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if you wonder why there are no updates, well, wonder no more

July 22, 2008

I am pretty sure, right now, at this very moment, that I am going to fail the bar. I have been doing a lot of focused studying in the last few days, and sometimes I feel good about where I am, but mostly I feel just miserable. I am doing DEPLORABLY on my practice MBE questions. I am doing just so-so on my practice essays, and definitely not good enough to outweigh the serious deficiencies in my MBE scores. And the worst part is that I honestly do not know how to improve this situation. I have been doing mixed sets of questions—mixed subject and mixed difficulty—with the Bar/Bri Study Smart software, but now I wonder if I should instead be doing single-subject, single-difficulty sets. I write down the nuance-y things in the explanations that caused me to get a question wrong, because writing it down generally cements things in my brain, but it’s just not working lately. And the worst part is that, at least half the time, when I look at a question where the answer depends on making a judgment call about the facts, I genuinely—and usually strongly—disagree with the explanation for why my cast on the facts is “wrong” and Bar/Bri’s is right.

What should I be doing? I seriously thought I was in trouble with the essays—having done several over the last few days, I’m not as concerned as I was (though I’m definitely not done doing practice essays…not by a long shot, especially if that’s where I have to pass the bar), but now I am deeply distressed over my MBE performance. DEEPLY. Should I be doing the released questions? Are there other resources I’m not using right now that I should be? What should I be doing right now to improve?

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  1. LL
    July 22, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Have you tried the “released questions” in the MBE volume 2? I just tried the contracts set this morning and did substantially better than with the usual mixed subject or single subject sets in volume 1. It seemed like they had more questions about ACTUAL LAW and less about the nit picky ridiculous exception no one’s ever heard of.

    And taking a break really does help. I hadn’t looked at contracts even once in three weeks and improved 25% from the last time I did a contracts MBE practice set. Things could be settling in your brain more than you think, and continuing to test may just erode your self confidence, which another really important part of the test!

    Best of luck!

  2. Andrea
    July 22, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    LL is right. I am also taking the bar exam and starting reading your blog lately. Yesterday and today I did the released questions for Contracts and Torts and did substantially better than the practice sets. Keep in mind Practice Sets 5 and 6 are all advanced level – and in the back of the barbri book, it shows you the student percentages. In any event, to put it in perspective, I did Torts Set 6 today and hit a humilating low score, then made myself do the released questions and hit 75%.

    Just keep trucking along, even if your performance is not where you want it to be – if you look up the answers, you will probably remember it on the real test. Usually I remember things better when I get them wrong (even if I don’t agree).

  3. July 22, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    i’m having exactly the opposite problem…doing alright on the MBE stuff, but not enough to offset my absolutely pitiful essay performance. i spent today doing essay after essay, but there are still some topics that if they show up on the bar, my chances to pass are nil.

    good luck with the MBE stuff. there’s still a week…it will get better.

  4. Ana
    July 23, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Oh K. Honey. You have the brains to do this, trust me. Take a breather. Relax. Have a glass of wine. Don’t be so pessimistic. You know what study habits suit you the best. Believe in them. Believe in your ability.

    And also, I had a freakout session a few weeks ago, and my mom, after telling me that I was a genius and blah-blah-blah finally said, “So what if you don’t pass this time? You just take it again. No, it won’t be fun, and yes, it might be a little embarrassing. It might mess up some job stuff, BUT the earth will not stop turning, the sky will not fall. Your friends and family will still love and life will go on. None of us will think any less of you for it, and your life will still turn out just fine, maybe better. Who knows what failures in life will turn out to be successes?”

    Somehow knowing that made me feel quite a bit better. Any one of us could fail the bar exam (including me!), but over the long haul, it won’t make a damn bit of difference. It’s just another test. No one’s life is on the line, no friendships risk severance. Remember what’s important, and maybe if you take this more like the grain of salt that it is, you won’t be so worried.

    It’s ok.

  5. Sarah
    July 23, 2008 at 6:54 am

    Agreed – do the released questions. The Bar/Bri questions are HORRIBLY written. I kept seeing the questions you mentioned – the ones that turn on FACTS (reasonableness ones are the worst). And I kept thinking to my self, “But we had at least 3 Bar/Bri lecturers tell us that because reasonableness is so fact dependent, and so ultimately subjective in a multiple choice test, that they CAN’T make a question turn on reasonableness!”

    And then I did the released questions, and kicked their butt. The questions are much clearer (still tricky, but clearer nonetheless). Bar/Bri plays the same game as PMBR – they write extremely difficult (aka BAD) questions so you do terribly, and study harder. On one hand, it could be good, because you *do* study harder, and the real thing seems easier. On the other hand, I think most people that fail the bar do it because they completely psych themselves out, and Bar/Bri plays a big role in that happening.

    Finally, when you write your essays, are you comparing them against the Bar/Bri answers? The ones that Jesus himself wrote (but even Jesus himself can’t get to fit within line/character/page limits given by the bar exam?). If so, I’d stop, and look on your state’s bar website for any released *real* answers. They’re usually the top scored essays. Being top scorers, they are very good, but they’re much more realistic than Bar/Bri and often, you’ll find they missed the law but still did well.

    Anyway, just keep plugging and believe in yourself. I’m taking the bar next week too, so I totally sympathize with the self-doubt. Try to relax, have a glass of wine, and just push steadily on, and you’ll do fine!

  6. July 23, 2008 at 7:35 am

    You’re probably not doing as bad as you think–it’s almost impossible to tell ahead of time. Just keep plugging away at the practice questions, regardless of the source. And I agree that taking some kind of break–an evening, an afternoon, even a full day–can be really helpful. Just make it count, i.e., try not to worry during your time off from studying. Almost more important than what you know about the questions is whether you can function properly, and that involves a mental readiness that doesn’t come from the questions. So do what you need to relax, get plenty of sleep, eat right, and mentally prepare yourself.

  7. July 23, 2008 at 7:51 am

    If it’s too late to find a last minute 3 day PMBR session, see if you can find a book or something of their tips. I think they did a good job of showing how the questions break down, and how to look at your options knowing their patterns. They break down the “hard” and ‘easy” questions in a way that helps you to look and say “okay, I got 30 wrong, but they’re all high difficulty, and there will only be a few of those on the test.”

    This suggestion is only for your peace of mind. You will pass, and you will NOT fail.

  8. 08
    July 23, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Where does one get these “released” questions? Also, repetition helps. I’ve now done nearly 1600 MBE questions, I can tell you, your scores get better over the long-run. After that many, you can even get 70% on Sets 5 & 6 without too much struggle.

    Like they said in the MBE practice review sessions – exhaust the tools.

  9. k
    July 23, 2008 at 8:31 am

    The released questions are in the Volume 2 questions book.

  10. July 23, 2008 at 9:10 am

    In support of a Jungian collective subconscious, I too tried the released questions for the first time yesterday for some reason. And I got 85% in the Con Law q’s that I did. Did you hear that? I said IN CON LAW.

  11. heather
    July 23, 2008 at 9:13 am

    i can almost guarantee you are not doing badly for how we’re supposed to do on this crazy test. remember you’re not aiming for great, or even good!! slightly below average is still fine.

    ps that means if you’re hitting 50% on these tests, you are fine – barbri also has a “goals” page in the back of the mbe book. take a look. the goals are often in the 40% range for the hard questions.

    plus remember the curve! the curve is at least 10-12 points every year for a 130, which means it’s probably more like 18-20 for a score in the 110 range. if you can score just a little over 50%, you’ll either pass or be really close to it on the MBE section 🙂

  12. July 23, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Wait, is is subconscious or unconscious? This is why I don’t have nice things.

    Anyway, 85%!

  13. July 23, 2008 at 10:04 am

    If you can get your hands on a PMBR book, those questions are better than Bar-Bri’s. Also, at this point I had stopped reading the Bar-Bri essay answers, because they were only confusing me. I know I was sure I was going to fail at this point in the studying, but keep practicing and the pieces will fall into place.

  14. July 23, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I think pretty much everyone has to be convinced at some point during the process that they will fail. I was. But I didn’t. And it’s true…the actual questions are clearer than the BarBRI ones. Just keep forging ahead. You’ll be fine. Honest.

  15. 08
    July 23, 2008 at 11:57 am

    …and remember you only need something like 57% to pass the MBE. While that would normally seem horrendous in our academic careers, it is A-OK for Bar purposes.

  16. rj3
    July 23, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    I second (sixteenth?) the suggestion that you move on to book 2. Even if it doesn’t help, it’ll be an ego boost and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the spoils go to the people who think they deserve it and not to the people who think they don’t. But you do. Because you’re way smarter than me.

  17. July 24, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve been doing all… released questions, single subject sets, and the mixed sets.

    One caveat about the “realeased questions”… they are released because they are no longer used one the MBE for one reason or another… so they *may* not be the most representative.

    I’ve also been doing PMBR sets, but I don’t think they are written *that* differently from the BarBri ones… slightly, but in my experience, not radically enough to make a critical difference.

    If it’s any consolation though, Mrs. Dave (who has been practicing successfully for eight years, and passed the bar on her first shot) said she never got much better than 50% on most of the BarBri sets.

    Good luck!! Don’t Panic! You’ll do fine…

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