For the February 2008 bar exam, I used most of the same strategies I used for the July 2007 CO bar exam that I ended up passing. I posted my study strategies last fall after CO bar results came out – the links are below:
How I studied for the MBE
How I studied for the MPT
How I studied for the Colorado bar essays
This time around, I kept my MBE strategy more simple. I religiously used my Strategies and Tactics for the MBE book by Kimm Walton and Steve Emanuel (as in the Emanuel outlines from law school). I CANNOT say enough about how wonderful and invaluable this book is. I ordered it before the July 2007 CO bar exam and I honestly and sincerely believe this book played a large part on my ability to pass that bar exam as well as the February 2008 bar exam. If you only buy one bar prep book, buy this one. I’m not kidding. Screw the BarBri, MicroMash, and PMBR books. I had all those books, but I ignored them and exclusively used the S&T book. I stuck Post-It notes in the practice question sections with the question numbers written on the Post-its so I could just write my answers on them without having to drag out a notebook (and going back and forth between the S&T book and a notebook). I need to take a picture of my S&T book sometime to illustrate my point.
I also used my Study Group MBE software and BarBri StudySmart MBE software. I also have MicroMash, but I did maybe a total of five questions on that software before abandoning it in favor of BarBri and Study Group. My favorite MBE software is Study Group, hands down. It’s much easier to use, and even better it does not require any installation so you can put the software on a flash USB drive and plug it into your work computer, then run the software off there. There are also internet-based MBE software such as AdaptiBar but I can’t vouch for how effective they are. AdaptiBar uses actual, released MBE questions but so does the S&T book, so if you’re buying that book I probably wouldn’t get AdaptiBar. I used NCBE’s MBE Annotated Preview 2006 and I would recommend it – it’s only $26.00.
I also used Google Documents (through my gmail.com account) to type out the answer explanations to each MBE questions as I discussed in my “How I studied for the MBE” post above. This has proved to be VERY helpful and I strongly recommend that you either write or type out the answer explanations to your practice MBE questions. I saw a huge difference the next time I took the MBE after doing this. I would not even have finished reading the MBE question before law points and elements and such were already popping into my head, and I already knew the answer before I even read the answer choices. The first two times I took the MBE I was absolutely lost and clueless. I did not feel that way on the last two MBEs. Yes, they were still hard and difficult, but I think the difficulty for me was trying to remember exactly what the law was, or what the elements were.
I aimed for at least 25 practice MBE questions a day but didn’t always succeed. However I always focused on the answer explanations. I found that those were the most important part of each practice MBE question. You definitely have to understand WHY a specific answer is the correct (or wrong) answer. Don’t make the same mistake I did before my second bar exam failure of focusing on quantity over quality – I had aimed for 100 questions per day or around that, mindlessly answering questions thinking that practice made perfect, even though I was not focusing on the law or the answer explanations behind the question. BIG mistake. My MBE went down TEN points from my first attempt. If I hadn’t made that mistake, I believe I could have passed on my second attempt.
I focused on my MBE outlines as well. I ignored the Convisers this time around because I’d already incorporated most of the Convisers into my MBE outlines. They are not overly long or complicated. To me, they were short, to the point, and easy to understand and follow. I would refer to those outlines if I was stumped on a practice MBE question. I received these outlines from a friend, and I liked the format and layout of the outlines so much I made my own, using those outlines and verifying them with Convisers, as well as plugging in new stuff. I was going to post them on here, but Google Documents kept screwing up the format, so you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the outlines. You can use the same format of these outlines to make your own state-specific outlines like I did for the essay portion of the last bar exam.
As for the MPT, despite my vowing to pay more attention to the MPT this time around, I still didn’t spend much time on it. I didn’t review past MPTs and scoresheets like I’d planned. I like to think that I’m a pretty good writer, and it doesn’t hurt that I write memos and draft orders in my job almost every single day, so I felt I had a good handle on the MPT. I re-read my favorite MPT link, How to Format Legal Memos on the MPT by Dr. Mary Campbell Gallagher of BarWrite Blog. I also read BarBri’s MPT Workbook but it didn’t really seem all that helpful to me. Too many complicated formats such as wills, et cetera. It seems that most of my MPTs except one were in memo format, and I think that the one non-memo MPT was a brief? My personal MPT motto was when in doubt, IRAC.
As for the essays – if you’re taking CO, refer to my “How I studied for the Colorado bar essays” post above. I don’t think my study strategy for the essay portion of the February bar exam here was that great. I just obtained released bar essays from the bar association and practiced over and over. It was hard to put together boilerplates or cheat sheets because the essays here are analytical rather than checklist-style like Colorado. I also made my own state-specific outlines using the same format as the MBE outlines, and that helped me learn the state material. I guess I didn’t exactly bomb the essays if I passed, but I also don’t feel that I should offer advice on this front. I truly got lucky on this part. I can only tell you what I did.
In short, here is my MBE strategy:
1) Use the ENTIRE S&T book. Use Post-It notes throughout the practice question and simulated MBE sections of the S&T book.
2) Use MBE software.
3) Use NCBE’s MBE Annotated Preview 2006.
4) Use Google Documents to type out answer explanations to practice MBE questions.
5) Shoot for 25 practice MBE questions a day. Focus on QUALITY over quantity (i.e. don’t just mindlessly answer 100 MBE questions a day). Do a couple of full-length (or even half-length) practice MBEs in the last couple of weeks before the bar exam.
6) Use my own MBE outlines. You can either just use them or type them out yourself. I found that typing out my outlines again really helped me to remember the material better than if I’d just skimmed them.