The One Thing You Need to Know / Do to Pass the Bar Exam

By Sam Farkas, Esq,
BARBRI Curriculum Architect and Instructor

As you approach the bar exam, you’re likely to hear all kinds of “quick fix” advice, which often sounds something like, “to pass, all you really need to do is ________.” You are a trained critical thinker, so hopefully, any bar success claim beginning with, “all you have to do is…” triggers suspicion.

As the old saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

At BARBRI, we’ve heard everything from “create your own study plan” to “you only need this book,” “you only need to work 1,000 multiple-choice questions,” or “you only need to study for 100 hours.” The list goes on and on. Assuming these claims are even true (dig in a bit and you often find that those making these claims actually worked harder than they suggest), why experiment and risk your one opportunity to be a first-time bar passer?  Sure, an applicant with a strong knowledge of the law, excellent study, reading, analytical and writing skills, who faces no real consequences if he/she fails, and who is committed to proving all the doubters wrong, might be able to eke out a passing score. But, like all dubious advertisement claims, such advice should come with that fine print disclaimer: “individual results may vary.”

For any significant achievement like passing the bar exam, there are no simple one-size-fits-all shortcuts to bypass the work required for success.

There is simply no amount of “good luck” that can overcome a deficit of knowledge on this exam. When you walk into the exam room, you want to know that you gave it your all. You want to know that you followed an effective bar prep plan, did the work and took ownership of your success. BARBRI Bar Review provides you with a Personal Study Plan (PSP) that maximizes your study investment by focusing you on what is most important for you to pass the exam. It leverages science and technology to boost learning and progress, and it works in partnership with you, adjusting to your schedule, strengths and weaknesses, and performance. With the PSP, you will not stress about what law to focus on or what practice questions to work. You will not have to worry about whether you are on track for success. You will not have to wonder how you are doing in comparison to the vast majority of applicants taking the exam with you. When you allow the experts to guide you through your preparation, you get to focus on what matters most— learning what you need to pass the bar.

So, here’s one thing you really do need to know to pass the bar exam.

There is no such thing as luck. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Your opportunity is set. What are you doing to prepare for it?

SUBMIT PRACTICE ESSAYS TO DEVELOP SKILLS

By Steve Levin,
BARBRI Director of Essay Testing

DON’T WAIT TO BUILD UP YOUR BAR EXAM FOCUSED WRITING SKILLS.

When I ask students who scored lower on the bar exam or were just below the threshold of passing, whether they submitted practice essays during bar prep, often the answer is “no” or “not many.” I’ve heard from students, in the past, that they felt the need to know all the rules of the law before they could or should submit a practice essay during bar review.

The written portion of a U.S. Bar Exam is critical to your overall score in every state and in some states, there is greater weight on the written portion compared to the MBE. (Download the BARBRI Bar Exam Digest for details.) Essay writing for a U.S. Bar Exam is an acquired skill you must strengthen during bar prep.

You’ll need to know how to provide an answer to the call of the question in the format U.S. state bar examiners want to see. The best way to achieve proficiency is to tackle practice essays multiple times during bar preparation and submit them for personal feedback – even while you are still learning the substantive material.

You’ll experience optimum results with BARBRI’s Directed Essay Grading.

This consists of, first, working with the BARBRI Essay Architect online tool to enhance your high-level essay writing skills. And then writing answers to the practice essays assigned throughout the BARBRI International Bar Preparation program. You’ll be directed to submit some of those for feedback that will enable you to continue your essay writing skill development.

Note that I said, “skill development.” Do not hold back on submitting a practice essay just because you are still learning the black letter law. When reviewing your essays, we aren’t just looking at your substantive knowledge – we also focus on feedback that helps refine your essay writing skills.

With each submitted essay, you’ll benefit from personalized input from a trained bar exam writing expert. You’ll come away knowing where you will capture points and where you may lose points, as well as how to frame a better essay answer. Submitting essays as they are assigned during bar preparation, over time, will allow you to incorporate previous feedback into the next practice essay. You’ll move along an upward trajectory of continuous improvement and U.S. Bar Exam readiness.

LEARN ABOUT U.S. BAR EXAM ELIGIBILITY RIGHT AWAY

By Robert Dudley,
International Director at BARBRI

TIMING IS EVERYTHING.

There’s great appeal to qualifying as a U.S. attorney, particularly the impact it has on increasing earning potential and broadening the scope of job opportunities on a global scale. These reasons alone are enough to prompt many foreign-trained attorneys and law graduates to continue their career aspirations abroad with plans to sit the New York or California Bar Exam. Whilst the end goal justifies the journey, the first step requires determining your U.S. Bar Exam eligibility and it can appear complicated. This shouldn’t keep you from pursuing U.S. qualification, of course. It’s just vital that you start to gather the right information and proper guidance as soon as you’re decided.

This eligibility process doesn’t happen overnight, either. It takes time, especially if you’re currently working full time. Remember, too, that the U.S. Bar Exam is administered only twice a year: in late February and late July. Even if you’re simply entertaining the idea of U.S. qualification at this point, it’s prudent to learn about your eligibility right away. Should you wait too long, you might miss an upcoming window for the next scheduled U.S. Bar Exam. There really isn’t a downside to get going on it now.

It’s paramount to understand that, although New York and California are most popular with foreign-trained attorneys and law graduates, each state has different eligibility requirements. For example, is your law degree equivalent to a U.S. law degree? Are you prepared to provide the required supporting documents, which can include your original law school transcripts, law degree certificate and/or practicing certificate?

Timing is key. It‘s worth repeating, since this is your future. BARBRI recommends that you submit your supporting documentation for eligibility at least six months before you plan to sit the bar exam. It will generally take about 4-5 months to confirm your New York eligibility and between 2-3 months for California eligibility. And then there is the time to study and prepare for the exam with the BARBRI International Bar Preparation programme – offered over a 6-month or 10-month timeframe – which you must consider in your timeline.

With all that in mind, don’t get too caught up in feeling as if you really must immediately grasp all the details and instructions for U.S. eligibility. You have resources and one-to-one support available through BARBRI. All you need really are your questions and some time to speak with us – we’ll answer everything and walk you through it. And if, later in the process, the U.S. bar examiners require anything extra or happen to toss an obstacle your way, we are here to help.

LEARN TO BE AVERAGE

By Matthew Nash,
Legal Manager at BARBRI

REMEMBER, THE BAR EXAM IS ULTIMATELY PASS-FAIL.

Indeed, it’s perfectly acceptable to strive to land in the passing margin of the U.S. Bar Exam’s graded curve. There’s no need really to overwork yourself into oblivion to achieve a top percentile ranking. If you can (and want to), that’s commendable – yet not necessary. You see, when U.S. Bar Exam results come out, you’ll either have passed or failed.

That’s precisely what you need to realize and remember during the bar prep process: the U.S. Bar Exam is ultimately a pass-fail test. Approaching it as such will make your study time that much more efficient and productive. It will help mitigate stress, too.

Yes, perfection does sound like a worthy endeavor. You’re likely accustomed to scoring high marks on exams. But, in the case of the U.S. Bar Exam, perfection is not truly the end goal you want to target. You want to be extremely prepared, of course; however, the idea of perfection may lead you to place too great an emphasis on one individual area of the law. It may seem somewhat counterintuitive but you want to learn to be average across the vast number of areas of the law that will be covered on the exam. You’ll still be in good shape to pass the bar exam.

What does it mean to be “average” exactly? Not to put too fine a point on it, you’ll want to aim for about 65 percent correct on practice questions, over time. That should position you confidently in the passing margin. For example, if you work 25 practice questions, look to answer 16 or 17 correctly. You will have missed 8 or 9 questions – but that 65 percent correct is going to be enough to score the points you need to pass. Don’t expect to get there right way, it will take time to get there – particularly on subjects that may be completely unfamiliar to you when you start your U.S. Bar Exam studies.

The massive volume of U.S. Bar Exam material you’ll encounter during your preparation requires manageable and realistic expectations. All you need to do is make it on the pass list. Learning to be average – achieving that 65 percent or better, patting yourself on the back and making progress every day (without burning yourself out) – will get you there.