar exam. On Saturday mornings at 9am, I did simulated multi-state practice exams. On Sundays, I did the essays. The key is to get as much practice as possible and condition yourself to perform under similar conditions that you will experience during the bar exam.
When establishing your study schedule, remember that BAR/BRI and PMBR make things simple for you. For example, BAR/BRI sets out a daily schedule of what you should do each day. Likewise, PMBR urges you to do at least 50 multi-state questions per day, rotating subjects so that the material always remains fresh in your head. Take this advice seriously! BAR/BRI and PMBR have helped thousands of people pass the bar exam. Although it would be extremely difficult to follow their recommended schedules exactly, it does make sense to try to stay on pace with the general areas they recommend. By doing so, you are sure to cover each relevant are of the law and thus increase your chances of being successful on the bar exam.
TIME / STRESS MANAGEMENT
Although I hold firm to my belief that that the bar exam in more hype than anything else, I am fully aware that two months of intense studying will take its toll on anyone, both mentally and physically. Therefore, notwithstanding all that I’ve mentioned thus far, it is important to manage your time and stress. Your study schedule is the key to time / stress management (e.g. you will notice that I left time in my schedule for personal activities and working out). Whatever techniques you generally use to manage stress, be sure to allot time in your schedule to deal with it. If you do not yet know how to handle stress, speak with someone about different ways of coping. Above all, make sure you maintain proper physical and mental conditioning.
If you take BAR/BRI and PMBR and COMMIT to your study schedule, you should be able to walk into the exam with confidence. You will have seen every type of question and scenario that you could possibly imagine (although the characters may be different). Further, you will have conditioned your body and mind to be able sit for two days (6 hours each day). So, EXAM DAY, more than any other, is the time to RELAX. You are PREPARED. With the multi-state questions, take your time and read the questions. You have 1.5 minutes (or something like that) to answer the questions. That is a long time! I didn’t realize how long that really was until I sat in on a bar course last year and the instructor encouraged us to sit silently with our eyes closed, in complete silence for the same time period. TRY IT. You will see that you have plenty of time to answer the question. Besides, PMBR has prepared you well!
With respect to the essays - it will be different from typical law school exams, but some of the skills you learned in taking law school exams are transferable. For example, you know you have (x) questions and only so much time to do them. ALLOCATE YOUR TIME PROPERLY. Further, in NEW YORK ALWAYS STATE THE ISSUE, DEFINE ALL LEGAL TERMS and provide a thorough ANALYSIS. Finally, remember to write legibly and concisely.
The bar exam is over. Move on! Although you will undoubtedly think about it every now and then, let it go. Your results will be out in due time and trust me when I tell you that I have never felt a more fulfilling moment than November 13, 1998 at approximately 12:15 a.m. when the bar results were released. I passed the New York bar exam because I COMMITTED to my MISSION and COMMITTED to my STUDY SCHEDULE. If you have not already done so, COMMIT now and you too will celebrate when your bar exam results are released. GOOD LUCK and remember IT IS MORE HYPE THAN ANYTHING ELSE!
YOU ARE A GRADUATE OF HOWARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW. THIS MEANS THAT YOU ARE NOW EQUIPPED WITH THE VISION OF CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON, THE DRIVE OF THURGOOD MARSHALL AND THE DETERMINATION OF L. DOUGLAS WILDER JUST TO NAME A FEW. INDEED, THE LEGACY AND TRADITION OF INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE ACHIEVEMENT IS NOW DEEPLY EMBEDDED WITHIN YOUR HEART AND SOUL.