Wow, so I’ve encountered quite the polarization in opinions of PMBR. It seems like half the people I’ve talked to about PMBR recommended it, and the other half has trashed PMBR, telling me not to waste my time and money. I was planning to take the 3-day PMBR workshop in my city so I could improve my MBE, but now I’m not sure what to do. The workshop is one week before the bar exam, so I don’t want to waste 3 days of studying time if PMBR proves to be worthless. A friend thinks I should take it but the tutor she referred me to, just e-mailed me back and said to avoid PMBR at all costs!

BarBri is out of the question since I’m not in Colorado, and I have the 2005 version of the MicroMash software. I don’t want to go into bar prep material overload. I have BarBri, PMBR, Study Group, and MicroMash books. I’m probably going to sell half the books on eBay since I won’t be using them this time around. I’d rather stick to the BarBri Conviser materials than rely on 5 different versions of Torts outlines. I’ll also keep the BarBri Simulated MBE book as well as the PMBR MBE book.

I have to say that I really like MBE software. My first time around I didn’t have the MicroMash CD and I hated slogging through hundreds of pages of MBE questions. The second time around, I used the MicroMash software and it was much easier and more efficient, even if my quantity-over-quality strategy backfired.

I tried to find BarBri’s Study Smart software on eBay but it’s not listed. I just looked on BarBri’s website to see if I could purchase only the software from them, and I noticed that they are now offering 3-day MBE workshops similar to the style used by PMBR. The cost is $295, a hundred dollars cheaper than PMBR’s $395 fee. This could be worth looking into.

I called BarBri to ask about workshop dates since they aren’t posted online, and also to see if the Study Smart software was included in the purchase of the 3-day MBE workshop. No such luck. I asked if I could buy the Study Smart software individually without buying anything else. Big fat NO. Apparently if you want the software, you would have to purchase the entire bar review course. Even if you purchased the books only, the software still wouldn’t be included. I’d rather not pay 2 grand for software that probably has the same questions as my MicroMash CD. I’ll have to see if I can buy it off someone.

Getting back to my original point, I’m so confused by the stark difference in opinions of whether I should take a 3-day MBE workshop that I’m not sure what to do. It’s kind of nice that the BarBri workshop is $100 cheaper than PMBR so I wouldn’t feel as ripped off, but it’s still a big commitment of precious time of which I don’t have much to spare.

Should I take a MBE workshop or just slough through MicroMash and the BarBri/PMBR books? I’d be interested in hearing what people have to say. I should point out that at this point, I have never enrolled in a bar prep course, not even the first time around. I bought the materials instead.


7 thoughts on “PMBR

  1. I also doing self-study and bought the complete set of PMBR books on ebay but I’m still considering whether or not to pay for the PMBR workshop. There’s still time to decide. I probably would just stick with what I already have, which is a lot of stuff.

    I’m also using Micromash i have the 2004 and 2006 versions. The 2004 version I’m able to print out the questions and read at work the 2006 version doesn’t have the printing feature.

    The Studysmart software is just the practice question book in electronic version. Now, as per the 3-day barbri workshop that’s $295, it’s the BarBri Simulated MBE book and then the analysis. So why pay for what you already have so to speak? Do email me and I’d be more than happy to help.

  2. Anonymous above is exactly right, the questions on the Study Smart Software and the BarBri practice question book are exactly the same, they are even divided up the same way (intro, intermediate, advanced). I just felt the software was a little easier to use, but if you already have the book, the software is not worth paying the extra $300.

    As for the PMBR class, I cannot say with certainty that it is worth it. Many of my friends took it (some who passed and some who didn’t) and most of them did not think it is worth it. Basically you spend the first day taking a 200 question test and the next two going over the answers (which something they did at the end of Bar/Bri anyway, and sounds like their selling separately now). All of the questions and the answers (plus 1000 more) are in the PMBR Red book. For me (on both attempts) it did not seem worth it to spend $400 or more for something I could do on my own for $50-$100 (the cost of the Red and Blue PMBR books on Ebay).

    Something else I wanted to add: I enrolled in Bar/Bri my first attempt, and for my second I just studied on my own using the Bar/Bri books and some outlines I had made. One of the main problems with any bar exam is that there is too much information to distill down to a reasonable level. Bar/Bri claims that they do this for you, but they don’t. That is why they tell you to prepare short outlines for each subject during the last two weeks of study. I followed this advice, unfortunately all I had time for was creating my outlines and not really learning (read: memorizing) the law. I think you are right on track when you say that you will be using the Bar/Bri conviser book to study. You want to try to focus your learning down to as little material as possible. On my second attempt main strategic difference was that I used the outlines that I had made the previous summer (along with some info from some of my friend’s outlines, due to my paranoia), and the last three weeks or so before the bar I would sit down with those outlines ( 13 or so subjects; 9 pages singled spaced was the longest for contracts; the shortest, community property, was 2 and half pages) and I would just try to memorize them. I would read one outline over and over again for an entire day, and at the end of the day I would have someone ask me questions from the outlines. If you can say the answers out loud, then you have memorized it. I really think this was the difference in my passing the second time. Because I certainly did not put in much more time, possibly less, because I was working full-time during the second attempt (took the last two and a half weeks before the bar off).

    There are a million different ways to study for this thing. After I found out I failed I was frantically trying to find a way to study differently (if not better) than I did the first time. Some of my friends did it this way and I liked the way it sounded. It gives your studying a focal point and a finish line. I felt like the reading would never end and I was never going to retain anything, but by doing it this way you can spend the first month or couple of months, making sure you have good outlines, practicing as many essays as you can, doing MBE questions and writing out the answers, and then the last 2 to 3 weeks before the exam you focus solely on your outlines (with a sprinkling of essays and MBE questions thrown in) and the studying will have some kind of structure, something I was never able to do on my own.

    Now, I know many people who would never do it this way and feel that outlines are a waste of time, and they are probably right. But this did help me a great deal, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to throw it out there. No matter how you study as long as you stay focused (the hardest part) you will kick ass.

  3. I too found outlines very useful. Of course nothing can reaplce your own outline, but I found tips extremely useful. I agree with the one above, just focus and practice, you will do just fine!

  4. Here’s the thing about PMBR – you take the practice exam, and then they read the answers to you, sprinkling little tips about the exam througout. It’s good to have the practice and the commiseration, but I don’t think the class is all that great. I used to say that the books are excellent, but since the lawsuit (and the changing of the exam) I’m not sure how good it is anymore.

    Studysmart is a great little program, but not worht going out of your way for unless you’re signed up for Bar Bri. The bastards at barbri don’t let you keep the software either, if you have to take the exam again and choose not to take the full course again. But as noted above if you have the books you have all of the questions in the software. If you have Micromash then you have comparable software (Barbri and MM are run by the same parent org).

  5. J.T., I actually have the red PMBR book. I bought it off a law school friend who was a year ahead of me, but I never really used it because she marked up 75% of the questions with her own answers so there wasn’t much left over for me to answer. Now that I know how useful the Red Book actually is, I’ll just cover up the markings and pick my own answers with a highlighter or something since I’ll probably throw it out after I’m done. It’s worthless for resale anyway.

  6. I just found out that I passed the bar exam in NJ. I have been a practicing attorney for 19 years, but I moved from NY to NJ, and I had to take the NJ bar. I studied while I was working full time, although I did take most of the last two weeks before the bar off to study. If you think being a lawyer is a big help, it is not, at least not in terms of substance. I had not studied most of the subjects on the bar exam for literally decades. I remembered virtually no criminal law, absolutely no property law, and even though I deal with common law contract law all the time, I knew nothing about the UCC. I also had not had to study for a long time. The bar exam is so far removed from real-life practice, where you would never give a client advice based on memorization, that it made it hard to get in the right mind-set. Being a real lawyer already did help, I think, in being able to focus on the outcome and efficiently doing what I needed to do to reach my goal: getting enough questions right to pass.

    I did MicroMash and the 3-day PMBR. I’ll give you my take on both. I thought MicroMash was great, but I think the key to getting the most out of it is to spend the time reading and understanding the explanations of both the right and the wrong answers. And do lots of questions. Lots. Your goal is not to learn the most law, but to learn how to answer MBE questions correctly. If you do not see your score going up as you continue to practice, or if you are spending too much time on a subject, take the time to review the outline again. And the short outlines are not that useful; they leave out too much information that you need to know to understand the subtle distinction between similar answers. I took lots of notes from the explanations of the right and wrong answers. I didn’t necessarily review those notes later, but the act of writing and really thinking about what I was writing really helped me to learn. And if there is a subject that you simply cannot get, don’t waste a ton of time on it. If you are never going to really fully grasp the Rule Against Perpetuities, for example, don’t try. It will only be a few points, at most, on the entire exam. Better to spend your time mastering something easier like torts or evidence and getting all or nearly all those points. Give those RAP questions to the bar gods, but get all the negligence questions right.

    Micromash says to shoot for 85% correct. I never got there consistently, but I was getting 75% correct by the end overall. I got a 158 on the MBE. Much higher than my score the first bar exam I took, which was a 141 I think. I was more focused this time on how to pick correct answers.

    As for PMBR. It is good and awful. I did it as close to the bar exam as I could, but since I was doing most of my studying in the last two weeks, I wasn’t really ready for it. There were two subjects I hadn’t studied at all yet. Here is the good: it is good to take a test in real testing conditions. Along with the explanations of the answers, the lecturers provided some actually extremely helpful test-taking tips. I wish I could remember some of them, but things like how to choose between two answers when you don’t KNOW which one is right based simply on the wording of the answer. I used some of those techniques, and they really helped. So you may pick up a few points on the exam based on those techniques alone that have nothing to do with substantive knowledge, and that could be enough to put you over the top. The bad: the questions are much much harder than the real exam. The real exam includes some really easy questions. It also includes some medium questions and of course some really hard questions. PMBR is almost all really hard questions. So if confidence is already a problem, PMBR could make you panic, which can be very counterproductive. I took PMBR about two weeks before the bar. I got less than half of the questions right. It was good because it was a bit of a kick in the ass, and I studied very hard for the next two weeks, but I also didn’t panic. Panic is bad. Despite having gotten less than half right two weeks before the bar, I got 158 on the actual bar.If you understand the scariness of PMBR going in, I think it is helpful. At least get someone to give you their answer-reading tips.

    Substantively, PMBR is only marginally helpful. They go over each of the answers so quickly that there is not much time to absorb much. I never had time to go over all of my notes very carefully, so it kind of went in one ear and out the other. When I was sitting for the actual bar exam, it seemed pretty easy to me compared to the PMBR questions I’d been doing, so it made the day less stressful.

    I’m sorry this got so ridiculously long, but I just feel so much for people just starting out who have this huge obstacle in front of them. I was lucky to have passed the bar the first time both times I’ve taken it, but the anxiety I suffered waiting for the results was absolute torture, both times, so I can empathize with you. Hope I’ve helped at all.

    My blog is

  7. Legal Mama,

    Thanks so much for sharing your advice! I’ve definitely learned from failing the second time that practicing questions over and over isn’t enough and that I need to focus more on the outlines and explanations. I was planning to tackle the Rule Against Perpetuities since even after 2 go- arounds I still don’t fully grasp it. I’ll try to study it some more but write it off. It really helped to read your advice especially since I am also working full time and can take only the last week before the bar exam off unless I want to burn bridges at my job. I’m so envious of your 158 on the MBE by the way!

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