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Congratulations on graduating from law school! Unfortunately, most of you are realizing that the real work begins now. In law school, you probably thought about the bar exam only when you had to fill out those incredibly time-consuming bar registration and application forms. Now that the bar exam is approaching, you are realizing that studying for this exam is even more grueling than filling out all of those forms. While the bar exam is the final hurdle to becoming an attorney, it is also, without a doubt, the most difficult one. First, the amount of law you need to know for this exam is extensive. Moreover, bar examiners have been making their exams harder to pass, both by raising minimum required passing scores and by adding new and unfamiliar exam components, such as the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). You have to memorize the law in 20 or so subjects and be prepared to shift gears from answering multiple-choice questions to writing essay answers to analyzing case files and preparing legal documents. Discussing the bar exam in this way, however, can be overwhelming and anxiety-producing. Understanding the various components of the bar exam, recognizing the amount of preparation you need to do this summer, and actually doing that work is the best way to relieve your anxiety and reach your ultimate goal — passing the bar exam. By this point, most of you realize that no two states’ bar exams are identical. Each state develops and administers its own exam, generally lasting two or three days. These two- to three-day exams are comprised of various components. Every state will test your written application of state law on an essay section of the exam. The number of essays and time limit per essay will vary from state to state. The subjects tested also vary from one state to the next, but the vast majority require you to know the state-specific aspects of the law. Several states use the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). Although theoretically a “national” exam (meaning it is designed to be answered according to majority law principles), it is graded by state bar examiners, and they may require you to apply state law principles. Success on the essay exam depends on much more than just your knowledge of the law. You need to know where the questions come from, what the bar examiners look for, and the ins and outs of your particular state’s essay exam. To maximize your score on this section, you need to learn how to apply your knowledge to a specific essay answer framework while managing your time accordingly. After studying a subject substantively, you should practice answering as many released questions as possible under your state’s appropriate time constraints. In addition to the essay exam, many states are further testing your writing skills with the MPT. Comprised of two 90-minute questions (states can use one or both), the MPT is designed to parallel realistic situations encountered by a beginning attorney and to test the fundamental skills required to complete various tasks. For each MPT question, you will receive a case file and library. The MPT case file, which is usually similar to an actual case file, contains a memorandum from a supervising attorney describing a written task to be completed, as well as pertinent source documents. The library contains cases, statutes, rules, and regulations that may or may not be relevant in analyzing the problem. Many students fail to properly prepare for this portion of the exam, thinking that the MPT is similar to an “open book” exam and doesn’t test specific legal knowledge outside of the materials provided. Don’t fall into this line of thinking. No matter how much experience you have had in a law firm or how good you are at writing, you must learn how to answer MPT type questions because you are responsible for deciphering and applying appropriate authorities and completing the written assignment in 90 minutes — the way they want you to. This is a skill that must first be learned and then honed by practice. Unless you are taking the Louisiana or the Washington state bar exam, you will spend one entire day of your bar exam taking the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). The MBE is different than the typical law school exam, as it is 6 hours long and comprised of 200 multiple choice questions. The 200 questions are derived from the following six subject areas: constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts. The weight given to the MBE in comprising your total bar exam score is determined by the state in which you take the bar. Most states average your scaled MBE score with your score on the essay and/or MPT section of the exam. While you’ve likely taken all of the MBE subjects in law school, you have never faced multiple choice questions from six subject areas scrambled together to comprise one six-hour exam. The questions test “majority rules,” but these rules are interpreted by committees of law professors and practitioners nationwide, and the MBE is written by professional testmakers who know how to trip you up. Therefore, you have to know exactly what the testmakers consider majority rules in the first place and how to apply exceptions to these specific rules. In addition to the intricacies of the questions, time is an obstacle. For each question, there are four answer choices, and on average you can spend no more than 1.8 minutes per question, which leaves you with little or no time at the end to go back and review earlier questions. Therefore, you must train for the MBE by learning the law and practicing what you have learned under these time constraints. You must also train by practicing questions at varying levels of difficulty. The MBE contains a mix of easy, intermediate, and difficult questions, and if you focus on only the most difficult and obscure questions, you will not be properly prepared for the exam. While a number of students every year feel great anxiety heading into the bar exam, a lot of this can be avoided with proper preparation. The bar exam is an endurance test, and like most endurance tests, both the amount and type of training determine your success at the end. Each component of your exam is important, and you need to properly balance the amount of studying you do for each section of the exam. For instance, you should not spend all of your time studying for the MBE, as you will neglect properly preparing for the written portion of the exam. The bottom line to being successful on the bar exam and to reducing your level of anxiety over the next two months is to put in the appropriate amount of time. This may very well mean that you have to scratch your July Fourth weekend plans. At the same time, you don’t want to go overboard and burn yourself out because it is crucial that you stay calm and healthy this summer. If you are sick or panic on exam day, your chances of success will be diminished. Spend time studying the substantive law with an emphasis on where the bar exam questions come from and how they are drafted, reinforce this information by drilling yourself with practice questions, remain calm and remember that you can do this. Professor Richard Conviser, founder and chairman of BAR/BRI Bar Review. BAR/BRI Bar Review is the nation’s leading bar exam preparation course and has guided over 700,000 students through the various components of the bar exam for over 30 years.

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