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Law School IL Final Exams: Best Kept Secret to help with Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law

PASS Study Guides

The PASS Study Guide series is a set of interactive workbooks designed to help students prepare for law school exams and the Bar Exam.  The Guides are not meant to serve as a comprehensive course treatise, but as streamlined tools that will help you hone in on heavily tested rules and concepts, to learn the rules and how to organize the concepts. The guides also contain tips and suggestions for writing effective exams.

Buy the guides at LegalBooksDistributing: PASS Torts, PASS Contracts, PASS Criminal Law.

The essential legal rules in each Guide are set out in easy-to-memorize formats that include an element-by-element breakdown.  And they are set out in the order you will likely need them on an essay question!  Logical organization is key to success on law essays and these Guides help you learn the law in the way you need to access it.

Fluency with legal terminology will help make you exam-ready.  To help with gaining a command of the terms in each subject, the Guides contain fill-in-the blank spaces to help you learn and memorize terminology, as well as a glossary of selected terms.

In addition to learning the law and memorizing key rules, the most important way to pass your exams is to practice.  (Practice, practice, practice.)  Each chapter contains short-answer Test Yourself questions, with spaces to write your own answers and explanatory so that you understand the reasoning behind the correct answers.  Working through these Q & A as you study will help you master the concepts and skills of applying rules to facts in the context of each subject.  In addition to short-answer questions and answers, each guide also has full-length practice essay questions with explanatory answers as part of the Appendix.

 

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The True “Secret” to MBE Success: Ten Tips on How to Study for the MBE:

I am, frankly, a little tired of hearing so-called bar exam “experts” telling students that success on the MBE depends on “tricks,” “shortcuts” and “secrets.”  No!  The big “secret” –shssshhhhh, get ready…  learn the law!

Success on the MBE depends on two things: knowing the law in great detail on seven subjects and reading critically.

Understand the ins and outs of criminal law and criminal procedure, torts, contracts, real property, evidence, constitutional law, and civil procedure, and you put yourself on the path to MBE success.  Train critical reading under timed conditions and you move forward on that path to MBE success.

To do this you will need to review all the MBE tested subjects and complete daily (or very regular) sets of practice MBE questions.  Then study explanatory answer.  And here I mean study.   Don’t just casually skim through answers.  Read every word and make sure you understand why every correct answer is correct and why every wrong answer is wrong.

One of my colleagues, when describing just how depending MBE success is on understanding the law, said, “If there are “tricks,” you can’t even see them until you know the law well enough to understand how the examiners may be leading you down the correct or incorrect path with a particular answer choice.”

So, here you are, just over two months before the bar exam, can you do it?  Can you learn all that law?  Yes!  It is not easy.  You must cram a ton of information in your head.  But it is do-able.  First, though, stop looking for shortcuts and get into a serious work groove.

Think about it this way, if you needed to go hire a lawyer to help you, would you want the one who found the tricks to get by, or the one who slid just barely in without really knowing what he or she was talking about?  Or, would you want to hire the person who worked his or herself to the point of true understanding, someone who really gets it. Be the lawyer you would want to hire.

Ten Tips on How to Study for the MBE:

  1. Take a  reliable bar review course that gives you detailed materials with which to learn now only main rules but exceptions (and exceptions to exceptions), such as #PMBR.
  2. Practice sets of MBE questions every day.  Do MBEs as a “habit” or “ritual,” at the same time each day.  For example, complete your daily set of MBEs with coffee when you wake in the morning, or at the end of the day before your pre-sleep routine, or both.
  3. Approach each question with a strategy, reading the call of the question, then the fact pattern, then the call, and then considering each answer choice. More on this in Chapter 8 of Pass the Bar Exam.
  4. Work on timing and stamina.  Start with a small number of MBE questions in each sitting each day now, then build up the quantity (while keeping the timing), just as you would build muscle when starting a weight lifting routine.You need to be able to comfortably complete 100 questions in a three-hour period.  Start now with 5 questions in 10 minutes or so.  (If you need more time initially, that’s ok, but increase your speed incrementally each week.)  Build up to doing 17 questions in 30 minutes, 33 in an hour, 66 in two hours, and by mid-July you should practice at least several sets of 100 in three hours.
  5. Train deep understanding.  Now, which it is still a long time before your bar exam, take as long as you need to study the answers to your daily sets of 5 MBEs, so that you clearly see why the wrong choices are wrong and why the correct answer choice is the “best” one.   Note: the best answer may not be perfect, but there is a reason why it is deemed the best of the four.  Don’t fight the question or answer and get angry that it is not the perfect answer as you may have learned it in law school.  Just understand why it is considered the best of the four choices and understand that reason so clearly that you could easily explain it to a 1L if you were tutoring someone.
  6. Read carefully.  Practice reading with sight, hearing, and touch.  Read each word aloud (mumbling under your breath) while touching each word on the screen with your finger.  So many students tell me that just switching to reading questions and explanatory answers aloud was the step that improved their MBE scores more than any other single strategy.
  7.  Practice on paper.  Practice some MBEs regularly on paper.  At the very least, complete your 5 morning and/or evening sets on paper and the others in bar review on line. (On line tracking is helpful to see where your strengths and weaknesses are, so you know which subjects and which kinds of questions you need to study in greater details.) When completing paper MBEs , touch each word as you read aloud (mumbling under your breath), with your pencil, circling,or underlining key words.
  8. Don’t get discouraged.  Remember, every question you get wrong now is the opportunity to get it right on the exam.  It’s good to miss questions in practice so you see how to improve, fill in knowledge gaps, and correct any misunderstanding of rules of law and applying them to fact patterns.
  9.  Get plenty of sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly. All of that will help you come to each practice question sharp, alert, and with a mindset that is ripe for learning and training your skills and packing knowledge into your brain. It is hard to learn when you are too exhausted or stressed out to absorb information.
  10. Train other parts of your bar exam as well as MBEs, so that you are completely ready for everything you will be tested on.  Remember that MBE fact patters resemble mini-essays.  Know the difference: with MBEs you know the rules and analyze how the facts apply to those rules in your head and simply bubble in the best choice.  With Essays, you must write rules from memory and then articulate explicitly how the facts prove or disprove each element of each rule.  The process is similar but not identical.  Resist temptations to practice only MBEs.  Practice MBEs, Essays, and Performance Tests (if they will be on your bar exam).

Avoid fear-mongers or scammers who tell you there are tricks or shortcuts.  Solid hard work, strategically implemented, is the path to success on the MBE.  Spend extra time you might have studying and training with practice exams rather than seeking “magic bullets.”   And, if you need reliable information about the MBE, go to the source: http://www.ncbex.org/exams/mbe/

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Prioritize Your Time During Finals

You have one final on Monday, another on Thursday and then two the following week. Oh, and in between you have a paper to finish, you have to pack to move back home for the summer, and a bunch of other commitments.  What to do first?  Do you ever feel paralyzed??   This is perfectly normal.  Finals are stressful, and tough!  No one can tell you exactly what to do when for success, but here are some thoughts and strategies to help you make an effective game plan:

  • First, and perhaps counterintuitive, get enough sleep, exercise, and good healthy food in you to sustain “high gear” concentration during final exams.  Your instinct may be exactly the opposite: burn the midnight oil.  But, to work super efficiently, many of us need the sleep, sustenance, and energy producer that is exercise.  (Working out also burns off stress that distracts us.)
  • Next, during all of finals period, reduce (try to eliminate) distractions including social media, people who are not supportive, and any commitments you can put off until after exams. Put your phone away altogether while you study for a final exam.  (This may be something you have never done, but trust me when I say you will learn more when you are not checking social media sites every few minutes.)
  • Then, consider which subjects are more difficult for you.  Study subjects that you find most challenging when you are most awake and alert.  Work on subjects that come more easily when you are “taking a study break” from a more difficult subject, or when you are not quite at your peak performance times.  (Let’s say you are a morning person. Study the toughest subject when you first wake up.  Tackle one that is easier later in the after or evening.)
  • Try to get a sense of how much time each task will take.  If you have a paper to write and it’s a 15-20 page paper, you will likely need much more time than if it’s a 5-7 page paper.  Obvious point, I know, but many students leave only a relatively short amount of time for any paper, regardless of its length or complexity, and then get frustrated with themselves when it is hard to “knock out” quickly.  (Note: I say “likely” in the previous sentence because sometimes it is not the length of a paper that makes it difficult to write, but rather how much you like or are interested in the subject, how easy it is to find references if it is a research paper or some other factor.  To effectively estimate how much time a paper will take, think about those types of concerns and how much time a previous, similar task took you to complete.)
  • Study generally, and particularly for difficult subject,  in long enough blocks to really learn well, and retain information.  You may need to read a concept several times to master it. You might need even longer if you need to memorize something.  I know the trend is to spend just minutes on something before changing thoughts.  Our brains are used to clicking on a new link every few minutes, if not every few seconds.  But for college, graduate school, or law school, you may need more focus than for reading a typical blog.  Expect to spend more time initially on concepts so that you can learn them more thoroughly.
  • Be in one subject at a time.  Do not study for your first exam while worrying about the others.  But all the “worry” in a box, and forget about everything else while studying each  particular subject.  Resist the temptation to let you mind wander.
  • Carefully review any instructions, hints, or other information your professor has given you about the exam.  Know the format.  Know how much the exam is worth, and if it will be broken into components, how much each component is worth. This can help enormously in strategizing about how to allocate your time and energy, and knowing what to focus on, during your preparation before the exam and on the exam itself.
  • Take practice tests.  See if your professor or another professor teaching the subject of your class has any old finals on file anywhere and study them.  This will help you master the material in the subject but also the form of testing that your professor will use.
  • Take a break after each exam, even if it’s a meal and a walk, but do something to make a physical demarcation between the end of one exam, and getting ready for your next exam. This will help you mentally shift focus.

These are a few strategies for success.  Write in and share your favorite exam time tips!!

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How Quickly Do You Answer Essay Questions?

Slow down!   Consider this strategy for & essays.
     -Read very slowly and carefully. Read fact patterns three or four times. Read while touching each word with your pencil or finger.
     -Ask what every fact relates to.
     -Show how facts support or refute each side’s arguments with respect to every main (or possibly disputable) issue.
     -Organize thoughts.
     -Outline your answer.
     -Then write.
     -Proofread if you have time.
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IRAC or IRPC? That is the question!

IRAC or IRPC?

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How many Practice Tests should I do to pass the bar exam?

How many #barexam practice tests should you do?  Well, think about how many practice shots great athletes take?  Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Many of my students who passed this last bar exam completed anywhere from 3000-5000 multiple choice questions, another 30-50 essays, and at least 1-2 dozen performance tests.

It’s not all about quantity.  Vince Lombardi put it this way: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  With bar exam studies, you get to the perfection (or competence —after all, it’s a pass fail test!) by practicing and learning and improving from quality sample answers.

So how many practice questions should you do?   A whole lot, with quality study of reliable sample answers –working every step of the way to improve.  Start now!

 

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The Power Trio of MBEs, Essays & Performance Tests

http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cypress/nationaljurist0215/#/28

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Top Ten Reading Strategies for Success Exams

Just heard an amazing presentation from a colleague about the use of facts, or, more precisely, the failure to adequately use facts, being one of the most significant problems for law students on law exams.  An example was referenced regarding a cause of action that required that the party in question have a close relationship with the deceased in order to prevail.  A number of students missed key words that clearly revealed that relationship.

In order to write an effective exam answer, the first step is successfully reading the question –a topic I have frequently addressed in this blog and in my book, Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals  (which, FYI, can be as helpful while you are in school as when you are taking the bar exam.  Just replace the words “bar exam” with “final exams” as you read. You will get practical help right now and strategies for long range success.)

For all students reviewing your midterms and thinking about how to improve on final exams, here are today’s Top Ten Reading Strategies for Success on Law Exams:

  1. Read the fact pattern slowly.
  2. Read the fact pattern more than once.
  3. Start at the call of the question, then read the facts, then re-read as necessary, then outline, and then write your answer. (You must outline to organize before writing!).
  4. Read the facts aloud (under your breath, but so that you see and hear them at the same time.) By reading aloud and touching each word as you read, circling, underlining and highlighting as necessary, you read with three senses and are much less likely to miss key words and much more likely to see the significance of every critical word. (As noted in Pass the Bar Exam, all credit for teaching the power of reading with three senses to UCLA Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller).
  5. Interact with the reading.  Any time you see a word that triggers or possibly triggers an issue, write that in the margin. (So for example if on a criminal law exam you see a person “breaking” into a building, underline the word “breaking” and in the margin write: “burglary ?”)  Any time you think of a potential issue, note it either in the margin or on scratch paper.  Many students when polled after exams say they “saw” issues but forgot about them when writing their final answer.  (Credit here to one of my brilliant law professors, Kenneth Graham, for teaching us the power of writing in the margins, and not just highlighting but taking thoughtful notes while reading).
  6. Pause after each paragraph to think, then draw a line or make a note in the margin indicating what cause of action, crime, defense, or other legal theory these facts relate to.  (This is especially helpful if there are multiple interrogatories).
  7. Diagram the scene -especially helpful on real property exams; (Forgive the walk down memory lane but this point was reinforced every day I had the honor of being in the late great Jesse Dukeminier’s property class). 
  8. Make a chronology of important dates (particularly helpful in certain subjects such as contracts, causation in torts, or in community property, where key facts may be out of order and the order and/or dates may be legally significant).
  9. Circle parties’ names (all credit here to my colleague, Professor Steve Bracci, for constantly reminding students that the first time a party is mentioned in a bar exam fact pattern, there is often descriptive language about who that party is and the role that party will play in the “story.”  If later on as you read or write, you forget who someone is, just look for the circles and you see that description. By tracking parties throughout, (circling the first time and underlining the next times you see those names), you will connect key facts about those people that may be revealed at various points in the fact pattern. Bar Examiners and law professors love to put legally significant facts out of order to test whether students are reading carefully and thinking critically.  And,
  10. Cross out facts as you use them in your answer.  If while you are writing, you look back at the fact pattern and notice a whole paragraph where you have not crossed out any facts, ask yourself what is legally significant about the facts you have not yet used, what issues do they raise, how can they help you draft your answer.

 More suggestions on exam taking strategy to follow in future posts.

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Deadlines for October FYLSE coming up soon.

FYLSE Timely filing deadline = August 1, 2014       FYLSE Final deadline = September 15, 2014

Review the deadlines at http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/Examinations/DatesDeadlines.aspx

Need help preparing to pass the October FYLSE?  Sign up today for PASS The FYLSE, and get started studying with the expert, Professor Steve Bracci.  Pass this October’s Baby Bar.

Create your free account today.  Enroll in PASS the FYLSE.  And, get all the applicable the rules straight in Torts, Contracts and Criminal Law.  Get hours of online lectures and practice tests.  And, a full simulated FYLSE exam with debriefing of essays and 100 multiple choice questions, by Professor Steve Bracci and essay review by Professors Steve Bracci and Sara Berman.

The secret to success on the baby bar: Bracci’s PASS the FYLSE.

 

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Professor Berman’s Ten Top Tips for Ten Days Before the Bar Exam

In sessions I regularly lead each week before the bar we talk about pertinent issues of the week.  This week it’s all about how you are spending the last days before the exam.  Next week, we’ll walk through each exam day and evening and talk about how to stay strong until the last time is called, and how to prevent derailments.

Today, Professor Berman’s Ten Top Tips for Ten Days Before the Bar Exam:

1. Be sure you have your admission ticket. 

2. Read the rules on what you can and cannot bring into the exam.  (And, note differences on different bar days.  In some jurisdictions, MBE days have different rules.)

3. Keep working on one-page “cheat sheets” that summarize the main points of each of the tested subjects.

4. Keep reviewing practice questions and studying sample answers.  (Look out for frequently tested areas.)  At this point you may be issue spotting and outlining more than writing exams out in full, but still do some practice questions under timed conditions so you are on target with the speed as well as accuracy.

5. Continue training your critical reading skills.  Missing questions because you did not read carefully is most frustrating.  Keep practicing reading every word, and reading with your eyes, ears and fingers.  (Mark up fact patterns and write in the margins as you read, so you do not miss anything.)

6. Memorize rule statements.  Work those flashcards.  The biggest difference between knowing rules for MBEs and for Essays is that on the latter you have to be able to quickly and concisely articulate those rules.  So practice.  Practice writing rules, and saying them out loud.

7. Stay away from destructive people. (Re-read the section on Supporters and Saboteurs in Pass The Bar Exam.)

8. Make any last minute arrangements so there is nothing other than the bar exam to worry about during bar days. (Pay any outstanding bills, arrange for childcare, dog-sitting, etc.)

9. Take a minute to plan something fun for yourself and if you have a family or significant other you want to include do so.  It can really be helpful to have something to know you will be doing as a giant reward after that last time is called.  And it will really help keep those who love you from going stir crazy in the next two weeks just watching you.

10. Exercise and eat right.  It’s critical to maintain the stress levels now.  From this moment, until the last “time” is called by the proctors during your bar exam, you must stay strong and and be able to turn anxiety into action, and panic into power.

 

You got this!

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