the desertion

it's hot and dry out here

What I Did Differently When I Took the Bar Exam Again

Now that most states’ bar exam results are out, I am hearing a lot of good news and bad news. Some of my friends are happy to share that they have passed the exam, and others are sad to report that they have failed the exam. One of my friends asked me, “What did you do differently the second time around?”

Since lists are clear and concise, I will discuss the answer to this question in the form of a list.

What I Did Differently When I Took the Bar Exam for a Second Time

  • Forget Barbri’s study schedule. It doesn’t work for everyone. It drove me crazy so I created my own schedule that worked for me.  For me, studying just one or two topics a day was better than studying many topics without any level of mastery before moving on to the next thing. I felt like I needed to “get it” before I moved on to the next topic. I started studying early, and I would spend anywhere between 1 and 3 days per topic. That way I had plenty of time to fit all the topics in, and I was able to study them all in depth to the point where I felt like I “got it.”
  • When you get your score back, if MC is higher than Essay, or vice versa, don’t neglect the format you did better on. For example, if you did poorly in the MC, don’t only study MC on your second time around. Clearly, put emphasis on your weak format, but don’t let your stronger format by the wayside. Too many times I have heard of other test takers who failed a second time because when they went to re-study, they only studied the area they were weakest in. Essentially, their score flip-flopped, and they still failed.
  • Create an Error Log. I created an error log in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Every time I got a multiple choice question wrong, I would write down the area of law, the subtopic, the rule needed to answer the question, and an explanation as to why I got the question wrong.  This is a tedious task, but it is important because journaling your wrong answers helps you to fully understand why you got it wrong. If you know why you got a question wrong, you won’t get it wrong twice. You will spot it right away and know exactly what answer to look for.
  • Make flash cards. I was never a flashcard person. I was never that person who made flash cards and studied from them. Flash cards always seemed stupid and a waste of time. But I wanted to pass in this jurisdiction and I was not too proud to try something new and different. I made flash cards every day for questions I would get wrong, and I also made flash cards for good rule statements I wanted to use in essays. I reviewed the flash cards in the evening while sitting on the couch with my husband. He would run through them with me and it was nice to have a study buddy. I looked forward to it every evening. The flash cards were great for all those stupid little things you need to know for criminal law (M’Naghten, MPC, Irresistible Impulse, Durham). I always kept screwing those up before but the flash cards helped a lot. 
  • Try the Kaplan MBE questions. I feel like after I started doing the Kaplan MBE questions, I really started to see a jump in my MBE score. They’re worded differently and they get you to see a different side to the questions. If you have already spent your life savings on Barbri, go on craigslist or ebay and try to find an old Kaplan MBE set rather than sign up for the entire program. Also, you could check your law library. Some schools keep old bar prep materials lying around.
  • Read every essay in the book. In the last week and a half before the exam, I spent a lot of time with the Barbri essay book. I would sit on the couch for hours and just read essay after essay. No outlining, no writing, just reading. I read through each essay and model response. I must have read almost every single essay in the book. If you go through each essay, at least in this minimal manner, you will see every “trick” they try to put in there. Nothing will really be a surprise once you hit the exam. I picked up a lot of great canned rule statements this way, and I would copy them down on flash cards to review later. 
  • Create your own outlines based off of the lecture handouts and the Conviser. I hate creating outlines but really it’s the best way to internalize the knowledge. You pick up so much just by organizing all the information yourself. I never understood evidence. In fact, I almost failed it in law school. By the time I finished compiling that evidence outline for the bar, I felt that I finally got a grasp on the topic. Even if you don’t have time to review the outlines you create, the act of creating them is the act of studying and memorizing the material all in one. 


I feel like this blog has finally come full circle. I originally started the blog to chronicle my experience after I failed the bar exam. I wrote about a lot of things that I did differently in my second time around. I also wrote a long post about what to expect on the dates of the exam. I really hope you all have found the information helpful, but most importantly, I hope that my experience inspires you and gives you hope. You can overcome failing the bar. Life goes on. You study again, but in a different way, and then you pass.

When I found out I passed, I cried tears of sweet relief. I probably cried for a solid 10 minutes. I couldn’t even open my eyes long enough to see my name on the pass list. My husband asked me to rank my feelings from strongest to weakest. The order I came up with was: 1) relief 2) disbelief 3) accomplishment, at a distant third place.

Onto the numbers:

Old, failing score: 263 (133.6 written, 129.8 MBE = 263)

New, passing score: 283 (136.6 written, 146.6 MBE = 283)

On my passing exam, I ended up doing just 3 points better on the writing portion but I did 17 points better on the MBE.  I really only needed to do 10 points better overall, since I had failed the exam by only 10 points to begin with. But, I beat my old score by a total of 20 points, and ended up getting a score high enough to pass me in every UBE state. So far, as of October 2013, that’s 10 states if I’m not mistaken. That’s 20% of the states in the country. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is. I am ecstatic, but still pretty shocked. I walked out of the exam feeling that I had done a little better, but not that much better. All I wanted was to pass in my own jurisdiction, Arizona, with a 273. I ended up getting a whole lot more than that. I learned about myself and about perseverance, and the importance of remaining calm under all circumstances to really reach my true potential.

So for those of you who want to read about logistics:

How do results get released? Well, every jurisdiction does it differently, but I found that many, if not most, jurisdictions pick a date and time in which to post a list names of examinees who have received a satisfactory score on the exam. They list the date and time on the Committee on Examinations’ website a few weeks in advance so that you will know what date to come back and check. My jurisdiction, Arizona, said that the July 2013 results list will be posted on Friday, October 11, 2013 at 4:30pm. Most of the time the results are released late on a Friday. Basically, a lot of people try to leave work early and just have some peace and quiet in the privacy of their own home to check the results. You don’t want to have a meltdown in the car or in the office, anyway.  On results day, a list of names of everyone who received a passing score in the jurisdiction is posted in a PDF file uploaded to the AZ Supreme Court website. On that same day, the Committee mails every examinee a letter listing the test results and what next steps should be taken. Since I live very close to the office of the Committee on Examinations, I received the letter the very next day – Saturday.

If you FAIL the UBE:

It lists what the passing score is in the jurisdiction where you sat for the exam. (273 in Arizona) It also lists a breakdown of what you scored in the written portion (MEE and MPT combined) and what you scored in the MBE portion. Then it lists what your total combined score was. Your letter will let you know that your score, although not passing for the jurisdiction in which you sat for the exam, may still be eligible (portable) to other UBE jurisdictions. The letter directs you to a website where you can find more information on that. In case you want to give the exam another go, the letter includes a short application form for the next administration of the exam. It gives you a pretty quick deadline, so you have to mail in your application and your $580 fee as soon as you wipe your tears dry. You don’t have to pay a late application fee to re-sit for the exam if you failed, at least not in Arizona. You don’t have to send in a new passport photo and all those other formalities you had to comply with the last time. They re-use all that stuff for the next time you sit for the exam.

I wanted to share with you my FAIL letter:


If you PASS the UBE:

The first word in your letter is: Congratulations. It has a checklist of what items are still outstanding in your application for admission to practice law. There are four items on the checklist: 1) you have not submitted your character report to the Committee on Character and Fitness 2) Your report is being processed by staff, or your file is being reviewed by the Committee. 3) You have not completed the Course on Arizona Law 4) You have not submitted a valid MPRE score. If none of these boxes are checked, then you should be eligible for admission to the practice of law in the state, and the Committee on Character and Fitness will contact you about that.

I also wanted to share with you my PASS letter:


Any questions? Please feel free to leave me a comment.

Bar Exam Study Materials

Bar Exam Study Materials

Excellent website to look at for great bar exam study materials. The materials are organized in charts/graphs/pictures and are very visually organized. I wish I had found this when I was studying for the bar!

Pregnant During the Bar Exam

I found out three weeks ago, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about sharing it with the world. I haven’t even shared this with my parents, siblings, or friends yet. It’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed because there is no reason for that. My husband and I are absolutely thrilled. I am trying to get past this first trimester before I tell the world, but I thought that writing about my thoughts on this topic could be really beneficial for other women seeking to take the bar exam. If you’ve been following my blog, you already know that I have faced major struggles in dealing with bar exam anxiety. And then this happened:

I just sat for the bar exam while pregnant. 

I was exactly 7 weeks pregnant on the first day of the exam. I was really nervous about having to take the bar exam while pregnant. The things that went through my mind were:

  • What if I get morning sickness and have to puke during the exam?
  • What if I have to get up to pee every 5 minutes?
  • What if I just feel exhausted and unable to focus?
  • What if the stress causes me to lose the baby, especially since I’m only in the first trimester?

To quell some of my bar exam anxieties and fears, I decided to file an accommodation request with the board of examiners in my jurisdiction. I filled out the form and had it signed by my obstetrician. On the form, I requested to be seated as close to a restroom as possible and stated that I may be experiencing morning sickness and frequent urination as symptoms of pregnancy. My request was approved, and I was seated right next to the restroom. With my earplugs in, being seated near the restroom was absolutely perfect. I didn’t hear any of the noise associated with the foot traffic, door opening/closing, toilets flushing, etc. And I was able to get up and pee. On day one of the bar exam, I peed eight times. On the second day, I peed less frequently because I decided to cut back on water intake, but it was still great to have the restroom right there.

I also wore a pair of terry cloth accupressure anti-nausea wrist bands that my husband found for me at Walgreens. They were Sea-Band Acupressure Wrist Bands. Before the date of the bar exam I hadn’t ever experienced extreme nausea or morning sickness, but I was so worried that the bar exam would be my “lucky day” and all of a sudden, I’d be hurling all day long. Wrong. I had not experienced any vomiting whatsoever until the day after the bar exam was over! Today, I was watching TV and then all of a sudden, blehhhhhhhhhh. I was traumatized. I actually called my husband at work, crying. I hate throwing up! It’s a huge reason why I’m not much of a drinker!

Two weeks before the bar exam, I was really freaking out. I was beyond exhausted. I could not keep my eyes open for more than 8 hours straight – I had to take naps every day and each nap would be for 1-4 hours. How could I study if all I can think about is how exhausted I am and how I need to take a nap? I would try to push myself through practice essays and then eventually I would have to give up. I decided to listen to my body. I took all the naps I wanted. On the dates of the bar exam I wasn’t tired at all. The moment I found out I was pregnant I swore off coffee, as the doctor said too much caffeine can lead to miscarriage. I missed coffee so bad especially because I kept having to see my husband drink it. It’s like he is taunting me. But on the days of the bar exam, I decided to pour myself just a tiny, tiny 1/4 cup of black coffee just to get me going in the morning. It did the trick. I felt great.  I did lose focus a few times during the MBE, but I think everyone does once they get to question 50. I had to give myself a little mental pep talk to keep on trucking through it.

I figured that if I fail the bar exam again, then I fail it again. But at least I have something else to look forward to:  becoming a mom! Finally, I realized that the bar exam is not the biggest thing going on in my life. The biggest thing going on in my life now is this baby growing inside me. I prayed almost daily for the big man upstairs to look after the baby and to not take this precious gift away from me. I worked daily on managing stress and anxiety by listening to a bar exam hypnosis CD. I downloaded the tracks to my iPhone and I’d listen to them in bed at night before falling asleep, and even during the day when I was starting to feel frustrated or anxious. More on bar exam hypnosis in a later post.

The Best Bar Exam Humor Video, Ever.

That’s LAWkward…


Bar Exam Barbie

Don’t get me wrong, sitting in Barbri (and law school for that matter) ranks up there with sitting in the dentist’s chair as far an entertainment or cruel and unusual punishment goes. But occasionally there is a big of law humor thrown in there to spice things up. And we’re not talking the daily Aggie jokes (sorry ATM friends) that get resounding laughter from everyone but the kids decked out in their undergrad maroon. People make fun of my undergrad too, just roll with it.

But there are the terms in the legal world that you just wonder how someone could ever get up in front of a jury or judge, or Barbri class, and say them with a straight face. And for that record, how could someone actually make that a professional term? What were you THINKING?


So in a joint effort to post, and do a little vocabulary…

View original post 662 more words

Barbri vs. Kaplan

I’m deep in the throes of bar study, so I won’t have a lot of time to go into detail, but I would like to say this:

I like Kaplan better than Barbri, at least for the MBE.

I have both programs, access to both programs’ web materials, etc.

Barbri has a convoluted way of giving you the material, whereas Kaplan is much more straightforward. Kaplan was cheaper, too. Go figure. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have bothered with Barbri. It’s just that everyone says that Barbri is tried and true and to go with the leader of the bar prep companies. I did, but I also got the Kaplan program.

I found that Kaplan’s presentation of the MBE material is a lot simpler, clearer, and their website is better with regard to multiple choice questions and letting you know which topics and subtopics you need more work on. The question bank on Kaplan’s website is really great and provides a lot more flexibility with what you want to study. Barbri’s MC online is broken up into their “question sets.” You either do a set of 17 or 36 in a single subject, or you can do sets in all 6 mixed subjects. Kaplan lets you do as many questions as you want or as few questions as you want. Say, for example, you just feel like squeezing in 5 torts questions. No problem. Or, if you would like to do a 17 question set of mixed torts and property to focus in on your weaknesses, just 2 MBE subjects rather than all 6, no problem. Barbri doesn’t give you that kind of flexibility.

I hate how Barbri words their multiple choice questions. I have to read them like twice just to figure out what the hell they’re asking. They’ve got the most unnecessarily convoluted way of  writing the body of the question and it’s really unrealistic as compared to the bar. Now, I know the Barbri and Kaplan questions are supposed to be harder than the ones on the bar, so that when you get to the bar, you score higher than you ever did on the practice questions. This is true. You will score above and beyond what you scored while doing those practice questions. However, what I’m trying to say is that Barbri’s questions are clunkily-worded whereas Kaplan’s are not so, yet the level of difficulty is the same. Essentially, Barbri puts you thorough the ringer and frustrates you more, while Kaplan doesn’t do that to you. Plus, Kaplan’s review books present the material in a more broken down form. If you like flow charts and lots of visuals, Kaplan is right for you.

Bar Exam Mnemonics

I’m always looking for some good bar exam mnemonics. There are a few great ones that some of the barbri instructors provide, but I would like to see more. Here’s a list of a few that I can think of at the moment and I’ll add more as I think of them. Some of these are a little off-color, but the shock value is what makes them memorable.

Secured Transactions

A Crispy Apple Pie Provides Perfect Dessert – when doing an Article 9 essay, here are the steps for analysis

A – Attachment

Crispy – Classify Collateral

Apple – Attachment

Pie – Parties (identify them)

Provides – Perfection

Perfect – Priority

Dessert – Default (rights upon)


Warranties of Title – the first three are pre-closing, the last three are post-closing.

Seasoned Convicts Come Quietly, What Fucking Assholes or Seasoned Convicts Engage in Quiet Whisper For Assistance

1) Seisin 2) Right to Convey 3) Encumbrances 4) Quiet Enjoyment 5) Warranty 6) Further Assurances

Federal Procedure

Personal Jurisdiction analysis – My Parents Frequently Forgot to Read Children’s Stories / Mary Prefers Facial, Frequently Requesting Cum Shots

Minimum Contacts
-Purposeful Availment
Fair Play and Substantial Justice
–States interest

Statute of Frauds
Marriage, Year, Land, Executor, Goods $500+, Surety

The 10 People You Meet at Starbucks While Studying for the Bar

I’m going to do my own version of YOLaw’s most recent post. I think he’s hilarious. What’s really funny is that bar study is essentially the same around the world. I’m here in the American desert and YOLaw is based in the Philippines, but if I didn’t know he was in the Philippines, I’d have thought he was studying at the Starbucks around the corner from my apartment. I could use a little comic relief on my blog. I attempted some by posting that meme featuring Lumburgh from Office Space last week. I’m still laughing at it!

So here it goes in very short form, and not nearly as hilarious as YOLaw’s rendition:

The 10 People You Meet at Starbucks While Studying for the Bar

  1. The homeless guy who goes into the restroom and takes a shower in the sink.
  2. People that appear to be working really super hard at absolutely nothing while being highly pretentious about it. You know the whole “don’t even look my way because you’re so below the level of what I’m doing right now” look.
  3. Guys that try to start up a conversation with a girl who is sitting by herself. That girl is always me.
  4. People that have a book in the left hand and some excessively over-sugary extra-whipped-creamed domed-top iced drink in the right hand, acting as though they’re reading when that can’t be possible because the noise level is at about a dull roar.
  5. People who have earphones in and think the rest of the world has disappeared. Offensive bodily functions galore.
  6. The guy who sits right in the middle of the 3-seater couch, leaving no personal space for anyone else who may be looking for a comfortable seat.
  7. The girl who is talking loudly on her cell phone, making every detail of her private life known to all those who enjoy coffee.
  8. Awkward coffee dates stemming from an online dating site. Hey, online dating works! I know a few couples who have met and married and have online dating to thank.
  9. The person who creates a fortress of books, turning Starbucks into a law library rather than going to a real library.
  10. The person who is tired of the library and just needs a change of scenery and interaction with the non-bar-exam-study world. That’s me.