Best Preparation Practices To Prepare For The July 2020 California Bar Exam
Passing the CA Bar Examination requires proper CA bar exam preparation, together with the best preparation practices necessary to achieve success. An article written by Henrik Nilsson and published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal on May 13, 2020, opens with what is on all bar candidates’ minds as they prepare to take the July 2020 Bar Exam – how best to prepare for the administration of the exam due to the COVID -19 pandemic. Mr. Nilsson profiles a variety of exam methods being considered by the Bar Examiners in his article entitled, “Different scenarios for conducting the July 2020 CA Bar Exam in September - online or in-person….”
As of May 21, 2020, there is no definitive decision as to whether the July 2020 Bar Exam, scheduled to be given September 9 and 10, 2020, will be administered online or in person. Nonetheless, whatever mode that will ultimately be used, proper CA bar exam preparation remains critical for success. This is particularly relevant in view of the recently released February 2020 bar exam results that came in at an overall pass rate of 26.8%, one of the lowest since 1951.
Despite the February 2020 pass rates, there is no need to despair. The key to success is combining substantive law knowledge with active bar exam test preparation during the study process. One plus the other brings success. The following are the best preparation practices to implement to ensure success on the CA Bar Exam.
First, effective bar exam preparation begins with selecting a CA bar exam review course that targets the particular areas each bar candidate wants to develop and improve. Some CA bar exam prep courses emphasize substantive law. Some emphasize exam skills. The best ones, like Fleming’s Fundamentals of Law, combine the two. Selecting a CA bar exam prep course that incorporates test-taking with the substantive law is critical because exam skills ultimately dictate the outcome on the bar exam.
Second, once a bar candidate is proficient in the law for a particular subject, he or she should then practice application skills on bar exam practice tests under simulated bar exam conditions. These tests include essay exams, MBE, and Performance questions. By doing this, bar candidates will be able to assess not only their command of the law but their ability to apply it on a test question under timed conditions.
The Bar Examiners assume bar candidates know the law, so the ability to recite black letter rules alone will not ensure success on the Bar Examination. What the Bar examiner assesses to determine a bar candidates' success on the Bar Exam is the skill with which these examinees apply the law to an essay exam, an MBE question, and the Performance exam. Thus, practicing with past bar exam practice tests is a critical exercise in the study process.
Third, bar candidates should have their work evaluated by a qualified private bar exam tutor who can objectively evaluate their written work, assess their examination skills, and give objective feedback on what the bar candidate is doing. Such feedback should include what the bar candidate is doing well, what weaknesses the examinee’s work shows, and, most importantly, what the examinee must do to correct those weaknesses.
Finally, as much as most students will resist, it is important to go back after receiving feedback and correct the identified problems as directed by the private bar exam tutor. This is not easy, but it is what all bar candidates must do. Correcting mistakes leads to success.
In Fleming’s bar review, Professor Fleming frequently likens bar candidates to boxers who train for months leading up to one fight. In analogizing bar exam preparation to the training of great boxers like Muhammad Ali, Professor Fleming reminds his students that the great boxers did not become champions solely by memorizing what to do in the ring. Rather, they became champions by taking the critical next step of practicing under simulated conditions. And when they got knocked down, they got up, and shook off the blow. They evaluated where they went wrong, made the correction, and continued training. This is what every bar candidate must do to achieve success.
Taking timed bar exam practice tests is central to proper preparation for the Bar Examination. Most CA bar exam review courses provide past bar exam questions and answers for this purpose. Past bar exam practice tests can also be found in law school libraries, and online as well. There is no shortage of practice bar exams for those who want to obtain them.
Reviewing answers that received passing scores from the Bar Examiners is a most enlightening exercise because those answers demonstrate what a Bar Examiner deems a passing answer. Bar candidates will quickly see the answers are not perfect - far from it. Many times the law is misstated, the issues are unorganized, and the manner of expression is imprecise. Nonetheless, all passing answers show minimum competence and test-taking proficiency under timed conditions.
Although it is not mandatory to work with a private bar exam tutor, doing so has it rewards because it is nearly impossible to evaluate one’s own work. As hard as we may try, we see what we want to see in our work, and what we see is not always what is there. As stated by Anais Nin, “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are. It is for this reason that we cannot see our own mistakes.”
A private bar exam tutor will look at a bar candidate’s work with a different eye, without subjectivity, and see what needs to be improved. For this reason, a private bar exam tutor is invaluable in propelling a bar candidate’s skill in the proper direction to success.
Whether you are considering a CA bar exam prep course, working with a private bar exam tutor only, or some combination thereof, embrace the best bar preparation practices to ensure success.
In the current environment, and due to the need to shelter in place, every bar candidate should create a study space that promotes best practices for concentration and focus. Find a dedicated space in which to practice. In that space, keep practice materials organized and easily accessible. Create a daily schedule for what you will do, and follow it at consistent times. Post a schedule in your practice space along with any motivational quotes personal to you. Deactivate your Facebook and other social media accounts to reduce the temptation to check newsfeed. Turn off your phone. Reach out to the people you live with for support.
By understanding what it takes to passing the CA Bar Exam, and implementing the best practices for bar exam preparation, the dream to become a lawyer will turn into a reality.
Last update of the article: 06.30.2020.