July 14, 2019

I Failed the Practice MBE But I Passed the Bar Exam

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When I got my practice MBE results back from Barbri and it said I had a 14% chance of passing, I obviously freaked out. Panic attacks, full on crying in my Bar prep professor's office, calling my boyfriend crying about how I'm screwed, the works. But once I got that out of my system, I thought of this blog post title and decided that I was going to pass the Bar and make this post, so here it is.

Go find a professor to cry on

The Bar is an issue that you should really only go to other licensed attorneys about. I mean really, probably only go to a professor because for most lawyers, once they get licensed they shove all things Bar wayyy out of their head so they're not as much help as you'd like. Our school has a dedicated bar prep professor who has the unfortunate summer job of simultaneously talking scared shitless students off the edge and giving the rest a kick in the butt to keep them on track for Bar prep. I feel like not a lot of schools have these (so if you're in SBA maybe try to get one!), so a good back up would be 1) a professor who taught the "Bar prep" class that most schools have or 2) a professor who taught several core MBE classes. 

Go cry with them and then sit down and work on a personalized plan for you to get back on track. The problem with Bar prep companies is that they can't really personalize for you so their "one-size-fits-all" suggestion on how to improve your MBE results might not be enough for you. Literally get them to help you come up with a week-by-week plan on what to do between now and the Bar. Also use this time to pick their brain on what they thought helped and didn't help when they were taking the Bar. 

Review your wrong answers more than once

You and that failure of an MBE are about to get reallll close. Go through that practice exam and for every question that you got wrong (or guessed and lucked and and got right but you didn't really know the answer), write down the rule of law into an outline. This way you'll start having an outline of what you don't know because I think it worked really well for me to spend the first 6-ish weeks of Bar prep reviewing and the last 2-ish weeks learning what you don't know. This way you'll have an outline of what rules of law you still don't know so you can focus on your weak parts.

Then go back through your exam. This time for each question you got wrong, ask yourself why. So for me, I had terrible timing. I blew through the first half before the break and had over an hour left of time remaining for that section. I realized this and slowed down a lot for the second half after lunch and then looked up and realized I was going to have to speed through the last several questions. What I learned to do was take timed practice tests to get a better rhythm. I figured out how long I should be working on each question and practiced doing X questions in Y time (sorry I can't remember now!) to get my speed down. Then I did it again, and again, and again, until I naturally was spending long enough, but not too long, on each question.

The other thing I realized is that for some reason, every time I had an intentional tort question, I had answered it as a negligence question. To fix that, all I had to do was go back and make a list of what types of issues are intentional torts and what are negligence, and then make that the first thing I look for before answering the question. I realize most people won't have this exact problem but my point is to try to group why you're getting questions wrong and look for a simple fix. 

Focus on your weak subjects 

This kinda goes off the point above. Review how many questions you missed on each subject and focus on your weakest subjects the most. Depending on how bad it was, you can either set aside an hour each day to focus on those subjects or maybe dedicate a whole Saturday to them. It's a fine balance between focusing on your weak area and completely ignoring your stronger areas. This was a problem I had when I retook the LSAT because I ignored my strongest subject and then ended up going down in that subject. You never want any of your areas to have your scores decreasing. 

Like I said above, make an outline of all the rules you don't know and focus on strengthening those areas. Even if you can raise your average on one particular subject just a little, that can be the difference between passing and failing. One of my law professors said something that was my mantra during bar prep – You know what they call someone who passes the Bar by only one point? A lawyer. You don't have to be passing with flying colors in every subject. I mean honestly you can be borderline passing in a few subjects and that will probably be good enough. The goal here is to just not have any subjects that you are bombing.

Practice, practice, practice

So I truly love Barbri and would recommend them, but they have a major flaw. Sometimes for the explanation for the correct answer it's like "this question is asking about X rule, B applies X rule, therefore A, C, D, and E are wrong. Which isn't exactly helpful. Thankfully I found JD advising and her real MBE questions and I really recommend them! Her answer explanations are more like "this question mentioned Y which is how you know it's asking about X rule. if you answered A you got it mixed up with Z rule, if you answered C you missed this one word, if you answered D..." you get it. I spent $200 on their small package of practice problems and their explanations were 1000% worth it. 

Then, I would make a flash card for each question I got wrong and would study just that one thing. Here's my MBE flashcards. They're super specific because they're just what I was getting wrong, but I'm sharing these to show you how I'd study for them. Really figure out why you're getting questions wrong so you can study more efficient. 

Get your timing right

Just like with the LSAT, the last step is to get your timing down perfect. I know I mentioned this earlier, but it's an easily overlooked step. Going through your questions too slow means you run out of time and panic and guess. Going through them too fast means you are missing things. And it's hard to try to pace yourself during the actual exam. 

A better solution is to get almost muscle memory. I think I was doing 30 questions in 45 minutes (or whatever JD Advising recommended, sorry it's been a year!). I'd take a little practice test each day to work on my timing. Pretty soon, I was in a natural flow and spending the Goldilocks amount of time on each question, without really trying. 

Have a glass of wine

Or whatever, you get the point. It's not the end of the world. I strongly believe that the Bar is so much of mental confidence as it is mental stamina and actual knowledge. You don't want to be the girl crying during the Bar! That's just asking for disaster. You need to buckle down, yes, but don't stress yourself out. If you walk into that room thinking you'll fail, you probably will! If you take the time to focus on why and where you're struggling, there's totally hope for you. I mean hey, I increased my pass percentage from 14% to 100% so remember that. 

Lastly, get in the zone. I kept thinking back to Michael Phelps when there was that one Olympics where he hadn't really been training and he did well but, like, not Michael Phelps well? I remembered reading an article about how he had trained but not as hard as he used to and he hadn't really put in his full effort. Then after that impressive but not record-shattering year he came back 4 years later and was a total beast. That was my focus. I was abso-fucking-lutely terrified that I'd fail the Bar by just a few points. And that was my driving factor. When I wanted to quit, I thought about that Michael Phelps article, and how if I slack off even just a little, it could be the difference between trying to and actually achieving my goals. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb, set Screen Time limits on your phone, save TV shows to bing after the Damn Thing is done, and focus. Make it this your fist and last try at the Bar. 


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