Saturday, December 8, 2012

February 2013 Virginia Bar Exam - Application Deadine


Friendly reminder: Bar applications and re-applications to sit for the February 2013 Virginia Bar Exam is Monday, December 17, 2012. (The statutory filing deadline, December 15, 2012, is a Saturday; therefore, the filing deadline is extended to December 17, 2012.) Your application must be postmarked by that date by USPS Priority Express, Registered, or Certified mail, or by commercial carrier for Next-Day delivery. 

Good luck!

William & Mary Sample Answers


The faculty at William & Mary School of Law (finally) posted their sample answers to the July 2012 Virginia Bar Exam. They answers are comprehensive and very nicely explained.

Please see the link below:



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tutoring Roster


I am fast approaching a full student roster for this winter, but will take on one or two more students if the right ones come along. If you're interested, let me know soon! Happy to talk to anyone and answer your questions.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

D.C. and Maryland July 2012 Bar Exam Results


The District of Columbia recently posted bar exam results for its July 2012 bar exam. See link below:

Maryland also posted bar exam results for its July 2012 bar exam. See link below:



Wednesday, October 17, 2012



I am currently accepting students for tutoring for the February bar. Whether you're a repeater or a first-timer, and you are interested in tutoring or have questions about tutoring, please feel free to contact me. I recommend sooner than later, though, as my roster is filling up.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Unfavorable Results: What to Do

If last Thursday’s results brought you the good news for which you were hoping, I send you my congratulations again. Excellent job! But if you did not see your name on the list, and you’re reading this post, then please keep reading. This post is for you.

Step 1: For many of you, not passing will be a difficult event with which to cope. You’re mad your friends passed but you didn’t. You’re disheartened that your efforts were all for naught. You’re overwhelmed by the thought of repeating the process. You’re embarrassed to face your friends and family and coworkers. And you feel like a failure. All of these emotions are natural, mostly unwarranted, but natural. Don’t suppress them either; you need to release them. If you didn’t get that energy out of your system last weekend, do so now. Have a good cry.

Step 2: Cut off Step 1 after a week. Step 1’s necessary, but to a point. Any longer, and it will become a cancer. After a week, accept the news, pick yourself up, and turn to Step 3.

Step 3: Think about what went wrong. Review at your scores – did you miss passing by a lot or a little? Did the MBE kill you, or was it the essays, or both? Were you unprepared? Did you over-study? Did you burn yourself out with anxiety and stress? Did you try to learn everything? Did you walk in under-confident? Did an unrelated event – perhaps a death in the family, divorce, or serious automobile collision – derail your preparation? Was this just a bad time all around to sit for the exam? Think about what happened.

Step 4: Now decide whether you’re going to retake the exam. Will you retake the exam in February or at a later date? Will you retake the exam in the same state or in a different jurisdiction? If in a different jurisdiction, why? Are you switching for the right reasons?

Step 5: If you decide to retake the exam, but you repeat your same preparation as before, expect the same results. I recommend trying a new approach entirely. You need to shake yourself loose of bad study habits. A new approach might mean speaking with a tutor about strategies, using different study materials, or applying new self-study methods. You also need to take the new approach seriously. Make time, not necessarily more time, but just time – and make it count. No distractions, no excuses – just focusing on one step at a time.

Step 6: Don’t just tell yourself to have confidence. Give yourself reason to have confidence. If you’re serious about Step 5, you will have that confidence. And don’t let that confidence fade away at any point. Keep it strong up to the exam, through the exam, past the exam, and beyond results. Remember: You can do this. Don’t let the bar exam define you! Don’t let it beat you! Turn your despair into determination. Rise up with a full heart and bury the bar once and for all. You. Can. Do. This.

Hang in there, and don’t beat yourself up. This kind of bad news is not the end of the world. It’s very manageable. You’re going to be fine.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

July 2012 Virginia Bar Exam Results!

The VBBE released the results for the July 2012 Virginia Bar Exam today. The pass rate was about average for the July exam - 74.10% overall, 78.95% among first-time takers.

To those examinees who passed, CONGRATULATIONS!! Treat yourself to some champagne! Truly, a job well done and an accomplishment for which you should be very proud.

To those examinees who did not pass, I will post more soon. In the meantime, the important thing to remember is that today's news is a setback -- that is all. Not passing on your first attempt is not a reflection of your abilities or your potential as an attorney. With the right combination of strategy, discipline and restraint, you will pass in February. Believe in yourself!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Honeymoon Is Over

Hello, All --

Well, it's October. In nine or ten days, the VBBE will release results of the July 2012 Virginia Bar Exam. Chances are, the VBBE has internally drafted the PASS/FAIL lists, and they are now cross-checking their grades and tallies.  For you, the last week or so will likely be a miserable one - the worst period, in my opinion. In the previous two months, when exam anxiety crept up, you could write it off ("Results are still months away, forget about them. For now."). Now that luxury is gone; the moment of truth is near. Some of you might already have a gut-reaction on how you fared. (The poll on the left-hand side of my homepage reflects some of your reactions.) Rest assured, the agony will be soon be over.

That's the bad news. Or the good news, depending on how you look at it. The reality is, nothing's actually changed. Again, what’s done was done back in July, and all the hope in the world won't change anything. Accept it. More to the point, though, is that bar exam results, whether you pass or fail, will never define who you are, neither personally nor professionally nor any other way. You are ten times better than the bar exam to allow it to bring you down to a level of constant despair and anxiety and self-pity. Especially in this last week, you must not forget that. Pass or fail, you are still you.

A couple other thoughts to share:
  • I'm quite surprised that William & Mary's faculty has not released their draft essay answers. Usually, they post them in early September, so I'm at a loss as to why they're late. Hopefully, they'll get around to it, but I wouldn't count on it before October 12. Even if they did post suggested answers before then, why bother at this point?
  • And about October 12; that's not exactly a hard-and-fast date. Historically, the VBBE either posts results on the stated day or else the day before, in this case October 11. For what it's worth, my hunch is on October 12. It's a Friday, and I look at it from the VBBE's perspective: Post results, close the office early to avoid the mass stampede of crazy phone calls, and let the whole thing blow over the weekend. Would I put money on my prediction? Nope. The point is, just don't expect any results before October 11.
Good luck, everybody! Hang in there, and remember to keep this next week in perspective. Please, just trust me on this one.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

One Month to Go

In one month, the VBBE will release the results of the July 2012 Virginia Bar Exam. Tom Petty was right: Waiting is the hardest part. For many of you, October 12 will bring immense joy and relief. For others, it will bring sadness and despair. No matter how anxious you are now, the outcome will not change. What’s done was done back in July. I could say don’t bother worrying about October 12, but I know you will anyway. But try your best to keep the anxiety to a minimum. It really is wasted energy.

Now, for those of you who are swallowed up by sadness and despair on October 12, fear not – your future is not nearly as disastrous as you are convinced it will be. Six months from October 12, you will look back on that low point as being the better for it. In the grand scheme, failing the bar exam on your first try is a blip. The problem is, bar examinees are very shortsighted. Anxieties are up, jobs sway in the balance, the fear of repeating feels like a death sentence. Basically, we magnify everything in our tunnel of vision. You can choose to wallow in your sorrow, or you can leverage that sorrow to rise up with a full heart and bury the bar once and for all. In the process, I expect you’ll also learn a thing or two about yourself.

The point is, don’t fear October 12. It’s not Doomsday. Take it in stride, and keep your head up whatever the outcome. You will overcome this hurdle, whether in a month or next April. The power is already within you. 

Happy September.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Dog Days of August

Hello, readers –

August is a slow month for bar examinees. Not much to report. . . Just passing the time. As late-October nears, the wait will gradually get worse until about a week before the VBBE releases results, at which point the bar exam will be the only thing on your mind. In the meantime, you might think about which essays/MBE questions on which you screwed up, the probability of passing, or how terribly your life will spiral if you fail.

Again, don’t torture yourself like that. In the end, it provides no therapeutical benefit. Worst case scenario: You fail. That’s it. You fail. You retake it in February, you pass, and you move on with your life. A couple months of setback – that’s all there is to it. The bar exam will bring you down, in every way possible, only if you let it. It’s not terminal cancer; it’s just a tough exam.

I recommend taking one day at a time, one hour at a time, to distract yourself from thinking about the bar exam. Go on holiday, volunteer your time, play sports, watch movies, read books, live life. Still, a lot of examinees can’t help but wonder. To pass the time, they scour the Internet for forums, passed-but-fully-expected-to-fail stories, and other bar exam nooks and crannies. I would take all of these sources as grains of salt and with extreme caution. If we believed everything on the Internet, Bigfoot would be living in Reno. Again, the therapeutical benefit is temporary at best.

If any of you have any other questions or concerns while you wait for results, feel free to contact me. In the meantime, enjoy the waning days of summer.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Model Essay Answers


As a courtesy to Virginia bar applicants, William & Mary law professors provide model answers for the most recent bar exam essays. For the July 2012 exam, expect William & Mary to post their model answers in early September, or in about one month. Of course, when they do, I will provide you with a link.

I trust all of you are on holiday or otherwise enjoying your free time. Please do! Put off worrying about bar results for as long as you can muster. For some of you, the anxiety will creep in during September, when you are starting your jobs or looking for jobs. For all of you, the anxiety will be in full throttle come October. Until then, just relax. Forget about the bar and play with a puppy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Virginia Bar Exam Results - Release Date

The VBBE will release results of the July 2012 Virginia Bar Exam on Friday, October 12, 2012.

Historically, the VBBE releases results on the date stated or on the preceding day. So expect the VBBE to release results on Friday, October 12, or else Thursday, October 11, 2012.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Understanding the MBE Curve

I trust that all of you are warming up to your post-bar exam hangover. Remember having free time and fun? It's nice, right? At least the weather has cooled down, and the Olympics are off and running.
A few readers have inquired about the MBE curve. How, exactly, does it work? Does a tougher MBE mean a better score? July scores are higher than February's, so am I better taking the exam in July? . . . .


Mean Scaled Scores

In 2011, the February mean scaled score was 138.6, whereas in July the mean scaled score was 143.8. Those means scaled scores varied by fewer than two points when compared to February and July mean scaled scores from the preceding ten years. What does that tell us? First, that the levels of performance of applicant pools over the past decade have stayed fairly constant. Second, that a collective group of first-time takers generally score higher than a collective group of repeat takers (i.e., the July mean scaled score is five points higher because the applicant pool is comprised of more first-time takers.). The mean scaled scores tell us nothing more. They become misleading, however, when examinees assume that, by sitting for the July MBE, they will automatically achieve a higher score.Why not? See below.

Raw Score v. Scaled Scores

The MBE is a standardized exam. Each examinee receives a raw score and a scaled score. Raw scores from different MBE administrations (e.g., February 2012 v. July 2012) are not comparable because each administration carries varying degrees of difficulty (i.e., questions from the February administration might be more difficult than those appearing on the July administration.) The NCBE then converts your raw score into a scaled score. The statistical process is complicated and not worth understanding. All you need to know is that scaled scores are comparable from different administrations. Your scaled score represents the same level of performance across all MBE administrations.

For example, a particularly difficult MBE administration means that scaled scores will be adjusted upward to account for the difficulty, more so than the scale adjustment for a particularly easy administration. But the upward adjustment neither gives examinees an advantage nor a disadvantage. A 130 raw score on an easy administration might equate to a 140 scaled score, whereas a 130 raw score on a difficult administration might equate to a 144 scaled score. That makes sense, too, because the levels of performance varied (i.e., a 130 raw on a difficult exam is more impressive than a 130 raw on an easy exam). Again, the scaling of raw scores simply accounts for those variations so that your scaled score represents the same level of performance across all MBE administrations. Your level of performance, which got you a 144 scaled score on the difficult administration, would have gotten you a 144 scaled score on the easy administration, despite that your raw scores would have varied.

Similarly, if you received a 144 scaled score on the February 2009 administration, your level of performance would roughly equal a 144 scaled score on the July 2012 administration. Your 144 score in February 2009 might place you in the 65th percentile of that administration (more repeat takers = lower mean), whereas your 144 score in July 2012 might only place you in the 50th percentile (more first-time takers = higher mean). But either way, you still have a 144.

So whether an MBE administration is easy or difficult, in February or July, in 2009 or 2012, these variables won't affect your scaled score. A scaled score measures your level of performance only, and those variables have no bearing on your level of performance.

As an Aside. . . . How the VBBE uses Scaled Scores

The VBBE creates a raw score based on your essay and short answer point totals. It then converts the raw score into a scaled scale, which is equivalent to the same scale of the concurrent MBE administration. If the mean scaled MBE score is 143.8, the mean scaled written score will also be 143.8. (Again, the July exam tends to have a higher passage rate only because first-time takers generally score higher than repeat takers.) The two scaled scores are then averaged, 60% for the written scaled score and 40% for the MBE scaled score. If your combined scaled score is 140 or higher, you pass.

Let's say, for example, you received a scaled MBE score of 135 and a written scaled score of 142, both low-ish scores but helpful for our purposes here. (135 x .40) + (142 x .60) = 139. FAIL. Now let's say you got just three more MBE questions correct and received a scaled MBE score of 137. (137 x .40) + (142 x .60) = 140. PASS. Alternatively, let's say you sailed through the MBE but bombed the written portion, with 155 and 131 scaled scores, respectively. (155 x .40) + (135 x .60) = 141. PASS. Representing 60% of the Virginia Bar Exam, the written portion is the backbone. But the key to passing -- the heart of it all -- lies with the MBE. The better you do on the MBE, the better your chances are for passing the bar.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Battle is Over, Comrades

First, congratulations! No, really - you went through hell over the past few months. You just sat for a difficult exam, and now you're done. That alone is worth a celebratory beer.

Quick recap for other readers: On the essays, we saw all of the usual suspects (surprise, surprise!). Trusts, Federal Jurisdiction, Domestic Relations, Sales (U.C.C. Art. 2), Real Property, Wills, Criminal Law, Corporations, and our good friend, Virginia Civil Procedure. I'm glad that Federal Jurisdiction is back, after a two-exam hiatus, although I was a little surprised not to see an essay on U.C.C. Arts 3 and 9 (Commercial Paper/Secured Transactions/Creditors' Rights) after being absent on the February 2012 exam, too. On the short answer section, the questions were fairly difficult, but not completely unmanageable. Finally, the MBE was tougher than the average MBE installment. Mortgage questions can be unkind, and often rattle a lot of examinees. On the bright side, a tough MBE means a more generous curve. (But as I will discuss in a later post, that's meaningless.)

Second, let's briefly discuss how you feel now. All of you are exhausted and, hopefully, relieved. Some of you feel good, but most of you probably feel like an overcooked wet noodle. Maybe you're fretting over that one essay which gave you trouble. You might pissed about the excess of one particular subject or the lack of another, or the seemingly left-field short answer questions. Others, too, might be recovering from, what they felt was, a slaughtering on the MBE. And still, others might think the entire exam was just a terrible anomaly.

Gradually, these feelings will wear off. You will come to terms with the VBBE's essay selection and the tough MBE. You will accept that the July 2012 exam was fair, is now out of your control, and that you gave it your best shot under the circumstances. Some of you will put the whole exam in the back of your mind until about a week before results are released. Others will not let your anxiety subside at all. While I recommend the former approach, I understand why the latter approach is hard to shake off. Preparing for the exam is hard. But waiting for results is not any easier; in fact, maybe even harder. You go from having no time on your hands, to having lots of time -- time to think, time to wonder, time to worry. But just like any anxiety or self-doubt you had before the exam, you have to keep them in check after the exam, too. Otherwise, you'll go crazy. Today, you might think you fared horribly on the exam. That's because the wound is still fresh and it's all you can think about. I bet you're being too hard on yourself. I bet you did just fine. Perhaps in a month or two, you'll agree with me.

The VBBE will post results in mid-October on either the posted date or the day before the posted date, but not before then. The wait is long and arduous. In the meantime, have a beer. Spend time with family, friends, and significant others. Get out of the country. Go to the beach. Go on a road trip. Go anywhere, do anything -- just get your mind off the bar exam . Keep yourself distracted from thinking about it. Because thinking will only lead to unnecessary worry. That's my recommendation.

On the other hand, I also understand that some of you will go insane by not thinking about the exam. So if you can't help yourself, or maybe if you're just curious or need to scratch an itch or simply pass the time, that's why I created the discussion forums. By all means, use them! Just don't use them to abuse yourself.

Again, congratulations! Now relax and celebrate!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Discussion Forums Added


I added two discussion forums onto the blog, one for the July 2012 Virginia Essays and Short Answers, and the other for the July 2012 MBE. Both of the forums are clearly tabbed on the main page.

Many of you will prefer to pass the time between taking the exam and receiving results by talking about the exam. If you are one of them, I encourage you to share on the forums your thoughts, concerns, arguments, or questions and create some dialogue with your fellow examinees. Comments are open to anyone and you can use a creative ID or be completely anonymous.

Good luck tomorrow on the MBE!



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Last-Minute Advice for the Bar Exam

Ladies and gents,

I trust that all of you are putting the finishing touches on your studying, and also preparing for tomorrow's travel. All of you know what you need to do, and how you need to do it, so I have just a few last-minute thoughts to share.

First, about tomorrow night and Tuesday night. To study or not to study? 

That's up to you, really. If you would prefer to go for a run, get some dinner, watch some T.V., and then go to bed early, I think that's a great plan. If you would prefer to get some dinner, then do some light studying before lights out, I think that's a great plan too. It's like the moments before a big athletic event. What do you see athletes doing? Some of them laugh, joke around and goof off. They perform best when relaxed. A small minority (most of them Red Sox) have beer and eat chicken wings. They perform best when their . . . full? Most athletes, however, jump or jog around, stretch out, and get pumped up. They perform best when they're mentally prepared. 

With regard to the bar, most of you will fall into the latter category. You will feel the need to review some material the two nights before testing. You'll be fidgety, still unsure about a couple issues, and will want to keep your mind active and thinking about the bar. That's normal. But just know that whatever you study is pretty much irrelevant at this point. What you're really doing is keeping your mind on the bar and not in relax-mode -- and that's the important takeaway of studying now. You never want to let your guard down, especially not now.  If watching T.V. helps you do that, do it. If doing a quick set of MBEs helps you get there, do it. 

If you want to study, make sure you cap yourself after about two hours. Don't go overboard! Again, you're not really "studying." You're simply keeping your mind on the bar and not in relax-mode. 

Second, sleep.

Don't be an idiot here. Do what you normally do. Do not change your routine. Because by doing so, you throw in a variable, and that's risky. 

So if you sleep on five hours every night, don't change your routine. Sleep five hours. If you try to get between 7-8 hours, try to get 7-8 hours. If you need 9+ hours, get 9+ hours. A word to wise, though: falling asleep before bar exam days is tricky, so just factor that in. Your mind will be racing, you'll be anxious, you'll be unsure. Try to put as many of those distractions out of your mind. Tell yourself that, by getting a poor night of sleep, you'll be jeopardizing tomorrow. Do you really want to jeopardize tomorrow?

Third, Talking About the Exam Between the Exam

This one's like studying the night before. If you don't want to, don't. If a person doesn't want to, respect that. But most of you will have to talk about the exam during lunch and at the end of the day. Don't suppress the urge; it will only distract you. But, like studying, don't get carried away. Talk about it -- then drop it and move on. 

Some other pointers here: First, just because someone had a different answer, doesn't mean yours was incorrect. For some Virginia essays, several approaches can be correct. You also don't know how the VBBE will weight the various issues within each essay. Second, answer what the VBBE asks you to answer, nothing more. Some examinees will write about extraneous issues, trying to show off to the VBBE. That approach will get them no love. Third, watch out for fellow examinees who try to scare you afterward by talking about irrelevant issues or making a big spectacle about the ones you forgot or the essay on which you struggled. They're only trying to psyche you out with hope that doing so will give them an advantage. Chances are, you're going to forget an issue or two. You're going to screw up an essay too. That's OK. Don't let some stranger make you think differently. Don't let him throw you off your game. Stick to your plan

Fourth, ABC: Always be Confident.

You can't pass without it. Tuesday and Wednesday will really test your confidence. You have to push hard through all of it. Messed up a morning essay? That was the morning. Now's the afternoon. Four more essays to make up for it. Messed up on an afternoon essay? Move on. Nothing you can do about it now. Get ready for Wednesday. Messed up on an MBE question? Focus on the other 199 questions. 

We often fret over all the issues we missed, the questions we know we got wrong, But never about the majority we got correct. The essays we aced. The MBE questions we knew cold. Nope. All we think about is the negative. More on that after exam. For now, give it your best, keep your head up, keeping moving forward, and let the chips fall where they may. 

Rest and relief awaits you in just a few short days. Good luck, everybody! You can do this. You will be fine. The bar exam is not the end all-be all. Life will go on, even if the worst happens. Keep telling yourself that. 



P.S. Let me know how the exam went! I hope to set up a forum or some sort of discussion board here, so that, if fellow examinees wish, they can commiserate afterward. More to come soon enough.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Your Trip to Roanoke: Logistically, What to Expect

Hey, kids!

I could go on and on about smaller issues, but I just want to cover the important logistical ones. If you have other questions specific to the test days, about the test center or Roanoke, which are not covered here, feel free to ask. 

First, the Drive

If you're traveling from the Washington, D.C. metro area, the drive is roughly four hours, all highway - all the way west on I-66, and then all of the way South on I-81. The drive, at least, is gorgeous and runs through the heart of the Shenandoah.

Second, Roanoke

City slickers will look down on the small city of Roanoke. Sure, it has a civic center, but so does Richmond, so does Norfolk, and Fairfax, Reston, Charlottesville, probably Virginia Beach too. . . . Of all the places to hold the July bar exam, why Roanoke? At least Richmond would make sense - it's the capital, and it's centrally located. But Roanoke, really? I read somewhere that W. Scott Street, the Secretary-Treasurer of the VBBE, is a Roanoke native. If that's true, I doubt there's a coincidence. . . .  Anyway, no matter. Roanoke is where you were called to test; Roanoke is where you will pass.

I'm sure Roanoke has admirable qualities. Unfortunately, few Virginia attorneys ever see or experience them. They travel here for one mission, and one mission only - to pass the Virginia Bar Exam. Get in, go big, get out. I doubt, too, that you'll be any different than your predecessors.

Third, Lodging

A lot of examinees obsess over the proximity of their hotel to the civic center. Some want a place close enough to walk to the civic center.

People - why? You drove hours and hours to get to Roanoke. Another ten minutes won't kill you. Don't be surprised if Roanoke hotels jack up prices for these two nights. But the closer you stay to the civic center, the steeper the prices. And for what? There's no credible reason. It will not be any more convenient. Do you really want to walk in the July heat in a suit carrying a laptop under your arm?

I recommend finding any decent hotel within a 15-minute driving radius. You should save money, too, and don't worry about being alone. Everybody else in the hotel, whichever one you pick, will be there for the bar exam. You can't get away from stressed out suit-and-ties. Just be sure to account for morning traffic, which, in Roanoke, shouldn't be too bad. But better safe than sorry. You'll be up early anyway. Light sleep, morning jitters, ready to rock. . . . Hard to avoid them.

Fourth, the Civic Center

The first day, the state-specific essay day, is laptop day. A thousand-plus examinees will line up outside - in suit-and-tie, on unshaded concrete, in July heat, holding laptops and a Ziploc bag of bare essentials. You will arrive when the VBBE instruct you to arrive, and you will proceed to stand there, like an idiot, with everybody else, for about 40 minutes, until finally the VBBE open the doors. Hot, sweaty, and annoyed. Great way to start the morning. Thanks, VBBE!

Once inside, you will quickly realize that the civic center is a minor-league version of major-league civic center. Small, outdated, a little dumpy - but good enough. The first half of the alphabet will proceed to a large, convention hall-type room. The second half of the alphabet will proceed to the floor of the hockey rink.

As you walk into your respective room/rink, you will see fold-out tables lined up in rows, row after row after row. A sudden wave of anxiety might rush in. OMG. Shit just got real. . . . This is really happening.

Don't panic. Breathe, and remain calm. The find-your-seat process is actually very quick and easy. A big sign will direct you to a row of tables where your last name, and those closest to it, are assigned.  Go there. Your I.D. card (showing your name and photo) and several instructions will be waiting for you at the very seat to which you are assigned. This seat will be your seat for the next two days. Boot up your laptop, follow the instructions, and remember to keep breathing. Technicians are all around to help you, if necessary.

Fifth, Attire

In case you haven't noticed, the VBBE requires courtroom attire to sit for the Virginia Bar Exam. For women, that's a suit. For men, a suit and tie.

The VBBE also lists on their website things that you may bring into the testing room - and only those things! Cellphones, wallet, lip balm (and a lot of other everyday items) are OFF the list. Carefully read the list. Leave prohibited items in your car.

Sixth, Exam Logistics

Essay Day

Laptop day is the longest. A proctor will get on the microphone and direct everybody through a step-by-step process. Directions for registering and testing software will seem dumb and redundant, but just be patient. Then the VBBE will pass out of the morning essay questions. (By the way, you may have noticed that the VBBE, throughout the application process and in their regular communications up to this point, were cold and grouchy. They're the exact opposite at the actual exam - very friendly and helpful.)

The last few minutes are agonizing. The entire room waits until everybody has successfully uploaded the software and are at the screen where you type-in your essay answers. The Windows folk will take longer than the Apple folk. Older laptops will take longer than newer ones. Somebody's computer might take exceptionally long. Your exam is lying face-down in front of you. And you're just sitting there, ready to go. Again, just remain calm. Say a prayer, meditate. . . Do whatever you do.

And then, the proctor tells you to begin. Each session, morning or afternoon, will fly by. The essays might particularly feel like a time crunch. I expect all of you will have enough time to finish, but you'll have to hustle to get there. Read my previous posts here on timing and here on short answers. Remember: 35 minutes per essay! You must stay on schedule!

(You repeat this entire process in the afternoon session.)


The MBE day is more streamline - no laptops, just pencils! The proctor will get on the microphone and direct everybody through a similar step-by-step process where you fill in a bunch of registration bubbles. Then the VBBE will pass out of the morning MBE questions.

Each session will fly by again. You might also feel a time crunch on the MBE questions. Again, I expect all of you will have enough time to finish, but you'll have to hustle to get there. Read my previous post here about basic MBE tactics. Be smart with your time. Don't get behind!

(You repeat this entire process in the afternoon session.)

Seventh, Food

If you're part of a big Virginia or D.C. law school, be sure to sign up for their hosted lunches. They're quite convenient.

If you're not from such a school, several lunch options are nearby - mostly fast food, I think. But the VBBE gives everybody ample time for lunch, specifically for people like you who might have to drive somewhere to eat.

For breakfast, I recommend eating at your hotel. Again, just more convenient. For dinner, Roanoke has some half-decent options, although nothing that really stands out or is memorable. But treat yourself to a good meal. You need the energy!


I'll probably make one more post before the exam next week. Good luck, everybody! Have confidence in yourself. You can do this!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Knowing the Hierarchical Tiers of Bar Exam Subjects and Using That To Your Advantage

A reader asked me to elaborate on the subject tiers to which I commonly refer. The tiers below aren't fast and hard - they're very fungible - but generally, they align with the frequency at which the VBBE tests on the various subjects. You should organize your studies accordingly.

FIRST TIER (probably one full essay each for two of the three subjects)
- Wills/Trusts
- VA Civ Pro
- Fed Jur.

FIRST TIER- / SECOND TIER-HYBRID (probably two full essays or partial essays on four of the six subjects)
- Domestic Relations
- Equity
- Sales
- Crim Law/Proc.
- Local Government Law
- Professional Responsibility

SECOND TIER (probably two full essays or partial essays on two of the seven subjects)
- Real Property
- Corporations
- Agency
- Partnership
- Commercial Paper
- Secured Transactions
- Creditors' Rights

THIRD TIER (One full essay unlikely. Maybe one partial essay, if at all)
- Conflict of Laws
- Torts
- Taxation
- Personal Property
- Suretyship

Also, as I said before, study similar subjects together. Commercial paper, secured transactions, and creditors' rights go together. If there's a transactional essay, it'll likely be from one of those three subjects. Corporations, agency, and partnership go together. If there's an entity essay, it'll likely be from one of those three subjects. Study Real Property and Sales while you study for MBE Property and Contracts/Sales, respectively. VA Civ Pro, Fed. Jur., and Equity go together. And so on. The majority of Virginia essays are mixed subjects, so it's best to understand how the various subjects interrelate with each other.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How Best to Use the Final Two Weeks before Your Bar Exam

Hey, Kids! Listen up --

By this point, many of you have let your study plans fall to the waste side and are now studying like a crazed lunatic. Practice questions, practice essays, outline after outline, or index card after index card – you’re desperately trying to drink a fire hose-worth of bar exam knowledge. Two weeks left to the biggest exam of your life; you want to make the most of every hour leading up to it. Sound familiar? While I don’t recommend this plan, I do understand.   

Rather than lecture you about how you should have studied earlier or how you should now be studying, I’m better off just helping you not totally screw up the next two weeks. So here are six pointers to keep in mind.

1.  Review Smart 
  • If you’re comfortable with all of the major issues for each subject, then move onto the details. If you’re still trying to nail down all of the major issues, focus on them—and forget the details.
  • Think small at this point. Ditch the big outlines and books. Rifle through your index cards instead, three or four subjects per day. In a week, all of your cards should be second nature to you.
  • At least three times before the exam, run through all of the short answer questions.
  • Pop off 25 MBE practice questions per day—but review each explanation!
  • Pop off 7-10 practice essays per day. If you went through Barbri’s Virginia Essay book cover to cover, switch over to William & Mary’s collection of previous Virginia Bar Exams. Do the four or five preceding bar exams. The VBBE love to recycle previous essays. If bar examinees bombed a particular essay on February’s exam, don’t be surprised if you see the same or similar issue on July’s exam. The VBBE test on what they think is important. 
    • NOTE: When you read through previous bar exams on the William & Mary website, you will recognize that you read the same essays in Barbri’s book. Re-read them anyway; it’s good practice. Also, some of William & Mary’s model answers will be different from Barbri’s model answers. That’s fine, too. Some essays will have several acceptable answers. The point is, just do as many essays as possible. You want to be in essay-mode from this point forward. Let no essay scare you!
2.  Recharge Your Body
  • You can’t afford to get strung out or sick in the next two weeks. You’ll risk being out of commission for some time or, even worse, carry your exhaustion or sickness into the exam days. Now is the time to begin physically preparing for your exam days. Get sufficient rest (minimum 7 hours per night, preferably 8 hours), eat healthy foods and drink lots of fluids. Your body needs to be physically prepared for two grueling days.
3.  Recharge Your Brain and Psyche
  • With two weeks to go, emotional meltdowns = BAD. Avoid crying in a stupor about your preparation or progress, or lacks thereof. At this point, those issues cannot be completely addressed. Also, avoid crying in a stupor about the bar exam, which lies dead ahead. Fretting over it won’t make it come sooner and go away or get any easier. It’s coming. Deal with it.
4.  Keep Up Your Confidence
  • This one’s crucial! You have to keep your head up. You must be confident in your abilities, even if you don’t quite feel that way. The bar exam is like a premier professional athlete. It wins by finding your weaknesses and exploiting them. Don’t let that happen. Build an impenetrable wall around yourself. When you feel an urge of anxiety or fear rushing upon you, smack it back with a pep talk.
  • I cannot stress this point enough. If you walk into the bar exam feeling like shit about your ability to pass, chances are you’re not going to pass. Keep calm and hold fast. You can do it. I know you can.
5.  Failing the Bar Will Not Ruin Your Future
  • IF you feel there’s a strong possibility you’re going to fail, or IF you want to know what to expect IF you fail, then read below. Otherwise, move onto #6.
    • OK. Worst case scenario: You fail. That’s it. You fail. You retake it in February, you pass, and you move on with your life. A couple months of setback; that’s all there is to it.
    • First, put your predicament into perspective. If you barely studied, then you deserved to fail. If you didn’t study properly, then get a tutor and study right the second time. If you missed passing by just a few points, then know that you’re not far from passing in February. But none of these predicaments involve embarrassment. Many attorneys before you failed the bar exam, many of them smarter than you. And your friends and loved ones won’t think any differently of you either. You’ll think they will and you’ll be too self-absorbed to think otherwise—but you’ll be wrong. You’ll think you let them down, too, and still you’ll be too self-absorbed to think otherwise—but you’ll be wrong again. A few clowns might silently judge you, maybe even a colleague, but I doubt it. You have a Juris Doctor. That means you’re smart and you have drive. So if you want something, go get it. Period. If you want to talk about your plan in getting there, contact me any time. But you WILL pass. I know you will.
6.  You’re on the Home Stretch
  • You’re almost there! Your bar exam woes are nearing their end point, only to be replaced by long nights at the office. Oh - joy of joys! Take a minute to appreciate just how much effort you gave this summer, how you put your mind to it, how badly you wanted this, and just how much law you now know. Honestly, you know more law right now than you might ever know in your entire career. That’s impressive!
You’re rounding the turn for the final 100 meters. Don’t let up know, finish strong, but finish smart. Don’t be a dummy in these last two weeks. They can make or break you. GOOD LUCK!