Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How I Passed the California Bar Exam (CBX)

I just received an awesome comment by an anonymous person on a blog that I am deciding to delete ("What I Should Have Done the First Time I Took the CA Bar").  I am deleting that video because I recorded it regarding the preparation for my second attempt at the bar, before learning of my results.

Now, that I have passed, I believe I'm in a better position to adequately respond the the kind comment by Anonymous, which stated:

"Hi Jessie, I once read your ask why twice article a while back while I was in law school. Coincidentally, I found you in the comments from Grand Poobah's blog. I really like your writing style. You have a very clear thought process. Congrats on the bar exam. I hope you will tell us about what you did this time around. You should definitely blog about being a practicing lawyer when you get sworn in, too. It's tough out there (in the job market)."

Awwww!  :D

So, without further ado, here is my blog about precisely what I did to pass the California Bar Exam -- the beast that it is.

Note: Yes, there are in fact 3 videos here.  The total investment time in watching these is about 35 minutes.  I believe, however, that (especially for repeat bar takers) this could very well resonate with you, and, similar to my other law blog entries, help clarify the "how" part of the exam.  Also, if you want tutoring info, click here for my post on that.



And why is it, by the way, that all video thumbnails suck so badly???  Ah, well.  Here are some links to the books/products/information that I used and recommend:




Also, one keeper tidbit of info from the blog entry that I'm deleting must survive: Here's the link to a New York Times article about a recent study that just came out in Science in January 2011.  It was conducted at Purdue.  The conclusion of the study is in the  title of the NYT article: To Really Learn, Quit Studying, and Take a Test.

Since posting this, a lot of people have asked me about tutoring for the CBX.  Please see my post on that issue here if you want some guidance.

Good luck, everyone!  I know you can do it! :D

57 comments:

  1. By the way, if you're looking for a tutor, I used Steve Liosi this time. I took the "CA Bar Online Tutorial I."

    The thing with Steve is that (1) you MUST text him each and every time that you email him something because, otherwise, he does not check that email address, and (2) if you are able to either meet with him in person to go over a practice essay or talk with him over the phone about one, it really helps bring together some of the sticking points.

    The light went on for me after the first week or so, which is when I realized that I had actually written his advice into one of my blogs. If you need further explanation and feedback on practice essays (which goes beyond my blog), I recommend him.

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  2. Glad you gave a shoutout to the Bar Code Cheat Sheets book by Whitney Roberts. I give that book all the credit to me passing on my 2nd time.

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    1. How did u encorporated to ur studies ?

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  3. Awesome post. I tweeted it to my followers and did a post about it on my blog. I embedded your videos too. They are great.

    Here is the link to my blog if you want to check it out: http://baradvisor.blogspot.com/2011/11/advice-for-bar-exam-repeaters.html

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  4. Dear Bar Advisor,

    Thank you so much for the shout out! :D

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  5. This is one of the most helpful blog posts videos I have seen. Everything you said just makes so much sense and your experience the first two times is so familiar with my own personal experience with the bar. I am looking forward to implimenting some of your suggestions for my 3rd try in Feb. Thanks for taking the time to share, give back, and mostly give hope that this test can be passed! Congrats on passing!

    Michael -

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  6. This was absolutely great. Thank you so much. And refreshing and hopeful to see we do not need to contort ourselves into human pretzels mentally to pass!

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  7. Awesome sauce!!!!!

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  8. you have no idea how much this inspired/helped me. thanks for giving someone with high test anxiety the courage to face the bar exam a second time.

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  9. Hi...thanks for your advice and time. Do you mind telling me exactly what anti-anxiety you took? I could not understand the name. Thanks.

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  10. Sure thing! I took generics for Celexa (which was the small daily dose) and Ativan (the one I took each morning of the bar). I hope this helps!

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  11. I just wanted to say that I REALLY appreciate you posting your input on passing the bar. I myself am I repeat taker of the California bar (failed July 2011) and am looking to re-take it in Feb. This time around I, like you, work full-time and I have a 7 week old daughter. So, I was hoping that you might be able to provide a little more insight on what you did in order to pass due to time constraints along with some of the tips you got from the tutoring you received in regard to essay writing. I hope I am not asking too much. Any comments will be greatly appreciated! Thanks again!

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    1. Hi, Brandon. :)

      I'm sorry it's taken me a bit to get back with you (work has been a never-ending series of fires to put out lately). I ended up drafting a response that was so detailed (read: long) that Blogger refused to accept it as a comment. Therefore, I have made it a new blog entry in and of itself.

      The title of that entry is called, "Tips for Working Bar-Takers and Details on Writing Rules & Analyses."

      Hope this helps!

      Jessie

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    2. Jessie: You rock! You are simply too kind! A million thank you's!

      As far as your "never-ending series of fires" is the legal profession everything you hoped and dreamed that it was?

      Sincerely,
      Brandon

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    3. You're welcome, Brandon. :)

      And, yes, I knew that I would be really busy as an attorney, but holy hell! Things have just been super crazy lately. Once CA gets out of its budget crisis, I will seek a job with the government as a state prosecutor (with way better hours). I dream about this at least once a day. :)

      My dream is to prosecute sex traffickers. High burn-out, but worth it.

      Delete
  12. you go Jessie.

    Your videos are more than worth their weight in gold.

    You are golden, too!

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  13. Hey, really good stuff. I actually failed the CBX on my third attempt (the one which you passed, btw). I like how you breakdown attacking the essays (with your K's example, which is golden). I think you make some really good points in that I also found baressays.com to be extremely helpful. I also think you are dead on with the whole formatting ordeal they want and how you really need to breakdown each issue by going through element by element by element etc...

    The tough thing for me was never the essays, it was actually the MBE (for CA). I realized I needed a 140 raw to have a good shot each time (my PT's and essays were always 60, maybe a 65 here and there) - and a 140 is not a realistic score.

    Anyway, I'm preparing for another bar in a different state now and I was wondering if you can share how you got those high MBE scores (which btw I can't believe you call "lousy" at some point)? I believe you read the S & T MBE book, right?? I think 200 Q's in one day is a crazy game to play, pretty much like 200 cases in one day. Any additional tips??

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    1. Hi there. For the MBE, I did 2 things: (1) Strategies & Tactics for the MBE and (2) Kaplan's PMBR. I provided a link to each of those below the last video.

      The thing about the S&T book is that I read EVERYTHING, especially the introductions (to the whole book and to each subject). I didn't simply take the practice tests. The real gold is in those introductions. The Con Law section was especially amazing in the way that they logically explained some subtle differences in the law.

      As far as PMBR is concerned, I did the first 6-day seminar, and then I went back over those same questions by subject throughout my study period as I had time. I didn't touch the big fat red book, I'll be honest (that's the book that you're supposed to do 33 questions per day from). I just didn't have the time. Then, at the end, I went to the 3-day seminar.

      That was it. Those 2 things increased my scores tremendously. Hope this helps!

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  14. Hey Jessie,

    Thanks for the inspiration. I have a follow-up for you regarding the MBE as my situation is getting pretty bad...

    Like I said, I'm taking another bar this summer and my only issue is the MBE. I've taken the MBE four times and my highest score was a 109 raw. I've done so much MBE prep it's getting ridiculous, and this is the highest score I could get. I also have read the intros to each MBE subject in S&T (I actually just recently got the real book, but before I read those "golden" intros from some site online that ripped off the book). This time around I'm actually focusing on bestmbe.com as my primary source. The creator of bestme.com received a few 170+ raw scores in his day and he seems like a smart guy, so I decided to go with him. I've also consulted a number of other MBE sources, trust me it's a pretty long list.

    My father (the only person I really consult with regarding my MBE troubles) seems to think my problem is I never fully got the details. My raw scores for each MBE subject is pretty consistent (for example, for my 109 raw I got mostly around 20/33 correct for four MBE subjects but then I got a very low 16-18is for Real Property and Evidence). I need around a 120ish raw to pass in the state I'm taking it in now.

    I don't know what my deal is. But I do know that I really want to make this summer my last MBE. Initially, I thought that my trouble could be the fact that 200 MBE q's just calls for burn-out city but I don't think that's my problem since my scores are pretty consistent for each MBE subject (meaning, it's not like I burn out at the lunch half-time point and just fry during the afternoon). The thing is, it's just so frustrating because I've done so many MBE questions and consulted so many sources at his point and my highest score was just a 109 raw. I'm beginning to think it might be more of an IQ thing (as in, perhaps that is the best my brain could do) - but I know that's just negative talk.

    Also, one additional point - my practice scores when I take full-day 200 Q practice exams at home (it's been a while, but I've definitely done a few of those in the past) - is consistently in the 150 raw range. So perhaps it's test anxiety, but that's kind of my own personal problem...

    Anyway, I was just hoping you can maybe share some additional thoughts/advice for me in light of this new information. Is it really just a matter of IQ (or lack thereof)? I must admit, that does sound a bit funny but I am dead serious.

    Thanks.

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    1. I hate to even ask this, but are you the same "Anonymous" commenter as before? It seems like you are, so I'll respond that way.

      I absolutely do not think it's an IQ thing. I would put that out of your mind.

      If you have scored 150 before in different practice tests but are scoring 110 and less in the real deal, I absolutely would consider going to a professional to see whether you have test anxiety and whether he/she will prescribe you with anything. Please, please consider my final video in this post and one of my comments above because these specifically deal with my own personal test-anxiety problems that I had with the California Bar.

      Also, I want to stress that I took Kaplan's PMBR in a certain way, as discussed above.

      I wish that I could tell you more of what I did, but I really didn't do anything else for the MBE in addition to what I've already posted. Please, though, get some help on the test anxiety thing. If your scores between practice and the real test are that far apart, something is wrong. It can't possibly be your IQ or anything about not having been taught enough details because, otherwise, you wouldn't be scoring 150 in practice.

      Anyhow, hope this helps. Good luck!

      Delete
  15. Hey Jessie,

    Gave you a shout-out. http://erickregalado.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/2nd-time-was-the-charm-i-passed-the-california-bar-exam/

    Told them to look at your videos for advice, especially if they're repeat takers.

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    1. Woot! Thanks! :D I read your entry. I'm so sorry about your grandfather... I know how awful that must have been. I have a similar story, so my heart is with you.

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  16. I just wanted to thank you for all the advice you have provided. Everything you said rings true. I'd rather take advice from a repeater. I'm planning to repeat the bar next February. I'll keep you posted.

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  17. Thank you! You are beautiful inside and out.

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  18. This is the most helpful post I've encountered for a repeat taker. Thank you. Btw, there is a new S&T 2012, but do you still recommend S&T 2010?

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    1. Thank you for your comment. :) I would probably go ahead with the new version. I imagine that their approach is the same with maybe a couple of tweaks here and there (i.e., fixing typos, etc.).

      Best of luck!

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  19. Hi Jessie,

    This has been really helpful to me too. I am an attorney barred in FL and MA and sitting for the CA in February. I am looking for a used copy of the bar code cheat sheet and I cannot seem to find one anywhere. Do you have any advice on obtaining a used copy? Since I live in FL, I obviously cannot go to the bookstore where it is sold. I saw on the original website it is listed for $140; however, since it is from 2008, I am unsure whether I should spend that much on the publication. Thanks again for your help!

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    1. Hi there.

      I don't believe that there is a more recent version than the 2008 edition. Other than searching on the internet for a used copy, I don't know of any specific place to obtain a used copy. Amazon has the 2006 version, but I don't even think it's available.

      I used the 2008 edition for the 2011 bar, and it was great. I definitely recommend it. I got so, so much from the $140 that I spent on that book and would do it again in a heartbeat.

      I hop this helps. :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks again for all your suggestions! I looked for it on amazon and it was unavailable. I just ordered it from the bar code and they are shipping it out today.

      Delete
  20. Hi Jessie,

    I know this is really random, but I stumbled to this post while actually looking for The Bar Code Cheat Sheet. I'm finding these essays are a whole different ball game for me then from NY/NJ which I took in July, and I'm starting to get nervous. My friend was going to loan me her copy, but I just found out that the last person she loaned it to misplaced it, so that's not possible anymore.

    I know this is a long shot, but I was wondering if you still had your copy? I'm only asking because you live in SD, and I just moved back here from NYC, and I'm trying to get my hands on the book ASAP. If this is in any way possible, that would be amazing. If not, that's ok too, your tips were great!

    Thanks,
    Jessica S. in San Diego

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    1. I no longer have that book. If you order it through the link I posted below my videos, perhaps you still have time. ? Maybe there's a way to rush it?

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    2. I will order it through their website, i think it'll be here in a few days, I figured it was a longshot anyways. But thanks for all the great advice!

      - Jessica S.

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  21. Jessie: Great Great Blog! I'm taking the CA Bar this summer and still debating whether to pay the full amount for Bar Bri. I was planning on doing the PMBR course too. So, my question is did you still use the Bar Bri schedule (lectures, etc.) for the third go around? I'm curious to know how you incorporated your outside Bar Bri supplements with the bar bri schedule. Thanks for the help.

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    1. Hello. For the third round, the only BarBri resource that I used was the conviser mini. And, even at that, I only used it when I felt "stuck" because, otherwise, it's too overwhelming.

      The BarBri schedule works for some and not for others. I did not even look at the BarBri schedule the third time around. I just made my own and re-vamped it every few weeks as time got shorter and as it became clearer to me where my strengths and weaknesses were.

      I think that you really have to know yourself and your learning style. For instance, in my case, simply reading everything in the books was not helpful because that is not how I learn. I had to make my own flashcards (only for areas that I got stuck on regarding the law and the organization of the tests/elements -- NOT for everything under the sun.) Also, for me, practicing essays and then realizing where I went wrong was probably the best way for me to learn (research supports that this is generally true for everyone [exceptions, of course, will likely exist]).

      The BarBri MBE portion is terrible, in my opinion. I found that doing PMBR (in the way that I described in my video) was the best way for me to learn how to conquer those damn MBE questions.

      I hope this helps! :)

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  22. I was thinking about going with Themis--it really comes down to self-discipline and practice!

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  23. I cannot thank you enough for this blog post! Your advice is spot on! This post helped me pass the Feb. 2013 bar exam after not passing the July 2012 exam.

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    1. I'm so glad! :D YAY!!! Thank you so much for commenting about your success. I'm very happy for you and proud of you (even though we don't know each other). I wish you all of the best in your career!

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  24. Jessie- Found your blog after I read your "Ace Your Finals" article in Student Lawyer when I was a 1L. I watched your videos while prepping for the TX Bar Exam and say THANK YOU. SERIOUSLY, I used so much of your advice and passed on the first try. The PT strategy was especially helpful. I took a Bar course, which was fine, but you really helped me tackle the "how" part of the essay portion and felt really confident leaving the exam. Please know that what you learned and shared, TRULY helped me pass. Thanks from Texas!

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    1. Thank you so very much, Alex. :) (I used to live in Texas years ago.) It's so nice to receive feedback and to know that I helped somebody. For me, that is the greatest reward and makes the hard lessons along with taking the time to post all worth it. So, again, thank you so much for your feedback.

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  25. Thank you so much for this helpful blog post. I am working full-time and will be sitting for the CBX first time, and I am anxious as you could imagine, but this post makes the whole ordeal seem manageable. Thanks for taking the time!

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  26. Hi, Thank you so much for your post. I'm just curious, what should students due for subjects where they didn't take the course in law school. I haven't taken Corporations, Trusts, Wills, Agency, Partnership, Community Property, or Remedies (and obviously didn't take CA evidence). What would you describe is the best approach for students to hone though subjects to a passable bar essay?

    Thanks again, your video was really helpful!!!

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  27. Hi,

    Thank you so much for your post (and keeping it on for so many years). How would you suggest preparing for subjects that you never took in law school at all. I haven't taken Corps, Trusts, Wills, Partnership, Agency, Community Property, or Remedies (and obviously not CA Civ Pro or Evidence). Not taking those subjects is making me nervous about trying to learn them for the CBX this July.

    I really liked the advice you gave about preparing and making approach flash cards, and think that is super smart. Hopefully you still check this blog!

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    1. Hi, Bob. Thank you for your comment and question.

      For subjects that you have not already taken in law school, I simply recommend that you use the Conviser mini, which you can find on eBay. I recommend that you use that while taking many, many practice exams. In particular, you might want to take a look at the California Bar website, take the practice exams in those subjects that you can find in prior Bar exams, and compare your answers to the sample answers. Of course, the sample answers are not perfect, but they tend to hit all of the major points and many of the minor point as well.

      I hope this helps!

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  28. Thanks Jessie for ur every inputs. I will be going to give CA bar as a foreign attorney who studied law and practiced outside of
    US. It will be going 2 be tough 4 me being full time + family. Your guidance r worthless as people r hiding behind some kind of façade and rarely share such crucial info./feedback. I hv miles to go but got some clarity from ur article. God bless u n ur family.
    Ritz..

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  29. Hi Jessie

    It seems as if both of our stories are identical. This will be my third attempt at the bar and I am also working. I was hoping to get your feedback as to how to most efficiently study for the written portion of the bar? Did you recreate outlines or just use the ones you had from previous bar rounds? Also, did you memorize early on in the study process or did you wait until the last weeks like most prep companies suggest?

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    1. Take a look at my second video above, starting at 8 minutes all the way through 13:15. This portion explains the tools that I used for the essays. I cannot stand outlining, but some people swear by their outlines. Your question about whether I memorized early is a bit confusing. I'm not sure whether you mean memorizing as opposed to practicing ... ? I memorized and practiced from the very beginning. I do not advise waiting to practice, and I do not advise waiting to memorize.

      More information about how I tackled the written portion of the exam can be found here: http://jessie-zaylia.blogspot.com/2012/01/tips-for-working-bar-takers-and-details.html.

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  30. Hello, can you share how you structured you study says. How did you best memorize the law? Thanks!

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    1. Hi Tahj,
      I wish that I could say that I used a particular structure, but I really didn't. What I did was I made a schedule every Sunday for the upcoming week. Usually, however, by the time Wednesday came around, I felt that I needed to bend my plans. So, essentially, I just studied whatever subject that I felt like I needed to study. I focused on my weakest subjects more. As far as memorizing the law was concerned, I used flashcards. That was the best way for me. But I did not buy pre-made flashcards. I made my own. For me, that was essential. Then I found a victim (my fiancé) to practice with me. He held my flashcards and quizzed me with them every so often. More than anything, though, practicing was the best way to study, which is why I recommend that people start doing practice essays and PTs right away.

      Delete
    2. Hi Tahj,
      I wish that I could say that I used a particular structure, but I really didn't. What I did was I made a schedule every Sunday for the upcoming week. Usually, however, by the time Wednesday came around, I felt that I needed to bend my plans. So, essentially, I just studied whatever subject that I felt like I needed to study. I focused on my weakest subjects more. As far as memorizing the law was concerned, I used flashcards. That was the best way for me. But I did not buy pre-made flashcards. I made my own. For me, that was essential. Then I found a victim (my fiancé) to practice with me. He held my flashcards and quizzed me with them every so often. More than anything, though, practicing was the best way to study, which is why I recommend that people start doing practice essays and PTs right away.

      Delete
    3. Hi Tahj,
      I wish that I could say that I used a particular structure, but I really didn't. What I did was I made a schedule every Sunday for the upcoming week. Usually, however, by the time Wednesday came around, I felt that I needed to bend my plans. So, essentially, I just studied whatever subject that I felt like I needed to study. I focused on my weakest subjects more. As far as memorizing the law was concerned, I used flashcards. That was the best way for me. But I did not buy pre-made flashcards. I made my own. For me, that was essential. Then I found a victim (my fiancé) to practice with me. He held my flashcards and quizzed me with them every so often. More than anything, though, practicing was the best way to study, which is why I recommend that people start doing practice essays and PTs right away.

      Delete
  31. Hi, Jessie!
    I just stumbled upon your blog, and I can't believe how amazing it and you are. Thank you for your immense generosity in sharing your insights about bar exam preparation.

    I plan to take the CA bar exam soon. As a preliminary step to my own preparation, I will definitely read every single word of your blog. Again, a million thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hello. I hope that all went well for you! Now, enjoy some time away from studying! :)

      Delete