Have I Already Blown the Bar Exam?

July 19, 2010 by  

Q: I’m taking the NY Bar Exam later this month for the first time and am taking Barbri to prepare for it.  It’s been going OK, but I got back my scores for the  simulated practice test that Barbri offers and, no exaggeration, I almost threw up.  (I won’t even share my score. I can’t bring myself to say it out loud.)  Before you make judgments, though, know this: I graduated from a T14 school, was on an honors journal (not Law Review, but still an honors journal) and graduated in the top third of my class, so I know how to study. But I’d heard from multiple sources that the best way to prepare for the Bar Exam was to just treat the studying like a 9-5 job; i.e. it’s OK to take breaks, work out, go out with friends at night, all that, which I’ve been doing.  But now I’m totally panicked and think I might’ve be taking the whole preparation thing too lightly. I would literally need to double my score from the practice test to even be in the neighborhood of passing.  Is it too late to ramp it up before the test?  I’m actually wondering if maybe I should even just postpone until February.  Am I over-thinking this??  Am I totally screwed?

A:  Quick question back at you before we get going: These “multiple sources” that clued you in on their secret to Bar Exam prep success:  Did they start their spiel with “Dude, look…” and end it with a story about how they went out and got bombed every night up until the week before the test, at which point they totally stayed up studying for, like, six days straight in their parents’ outdoor shed and didn’t shower and pissed in a cup and ate only peanut butter and cardboard but that it all worked out in the end?  Because if they did, I totally know them!!  One of them just rang me up at Walgreens.

Oh, honey, part of me just wants to slap you and part of me wants to give you a hug. And then slap you.  Let’s start with the part of me that just wants to slap you: During the 3 years you spent in law school, did you not notice that nothing about law students is cool?  And the recent grads who brag about how little they study and use party as a verb are the least cool of all.  Sorry to break it to you —and keep in mind, I’m a lawyer, too— but lawyers aren’t cool.  And law students really aren’t cool.  At least by real world cool standards.  We’re nerds.  We’re good at tests and that’s why we wound up in the godforsaken places we did.  So, just own that, be proud of it and stop pretending that anyone giving you on advice on the Bar Exam is a Ronson-in-training.

Now, the hug:  Calm down.  Now that we’ve agreed that you’re not going to listen to any more of your esteemed “multiple sources,” remember: Barbri’s goal isn’t just for you to pass the Bar Exam; it’s to make as much money for Barbri’s business as possible—and part of that business model involves scaring the crap out of you a few weeks before the Bar Exam so that you’ll murder your ego and just dive into the materials and study your ass off — and then rave about Barbri when you pass.  Though, speaking of your ego, know this (and thanks for the warning not to judge you): Your litany of entirely unremarkab— whoops, sorry, was just about to judge you!  Do-over:  Your litany of law school…accomplishments mean precisely ZERO when it comes to passing the Bar Exam.  Actually, I take that back, it means less than zero.  All of the folks I know who failed the Bar exam went to great schools, did well and then…failed anyway.  Most of them went to Yale and Columbia, actually, if that makes you feel better (probably not).  So, drill this into your head: Knowing how to succeed in law school and knowing how to succeed on the Bar Exam are two hugely different things.

OK, so, now that you’re even more depressed and nervous, as you should be, take a few deep breaths and relax—you’ve still got a shot at passing.  You have, um, over a week to cram like a lunatic. (Sure, that’s the opposite of what you’re “supposed” to do during the week before the Bar Exam, but as I hope you’ve figured out by now, there’s no one way you’re supposed to do anything on this test.)  Just remember, this isn’t law school.  You’re not aiming for an A+; you just want a C+.  Hell, you just want a D+.  So, just clear your head, make friends with your short-term memory and spend every waking minute doing as many practice questions as you can.   Whatever you do, keep calm and steady and just keep plowing ahead—and maybe stock up on some peanut butter and cardboard.

Good luck.

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13 Responses to “Have I Already Blown the Bar Exam?”

  1. anony on July 19th, 2010 10:57 am

    One week to cram for the bar exam? If you can’t figure out that studying for the bar exam takes more than a week of cramming, good luck working as an attorney, in a firm setting at least.

  2. Anonymous on July 19th, 2010 12:19 pm

    FAIL. No, really.

  3. Anonymous on July 19th, 2010 12:35 pm

    Dude, you may be in trouble; good news is that you still have a week, so study your cohones off, and hope for the best. If you pass, you’ll have better things to do with your cohones. If you flunk, well, you’ll be holding those cohones, as no self respecting chick will do that for you.

  4. elle on July 19th, 2010 12:41 pm

    Dare I walk into a troll trap, but dude, does anyone else notice the irony of the preface to the prior comment?

  5. anony on July 19th, 2010 12:46 pm

    @12.35 – I find it interesting that you assumed the poster was male. I assumed it was a female, given the whining/obsessing tone. Perhaps its just me, though.

  6. nonni on July 19th, 2010 12:53 pm

    chill out and ignore the comments — i was “failing” all the practice tests too but i passed the actual with really high scores. The fact is that you dont actually study for a lot of this stuff until the latter half of the cram process so you cant get the points on wills (for example) until after you have done wills.

  7. Mitch on July 19th, 2010 4:22 pm

    If you study more than a week, you are just showing off anyway.

    If you can handle waking up from 3 hours of restless, nightmarish, legally saturated sleep with a headache and starting all over again for about 7 days, you have it made. Hang in there – many have done it.

  8. RELAX on July 19th, 2010 4:50 pm

    First of all, Barbri is ridiculous. You pay for the materials, period. The rest is nonsense. It won’t be pretty but you can definitely cram in the last week and still be able to pass.

    Second of all, Mitch is right — the true test is really one of stamina more than substance. You’d be surprised how much you can jam into your short term memory in a few days, no less a week.

    You’ll be OK, don’t worry!

  9. Anonymous on July 20th, 2010 6:03 am

    I gave up everything for 2 weeks before the bar to study. I even stopped seeing my girlfriend.

    Then, after the bar was over, I went back to my girlfriend for an all nighter. 2 weeks of pent up energy was almost too much for her to take in. She took good care of me.

  10. Julius Teaser on July 22nd, 2010 10:23 pm

    I worked a bunch of previous bar exams(MBEs) and I honestly feel like those Barbri practice questions were more difficult and often of a tenor that did not jive with the ones that wound up on the bar. Barbri should be able to hire the same people the ABA uses to write the MBE, but remember, BarBri just got into the MBE business. You are a guinea pig, but you will still pass. Focus on the MBE and as for the essays, yank the rules out of the model answers. Focus on the subjects you did not actually take and just skim the ones you did to refresh. Best of luck and I am sure you’ll pass.

  11. Anonymous on July 27th, 2010 2:15 pm

    Too late now… dum dah-dum DUM!

  12. Dustin on December 7th, 2010 12:24 pm

    On the essays, you can’t get any less than a 40 and it only takes a 65 to pass, so I’m not sure how you would have to double your score to pass?
    Barbri will consistently give passing exam answers a failing score. They set the level very high, so you step up your game. I passed only one barbri practice test, and still passed the exam.

    I highly don’t recommend cramming. I actually took it easy the last few days before the exam. You want to make sure you have enough energy for exam, although that’s not as much an issue with 2-day exams (I took, California was a 3-day exam)

    I know this post is late; however, these comments can help others. Can you tell us if you passed?!

    I like and recommend Barbri, although it’s expensive. Themis is a good, cheaper alternative.

  13. Anonymous on June 16th, 2013 2:44 pm

    Did this guy ever pass? He probably got pussified by now!

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