Tips & Advice for the Bar Exam

30 Nov

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**Disclaimer – this advice comes from my personal experience taking the bar examination. Every bar exam can be different (barring the UBE) and it is possible that my experience will not reflect yours. However, here are things I would remember if I took the exam in a different state (as I might do some day). After talking with many other people who have taken different bar exams, most of them agreed with this list.  You should of course speak with people who have taken your specific exam as well to ask what applies to your exam.  

  1. CASE NAMES / RULE NUMBERS / LAW NUMBERS / RESTATEMENT NUMBERS DON’T MATTER – Unlike the rest of law school, on the bar exam no one cares about which case decided what. It’s the legal rule they care about, not where it came from.  Don’t even try memorizing those. They won’t show up.  On my test, I did have ONE UCC rule number show up, but that one question didn’t make it worth my time to memorize all the others.
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  2. FACTS DON’T MATTER – Because they don’t ask you about a specific case, you don’t need to know the facts of cases either. You should remember the rule itself, but that’s about it.  No one’s going to ask you which case decided that you must have a warning label or the facts that caused it. They just want you to know what it needs to say and when you need to have it.Image result for Legal Facts
  3. LAW NAMES MIGHT BE IMPORTANT – This wasn’t a big one, but there were a couple of “Law Names” on the test. For example, “According to Sarbanes-Oxley. . . “
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  4. JUST BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T TESTED ON A SUBJECT FOR A WHILE, DOESN’T MEAN IT WON’T SHOW UP – When I took the Bar, my bar prep pointed out how often certain subjects had been on the exam with the recommendation that you focus on those that appeared more often.  In our state, the subjects we all skipped in review classes therefore were Commercial Papers and Agency/Partnership.  They were “never tested.”  Lo and Behold, not one but BOTH were essay subjects on my MEE.  By the grace of God, I had studied them both for review.
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  5. WWRPD?-  There will always come a time when you look at the question and say “Heck if I know.”  When that happens, just go with the simplest, most logical / rational answer. Most of the law is designed to be “what a reasonable person would agree with.”  What Would a Reasonable Person Do? 

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  6. DON’T KEEP LOOKING FOR THE EXCEPTION – This builds on the last one. Because I kept looking for the trip-up, waiting for the exception – I lost some time I could have saved had I just gone with what I knew from the general rule. Seriously, you can kind of tell from most of the questions if they are trying to pick up an exception. If you don’t spot the exception pretty quickly, don’t worry too much about it.  Move on, come back if you have time.
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  7. NO INFORMATION IS GIVEN WITHOUT REASON – On the questions, almost everything they include in the facts has a purpose.  So don’t skip over anything. Read it carefully, figure out why they have given you each piece of information, and then cross off things not helpful to solving your problem. “Tommy, a 21-year-old, made a contract with a car company.”  They mention age to ask you about the age exception (under 18) and are specific about the company type “car” to remind you of the necessities exception to the age exception.  You know this, but since he is old enough and the type doesn’t fit under the necessities exception, mark it off and go with the general rule.
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  8. 80-20 RULE APPLIES. Taking Barbri, they kept reminding us that the Bar Examiners liked to trip up unsuspecting students with “exceptions to the rule.” Granted, this was true. But not common. By far, the majority of the questions on our exam were general rule-based questions. The bar, like almost every other test I have ever taken, followed the 80-20 rule. This means that about 80% of the exam is usually testing you on very basic, general information. If you were to take the entire subject (i.e. Torts) and summarize the most important information you see in 3-4 pages (12 point / Times New Roman), I’d bet that about 70-80% of the questions on that part of the test is from those 3-4 pages.  Then the remaining 20%-30% will be exceptions and advanced questions. 

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  9. IF YOU GENUINELY DON’T HAVE THE $$, YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE A BAR PREP CLASS TO PASS – With Tip #6 in mind, you don’t need really in-depth, cover it all study guides to pass the bar. I used Barbri, and it was a great resource.  I did in fact watch all the videos, and, if you are an auditory learner, those can be very valuable. Plus, it was a big confidence booster. But more useful for me by far were the EMANUEL LAW OUTLINES and the SPARKCHARTS.  I bought them when I was in law school because they got me through every exam they covered. So the cost of helping me for 3 years + bar was money well spent. Especially Emanuel’s short review at the beginning of each book and the Sparkcharts.  MIRACLE-WORKER comes to mind. 

  10. DON’T BRING YOUR EMOTIONS TO THE TABLE – Most of the questions were really straightforward. I did run into a few though where they tried to use your emotions or sense of justice to trick you.  For example “The mother was an airline pilot. She was not there when her child was killed by the car, but when she returned she fainted at the news. Can she sue for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.”  Well, the general rule was No. She couldn’t if she wasn’t in the zone of danger. The question itself was easy as long as you remembered to apply the law instead of answering with your heart/gut.  
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REMEMBER – DON’T PSYCHE YOURSELF OUT – Seriously, the bar exam is not super ridiculously hard in most states. California – sorry but yours just sucks.😦 But most bar exams have a very limited number of subjects and the questions are straightforward. To be honest, my law school exams were a good deal more difficult than the bar exam. No convoluted questions, much less work trying to confuse me or trip me up with weirdness.  It was for the most part – What is the general rule? Does this fit the general rule? Do you see any major exceptions? If yes, does it apply? Answer and move on. If no, answer and move on. The questions were all fairly common sense. 

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Tort Bunnies comic strip

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