Make This Your Last Time | Bar Exam Preparation
Hey <<First Name>>,

So I got a bunch of questions over the past week, more than usual.

From weird requests to flattery (which I have noted in my records) and even a marriage-related tragedy, my inbox is on its way to becoming the confessional booth it aspired to be.


Hmm, any takers? I'll listen and talk to you about the bar over phone/webcam only if you're serious about it

I've picked out some interesting questions, along with my mostly unedited answers, for your eyes only as a subscriber. I hope they answer questions you've been wondering about.


1. When you never feel "on schedule" & timed practice
2. Curbing perfectionism & preparation for the final month
3. Optimism and the way forward when the future looks grim

When you never feel "on schedule" & timed practice
Pre-comment: I appreciate the pointed questions and non-generic questions you can find answers to on my blog or a quick search on your favorite search engine. I like hearing the most that my material is helping!

How to handle being behind schedule: Never too late to restructure. I always advocate for a flexible "macro" schedule that doesn't revolve around micromanaging every aspect of each day. Yours is similar but maybe is too specific as to the number of questions and essays to do. It's easy to feel like you're going to fall behind if you don't do 75 questions.

It's good that you're reviewing the questions you got right without knowing why (equivalent to getting it wrong IMO). Any way you can shorten this review process? I get that some questions will have you digging through your notes to confirm the applicable rules and whatnot, but some are probably silly mistakes that you make a mental or physical note of and move on within a minute.

I did not fall behind on my schedule the second time because I had no life and also I focused on the questions. I did fall behind the first time just by going out for coffee one day.

Is anyone ever "on schedule"? They will try their hardest to be on schedule and lose sight of the point and scramble in the last two weeks. You should plan, but you don't need to stick to your schedule. It's set in paper, not stone. It is just a suggestion. It should serve you. If you need to restructure, you can.

Timing essay practice [CA version]: I'd spend 15 minutes (20 if complicated) to outline an essay by writing out the issues you've identified and the rules, including reading time. You should have or will have seen enough patterns that it becomes doable to set up all the issues and rules for an essay in 10-15 minutes. 

Incidentally, you can cut down on the time you spend on practicing essays using the foregoing approach (also known as essay cooking--name stuck, everyone calls it this, too late to change). I and R are the most important parts of the essay. I'm sure you know how to apply the rules to the facts, having done full essays thus far. So now you don't have to waste time writing out every single essay in full. Outline and review against model answers in 30 minutes max per essay.

Note to UBE/MEE takers: Similar idea. Take the initial 10 minutes to write out the issues and rules (big issues are often identified for you in the call; consider minor issues, nuances, exceptions, etc.). If you've already done full essays for a subject and know how to apply the rules to the facts for that subject, then you can review your issue-rule setup with model answers, and move onto another essay.

Outlining first should counteract your need to start writing out of panic. I prefer to write out the outline on paper so I can quickly move things around if needed. It just feels faster and more natural. Set this up first, and the rest of the writing (should you choose to write it out) feels like boring routine work connecting facts to rules. I'd rather be bored than panicked on the exam.

Post-comment: This is exactly what you'll be doing on the real essays, and it's a great way to recall the rules. Frequent attempts to recall things solidifies them in your head and is in fact how you memorize things. Plus now you'll have a stack of solved essay patterns you can bring to review in your hotel room, when you're alone with your thoughts and can't fall asleep.

Curbing perfectionism & preparation for the final month
Pre-comment: These are good questions, especially the last one. "Given the above, what would you do if you were me?" vs. simply "I'm struggling. Any advice?" Who am I to lecture you and give you advice? Just read my blog. I only know what I know.

Giving genuine compliments and being personable (not treating it as an ATM Q&A transaction) are also effective on me and anyone whose brain you want to tap.

How to curb the perfectionism and going down the rabbit hole of creating the perfect answer: Do that after the bar. Plenty of time and reason to distract yourself as you simmer in anxiety if you're that curious about what a treatise-like answer looks like or if you're that curious about how RAP works exactly. Some people also study just in case they have to take it again.

It's OK if your citations are off or not underlined perfectly. It's OK if your rules have a few typos (just put the right one and use it correctly).

How to study from this point on? Keep studying. If you are confident with full essays, just outline issues and rules on paper. Collect enough, and these will literally become cheat sheets as to the pattern of issues and rules they can test you. These outlines can also be useful for quick review to calm yourself in the hotel room.

Keep doing MPTs and spend a maximum of half the allotted time to outline (stop if you hit 45 min). I have a PT guide linked in your welcome email.

How would you spend the remaining 20-ish days of bar prep?  (i) Go through all the subjects again, two days per subject. Reserve at least one day entirely to practice and review. (ii) Do a final review of all subjects -- cranking out "cooked" essays for two or more subjects a day. (iii) Continue MBE practice and review as time allows (def not resting on your laurels). (iv) Keep doing MPTs for time (and of course review). Say two every Tuesday? Depends on how comfortable you are.

Optimism and the way forward when the future looks grim
There's always reason for optimism. Optimism doesn't mean you'll pass this time necessarily. It means that passing is possible even for someone who has attempted it 20+ times. I still need to write that case study when I get some peace and quiet.

If all you have time for are lectures and outlines, why not spend that time answering essays instead? You will learn the frequently tested law from studying the model answers. No need to reinvent the wheel.

40% on a question set means you've identified more issues and rules to know -- holes you can patch up now rather than on the exam. Study the explanations and figure out why you got the questions wrong (and right). The point is to become prepared, not to be prepared already.

You have two whole weeks and more. Many cram in the last two weeks where things click for them. The catch is that you have to stop staying in the safe space of waiting to be ready. You'll never be ready. If you ever feel ready, you probably don't know what you don't know.

Take the exam. If you pass, great! If you fail, then it will have been a mock exam with useful data points. But probably better to get the fails out of the way now with your own mock practice.

Post-comment: I see there are still people torturing themselves with their bar company's overwhelming list of to-dos. An idea to consider: They're just suggestions.

Shelve that curiosity about what could be useful inside those lecture videos, and get to solving MBE questions, essays, PTs. Practice as if it were the real thing, and do the real thing as if it were practice. You can always wind down with passive studying at the end of the day rather than exhausting your mental energy on it first thing.

I hope you got some questions you had inside of you answered.

And as you can see, this godforsaken test might be the dryest thing on the planet, but it’s also full of emotions.

This isn't a bad thing. Let's talk about how to leverage that next week, when you'll probably need it.

What did you learn from this? What will you change, if anything? Write it down. Better yet, send it to me. I read every response.


PS: Did this help? Your answer will be tallied on my end: Yes / No

Recommended Tools
Click here to see catalog
Magicsheets (condensed outlines)
Not retaining any information from your bar course? Not enough time? Stop getting overwhelmed. Focus on practice and memorization with these condensed rule outlines organized in logical groups and indentations.

Approsheets (essay approach checklists and flowcharts)
Go from blank page to finished essay/outline. Identify all the relevant issues with these attack sheets so you don't leave any points on the table.
Passer’s Playbook 2.0 (self-study tools)
Step-by-step blueprint, study schedules, cheat sheets, guides, and other tools designed to help you orient yourself and propel you toward improvement. Passing is inevitable if you continue to improve.

Mental Engines (mental support program)
A course on dealing with the mental and emotional aspects of bar preparation, to take you from overwhelmed to focused, unmotivated to productive, and anxious to calm.
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Brian Hahn
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