Your Biggest Failure Ever!

Lets talk about the in-class practice exam.  You all know this is going to happen. Let me get it on the table anyways. You are going to fail the practice exam. By fail, I mean fail bigger than you've ever failed anything before.  

Its okay. You'll be just fine. I scored 96/200 on the BarBri practice exam, but scored 142 raw score.  BarBri does a very good job of selecting various types of questions for you to explore. Some of them you will have no idea how to approach. Its a learning process and BarBri does a good job. 

Most people score around 100/200 on the MBE portion. If you score between 90-100, you're doing just fine. Below 85, you have to pick up. Above 115, go find a girlfriend you giant nerd!

We're getting some good conversation going regarding a constitutional law exam.  Check it out and offer your thoughts.

Why Scoring 70% On Subject Tests Mean Nothing

I've gotten some emails lately asking me if "70% is good enough" in property, contracts, or some other subject.  My answer is the same, the subject test scores don't mean much.  Sure, seeing a high score builds confidence, however tell me you scored 70% on a mixed subject exam and I'll be far more impressed.

Getting 70% is easy when you're only concentrating on one subject.  The questions are just small twists of each other.  Its easy to remember how each question is different when you have another question to compare it to. Seeing so many questions of the same subject allows you to get into a zone or on a roll with those types of questions.  

Getting 70% on a mixed subject exam is far more difficult. You actually have to know each nuance and exception because you don't have another question to compare it to.  Furthermore, you have to switch gears between all the subjects and can't get into a zone or on a roll. Throw in the time constraints of the exam, scoring 70% on a mixed subject exam is more difficult than it seems.  

The lesson here is that you should be practicing the mixed subject exams.  If you haven't yet, start to work them into you study schedule. Its normal to see a drop in score before you reach the average of all your subject tests. Keep plugging away, the test occurs in less than a month.

First Essay Review: Constitutional Law

If I remember correctly, this is an essay that BarBri makes you do.  In any case, I'm going to post it and turn on comments so people can see how to improve.  Give your recommendations, what you would change, how you would phrase rules, etc.  I hope to do two of these a week until exam week, so keep sending them in to

Edit: I'm having problems with turning comments on.  I am going to host the discussion on the new site even though its not quite finished.  The new site is:

Get Your Practice Exams Graded

Its difficult to be objective with your own writing. You tend to give yourself the benefit of the doubt more than you should.  Graders, unfortunately, aren't so kind.

To collectively improve, I am going to post some practice essays from readers.  If you want yours graded, here are the rules:

1. If you email me an essay, you are giving me permission to post it for the world to read.
2. The essay must be on an MBE subject.
3. Any recommendations are just that, take them or leave them as you please.

I will turn on comments and you people can read and make recommendations for improvement. Hopefully, this is a worthwhile exercise.

If you want your essays featured, essays can be emailed to me at

Practice For The Bar Exam: Loud And Noisy

You can't recreate the sound of 1000 people typing all at once or the echo of a girl flippity-flopping across a virtually silent convention center on MBE day.  Don't be that girl. A thousand people will testify it was justifiable homicide.

Taking a practice exam with distractions is a good experience. Not just TV noise, but real obnoxious distractions.  Go to the public library, sit near the kids books section and practice with children running and shrieking around you.  Any screams you hear on test day will pale in comparison.  Wait until your drummer roommate starts his three hour long practice session to begin your practice test.  The banging of someone frustratingly ripping off a stall door in the bathroom won't be that distracting.

If you practice with major distractions going on around you, the minor distractions during the bar exam won't bother you the least bit.  This translates to extra points for you!

Predictions For July 2010

Psych: The Complete First & Second SeasonsI get awfully nervous when people start posting predictions for the bar exam. Predictions are never as helpful as they are detrimental. I have yet to see anyone put out predictions, in any year, that were more than 50% correct. The extra effort wasted studying based on someone's prediction is better spent brushing up on areas you lack understanding. Even more devastating is when people predict a topic won't be on the exam and it inevitably appears.

The only prediction anyone can make with near 100% accuracy is professional responsibility.  Study that like crazy and walk away with an 80.  You can read about why you need to make professional responsibility a top priority here.

Bar Exam: How To Wake Up On Time

A Clockwork Orange (Two-Disc Special Edition)I've always had odd sleep patterns.  I'm a night owl that often stays up past the time an early bird would be waking up.  The bar exam being the biggest test I've ever taken, waking up on time was a big concern of mine.

To assure that I woke up on time, I set up four different alarms.  I had my hotel alarm clock, my phone alarm, a wake up call and a friend to call me to make sure I was awake.  I went as far as to give a friend the hotel phone number and my room number so they could ask for someone to come up and knock on my door in case I didn't answer my phone.

I wanted to make sure that if I accidentally set my clock for pm instead of am, didn't turn the volume up loud enough or turned my alarm off instead of snoozing, I would still make the exam. By setting multiple alarms, you can help settle your mind for a good nights sleep and be sure that you'll wake up on time for the bar exam.

Passing The Bar Exam: Two Ways To Look Into The Future

TiK ToKMy most read post was my very first entry where I posted the pass page of the California bar exam to help people visualize passing the bar.  Good things come with happy thoughts. Visualization was only one of the techniques I used to help calm my nerves.

By nature I'm a cynical and sarcastic person. I'm the guy that walks around art shows, sees a painting of a big red dot on a canvas and goes on a rant on how, "This is stupid, I could paint that picture." I'm the guy that turns on the radio, hears Kei$ha's Tic Tok song and thinks, "This is stupid, I could write that song." While the song is catchy, I'm frankly amazed at how low the bar is set in a lot of fields.

Law is no different. Think of all the attorneys that you've met and thought, "This guy is licensed to practice law? I'm going to go home and look him up on the bar website to make sure." Its an unfortunately long list, isn't it?

In explaining the difficulty of the California bar exam, people list notable failures. The most notable failure being Kathleen Sullivan, former Dean of Stanford Law School, leading constitutional law scholar and possible U.S. Supreme Court nominee. But, talking about people that much smarter than me failing the bar exam only made me more nervous. 

There is an attorney that I see at my college fraternity's yearly conference. I can't stand him and every year I see him I head to a computer to check if he is still licensed.  As I was studying for the California bar exam, I realized that he is barred in the state of California. I thought, "If this clown can pass the California bar exam, I know I'm going to pass!" It was a very comforting thought.  So while your studying, don't think about the smart attorneys that failed, think of all the not-so-bright attorneys that passed!

ExamSoft: Why Wouldn't You Test It?

Toshiba Satellite L505-GS5037 TruBrite 15.6-Inch Laptop (Black)
I hear a lot of test takers talk about how ExamSoft crashed on them during the exam. While I'm sympathetic to people that come across in-test problems, this issue is completely preventable.

I have yet to come across anyone that actually tested ExamSoft before the exam having problems with it during the exam.  ExamSoft gives you a great opportunity to test it on your machine.  While you're practicing your essays, type them out using ExamSoft. You'll quickly find out if something on your computer conflicts with ExamSoft.  

My guess is a lot of students use ExamSoft in law school and don't feel the need to test it before the bar exam.  First, this is the most important exam you're ever going to take, so why wouldn't  you test your computer? Second, ExamSoft is continually updating and releasing new versions.  You have to make sure the version you're using for the exam doesn't conflict with your computer.  

From what I've read, it seems the biggest conflicts occur between ExamSoft and anti-virus programs - Nortons, McAfee, etc.  Make sure to test your computer.  If something conflicts, you at least have time to get it fixed, borrow a friends computer or to buy a new one.  

Extension Cords: Life Line Of A Bar Examinee

GE 51924 Indoor/Outdoor 25-Foot General Purpose Grounded Extension Cord, OrangePreparation for the bar exam doesn't end until the proctor says "you may begin."  During lunch on Day 1 of the bar exam, I overheard a girl, practically in tears, telling a friend that her computer shut down mid-exam.  Because Secure Exam blocks any sort of notices, the girl didn't realize her computer was running out of battery life.  Her power source didn't work and she had to handwrite.

You must plan for everything! Do not depend on anyone else.  When you plug in, make sure your power source works.  However, realize the proctor's job description does not include helping you find a working power source.  The bar examiners set-up thousands of power sources before the exam.  Its a guarantee that one of them isn't going to work.  It might be yours, so bring an extension cord.  If you can't plug into your power source, you at least have the length to get to another.  

The Dumbest Thing BarBri Tells You To Do: Avoid It!

Run for Your Life
After lunch on Day 1 of the California bar exam, I settled into my seat to begin the MPT.  While I was waiting, I struck up a conversation with my table mate.  Alex went to the University of Chicago and seemed like a pretty sharp guy, but he didn't seem like someone that did a lot of thinking or planning for himself. He didn't bring cash to a cash only parking lot, luckily he had enough change rolling around the car.  He planned on buying a lunch, but the lines were too long (duh!), so he had a bag of chips from the vending machine and a few cigarettes to suppress his appetite.

The professor BarBri hired to teach the MPT in California is great.  He makes you feel like the bar exam graders are idiots and you can pass anything.  He takes you through passed model answers released by the bar examiners and shows you why everything in it is wrong, but was still released as a model answer.  He was loud, entertaining and, of the professors, he was among my favorites. 

Among the great tips he gives for the MPT, he gives one terrible piece of advice.  He encourages students to tear our pages from the MPT booklet.  He tells students to tear out the library index sheet from the exam book and brief each case under the given headings.  Also, he tells students to tear out the task sheets and have it sitting separately so you can refer to it.  This is simply bad advice!

I don't think the professor knows how the booklets are constructed.  Imagine taking 5 sheets of paper and folding it across the width and putting two staples down the crease to make a book - like you did in kindergarten. The cover is the also the back cover, the first page is also the last page, etc.  Now what happens when you tear out the first page? 

Alex didn't think this through when he got the booklet.  He tore out the two pages the professor tells you to and pages started falling out of his booklet. He had to take one very long and frustrating minute to put his booklet back together.  

Another girl, a few rows in front of me, tore apart her booklet as well.  She was doing fine until the air conditioning turned on and blew the pages she had spread out across the table into the aisle.  It was comedy gold watching her chase down all the pages of her booklet mid-exam.  

The 30 seconds you may lose writing out the names of each case, is well worth avoiding the frustration of putting your booklet back together.  

Watches And Timers

Casio Men's MQ24-7E Classic Analog WatchThe items listed in yesterdays post seemed to be a surprise to a lot of you.  Let's discuss watches and timers.  You're allowed a timer or a watch into the exam.  I highly recommend that everyone bring a time piece into the exam.

I took the bar exam at the San Mateo location.  There are no clocks in the exam room. They give you a one hour warning and a five minute warning.  Nothing else.  When the one hour mark was called, I was on question 64.  I had stupidly forgotten my watch and didn't realize I was that far behind. 

Analog watches are the best because they won't unexpectedly start beeping.  When digital watches/timers go off in a convention center, it echoes. Imagine that happening with 3,000 stressed out law students.  Someone is going to try to find you in the parking lot after the exam.  

A trick to use with an analog watch is to set the hands at 9 o'clock when the test begins.  By doing so, you know the test session will end at exactly 12 o'clock.  This way you don't have to do any in-test subtraction to see how much time you have left!  

What Items Can I Bring Into The Exam?

Highlighters/Text Marker 5 colors
The sheer amount of materials that the California Bar Examiners send to you is overwhelming.  Most people don't read all of it.  Amazingly, you are allowed to bring a lot of items into the examination room to aid your comfort and to increase test performance. Water is provided nearby.  I highly recommend having the first 5 items with you. What do people need a bookstand for?!?
  1. Admission Ticket
  2. Pens and Pencils
  3. Highlighters
  4. Silent Analog Watches or Timers measuring less than 4 x 4 inches
  5. Ear Plugs
  6. Wallets
  7. Eyeglasses
  8. Paper Clips
  9. Back Support
  10. Two Pillows, No Cases Allowed
  11. One Bookstand
  12. One Foot Rest
  13. Splints and Braces
  14. Inhalers
  15. Crutches
  16. Wheelchairs
  17. Casts
  18. Hearing Aids
  19. Tens Units
  20. Feminine Hygiene Items
  21. Medicine
  22. Diabetes-related Equipment

Music To Plug Your Ears

Apple iPod nano 8 GB Black (5th Generation) NEWEST MODELA friend of mine walked out of the bar exam on the first day and heard this conversation:

Person A: That contracts question was a real bitch.
Person B: Wait...what contracts question?

Can you picture everyone with in earshot of this interaction? Every single person nervously trying to figure out if there was a contracts question on the exam?  Everyones heart racing just a little faster? This is why Steve Jobs created ipods.

If you're sick of studying, take the time to put together a play list that will pump you up in the morning and calm you down as you walk out of the exam.  I personally had the rap classic Snoop Dogg - Doggy Style on my ipod for the mornings and had the Gladiator Soundtrack (its all symphony music) for the afternoons.  Whatever you decide, plug your ears up as you walk into the exam and as you walk out.  It'll save you a lot of anxiety.

Keeping The Bar Exam In Perspective

The bar exam consumes your life.  You wake up anxious each morning to eat, sleep and study for the bar exam.  You go to bed and have strange dreams about not being able to find your seat or being assigned a seat next to someone who didn't shower for 3 days leading up to the exam. Only to wake up anxious with the vicious cycle starting all over again.  

The bad news? This cycle gets worse as you get closer to the bar exam and the dreams become more vivid and strange.  Not only could you not find your seat, you showed up at the wrong test location.  You weren't assigned a seat next to the smell person, you become the smelly person.

As I was getting deeper and deeper into this cycle, a wedding video came out on youtube.  The ceremony made national headlines with re-enactments on The Today Show and The Morning Show.  The video showed a level of friendship and happiness that people have, but often forget because the negative often clouds the positive in our lives. The bar exam, in the end, is only a test. Passing the test may give you more options and it may justify your debt, but even if you don't pass, life goes on.  Before the exam, I constantly needed that reminder.  I suspect I watched this video at least 20 times leading up to the exam.

I suspect most of you have already seen the video.  Take a look again and remind yourself there are more important things in life than the bar exam.  Enjoy!

Public Libraries: The Best Place To Study

Where the Sidewalk Ends 30th Anniversary Edition: Poems and DrawingsWho's sick of being around law school people? Unfortunately, all the law libraries and coffee shops are just filled with stressed out law students.  You just can't find a good spot. Out here in Los Angeles, not only are the coffee shops filled with law students, but you can't get a table because of all the script writers.

I don't enjoy super quiet places, but I don't want anything too interesting to happen to distract me.  I've found that public libraries are the best place for me to study.  You get free internet, its air conditioned, quiet rooms if you want it, and big enough tables to accommodate all your your books and outlines.  Plus there are no other law students there!

I liked to get there when the library was opening and leave when it was closing.  Solid 8 hours.  Plus if I got sick of reading law material, there were other books I could read to take a mental break.  I was a big Shel Silverstein fan when I was growing up, so his books were nice to re-read and reminisce about easier times.

The only drawback were the hours.  They all seem to close early in the afternoon, so make sure to check the hours before you go!

Negligence: How To Beat The Bane Of The Bar Exam

The Giving Tree 40th Anniversary Edition Book with CDNegligence doesn't get any easier on the bar exam.  When I was studying negligence for the bar exam, I had a real hard time with the accounting.  Superseding intervening cause - is that part of the actual cause element or the proximate cause element? Attractive nuisance doctrine - should that be discussed as a duty or a breach of duty? While I knew the elements of negligence, I didn't know under what element I should put the various doctrines.

I've read several negligence essays and, like me, this is something several people have to overcome.  How do you know you have a similar problem? You ramble on and eventually you notice you have blended two elements together.

The practice of law is an exercise in killing trees.  Well, here is another opportunity.  To keep my accounting straight, I had one sheet of paper for each element.  I didn't staple or paper clip them together.  I treated each element as a separate outline.  Not only did it cement where each doctrine or rule should be discussed, it kept me from rambling!

Exam Strategy: Do Not Punt A Subject...Yet

Right now, many of you are starting to see patterns emerge with your MBE scores.  There is always one subject that is severely lacking. Thats normal. 

The wrong thing to do is panic. Over the next 3 weeks, you will see improvement by leaps and bounds.  Do not decide to punt your worst subject.  At least not yet.  Its way to early to be thinking about exam strategy when you don't have a clear picture of where you will be come exam time.

Two weeks before the exam, we can discuss punting a subject. Until then, keep plugging away.  

Handwriting The Bar Exam

People wonder if laptopping the bar exam is any more advantageous than handwriting it.  Without any proof, using a laptop seems more advantageous.  Its easier to edit if you make a mistake, you can copy-paste to reorganize an argument, its neater and easier for the grader to read, and you can type faster than you write.  However, short of your arm falling off, handwriting has the big advantage of having no technical issues. So, the debate rages on.  

There was a study a few years back which tried to determine whether handwriting or laptopping was the bigger advantage.  It seemed using a laptop would net you approximately 18 additional points over handwriting, however that has declined with time.  The paper is a bit dated since typing, as in typewriter, was still an option. The paper is short, so give it a quick read.  For those that don't want to do that, read the last page - it gives a summary.  It would be interesting to see this study done again.  

Coffee: The Shakes!

Cafe Altura Organic Coffee, Sumatran Dark Roast, Whole Bean, 32-Ounce Bag
The law school uniform isn't complete without a cup of coffee. A large cup to start the day, another to get through class and one more cup to keep   you studying.  Dunkin' runs on law students.

Unfortunately, you won't have access to coffee during the exam.  I'd suggest testing how you function on a rigid caffeine schedule.  Get a cup at 7 am and one at noon to see how you feel.  Now ask yourself these questions:
  • How big of a cup do I need to stay awake? 
  • Does it make me too jittery to type? 
  • How often do I have to use the bathroom? 
  • Can I handle having coffee breath for five hours?
The temperature of the room, subjects tested and who you sit by during the exam are out of your control.  Use this time to test things within your control.  While no one is going to get optimal conditions, you can get close!

Should I Create Outlines? Flashcards?

Another question posted on
"Does anyone actually create outlines? I don't see what the point is, since BarBri gives you outlines. Wouldn't it smarter to make flash cards or something? Just wondering if I'm missing something."

This is a great question and the answer to this question is different for everyone.  If you study well by outlining or making flashcards, thats great, do it. But lets approach this another way.

Assume for a moment, you're going to keep up with the BarBri pace program.  The pace program is a great program to assure you are getting enough practice in essays, multiple choice and MPTs.  The pace program is intensive and most people fall off the wagon - quickly.  Thats not to say its impossible to follow, but life doesn't always go as planned.

Now, think about the amount of time it took for you to outline a subject in law school.  So, if you show me a person that was able to outline 18 bar exam subjects and do the entire pace program, I'll show you someone that gave up eating and sleeping.  Most people outline some subjects just to make the subject manageable and only do parts of the pace program.  

This question is really a time management question.  How do I get the most value out of my studying? Again, do what works for you. However, I think for most people they should avoid outlining the outline.  Instead, they should open the essay book and outline the essays.

The bar examiners test the same things over and over again in each subject. Sit down and take each exam. Keep the mini-outline you created while issue spotting and add to it as you do other exams.  For multi-state subjects, this outline will be the absolute most important topics because it can be tested twice, on the essays and on the multiple choice.  For state specific essays, you'll see BarBri gives you way more than you need.

Not only will you be actively learning, you'll save yourself a lot of time.

The Biggest Mistake In Studying For Essays

What is it about professional responsibility that we want to avoid? We never take a practice test, rarely study it and always talk about why it shouldn't be on the California bar exam because of the MPRE.  Or, maybe thats just me.  

We spend a lot of time trying to predict the subjects that will be tested, but we never practice for the one subject that is guaranteed to be on the exam.  As of recent, its not uncommon for professional responsibility to be tested as a stand alone essay and also as part of a cross-over question.  

Professional responsibility essays are more difficult than they seem because, within the essay, there are multiple analyses for each mini fact pattern.  Under the time pressures of the exam, its easy to do only one analysis and then move on, but the bar examiners are looking for how many you can spot.  Doing one analysis will lower your score.

You have to practice taking professional responsibility essays.  Not doing so is a huge mistake. How silly would it be to fail the California bar exam on a topic you know will be on the exam?

MPT: Two Common Questions Answered!

I saw the following posting on, my answer is below:
                      "Just finished my first practice MPT (the 90-minute version). I have a couple questions:
                        1. Are you really supposed to finish it? I got damn close but, really, this is a mountain of work to get done in 90 minutes.
                        2. How closely are you supposed to mimic the point sheet? They wanted it done chronologically but I did it according to three objections made by the defense attorney. I still covered the same stuff there really only one way to do it? "

1. Yes, you are suppose to finish.  Graders can't give you points for what you don't write.  It is a mountain of work to get done, but thats the point.  The MPT doesn't test your legal knowledge, it tests your ability to read accurately, think critically, organize quickly, and write coherently.  "Getting close" means your leaving points on the table.  Thats a lot of points left on the table when each MPT point is worth twice an essay point.  

2.  Yes, there is only one way to do it. Mimic the point sheet and follow the directions exactly!  Think of it like this.  Graders will read hundreds of the exact same essay.  Do you think they are reading word for word by the 4th essay? Not a chance! They are skimming and looking for key points.  You're not going to do yourself any favors by making them "search" your essay to grade it.  Do what they teach you in BarBri, be a sheep.  Baaaaaaa.