Across the country, bar candidates are taking a full-length practice exam this week. Your first simulated MBE scores may not be exactly what you expected. I took my first bar exam years ago, but I still remember the shock of my first practice test score. I could not believe my eyes. Never before had I seen a percentage so low. My practice test results triggered a fight or flight instinct in me. For others, this week's results may yield any one of a host of emotions: fear, devastation, sadness, indifference or overconfidence. Bar passers must develop the coping mechanisms to rebuff these counterproductive, yet understandable, emotions.
The first step in your battle for resilience must be to reflect on your prebar journey. Approximately three years ago, you were wondering if you would get into your first choice law school - or any law school for that matter. Once admitted, those first year exams made you question your ability to make it through law school. Yet somehow by grace and sporadic unhealthy doses of caffeine, you are here with a law degree and one test that stands between you and the practice of law. What began as a quest both shaky and unsure, is now a dream realized. Now apply the rule of success to the facts of your life. How you started is NOT how you will finish.
The second step is self-assessment. You may have had favorite or "best" MBE subject areas before the midterm exam. You may have learned that while you love e.g. Torts or Contracts, they do not reciprocate your sentiments. You may be equally shocked to discover that you excelled in an area of dread, proving that you know the doctrine of equitable conversion and standards of review far better than you previously led yourself to believe. Analyze your practice exam results to identify your areas of strength and weakness.
The third and final step is to execute a plan of attack. Once you come to terms with your weaknesses, develop an effective plan to combat them. The tools and assignments from your commercial bar review provider can only take you so far. If you need drastic improvement, consider reaching out to an experienced bar tutor with expertise in the exam that you are taking. Make a wise investment in your future and take steps to ensure that this will be the last time you sit for this bar exam. I offer the following study tips for the determined bar student.
Focus on the Elements! If your MBE performance is weakest in Criminal Law and/or Torts - get back to basics. Get blank note cards out and write down EVERY crime and tort by name on the front. Write the elements of each on the back. Every MBE question in these two area of law can be answered by spotting the elements. Read your questions with a highlighter in hand, and highlight ONLY the elements. Compare what you've highlighted with the elements listed on your note cards. Find out what you have been missing.
Slow your Roll! Before looking to new sets of practice questions, go back to questions that you have already answered and missed. Don't reread the answer explanations. Instead reread the question FACTS. It is unwise to do more practice questions until you fully understand how to analyze and answer the ones you've already answered.
See a Professional! Sometimes the best bar therapy comes in the form of a bar coach or recent bar passer. If you do not have these resources at your disposal, hire a bar tutor.