The Bar Exam

First of all, shout out to everyone who sent their well wishes.  I survived! I won't know if I passed for a while but its behind me for now.

I can't believe the torture of the bar exam was over a week ago when it feels like a lifetime ago.  For most of the month of July, I've been "off the grid" – aka no social media and not seeing anyone, just studying most of the time.


This is how my life looked like for most of July. ^

A non-lawyer recently said to me that the bar exam is really just a hazing ritual for wannabe new lawyers.  She's so right.  Even my bar prep company kept saying this is just a "minimum competency" exam.

Either way, a lot of people – law students, lawyers and non lawyer friends alike have asked a lot of questions. Here's my answers:

Q: Wait, so what is it? And when do you find out if you passed or not?

The Bar Exam is given in all 50 states twice a year (July & February).  The test is different depending on what state you are in. One needs to pass to be admitted to the practice of law but admittance isn't automatic. You still need to apply for admission once you pass (at least in New York).

New York switched to the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). The UBE has been adopted in 25 states. It's a good thing since if you move to another state, the score is portable (aka you don't have to sit for another bar exam) as long as that score is high enough (NY requires a 266 to pass, Alaska is 280 so if you don't have a 280, you can't move your NY score to Alaska).

The UBE is 3 parts: Day 1 – a performance test where you don't need to know any law, just create a brief or memo from the file they give you (20% of the score), 6 essays (30%), and Day 2 – 200 multiple choice questions (aka MBE) derived from 7 topic areas (Constitutional Law, Contracts, Property, Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure [sometimes its considered one topic but its really not], Evidence, and Civil Procedure.

New York says results won't be released until November but for the past few years its been the last week of October. 

Q: How do you feel?

There's a certain panic about the bar exam because the results are public.  You really can't hide from whatever happens because it does affect job offers and salaries.

That being said, I don't know how I feel.  I'm not convinced I failed and I'm not convinced I passed either.  It's a hard test and people do crack under the pressure.  It's a lot of material and laws to memorize. Also, studying for it is really two parts: knowing the underlying law and knowing how it's applied in a fact pattern.

So I don't know. I did 85% of my bar prep company's assigned work, plus supplemental lectures through a minority bar association in NYC, plus over 1300 multiple choice questions in the last 3 weeks (multiple choice is my weak area). I wrote and rewrote rules I didn't know. I made myself go through flashcards constantly, found people to sit and talk laws through with me (a lot of bar prep survivors say trying to teach the law to non-lawyers is a good way to make sure you actually know the law yourself).  I tracked my multiple choice progress on a spreadsheet by subject and by source (I scored 10% higher on real MBE questions versus commercial bar prep simulated questions).

So I don't know how I feel. I felt prepared….sorta.

Q: So did you have a breakdown? A meltdown? Panic attack? How much crying did you do?

You hear and sometimes see the breakdowns either before or during the bar.  Or you hear the stories.  You hear the stories of people crying or throwing up at the bar.  I've seen people panicking the days and weeks leading up to the test.  I've tried to remain calm by working out and staying off social media but sometimes it just creeps up on you.

I did a simulated test a week before the bar at school with classmates and I had somewhat of a breakdown then. I was losing concentration and I was just panicking during the test.  I ended up doing okay on it but it just came out of nowhere.  Kinda glad I had it then because as nervous as I was on test day, I felt okay.  I was actually weirdly calm.

I got my breakdown or any real anxiety out of the way.  My stomach was ok (anxiety makes my stomach hurt). My energy was good (wasn't tired and wasn't crashing from caffeine).

I'll admit that out of nowhere I was stress eating again the week leading up to the bar #ALLTHECARBS. Even the night before day one and day two. I was just eating EVERYTHING.


Q: Did the bar prep course help at all?

I went with BarBri, which is a major commercial bar prep course.  They are notorious for really slamming you with work. A lot of people end up not following the course but I did most of it.  As you can see below, a lot of people don't finish the work (the average this year was 65% of the work completed).  At some points, it just felt like I was just getting through work and not actually learning anything.

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 4.09.41 PM.png

That being said, I read a lot of blogs and listened to podcasts on the test. I found the tips and tricks from the blogs like Bar Exam ToolboxBar Exam Toolbox, a lot more useful.  The last few weeks of the test I spent just working on my problem areas (aka Wills and Property).

Q: How does it feel to be back in society?

So good and so weird.  I liked being off the grid in a way. Other times I hated it.  Right now, it feels like such a weird transition period.  I feel like I've been in a cave all summer and if you know me, I do love socializing and going out.  It's just a weird time. Not a student and not yet a lawyer.

But it's also SUMMER! I've been seeing plenty of friends this past week. I also went to the beach in the Rockaways and went to Shakespeare in the Park (WHICH IS AMAZING!).  And tonight, I leave for Spain and Portugal so that's exciting.

Anyways, I guess we'll see what happens in the next few months.

3 thoughts on “The Bar Exam

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