Thursday, October 31, 2013

July 2013 New York Bar Exam Results -- RELEASED

The New York State of Law Examiners recently released results of the July 2013 New York bar exam. The overall passage rate was 69%, although it's more interesting to dissect that percentage. The passing examinees break down as follows:

 New York ABA Schools - First Time Takers 88%
 Out-of-State ABA Schools - First Time Takers 84%
 All ABA Graduates - First Time Takers 86%
 Foreign-Educated - First Time Takers 46%
 All Foreign-Educated 37%
 All First Time Takers 78%
 All Candidates 69%

Not surprisingly, foreign examinees are at a severe disadvantage, not just in New York but in other diverse jurisdictions like D.C. and California. A civil law training, coupled with taking and writing an exam in English, presents unique challenges that American-bred and -trained examinees take for granted.

July 2013 MBE Statistics

The national mean scaled score for the July 2013 MBE was 144.2 with a range of 41.2 to 189.9. (Hats off to whomever scored one-tenth of a point from a perfect score!)  

For more information, click here. Please note that the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners prepared this paper; thus most of the statistics analyze Pennsylvania bar examinees. Nonetheless, the board's information is very interesting. For example, somebody received scaled score a 148.8 on the MBE -- and did not pass the Pennsylvania bar. On the other hand, another taker received a 122 scaled MBE score -- and pulled a miracle! 

July 2013 Virginia Bar Exam Results -- RELEASED

The VBBE released the July 2013 Virginia Bar Exam Results late this afternoon. Click here for the results.

In summary, the overall pass rate was 75.06%, with first-time takers pumping up to 79.54%. Congratulations to George Mason University School of Law for having the highest passage rate among first-time takers (93.37%), and to the University of Virginia School of Law for having the highest overall passage rate (93.07%).

Please note that there are two pass lists. If your name is on the first list -- Pass List One -- then you met all requirements and are licensed as of today. If your name is on the second list -- Pass List Two -- then you achieved a passing score on the bar exam, but other outstanding requirements in your file remain (e.g., the MPRE exam). Names on Pass List Two are not licensed as of today.

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 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, September 3, 2013

Model Essay Answers

As a courtesy to Virginia bar applicants, professors from the Virginia law schools provide model answers for the most recent bar exam essays. William & Mary recently posted the collected model answers to the July 2013 Virginia Bar Exam. To access the model answers, please see this link. The answers are comprehensive and very nicely explained.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

As August Passes By. . . .


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.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Discussion Forums Added


I added two discussion forums onto the blog, one for the July 2013 Virginia Essays and Short Answers, and the other for the July 2013 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.

July 2013 Virginia Bar Exam -- Release of Results Date


The VBBE will release results of the July 2013 Virginia Bar Exam on Thursday, October 31, 2013.

Historically, the VBBE releases results on the date stated or on the preceding day. So expect the VBBE to release results on Wednesday, October 30, or else Thursday, October 31. My gut tells me that Thursday, October 31, will be the big day.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Breaking Down the MBE Curve


A number of readers have inquired about the MBE curve. While I posted on this issue in the past, it's still worth revisiting. 

First, let's squash the rumors. A tougher MBE does not mean you will receive a better score. Nor does taking the bar in July instead of February guarantee you a better score. Nor are you better off taking the bar in July because July scores are higher than February's. It's best to think about the MBE curve from two angles.

First, Mean Scaled Scores

In the last ten years, the February mean scaled score varied by fewer than two points above or below 138.6; in the same ten years, the July scaled score varied by fewer than two points above or below 143.8. What does that tell us? Only two things. 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 do tell us anything else. They become misleading when examinees assume that, by sitting for the July MBE, they will automatically achieve a higher score. Continue reading.

Second, Raw Score v. Scaled Scores

The MBE is a standardized exam. Each examinee receives two scores: a raw score and a scaled score. Raw scores from different MBE administrations (e.g., February v. July) 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, or vice-versa.) The NCBE then converts your raw score into a scaled score. The conversion is a complicated statistical process that is 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. The scaled score is the only score you will see, and the only one you care about. 

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. 

Similarly, if you received a 144 scaled score on the February administration, your level of performance would roughly equal a 144 scaled score on the July administration. Your 144 score in February 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 2008 or 2013, these variables won't affect your scaled score. The variables may affect your raw score, but they have no bearing on your actual level of performance (i.e., your understanding of the law). The scaled score will adjust for these variables because a scaled score only measures 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, August 1, 2013

Farewell to the July 2013 Bar Exam!

First, congratulations! The exam is over. Your nights and weekends are back. And in a few short months, many of you will be attorneys at law. 

Quick recap for other readers: On the essays, we saw a lot of the usual suspects: Virginia Civil Procedure, Real Property, Equity, Criminal Procedure, Domestic Relations, Professional Responsibility, Sales (U.C.C. Article 2), Corporations, Agency, and Creditors' Rights. Notably absent were Federal Jurisdiction, Local Government, and Wills -- but not Trusts! The full Creditors' Rights  essay sounded like a brute. And the short answer questions were a minefield. Nobody likes short answers, and everybody struggles on them. But chances are, they won't make or break you. Finally, the MBE was trickier than in previous administrations. All in all, the July exam was a toughie. But if you studied properly and applied common sense, you should have weathered through this exam fine. 

Second, let's briefly discuss how you feel now. All of you are exhausted and, hopefully, relieved. Some of you feel good, but I'm betting most of you just feel like an overcooked wet noodle. Maybe you're fretting over that one essay which gave you trouble. You might be bothered by the excess of one particular subject or the lack of another, or by some pesky short answer questions. For some of you, the MBE gave you trouble. And for others, the entire exam felt like a mess.

Gradually, these feelings will wear off. You will come to terms with the VBBE's essay selection. You will accept that the July 2013 exam was fair and is now out of your control. Some of you will put the whole exam in the back of your mind until a week before results are released. I applaud you. Others will not let your anxiety subside at all.

In many respects, waiting for results is harder than preparing for or taking the exam. You go from having no time on your hands, to having lots of time -- time to think, time to wonder, time to worry. But the same advice before the exam holds true now: you must keep anxiety and self-doubt in check. Otherwise, you'll go crazy. Before the exam, this was half the battle. Now it’s the whole battle. If you think you fared horribly on the exam, it’s because the wound is still fresh and it's all you can think about. You’re thinking about the things you did wrong or missed, and not about the things you did correctly or knew cold. Chances are, you're being too hard on yourself. I bet you did just fine.

The VBBE will post results in late October. The wait is long and arduous. My recommendation is to do everything in your power to distract yourself from thinking about the bar exam. Put those thoughts in a lock box and throw that box in the ocean. Because thinking will only lead to worry. And worry will lead to more worry. It won’t accomplish a damn thing.

If you can't stop yourself from thinking and wondering and worrying, or maybe if you're just curious or are simply passing time, by all means please use the discussion forums on here to converse with other examinees. Just don't use the forums to abuse yourself.

Again, congratulations! Celebrate your accomplishment, and then give yourself some much-deserved rest.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Last-Minute Tips for Next Week

I trust that all of you are putting the finishing touches on your studying, and also preparing for your travel on Sunday or Monday. 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. Most athletes, however, jump or jog around, stretch out, and get pumped up. They perform best when they're mentally prepared. 

For the bar, many of you fall in 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 that 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 then. You never want to let your guard down, especially not the night before the exam.  If watching T.V. helps you do that, do it. If doing a quick set of MBEs helps you get there, then do that. 

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 sessions

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 on 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 the MBEs tomorrow. 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. I'll talk more on that post-exam. For now, give it your best, keep your head up, keep 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. 

Best,

VABarTutor

P.S. Let me know how the exam went! I will have a board on the blog, so that, if fellow examinees wish, they can commiserate afterward. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What to Expect in Roanoke Next Week

Here's a brief run-down of what to expect in Roanoke next week:


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.

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. That's not necessary. 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. 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 for 40 minutes, like an idiot with everybody else, 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 worn and dated, minor-league civic center. 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. This is really happening!

Don't panic. Breathe and relax. 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 will be all around to help you.

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 a bit 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. In fact, the essays will 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.)

MBE Day

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 fall behind!

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

Seventh, Food

If you're an alum 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 decent options. But treat yourself to a good meal. You need the energy!

Friday, July 12, 2013

How to Properly Use The Last Two Weeks To Study


Hello, readers --

Time to reiterate some old points. By now, Barbri students have ditched their study plans and are simply studying like crazed lunatics. (Or is the other way around? Has Barbri left their student to drown?) Either way, that's not a wise plan going into the home stretch. 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. A week from now, 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! If you don't review the answer explanation, don't bother doing any practice questions. You won't learn a damn thing, or progress one inch.
  • 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 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!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reviews of the Remaining Barbri Summer 2013 Video Lectures

For new readers' convenience, and because many of you take Barbri (my condolences), I am recycling previous posts about Barbri's Virginia video lectures to cater to the summer 2013 schedule. Because the lectures themselves minimally change, neither will my reviews.

Wills & Trusts (O'Brien) (Grade: A)

Excellent. O'Brien is right up their with Freer as one of Barbri's best lectures. You know you're going to get a Wills or Trusts essay.  So do yourself a favor: Maximize your study time by learning cold a subject for which the VBBE will almost certainly devote an entire essay. There's ten points in your corner already. That's how you beat this exam.

What I said about VA Civ Pro also applies here. Get as comfortable as possible with this lecture outline. That doesn't mean memorizing every page. Instead, pay close attention to where O'Brien says, "this is important," or "this was tested last year," etc. Star or highlight those sections - they're very important.

Like VA Civ Pro, Wills/Trusts is all about spotting the problem and knowing which steps to apply to solve that problem. The process is fairly mechanical. That's why the VBBE loves to test on these subjects! There's very little room for interpretation; you either know it or you don't. Sure, a Wills essays might ask you to discuss the validity of a will, and might even set up the facts so that you could make an argument for or against validity, but one argument will likely be stronger than the other. Address the points for the other side, but then reinforce why the position you're taking is the better one.

As to which issues within Wills/Trusts to give extra attention, again READ THE ESSAYS. As I said for VA Civ Pro, the VBBE loves to recycle essays. Take note of where certain issues are tested three, four, five times in the practice essays. . .  If you do every Wills/Trusts essay in Barbri's essay book, you will see very clearly which topical areas you need to know cold. If the model answers still leave you a little shaky on a particular issue, refer back to O'Brien's lecture outline. The only part I would not recommend sweating over (more than once) is his lengthy elective share problem towards the end of the Wills section. It's poorly set up, and might confuse you more than it will clarify.

Finally, while Wills is by far the most tested of the two subjects, they really go hand in hand. Do not skim Trusts to spend more time on Wills. For all you know, the Wills/Trusts essay could end up being a straight up Trusts essay (e.g., the Feb. 2010 exam). Don't gamble on ten points like that.

VA Creditors' Rights and Suretyship (Kraus) (Grades: D)

Waste of time. Way, way too much material for two fairly minor subjects. Moreover, it;s not even helpful; I thought it confused more than clarified. While these subjects aren't heavily tested, they're also not that difficult either.

You're better off skipping the lecture and Barbri outlines here, and going straight to the essays. Let the model answers teach you creditors' rights and suretyship. There's only a small handful anyway. suretyship has about two essays total, one full-on and one mixed. Creditors' Rights has maybe a dozen total, five or six full on and fix or six mixed. If you study those model answers, you will see that while these subjects bark a loud bark (i.e., they look scary), they don't have much bite (i.e., you will grasp the subject matter).

Creditors' Rights is the more important of the two. I lob this subject together with Commercial Paper and Secured Transactions. Historically, the VBBE usually commits one essay on each bar exam to cover one of the three subjects (or a combination of them). Virginia did not test on any of them in the last exam (Feb. 2012), so I think July 2012 is primed for an essay.

Finally, a quick word on suretyship. The one or two essays that have ever covered suretyship are manageable. But in the unlikely event that the VBBE commits an entire essay to suretyship, relax. Do your best, and then take comfort in the fact that everybody else is in your shoes too. The VBBE very rarely commits an entire essay to subjects like suretyship or Income Tax, because they're too specific. Remember, the VBBE only has nine essays to test you with, so they want to make the most of them - and not waste an entire essay on a very minor subject like suretyship or tax law. (They also realize that the students who, for example, specialized in tax law in law school have an unfair advantage.) If you do see these subjects on the exam, they'll likely be part of a mixed essay. That means the surety or tax sub-question might only be worth 3 points. Not a big deal if you're stumped.

Corporations (Kaufman) (Grades: B)

Like Agency and Partnership, this lecture isn't bad, but don't treat it like its gold. Use it simply to get comfortable with the law. Again, the best way to really learn and get comfortable with the law is to dig into the essays. Let the model answers teach you exactly what you need to know - and only what you need to know. Having said that, Kaufman's one of Barbri's better lecturers. He does a good job at trimming the fat from his lectures, leaving only the important material.

Agency, Partnership, and Corporations are middle-tier subjects in terms of testing frequency. Know Agency really well, though, because it can tie into virtually any essay as part of a sub-question. (Translation: That means Agency pops up often on the exam.) Corporations is another subject you should know well. The February 2012 exam had a hybrid Agency-Corporations essay, which was recycled verbatim from a previous exam (in addition to a completely recycled VA Civ Pro essay). If you had read all of the practice essays, you would have easily recognized them and recalled the model answers. Doesn't get much easier than that, does it?

MBE Evidence (Alexander) (Grade: C+)

This lecture is shorter (something like 60 pages), and the jokes and unhelpful tricks are mostly absent, but I reiterate many of the same sentiments above. PMBR's Evidence lecture on CD is a fantastic alternative - use that as your foundation for learning the material. No note-taking, just listening. The rest of your focus should be on learning from Emanuel's Evidence outline and working the practice questions. Again, index cards are your friend.

MBE Contracts & Sales Lecture (with VA distinctions) (Epstein) (Grade: B+)

60 pages. Ugh. Three days. Double ugh. But once you filter out the fat, this one has some teeth. Epstein is old-man funny, and in another life he was probably a cattle rancher or cowboy. His examples often begin with, "Now you're probably thinkin' - Epstein, son, what in the hell are you talkin' about?" I imagine words like "bo diddly" and "hinky" often enter his vocabulary.

This one of the few MBE lectures that's good. The drawback is that Epstein bogs down his lecture with an excess of examples. I also think his overarching Armadillo-Jay-Z-whatever mnemonic is very unclear, never mind unhelpful. But once you sift through some of his excess, you'll find that his outline is good. Get to know those portions well. And, yes, you should chew on a few of his examples in between. I remember early on having trouble distinguishing common law options from U.C.C. firm offers. My index cards weren't helping either, so I went back to Epstein's outline. Here, his numerous examples were helpful. I made a couple more cards for myself, and never felt the need to return to his outline again. Your primary text should be your index cards - almost never the lectures.

Epstein's outline should supplement S&T's Contracts & Sales mini-outline. Translation: the S&T outline should garner far more of your attention. You will find that the greatest strength of Epstein's outline will be in solidifying the points that are made in the S&T outline.

Remember: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Start at 60,000 feet (just the basics). Get comfortable with the most common, testable issues first. This is where S&T's outlines shine. These will serve as your most important index cards. Then, once you're comfortable here, move to 40,000 feet, which will include Epstein's outline and S&T's practice questions. Keep making noteworthy index cards. Once you're comfortable with this material, then take her down to 20,000 feet and begin to tie in PMBR's practice questions. Make more index cards as necessary. Once you're comfortable here, get to know all of your index cards COLD. Apply them everyday to your practice questions. Take the time to really learn from your mistakes. The more practice questions you hit, the more explanatory answers you read, the quicker you'll spot repeat questions, tricks, and traps. That's how you get to be a cold-blooded MBE killer.

Professional Responsibility (Velloney) (Grade: C-)

The lecture is a waste of time. The subject is NOT. The VBBE loves to zing bar examinees with Professional Responsibility (PR) essays. In July 2011, the VBBE devoted one full essay and one half essay exclusively to PR. So be warned.

That being said, Barbri's lecture rambles. Chuck it and head straight to the PR essays. Make your index cards from them. Afterward, take a look at the Convisor outline for PR. Just skim through it once and see if anything jumps out at you. Mostly, though, let the essays and short answers teach you bar exam PR.

While my suggested approach to PR is not 100% fool proof, it'll give you a great leg up over the rest of the crowd. Most bar examinees completely blow off PR, thinking it's BS-able. Don't be one of them! The VBBE take Virginia PR very seriously, and it's quite unlike the MPRE or that joke course you took in law school. Nothing's worse than hitting 1.5 essays on a subject you don't know a lick about. If you read all of the PR essays, which isn't many, then make your index cards from them and diligently learn your cards, you'll be in better PR shape than 98% of the bar examinees around you.

Suretyship and Taxation (Grade: Unrated)

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.

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 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.


Local Government (Sinclair) (Grade: A)

In the last two exams, the VBBE has devoted two full essays to Local Government. I believe, before that, it was a staple in the short answer section. What does that tell you? The VBBE loves Local Government, so you should too! Sinclair's lecture outline is trim (19 pages) and very well filtered of unnecessary law. Virtually everything you need to know about Local Government for the exam is in that lecture outline. And, again, do the practice essays and take note of which issues come up time and again.

Some people disliked Sinclair's dry tone of voice. Some even walked out of his lecture, assuming it would be unhelpful. Don't poo-poo this subject. It's a wolf in sheep's clothing. And Sinclair is your best friend here.

Equity (Sinclair) (Grade: A)

Same thoughts as above. Another big subject. Don't overlook it. Sinclair knows best.

Conflict of Laws (Easley) (Grade: B-)

The VBBE tested on this subject in February 2012. Overall, though, it's a minor subject (and, also, not that difficult). Your time would be better spent reading the five or so practice essays for Conflict's of Law, and making index cards from them. That's about the extend of what you'll need to know.

Personal Property (Easley) (Grade: B)

Most law students do not study personal property, and Easley's lecture and lecture outline are a great crash course lesson in the subject. It's a medium-tested subject and the material's not difficult, so don't try to memorize the lecture. Read the practice essays. They'll point you to which areas you need to know.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

VBBE's Laptop Registration

A friendly reminder to all:

The VBBE's regular laptop registration will begin on Wednesday, June 12, and extend to Friday, June 21. The fee is $125. If you plan on typing your essay answers (and most of you should), don't miss out. Late registration will bump the fee to $175.

Reviews on the First of Barbri's Summer 2013 Video Lectures

For new readers' convenience, and because many of you take Barbri (my condolences), I am recycling previous posts about Barbri's Virginia video lectures to cater to the summer 2013 schedule. Because the lectures themselves minimally change, neither will my reviews. 


Virginia Civil Procedure (Freer) (Grade: A)

Va Civ Pro is the most frequently tested state subject. Expect at least one essay on the bar exam, maybe one and a half or two. Fortunately, Freer is one of Barbri's best lecturers. He's engaging, and his outline is organized and reasonably well-filtered of unnecessary law (for bar purposes). Your time will be well spent getting as comfortable as possible with this lecture outline.  That doesn't mean simply trying to memorize every page. Instead, pay close attention to where he says, "this is important," or "this was tested last year," etc. Star or highlight those sections - they're very important. The lecture's six sections are also hierarchical, starting with the most commonly tested material and working down.

The VBBE does not like to re-invent the wheel. Which is to say, they love to recycle essays. You will see it happen within Barbri's VA Civ Pro practice essays (which are straight-up copies of actual previous VBBE essays). Take note of where certain issues are tested three, four, five times. . .  If you do every Va Civ Pro essay in Barbri's essay book, you will see very clearly which topical areas you need to know cold.

Federal Jurisdiction (Freer) (Grade: A)

Another Freer gem. Same thoughts as above. The VBBE has not tested on Federal Jurisdiction in the last two exams. Given the subject's historical frequency, two absences is a drought. I think the July 2012 exam is ripe for a Federal Jurisdiction question.

Agency and Partnership (Kaufman) (Grades: B)

These lectures aren't bad, but don't treat them like gold. Use them simply to get comfortable with the law. Again, the best way to really learn and get comfortable with the law is to dig into the essays. Let the model answers teach you exactly what you need to know - and only what you need to know. Having said that, Kaufman's one of Barbri's better lecturers. He does a good job at trimming the fat from his lectures, leaving only the important material.

These subjects are middle-tier subjects in terms of testing frequency. Know Agency really well, though, because it can tie into virtually any essay as part of a sub-question. (Translation: That means Agency pops up often on the exam.) Corporations is another subject you should know well. The February 2012 exam had a hybrid Agency-Corporations essay, which was recycled verbatim from a previous exam (in addition to a completely recycled VA Civ Pro essay). If you had read all of the practice essays, you would have easily recognized them and recalled the model answers. Doesn't get much easier than that, does it?


MBE Real Property (Franzese) (Grade: C+)

The Multistate Real Property lecture with Frazese is. . . . not as helpful as you would think. The lecture does a good job of refreshing your memory on (or, for some people, teaching you) first-year law you probably haven't thought about since first-year. That, however, doesn't necessarily translate to a good lecture that will prepare you for the MBE.

First, the lecture is too long, something like 100 pages. That's too much content for the bar, even MBE subjects. I also found Franzese's jokes tedious and, even worse, her little tricks to remember requirements for adverse possession, real covenants, etc. If you find yourself spending more time trying to remember acronyms to remember something else, you need to reevaluate your strategy.

Instead, use Emanuel S&T's (see my post here) brief Property outline, and then start working the practice questions. Additionally, listen to the PMBR lecture CDs at least once, preferably two or three times. Make index cards from the outline and from the practice questions that you get incorrect or had to guess on. That's how you should learn property for the bar. Again, what Barbri outlines don't tell you is that what matters for passing the bar is not knowing everything, but knowing the right things. Barbri outlines include everything but the kitchen sink. If you try to learn everything, you're likely to overwhelm yourself.

MBE Criminal Law & Procedure, with Virginia Distinctions (Vellony) (Grade: C-)

Vellony's lecture is probably the most disorganized of all Barbri lectures. Instead of separating multistate and Virginia law, he zippers them together (e.g., Multistate conspiracy elements and exceptions, followed immediately by Virginia's conspiracy elements and exceptions, whether or not they're actually distinct from multistate law). This format, while good in theory, is counter intuitive in practice. The student is left more confused than before, because now he must sift through two laws (Multistate and Virginia) for every issue, whether or not they're actually different.

Vellony's lecture would have been much more user-friendly had he focused primarily on multistate law and then, at the end, listed the Virginia distinctions to multistate law. Because despite what Barbri tells you, Virginia Criminal Law & Procedure isn't substantially different from Multistate Criminal Law & Procedure. Again, read the Virginia Criminal Law & Procedure essays, compare them to your MBE Criminal Law questions, and you will see that more times than not they reach the same answers. Yes, Virginia has some distinctions - all of them worth knowing - but they are manageable. And yes, while Virginia's elemental language is sometimes worded differently than multistate law, if you read both laws carefully, you'll see that they essentially say the same thing.

So I would probably scrap this lecture. If you have a detailed question, refer to the Convisor for an answer. Otherwise, learn Multistate Criminal Law & Procedure by three resources: Emanuel's Strategies and Tactics (S&T) condensed outline, PMBR's CD Lecture, and S&T's and PMBR's practice questions. Then make index cards from the outline and practice questions. For Virginia's distinctions, read through all of the essays and make your index cards from them. If you do this, you will spot the distinctions. But really, they are not so numerous or so different, as Barbri will lead you to believe.

MBE Constitutional Law (Cheh) (Grade: C+)

Cheh's lecture is organized and comprehensive, but still too detailed for MBE purposes. What you need to know about Con Law for MBE purposes can be condensed into about 10-15 pages, not 50. Scrap this lecture; it'll weigh you down too much. As I said before, refer to Emanuel's Strategies and Tactics (S&T) condensed outline, PMBR's CD Lecture, and S&T's and PMBR's practice questions. Let these resources teach you MBE Con Law (it's quite different from law school Con Law). The MBE isn't asking for an essay, or for citations or procedural posture. It's asking whether you know the tricks and fine-line distinctions, and Con Law has plenty! Remember: Knowing the law is half the battle. The other half is knowing how to take the MBE.

Con Law questions are filled with tricks - answers that are always wrong, answers that could never be correct given the question presented, easy ways of determining whether a question is about equal protection or due process, or simple steps to quickly determine whether a case is final or else appealable to the Supreme Court. All of these tricks and fine-line distinctions are covered in Emanuel's Strategies & Tactics outline. In the 15 minutes it will take you to read that outline, you will already be better prepared for the MBE Con Law questions than Cheh's two-day, 50-page lecture could ever hope to do.

MBE Torts (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.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Congratulations to my Students -- 100% Passage Rate!

An extra-special congratulations goes out to my students this winter. Six of you sat for the Virginia Bar Exam. One of you sat for the West Virginia Bar Exam. And all of you PASSED!!

I'm so proud of and happy for you. You put in a tremendous amount of work. You did it! -- Now's the time to celebrate!

Today's results also gives credence to the methodology that I teach. Whether first-timer or fourth-timer, MBEs or essays, no challenge is too big.

February 2013 Virginia Bar Exam Results -- RELEASED

The VBBE released the results of the February 2013 Virginia Bar Exam today. For the pass lists, pass rates, and admission ceremony information, please see the link below:

http://www.vbbe.state.va.us/bar/barresults.html

The overall passage rate was 57.45% (65.71% for first-timers exam takers). Both percentages fall in line with historical February passage rates. Special congratulations goes out to exam takers from UVA and GMU, who, collectively, captured the highest first-time and overall passage rates among Virginia law schools.

Friday, April 5, 2013

February 2013 West Virginia Bar Exam Results Released

Yesterday, West Virginia released the results of their February 2013 bar exam. 54 of the 94 exam takers passed, for a 57% passage rate. Congratulations to one of my students this winter, seat number 65, who PASSED!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Percentile Equivalents of MBE Scaled Scores and Raw Scores by Subject

The February 2013 Bar Exam Results Season began today with Illinois' release. Of interest to other jurisdictions are MBE data that Illinois released, particularly the percentile equivalents, which I'm linking here. If Illinois is any representation of the rest of the country, Torts and Contracts were the "easiest" MBE subjects while Constitutional Law and Evidence were the "hardest." Also, a scaled MBE score of 135 put a candidate in the 40th MBE percentile, a 140 in the 55th MBE percentile, a 145 in the 71st MBE percentile, and a 150 in the 81st MBE percentile.

Those statistics are interesting, but please take them with a grain of salt. The margin between the subjects is actually quite thin, and "easy" and "hard" is all relative anyway and dependent on a variety of other variables.

Expect North Carolina and West Virginia to release their results very shortly too.

Best,

VABarTutor

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Virginia Bar Exam Essay Questions (1995 - 2012)


All,

Please see the tab above for all Virginia Bar Exam Essay Questions, 1995 - 2012. The essay questions are in PDF format, two PDFs per exam (morning and afternoon sessions).

I uploaded all of the essay questions with permission from the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners. For suggested answers to essay questions from 2002 to present, please see the following link to William & Mary's.

Best,

VABarTutor

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Suggested Answers to the February 2013 Virginia Bar Exam Essays

All,

Today, various scholars from the law schools at William & Mary, George Mason, U. of Richmond, and Regent released a summary of suggested answers to the essay portion of the February 2013 Virginia Bar Exam. Their suggested answers, although typically brief, are very thorough, reliable, and they cover all the issues. Click on the link above to review them.

Please keep in mind that for many Virginia essays, there may not be a singularly "correct" answer. While the VBBE may prefer one answer over another, often they will accept several answers, so long as you pick one and discuss your reasoning behind it. All to say, if you are comparing William & Mary's suggested answers to Barbri's, both versions may be correct. And if you are pulling your hair out because William & Mary discussed XYZ in an essay, but you didn't, that doesn't mean you're automatically doomed. The suggested answers are helpful, but they're not the final word. That belongs to the VBBE.

Best,

VABarTutor

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Civil Procedure Will Be On the MBE in February 2015

Attention, law students and perennial bar takers --

You knew this day would come. All those weird quasi-civil procedure questions that we saw over the last couple years foreshadowed the NCBE's recent announcement. Beginning with the February 2015 bar exam, Civil Procedure will be added to the MBE. (See the official announcement here.)

The MBE's format will remain in line with today's standard. 200 questions, 190 of which are scored, divided among seven subjects as follows: Contracts & Sales (28 questions); Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts (27 questions per subject). 

For many bar examinees, Civil Procedure will be an un-welcomed addition to the MBE. The coverage of law within each subject is already vast; adding a seventh subject will spread the questions even thinner. On the other hand, some of you would accept any change as long as that change meant fewer Contracts or Real Property questions. Nonetheless, Civil Procedure will make the MBE experience all the more interesting. 

How, exactly, the addition will affect scores remains to be seen. On June 30th, 2013, the NCBE will release "test specifications" for Civil Procedure, which I'm translating to mean an outline of issues the MBE will test. Stay tuned for more.

All to say, if Civil Procedure is your Achilles heel, get yourself into an exam chair no later than July 2014. If you're a current 1L, then get off YouTube and pay more attention in Civil Procedure class.

Friday, March 1, 2013

February 2013 Bar Exam: Done and Done.

First, congratulations! The exam is over. Your nights and weekends are back. And in a few short months, many of you will be attorneys at law. 

Quick recap for other readers: On the essays, we saw a lot of the usual suspects (surprise, surprise!). Wills, Federal Jurisdiction, Creditors' Rights, Sales (U.C.C. Art. 2), Local Government, Corporations, Real Property, Equity, and our good friend, Virginia Civil Procedure. The VBBE gave Local Government a particularly strong showing by devoting one and a half essays to the subject. I keep telling my students -- the examiners love this subject. It's just so. . . Virginia. Anyway, I was a little surprised not to see a Criminal Law or Procedure essay. A half-essay for Virginia Civil Procedure was also light, but by no means inconceivable. On the short answer section, the questions were mostly low-hanging fruit, which was a pleasant surprise. Finally, the MBE was about as typical as the MBE gets. 

Second, let's briefly discuss how you feel now. All of you are exhausted and, hopefully, relieved. Some of you feel good, but I'm betting most of you just feel like an overcooked wet noodle. Maybe you're fretting over that one essay which gave you trouble. You might be bothered by the excess of one particular subject or the lack of another, or by a pesky short answer question. For some of you, the MBE gave you trouble. And for others, the entire exam felt like a mess.

Gradually, these feelings will wear off. You will come to terms with the VBBE's essay selection. You will accept that the February 2013 exam was fair and is now out of your control. Some of you will put the whole exam in the back of your mind until a week before results are released. I applaud you. Others will not let your anxiety subside at all.

In many respects, waiting for results is harder than preparing for or taking the exam. You go from having no time on your hands, to having lots of time -- time to think, time to wonder, time to worry. But the same advice before the exam holds true now: you must keep anxiety and self-doubt in check. Otherwise, you'll go crazy. Before the exam, this was half the battle. Now it’s the whole battle. If you think you fared horribly on the exam, it’s because the wound is still fresh and it's all you can think about. You’re thinking about the things you did wrong or missed, and not about the things you did correctly or knew cold. Chances are, you're being too hard on yourself. I bet you did just fine.

The VBBE expects to post results on April 25th. Translation: they will post results on April 24th or 25th, but not before the 24th. The wait is long and arduous. My recommendation is to do everything in your power to distract yourself from thinking about the bar exam. Put those thoughts in a lock box and throw that box in the ocean. Because thinking will only lead to worry. And worry will lead to more worry. It won’t accomplish a damn thing.

If you can't stop yourself from thinking and wondering and worrying, or maybe if you're just curious or are simply passing time, by all means please use the discussion forums to converse with other examinees. Just don't use the forums to abuse yourself.

Again, congratulations! Celebrate your accomplishment, and then give yourself some much-deserved rest.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Your Trip to Norfolk: Logistically, What to Expect


Hello, readers --

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 Norfolk, 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 a little over three hours, all highway - first south on I-95 to Richmond, and then east on I-64 to the Hampton Roads peninsula. Hampton Roads is a pretty and unique region of Virginia where the ocean, rivers, Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Outer Banks, Navy, and sub-tropical weather all converge. If you can afford to spend a few hours poking around after the bar exam, I recommend it.

Second, Norfolk

Welcome to the world's largest naval station and also, unrelated, the crime capital of Virginia! Fortunately, you will be on the waterfront in the prettier, safer part of Norfolk. If you're a repeater from July, you'll probably find Norfolk to be a better venue than Roanoke. More accessible, less dumpy, biggish city amenities, and who doesn't like parking next to an aircraft carrier?

Third, Lodging

I hope all of you followed my advice from a previous post on this issue. If not, read here. The Norfolk Waterside Marriott is your best option. Your commute will be a leisurely five minutes inside the hotel.

First alternative: Across the street, at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside. Slightly cheaper, but also slightly less convenient. A covered sky walk connects the Marriott to the Waterside Festival Marketplace, which is next to the Sheraton.

Second alternative: No-No-No. Norfolk isn't like Roanoke. Buck up and stay at the Marriott or Sheraton. Virtually every February bar examinee will be staying at one of those hotels -- and for good reason.

Fourth, the Marriott's Ballroom

For those of you who have have been living on the Moon for the last five months, the Virginia Bar Exam will be held in the Marriott; specifically, in a corporate ballroom.

The first day, the state-specific essay day, is laptop day. The bar exam has a very mystique, intimidating aura about it. But appreciate the humor in the logistics of it all: Several hundred of you will hang around in the Marriott lobby, waiting for the ballroom's doors to open. Some will be read newspapers, others will camp out on the grand staircase, but most of you will just stand around aimlessly and awkwardly, as if it was perfectly normal for you to be in this lobby wearing a suit and holding a laptop, power card, and Ziploc bag filled with bare essentials.  At least you won't be alone. The second day, MBE day, will be a repeat show of the first day, except now a line will form behind the front desk's single pencil sharpener. Each of you will need maybe two or three pencils, but most of you will sharpen about twenty. Every five minutes or so, the pencil sharpener will shut down from overheating. The waiting line will grown and then panic in unison. You can't pay for this kind of tragic comedy. In the end, all will be well. But you would be wise anyway to bring a half-decent pencil sharpener and sharpen your pencils the night before.

Anyway, once inside the ballroom, you will see fold-out tables lined up in rows, row after row after row. A sudden wave of anxiety might rush in. OMG. This just got real. . . . This is really happening.

Don't panic. Breathe, and remain calm. The find-your-seat process is surprisingly very quick and easy. Signs will direct you to your specific seat, where you will find an instruction packet and your I.D. card (showing your name and photo). This assigned seat will be your seat for the next two days. Boot up your laptop, follow the instructions, and remember to keep calm. An overabundance of technicians will be walking around to help you, if necessary.

Fifth, Attire

Again, for those of you who have have been living on the Moon for the last five months, 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 hotel room or 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 are coldly formal throughout the application process and in their regular communications up to this point. 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. You're ready to go. And you're Just... Sitting... There...

Again, say a prayer, meditate. . . Do whatever you need to do to just remain calm and relaxed.

And then, the proctor tells you to begin. Each session, morning and afternoon, will fly by. The essays particularly will feel like a time crunch. Nobody leaves early on the essay day. I expect all of you will have just enough time to finish, but you'll have to work very efficiently to do so. 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.)

MBE Day

The MBE day is more streamline - no laptops, just pencils! (And remember what I suggested about pencil sharpening...) 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. Most of you will 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 work just as efficiently to do so. 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 exist in the Marriott or within walking distance of it (you may want to try the Waterside Festival Marketplace across the street). The VBBE gives everybody ample time for lunch, specifically for people like you who have to walk around to find a place to eat. (Bonus if you're staying at the Marriott: you will also have time to return to your hotel room to briefly chill out or do a last-minute review of flash cards.)

For breakfast, I recommend eating at your hotel. Again, just more convenient. The Marriott has room service and a breakfast buffet, which does not get nearly as crowded as you would expect. For dinner, the Marriott has some nice options, especially Don Shula's Grill. And across the street is Outback Steakhouse, Joe's Crab Shack, and the Waterside Festival Marketplace, which has plenty of dining options. Treat yourself to a good meal. You need the energy!

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Good luck, everybody! Have confidence in yourself. You can do this!