By Joseph Keeney, Esq.
1. I graduated law school with a 3.5 therefore, I shouldn’t have to take the bar exam.
Comment: Where to begin with this contention? For starters, there could be a lot of reasons as to why you achieved a 3.5 and more importantly why you have to take this exam. One reason that you achieved a 3.5 could be because you flat out deserved it, and this grade point average is indicative of your skill and work ethic. Too bad you still have to take the thing. Another reason that you achieved a 3.5 is because the curriculum and your class schedule was soft. Another reason that you achieved a 3.5 is because the academic semester was more conducive to your preferences ie., work schedule, or finances. Who knows? But for now, this standardized approach of the MBE taken with essay writing is the best option on the board (no pun intended) until mind reading and ethical fortune-telling are made available.
2. I practiced 2500 multiple choice questions, took three practice exams, and studied 8 hours a day.
Comment: Yawn. This exam is not about studying hard. This exam is about studying smart. Sure, by doing more multiple choice questions, this may allow the opportunity for your brain to become accustomed to the format style of the questions as well as the various ways in which a fine point of the law can be tested. For that I say, the more the merrier. However, one must be careful in setting large goals as they sometimes do not account for each student’s needs. In other words, the student’s desire to answer too many questions can easily overshadow the quality of takeaways that one should yield from each question. One LawTutors’ recommendation that addresses the takeaways and which has proven useful is for the student to analyze each possible answer to the degree: “I chose Answer A because…..” This is valuable because is regimented reinforcement. Too often, while reviewing assignments with students, we find out that the student’s answer selection by letter choice was correct, but the rationale behind it was wrong. With incorrect rationale, the examinee is building false misunderstanding of black letter application.
3. My law school did not require these subjects therefore why should this be on the bar exam?
Comment: Your law school gave you choice. Hence, that is why these choices are called electives. Another angle the bar examiners are testing is your ability to work under pressure and to undertake a vast breadth of material. As words of encouragement, your understanding of the subjects tested on the MBE should pay dividends on the essay portion of the exam.
4. I was on law review/law journal but still received 3’s across the board on the essay portion of the bar exam.
Comment: There is certainly little doubt that the selected student for these organizations possesses analytical ability. However, there are a few aspects or commonalities that may make students more susceptible to the format of the bar exam. As you already know, much of what is subject to academic articles can be esoteric or involve much on opinion or can provide as an analytical overview of jurisdictional trends over a particular subject. Also, there is a good chance that what you are writing or analyzing in these activities pertains to an area of the law or subject matter in which the student is interested. In a lot of ways, as the author of this scholarly article you can control the direction and format of what is to be written. The bar exam format is much different. It covers areas of the law that perhaps involve subject matter that you never studied in law school let alone that you are interested. Moreover, successful bar exam writing is often the result of disciplined commitment to the IRAC or CREAC method.
5. Considering I excelled on the LSAT, I had no reason to think otherwise with respect to the bar exam. I have always done well with standardized tests.
Comment: The LSAT, in lot of ways, is used as a prognosticator on how well the candidate will perform in law school. The bar exam, in lot ways, measures how well the candidate for admission to the bar did in law school. That being said, the LSAT’s approach is to measure certain cognitive and analytical skills within the environment of a multiple choice question. Is it perfect measurement? Are the results of the LSAT necessarily a dispositive indicator on how one will achieve in law school and ultimately the bar exam? No, of course not, but see # 1 above. Another distinction between the two exams is that the bar exam is measuring more towards what the examinee actually learned over the course of three years and recently in the past eight weeks leading up to the exam.
6. The format for the exam just isn’t fair.
Comment: There is obviously much debate and study on fairness interplayed with standardized test taking. Believe it or not, I am not going to make an opinion one way or another. This is reality, and the more excuse-making that goes on is negative energy and interference.
7. My commercial material doesn’t exactly mesh with the law school outline that my Professor approved. I am going to defer to my law school outline.
Comment: I would like to make the suggestion that you should choose whichever you prefer. However, this doesn’t go without saying a few comments first. Several of the commercial entities out there have either been specializing in bar preparation for decades or are accompanied by an entourage of legal authors, professional test takers, and professors. That being said the commercial outlines are terrific for picking out repeated questions, trends, and proclivities that the Multi-State drafters and Board of Bar Examiners will test. Sometimes I have found it helpful that if there is a particular area that you find yourself disproportionately weak or feel that you require further review that those outlines and hornbooks may be used in a supplementary capacity.
8. Because I have been a law clerk for now three years, that practical experience ought to give me an advantage over the people that have just been going to school.
Comment: Doubtful. Jobs are breeding grounds for misunderstanding and misapplication of black letter. After all, who doesn’t plead waiver, estoppel, and laches not knowing the difference. You may need to know these types of distinctions on the bar exam.
9. Well, last time I took it, my MBE score was well above the average so now I am just going to focus on the Essays.
Comment: I dare you to make the mistake.
10. This time I am going to spend a week studying Future Interests.
Comment: One common thread between law school preparation and bar exam preparation often comes down to time management. Why allocate 1 week of eight to a topic that could only amount to 5 percent of the questions on the exam doesn’t make a whole lot of sense? This could be more judiciously spent in other areas.