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Two weeks can be a long time. The last few days before the bar examination are among the most personal and dramatic days in the life of any young lawyer. What an applicant does during this special period can make the difference between success and failure. Even applicants who waste a lot of time between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are able to pull themselves together in time to finish in the money when results are published. THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE IS TO STUDY TOO MUCH AND NOT PRACTICE ENOUGH Every bar exam expert agrees that practice is central to passing the bar exam. Many unsuccessful candidates fail the bar exam because they feel they don’t know the law well enough to begin practice. The best way to learn black letter law is to do a couple thousand Multistate Bar Exam questions and outline and write a few dozen essays and performance examinations. The MBE tests knowledge of legal fine points and reading skills. The most practical and effective way to learn these fine points is to do a lot of practice questions, and to make flash cards or outline annotations out of the questions a student gets wrong. If you have spent the entire summer reading the law, attending lectures, and making immaculate, multicolor outlines, it’s time to drop them all and start practicing! One can do 1,500 multistate questions in a few days under emergency conditions, and a candidate who has done little MBE work up to now is facing an emergency. Similarly, it is possible to outline three essay questions an hour. A candidate who has not done plenty of essay practice during the summer is well advised to treat the situation as the emergency it is and get busy! Below, we remind readers of the importance of physical and emotional balance. Candidates who have not done a lot of practice are advised to skip that section, because they are facing an emergency in which they must push themselves to the edge of physical exhaustion in order to get in an adequate amount of practice! LAW KNOWLEDGE AND SHORT TERM MEMORY An applicant who doesn’t have a basic understanding of the law is unlikely to achieve it during the last few days before the examination. Understanding the material is one thing, but being able to recite the elements to the various theories of liability is quite another. Many successful applicants wait until the last five to ten days to concentrate on memorizing all the little details. This makes sense: all memory experts agree that short-term memory is measured in hours and days, not in weeks. PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL BALANCE Successful applicants perform well on each bar exam section. This requires an enormous amount of physical and emotional energy. Unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, a sensible bar candidate will rest more during the last week before the bar exam, take more frequent breaks from study, and get more physical exercise. Keep in mind that those who pass the bar exam perform at a high level for two or three days in a row, depending on the jurisdiction. It is no secret that many successful lawyers and bar applicants suffer from various forms of diagnosable mental illness. Even the crazy people who pass the bar tend to achieve a degree of balance and stability that allows them to perform well throughout the days of the test. Concentrate on achieving a state of alert tranquility. Everybody agrees that the mind-body connection can be crucial to success on the bar examination. Night owls should adjust their schedules in order to get used to the early wake-up call required by the bar exam. Knowledge and test taking technique are not the only keys to success on the bar exam. Many knowledgeable and skillful people fail the bar examination because they are simply too physically and emotionally exhausted to perform at their best for two or three days in a row at the end of July. Sports psychology teaches that the mind-body connection can be a key to peak performance. SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY The bar exam is like a multiday sporting event. Many successful candidates have an hour-by-hour agenda for the entire bar examination experience. They’ve worked out the best route from home or the hotel to the examination site, with backup transportation ready if the need arises. It makes sense to visit the site of the exam in advance, so the surroundings are more familiar when it matters most. Students who stay in hotel rooms close to the ground floor are less likely to incur criminal or tort liability for unfortunate incidents during extended elevator rides with a swarm of uptight and neurotic bar applicants. THE DAY BEFORE THE EXAM No bar candidate is likely to learn much law right before the exam. It’s not crazy to study, but many successful candidates do little or no serious work the day before the bar exam. This would not be a smart day to go on a drinking binge, but it’s also not the right day to go on the wagon. Be judicious. Exercise common sense. Realize that the best thing you can do the day before the bar exam is relax. Get some exercise. Try to get a good night’s sleep the night before the exam. THE MORNING OF THE EXAM Get up early enough so you don’t have to hurry. It is a good idea to do a few MBE questions before breakfast each day without checking the answers, just to get your mind focused. Everybody agrees it’s important, but not absolutely necessary, to have a decent night’s rest and a good breakfast before the first day of the exam. Be cautious about interacting with other bar candidates. It would be a pity if you ended up in custody because somebody “pushed one of your buttons” outside the test center. Do not make small talk with people who are suffering from obvious psychological problems. ESSAY IDEAS: LAW KNOWLEDGE ISN’T EVERYTHING The best essay answers are complete and organized. Read each question carefully, starting with the call of the question. Split the legal issues into elements, outline carefully, and “find a home for the facts.” I have met many unsuccessful bar candidates who got their highest score on the essay subject they knew the least about. They stopped reciting a lot of boilerplate language, because they didn’t know the law, and went on to analyze the facts. That is what the examiners are looking for. A good high school debater could memorize the rules as well as a typical law student. It is important to answer the questions presented in an essay. If the question asks whether or not each item of evidence was properly admitted, give a straight answer. THE MBE The MBE is as much a test of reading and reasoning skills, as it is a law exam. Read carefully, starting with the call of the question. Eliminate obvious wrong choices, such as incorrect statements of the law or misinterpretations of the facts. If time becomes a problem, skip long fact patterns that are tied to only one question and come back to them later. Don’t change answers unless you are sure you made an error the first time. PERFORMANCE EXAMINATIONS The “practical essay exam” is just an extension of the essays. One splits the issue or rule into elements, and connects facts from the file to elements from the library. The only significant difference between a performance exam and a standard essay is that a performance test can require an applicant to write persuasively. Be obedient. Do what the memo tells you to do. Find a home for the documents in the file and use all the authority in the library. Outline carefully before you write, and follow all the instructions carefully. Write simply. Communicate ideas clearly, and state them affirmatively. DON’T LOOK DOWN, AND DON’T LOOK BACK The bar examination requires undivided attention. Do not discuss the details of the examination with other candidates after each session. Do you really want to know that the civil procedure question you answered was in fact a wills and trusts fact pattern? Do your best during each session of the examination, and then just let it go and move on to the next session. When the first day’s work is complete, there is not a lot one can do to prepare for the remaining sessions other than eat a decent meal and rest for the second day. In California, a jurisdiction that has a three-day examination, it is possible to make an educated guess about what will be on the exam on the third day and do a little focused studying, but it isn’t very important. What matters is being physically, emotionally and mentally strong the next day of the exam! THE BOTTOM LINE Achieve uniform mediocrity and occasional excellence and you’ll pass the bar examination. You’re not striving for an Am Jur award. This is a pass/fail test. Passing the bar exam is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying experiences in the life of a young lawyer. Successful candidates treat the process — and themselves — with respect. Good luck! Scott Pearce is an experienced litigator and bar examination tutor in Los Angeles. He provides bar examination tutorial and home study services for law firms and bar students throughout the country. Previously, Pearce lectured and tutored at Bar/Bri, Barpassers, and PMBR. For more information, visit Pearce’s Web site at www.passthebar.com.

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