what you need to know about preparing for the california bar exam

What You Need To Know About Preparing For
The California Bar Exam
Lecture Outline
by Travis A. Wise, Esq.


       Purpose of the talk:  No sales, no black letter law.  Three-part equation for passing the bar exam.
       Background: Me and the website
       Materials: Checklists, but throw them out.
       Background info on the exam
       Days 1 & 3: Three one-hour essays in the morning, lunch, three hour PT
       Day 2: 100 MBE, lunch, 100 MBE.
1. Be A Sheep
       Goal is to blend in.
       Take a preparation program – get the same black letter law as everyone else
       BarBri best for the average law student
       Other programs for special circumstances
       PMBR is optional if you want an extra edge, or you are weak on multiple choice questions.  6 day pre-BarBri program (vs. 3-day post-program).
       Private tutoring if weak on essays or MBE, learning style isn’t compatible with the large programs, or stumbling block you need to get over.
       Follow the BarBri "Paced Program" religiously.  Do not do less than what they recommend.  Doing more is optional, but not necessary for most students to pass.
       Everyone has the same black letter law knowledge – benefit.
       How to Write An Essay
       How essays are graded
       Your job: Help the grader
       Not the time to be unique and invent a new way to write an essay - blend in
       CIRAC each issue – may only be a few lines
       Headings, underlined, to identify issues and elements
       No abbreviations - your job is to make graders job easier (no "P A/P v D")
       Outline your answer
       40/60 rule = 25 min outline, 35 min write.  On PT, 1 hr 15 min outlining.
       Problem with short essays?
       Even when the person next to you starts writing 5 min into the exam – don’t get distracted, and just keep on outlining!
       Use all the facts in the question, line by line (number of years in a property Q = adverse possession) – even red herrings.
       Worst case scenarios – 10 minutes left / mental blocks
       Outline your answer
       Mental block breakdowns for figuring out elements (“malicious prosecution”).  We know we have a civil lawsuit, and plaintiff acted maliciously (without probable cause).  Defendant won.
2. Prepare Your Own Materials
       For most students, bar exam studying is very different from law school studying.  It’s the difference between active and passive studying.
       Law school involves a lot of passive studying: Study groups, dividing up outlining, reading cases and Gilberts. 
       Bar has too much knowledge for that.  Active learning is required to pass.  In fact, if you do not prepare your own materials, you probably will not pass.
       Purpose of my checklists, and other outlines.
       What materials?
       Everyone learns differently.  Do what works for you.  No golden rule.
       Flashcards, Outlines, Flowcharts, One page summaries
       But it must be active to engage your brain and synthesize this amount of law
       Active learning means preparing your own materials.
       In fact, half of the studying process is preparing your own materials to synthesize the law in your mind.  The other half is attending BarBri lectures and doing practice questions.
       If there is one thing you take away from this lecture, it's to prepare your own materials.
3. Remain Calm
       Number one reason why people fail the exam: At some point, they panic.
       Passing the bar is 1/2 about the law, and 1/2 about your ability to cope with the process.
       Amazing change of life event – changes the way you view yourself and your abilities.
       Eliminate stress
       No marriages, divorces, new puppy, moving, worry about job/money, etc.
       Spend a few days before BarBri starts taking care of things - change oil in car, clean house, take the dog to the vet, etc.
       Put your friend on hold.
       Figure out what coping strategy works for you to decrease stress: Exercise, gardening, frantic episodes of cleaning your shower… whatever.
       Three classic panic periods, and coping strategies
       Getting the BarBri materials (50% is shelf reference, rest you are guided through day by day in the paced program - have faith that the system gets you through all those books, and just take it one day at a time).  Convisor Mini Review.
       July 4th "wall of fullness" (feel like only 25% progress and only 3 weeks to go - learning to think like a bar applicant, just like learning to think like a lawyer in 1L)
       Exam (you've prepared for 2 months.  Yes, you can, and yes, you will)
       Sometimes you have to just psych yourself out with panic for a few minutes, and then psych yourself up with motivation.  Recognize your feelings.  For me, I psyched myself up by reminding myself that the average CA ABA law student who takes a prep program has a 87-95% statistical pass rate. 
       Attitude:  Develop and maintain a “Let’s Roll” strategy for dealing with the down times.


This is not impossible.  In fact, quite the opposite – it’s entirely possible.  Be a sheep, follow the program, make and use your own study materials, remain calm, and you will pass.
Copyright © 2002-2005 by Travis A. Wise.  All Rights Reserved.

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