Strategize Your Way to Passing the California Bar Exam
Taking and passing the California Bar exam will be one of the greatest achievements in your life. Due to the difficulty of the exam, it is imperative that you create and implement a winning strategy to pass the exam. My winning strategy included taking a Bar Exam course, mastering my strengths, conquering my weakness, following a study schedule, and engaging in a considerable amount of practice structured under simulated Bar Exam test conditions. Make sure you develop your own strategy. In doing so, you, too, will pass the Bar Exam.
I did well in law school, being first in a number of my classes. However, I never would have passed the Bar Exam on my first attempt if I did not take an in-person Bar Exam prep course. One benefit is that such courses review the entire subject matter for each tested subject. This is helpful because you will need to be refreshed, especially with courses you took in your first and second years in law school. Bar Exam review courses also assist with any new developments in the law that have been enacted since you took courses such as Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure, and Criminal Procedure.
Another great benefit most Bar Exam review courses, like Fleming’s Bar Review, offer is the opportunity to take Bar Exam practice tests. These exercises assist you with your knowledge of the subject under pressure as well as helping you develop proper exam timing and needed stamina. Fleming’s in particular knows what bar candidates need to excel in Bar Exam preparation and has a number of options for Bar Exam courses to fit your specific needs.
Unlike most other bar review courses, Fleming’s Bar Review allows you to submit your assigned writing samples for a personal audio critique so you know where you are strong and why, where you are weak and why, and what you must do to improve your exam writing skills. The value of such feedback from objective professional attorney evaluators cannot be overestimated.
Master Your Strengths
You must make a realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses because you are seeking to earn enough points to pass, not achieve a perfect score. As my strength was essay writing, I worked extremely hard to memorize my substantive law study outlines, I practiced outlining exams, and I consistently wrote Bar Exam practice tests under timed Bar Exam conditions. I would even study while on the treadmill because another part of my strategy was to have the stamina to finish strong on the last day.
Traditionally, scores go down on the last day (it was a three-day exam at the time). I knew that if my scores went up 10 – 15 points while others went down 10 – 15 points, that it could be a 20 – 30-point swing to my benefit. So, I capitalized on that piece of preparation strategy.
Upon reviewing the essay exam topics for the last number of years, the Bar Examiners always include a Professional Responsibility essay exam. As such, there is absolutely no excuse for not working hard to master a Professional Responsibility essay exam to achieve a passing score. You know it will be tested, so it only makes sense to make it one of your strongest subjects in order to strengthen your overall total score.
Conquer Your Weaknesses
When teaching law students, I found that they would gloss over their weaknesses as if they did not exist. However, ignoring the obvious is never a good strategy because your weaknesses will ultimately dictate your results. If you want to pass the Bar Exam, not only must you acknowledge your weaknesses, but you also need to work hard to conquer them because they are what cause a number of students to fail the Bar Exam.
A common area of weakness is the Performance Exam because, generally, Performance Exam testing is not taught in law school. Though I did well with my writing, this was an area of weakness I had to conquer because Performance Exams test your understanding and application of legal authorities to a fact pattern – not the substantive law.
If you are not in the position to take a full Bar Exam course, I would highly recommend that you take one specific to the Performance Exam because you must learn how to apply the facts to the law persuasively to achieve a passing grade. Fleming’s has a 4-day Performance Exam Workshop that gives you a step-by-step method to effectively handle any Performance Exam with the strategy and timing associated with it.
The crossover exams are tricky and challenging for most students. When taking the Bar Exam, I couldn’t tell if the Day One Essay #3 was a Contracts-Remedies crossover. The Day Three Essay #1 was a full-blown Remedies exam, which answered my question that the day #1 exam was not a crossover.
However, out of an abundance of caution, I wrote on Remedies in both exams because the Bar Examiners only markdown for what is missed. Raising non-issues does not count against your score, but you must minimize doing that because writing on non-issues takes away valuable test time from what is actually raised by the exam facts.
When reviewing the exams since the Bar Exam has been reduced to two days, I have found that the Bar Examiners frequently, but do not always, include a crossover exam. You must be ready in any case so you can identify where crossovers occur. As always, following the calls of the question will provide insight as to what area of law is being tested and if a crossover is involved. I highly recommend that you review previous bar essay exam questions and the posted student model answers to assist with identifying crossover exams with their fact patterns.
You must purchase an MBE program and practice thousands of MBEs prior to taking the Bar Exam. I practiced the requisite number of MBEs but never improved very much. As I never answered one question correctly regarding the Rule of Perpetuities, when taking the Bar Exam, I made the strategic decision to just pick the longest answer for the Rule of Perpetuities questions because, for me, the time was better spent on questions that I had a chance of answering correctly since every point makes a difference.
Prepare a Study Schedule and Practice, Practice, Practice
You must prepare and follow a daily study schedule to ensure that you spend the required amount of time on each Bar subject and tested area. Knowing and understanding the law is foundational to your success. Therefore, make sure you know the law for each tested subject.
You also need to memorize your condensed substantive law outline, which is what you will use to outline your essays. It is important to take time to practice outlining essay exams for issue spotting. Then, you must also practice writing Bar Exam essay answers as well as the Performance Test answers to develop your analysis and timing. As previously stated, you must also take thousands of MBEs to properly prepare for the Bar Exam.
Keep Your Cool Under Pressure
When I was taking the Bar Exam, there was a sizeable earthquake with 20 minutes left on the morning of day one. I was raised in Southern California and had experienced earthquakes before. However, this earthquake rattled us all to the point where we all stopped writing. Interestingly, the Bar Exam proctors who were standing about never said a word. After a couple of minutes, I noticed that the bar candidate next to me was writing again. That caused me to snap back into reality and continue writing. Though you may experience some unexpected disruption, even during the Bar Exam, keep your cool and stay focused on your goal, which is to nail each aspect of the Bar Exam irrespective of any unforeseen conditions that may occur during the process.
FFOL is Here to Assist You with Passing the Bar Exam
For over four decades, Fleming’s has been a leader in developing major educational innovations that assist with learning the law and - just as importantly - knowing how to apply it to essay, multiple-choice, and performance exams.
Jim Hubbard, a Fleming’s student, shared feedback he recently received from his professor on a Criminal Law exam. His professor wrote on his answer, “Excellent work on your essay! It was very well organized and easy to follow your logic.” The professor continued by complimenting him on each aspect of IRAC. Another Fleming’s student also has the only known 100% score on the Baby Bar exam. You can read more about this here:
To maximize your journey to success in law school on your way to the Bar Exam, take a look at FFOL’s tremendous line of Bar Exam prep courses and materials here on the website. You can also call the office today at 1-800-LAW-EXAM to get started on strategizing your success in passing the California Bar Exam.