Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Overview of the Remaining MBE and Virginia Subjects

Taxation (Block) and Suretyship (Kraus) (Grades: C-)

A 4-hour Barbri lecture for a subject that’s sparingly tested? No. Taxation and Suretyship are the only two subjects you are justified in blowing off, particularly taxation. Why? Two reasons. First, Taxation is not like other bar exam subjects that are new to you. Unless you took Taxation courses in law school, taxation will vex and overwhelm you. You will not understand the subject as well as other subjects without twice the time and effort. Secondly, the VBBE rarely devote an essay to Taxation. Expect one short answer question worth one point. One point is not worth twice your time and effort.

The worst case scenario is the VBBE devotes a partial or full essay to Taxation. Chances are 95% of the people around you won’t have a clue either, so most examines will cancel each other out, rendering that particular essay moot. That’s a waste of an essay—and that’s why Taxation is not a great subject on which to test examinees. The subject rewards a few tax nerds at the expense of all other examinees, which does not allow the VBBE to assess its applicant pool as well as other subjects can.  

So while skimping on Taxation is a risk, it’s also a calculated one. I recommend reading through, and getting comfortable with, the few essays and short answer questions for taxation. Apply the remainder of your time to more important subjects, like Virginia Civil Procedure, Wills & Trusts, or Sales.

Suretyship is like Taxation in that the VBBE rarely tests it—for the same reasons. But Suretyship rules are much more straightforward than Taxation’s. If you read through the one or two essays related to Suretyship, you should be fine. Again, skimping on the subject is a risk, but it’s a calculated one. Everything about studying for the bar exam is calculated.

MBE Torts (Schechter) and Domestic Relations (Schechter) (Grades: B-)

Schechter does not use pre-formatted outlines. Basically, he gives long-winded lectures and you take notes. Helpful in law school. . . but not in a bar exam crunch.

For MBE Torts, use Emanuel S&T's (see my post here) brief Torts outline instead, and then start working the MBE practice questions (from S&T and PMBR’s Red Book). Couple them with the PMBR lecture CDs. Listen to the Torts CDs at least once, preferably two or three times. Make index cards from the S&T outline and from the practice questions that you get incorrect or had to guess on. That's how you learn Torts for the bar. To pass the bar, you don’t need to know everything, but you do need to know the right things. When you try to learn everything, you’ll likely overwhelm yourself. Knowing the right things is hard enough; don’t overwhelm yourself.

For Domestic Relations, read through all of the essays instead and make your index cards from them. The VBBE frequently tests on Domestic Relations, usually as a full essay. In July 2011, the VBBE did not test on Domestic Relations. In February 2012, they devoted a partial essay to the subject. The good news is that Domestic Relations is a straightforward subject with which you should feel comfortable after some review. Domestic Relations essays are the easy points you NEED to rack up. Don’t skimp on this subject; know it cold.

VA Secured Transactions / Commercial Paper (Franzese) (Grades: C+)

These Barbri lectures are the opposite of Franzese's long-winded Property outline. They’re too brief! These subjects aren’t terribly difficult, but they’re not so easy as to be brief about them either.

What scares people away from these subjects are their terms and definitions. Once you understand them, the rest will fall into place. So, again, read through all of the essays instead and make your index cards from them. Expect the VBBE to devote a full essay to transactions, which will test either on Commercial Paper, Secured Transactions, or Creditors’ Rights (or a combination of the three subjects). Translation: These subjects are important. Don’t skimp on them; know them cold.

Also, all three subjects are similar, so study them together; i.e., during one session, or one right after the other. The majority of Virginia essays are mixed subjects, so it's best to understand how the various subjects interrelate with each other.

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