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Conquering the Bar Exam: Knowing Thy Enemy

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Tips on the Day of the Bar Exam

Preparing for the bar exam
First and foremost, when you are taking a test for multiple days, you want to be comfortable. The air conditioning might be blasting or not working at all. Additionally, on days when exam takers are using a computer for essays, the rooms will be much hotter than multiple choice days. However, you should be prepared no matter what your test environment may feel like. Individuals also should eat breakfast and lunch on the day of the exam. This is going to be a very long test, so you don't want to skip a meal or go a full day without eating properly. Believe it or not, managing stress is a big part of passing the bar exam. Since there might be 1,000 test-takers at the examination center, you want to arrive early and know where you are going to park. You will not be permitted to take the test if you arrive late. In addition, some test takers get hotel rooms close to the exam center. One of the major tips for taking the bar exam is to avoid discussing the bar exam with others. There is no benefit in discussing the exam and it only increases stress, so you should avoid this altogether. For example, if you discuss an essay during a break and every party to the conversation had a different opinion about the essay, this could throw off a test taker's confidence. Some people suggest eating a heavier breakfast early in the morning and a lighter lunch so that the test taker stays sharp in the afternoon. Further, a test taker should stay hydrated because dehydration may lead to headaches and a decreased attention span. (Depending on the test center, a student may not be allowed to bring water into the exam. However, we suggest drinking a lot of water during breaks. The bar exam is a marathon not a sprint.) An additional tip to calm the nerves is to do some light cardio before the test; however, a student should not overdue it on testing days. A test taker should do some exercise before the test so that the first time a test taker's heart rate jumps in the morning is not at the beginning of the test. When a test taker's heart rate jumps, a test taker could have a difficult time calming down and focusing on the test. After a bit of light exercise, a test taker will often be able to refocus quickly. Finally, do not freak out before the exam or while you are taking the exam. You must be thinking rationally and if you do freak out, stop taking the exam and take three depth breaths, physically stop typing, and put your pencil down. After these breaths, get back in the game. You took the preparation courses and you are ready for the bar. Remaining calm is one of the keys to passing.

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Preparing for the Bar Exam

In order to prepare for the bar exam you need to build your confidence. You need to work extremely hard in order to pass the bar exam the first time. You never want to take the bar exam as a “trial run.” Sitting for the exam with the intention of taking the test over will only make things more difficult for you. Next, you need to prepare yourself financially. The bar exam is expensive. According to Southwestern Law School, the application and the fees for a preparation course could exceed $4,000. You don't want to have to work while preparing for the bar exam. You should talk to your school and look into applying for one of the various loans available or other available financial aid. Remember, studying for the bar exam is a full-time job. It is highly recommended that you study eight or more hours a day for a six day week. An individual will typically study for three months after he/she has graduated from law school. It is also recommended that you take a Bar Exam preparation course. In fact, people will often take multiple courses. For example, in addition to the standard overall courses a number of students will seek out additional seminars, tutoring, or books to strengthen areas of weakness. There are many good courses, which provide a wide variety of teaching methods. When you attend these bar prep courses you need to pay attention, complete as much of the suggested exercises as possible, and review the sample answers and notes on any submitted practice exams because these bar preparation classes are prepared by experts in the field. You must attend lectures, study the outlines, and take some timed practice exams. You should try and get a taste of what it feels like to take the MBE questions, performance test, and essays while being under timed pressure. Another suggestion you might take into consideration is creating your own schedule during the last month. Taking the bar exam is a demanding process that involves attending Bar Review classes and taking practice exams, so you need to set aside a plan for how you will review the materials leading up to the bar exam. The best way to do this is by creating a schedule. A lot of students will review the different topics for three days and then do one day to one half day reviews before the exam. However, each student approaches the bar exam in a unique and individual way, so do what works for you.

What Should a Student Expect?

So what does the 200 MBE questions entail? The MBE tests six topics which are based on Constitutional Law, Contracts/Sales, Criminal Law/Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. These six subjects are not lumped into one section of the bar exam, but are distributed evenly throughout the examination. Individuals who are taking the bar exam receive three hours in the morning to finish the first hundred questions. The test-takers will also receive an additional three hours in the afternoon session to complete the final hundred questions. All the multiple choice questions have four answer choices. Out of the 200 MBE questions, 190 are scored and the remaining ten will be evaluated for future use. Although the ten questions that are not scored are indistinguishable to the test-takers, each individual must answer all 200 questions on the examination. The MBE portion of the bar exam takes about six hours to complete divided into two three hour -sessions. Individuals who want to transfer their MBE scores from one jurisdiction to another are permitted to do so, however, you must follow deadlines regarding when the MBE was scored. For instance, some states allow an individual's MBE score from concurrent exams while other states only permit scores from up to five years prior to the current bar exam administration. Test takers are advised to check their MBE scores and the applicable time limits for transferring the scores to other jurisdictions.

For more information on the transferability of MBE scores to different jurisdictions click here.

How is the Bar Exam Administered and who participates?

The bar examination is administered twice a year on the last Wednesday in July and the last Wednesday in February. Since the MBE is a standardized multiple-choice test it must be administered on the same day across the country. The exam is overseen in forty eight states and the District of Columbia, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Republic of Palau. There are two states that currently do not administer the MBE, Louisiana and Washington. Since Louisiana follows a civil law system, which is considerably different than the rest of the United States, it does not participate in the MBE. Washington plans to administer the MBE in July 2013. Puerto Rico also does not take part in the MBE due to the fact these states follow a civil law system. Delaware and North Dakota only distribute the MBE once a year on the last Wednesday in July because they typically do not have enough applicants to administer a second sitting.

The History of the Bar Exam and What's On The Test

In 1763, Delaware created the first bar exam and soon after other American colonies established the exam. Today, in the United States and in its territories, the bar examination is at least two days long (a few states have three-day exams). Louisiana, Montana, California, Alabama, Nevada, Delaware, Texas, and South Carolina have three- day exams. The bar exam consists of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), essays, multistate standardized examinations, and complicated questions that precisely test knowledge of that state's law, although these state law questions are only administered in some jurisdictions. These jurisdictions also administer multiple questions that test knowledge of general legal principles, and may also test knowledge of the state's own law such as family law, constitutional law, community property, torts, wills, and trusts. Jurisdictions frequently use the Multistate Essay Examinations (MEE) to test an individual's knowledge of the state's own law.

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State By State Bar Exam Pass Rate

According to California-bar-exam-pass.com, which lists state by state bar exam pass rate as well as the U.S. territories, California had a 51 percent pass rate in 2011 and 49 percent in 2010. Below is a complete list of pass ratings in the U.S. and its territory's.
 
  2009 2010 2011
Alabama 65% 67% 65%
Arizona 73% 73% 70%
Arkansas 67% 65% 71%
California 49% 49% 51%
Colorado 74% 74% 79%
Connecticut 75% 71% 71%
Delaware 63% 66% 67%
DC 49% 41% 48%
Florida 68% 69% 72%
Georgia 76% 75% 76%
Hawaii 76% 68% 75%
Idaho 81% 78% 79%
Illinois 84% 84% 83%
Indiana 75% 75% 74%
Iowa 89% 87% 84%
Kansas 82% 84% 86%
Kentucky 77% 77% 80%
Louisiana 69% 61% 66%
Maine 77% 88% 68%
Maryland 69% 71% 74%
Massachusetts 79% 81% 80%
Michigan 81% 80% 76%
Minnesota 85% 86% 88%
Mississippi 78% 76% 72%
Missouri 87% 86% 89%
Montana 87% 89% 90%
Nebraska 78% 81% 78%
Nevada 60% 59% 65%
New Hampshire 84% 80% 78%
New Jersey 77% 76% 77%
New Mexico 84% 81% 82%
New York 65% 65% 64%
North Carolina 67% 68% 70%
North Dakota 80% 78% 83%
Ohio 76% 78% 79%
Oklahoma 82% 82% 83%
Oregon 69% 68% 68%
Pennsylvania 76% 74% 77%
Rhode Island 74% 74% 69%
South Carolina 72% 73% 73%
South Dakota 83% 94% 94%
Tennessee 68% 70% 69%
Texas 78% 76% 80%
Utah 83% 82% 84%
Vermont 61% 76% 68%
Virginia 69% 70% 72%
Washington State 67% 71% 66%
West Virginia 73% 65% 74%
Wisconsin 89% 90% 84%
Wyoming 75% 71% 62%
Guam 52% 80% 67%
N. Mariana Islands 100% 63% 83%
Palau 17% 57% 25%
Puerto Rico 41% 42% 44%
Virgin Islands 65% 71% 49%

For the exam-takers who participated in the summer examination, they historically have 64 percent correct. The average scaled sore was around 140.


2012 Test Center Address List (State's Test Centers Are Subject To Change)

Alameda County Fairgrounds
4501 Pleasanton Avenue
Pleasanton, CA

Crown Plaza Hotel
1177 Airport Blvd.
Burlingame, CA

Oakland Convention Center
1001 Broadway
Oakland, CA

Sacramento Convention Center
1400 J Street
Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Doubletree
2001 Point West Way
Sacramento, CA

Santa Clara Convention Center
5001 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA

California Market Place
110 East Ninth Street
Los Angeles, CA

Century Plaza Hotel
2025 Avenue Of The Stars
Los Angeles, CA

Doubletree Hotel
100 The City Drive
Orange, CA

Ontario Convention Center
2000 Convention Center Way
Ontario, CA

Pasadena Convention Center
300 East Green Street
Pasadena, CA

Doubletree Hotel- Westside
6161 W. Centinela Ave
Culver City, CA

Sheraton Four Points 8110 Aero Drive
San Diego, CA

Town and Country Resort Hotel
500 Hotel Circle North San Diego, CA

Jacob Javits Convention Center
11th Avenue at West 35 St., New York, NY 10001

Armory Track and Field Center
216 Fort Washington Avenue at West 168 St., New York, NY 10032

New York State Judicial Institute
78 North Broadway, White Plains, NY 10603

Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center
153 Franklin Street, Buffalo, NY 14202

Empire State Plaza
Concourse Level, Albany, NY 12242

Times Union Center
51 South Pearl Street, Albany, NY 12207

The Desmond Hotel
660 Albany Shaker Road, Albany, NY 12211

Saratoga City Center
522 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

1200 Ballpark Way
Arlington, Texas 76011

900 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, Texas 78704

1001 Avenida de las Americas
Houston, Texas 77010

Texas Tech Law School
1802 Hartford
Lubbock, Texas 79409

901 North Loop 1604 West
San Antonio, Texas 78232-1040

1114 S. University Parks Dr.
Waco, Texas 76798

355 Plaza Drive
Secaucus, NJ 07094

Garden State Exhibit Center
50 Atrium Drive
Somerset, NJ 08873

Doubletree Hotel
200 Atrium Drive, Somerset
New Jersey 08873

Somerset Hotel
110 Davidson Ave.
Somerset, NJ 08873

Atlantic City Convention Center
1 Miss America Way
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

The Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19107
215-418-4700 or 800-428-9000

David L Lawrence Convention Center
1000 Fort Duquesne Boulevard
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222
Phone: 412-565-6000

Radisson Penn Harris Hotel
1150 Camp Hill Bypass
Camp Hill, PA 17011
Phone: (717) 763-7117

At Widener School of Law
4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington DE 19083

John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center (Hynes) - Boston, MA
900 Boylston Street
Boston, MA, 02115
Phone: 617-954-2000
Fax: 617-954-2299

Western New England University School of Law - Springfield, MA
1215 Wilbraham Road
Springfield, Massachusetts 01119
Phone: 413-782-3111

Roanoke Civic Center
710 Williamson Road, NE.
Roanoke, Virginia, 24016
(540) 853-2241

Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT 06103
(860) 249-6000

Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa
At The Convention Center
201 Tallapoosa Street Montgomery, Al 36104

Hotel Murano
1320 Broadway Plaza
Tacoma, WA 98402
253-238-8000

Courtyard Tacoma Downtown Hotel
1515 Commerce St.
Tacoma, WA 98402
253-591-9100

Best Western Tacoma Dome Hotel
2611 East E St.
Tacoma, WA 98421
253-272-7737

La Quinta Tacoma Hotel
1425 East 27th St.
Tacoma, WA 98421
253-383-0146

Holiday Inn Express Downtown Spokane
801 N. Division St.
Spokane, WA 99202
509-328-8505

Doubletree Hotel Spokane City Center
322 N. Spokane Falls Ct.
Spokane, WA 99201
509-455-9600

Red Lion Hotel on the River – Jantzen Beach
909 N. Hayden Island Drive
Portland, OR 97217
Phone: 503-283-4466

Boise, Idaho – Boise Centre – 850 West Front Street
Boise, ID 83702
Phone: 208-336-8900

Moscow, Idaho – University of Idaho – College of Law
691 Ash Street
Moscow, ID 83844
Phone: 208-885-6380

Albuquerque Convention Center,
401 2nd Street
Albuquerque, NM 87102

University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Student Union, 2nd Floor
4505 S. Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89154

University of Nevada, Reno
Lawlor Events Center
1664 N. Virgina St.
Reno, NV 89557


Community Choice Credit Union
Convention Center
(previously Vet's Auditorium)
833 Fifth Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50309
515-564-8100

The Universities at Shady Grove (480 seats) (NOT CONFIRMED)
9630 Gudelsky Drive
Rockville, MD 20850
(see website at www.shadygrove.umd.edu)

University of Maryland School of Law (480 seats)
500 W. Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

University of Baltimore Law School/Business School (240 seats)
1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Exhibition Hall at Timonium Fairgrounds (240 seats)
2200 York Road
Timonium, MD 21093

The Truman Hotel & Convention Center
1510 Jefferson Street
Jefferson City, Missouri 65109
Phone 573-635-7171

Capitol Plaza Hotel,
415 West McCarty Street
Jefferson City, Mo 65101
(573) 635-1234

Holiday Inn
World's Fair Park
525 Henley St.
Knoxville, TN 37902

Memphis Cook Convention Center
255 North Main St.
Memphis, TN 38103

For the exam-takers who participated in the summer examination, they historically have
64 percent correct. The average scaled sore was around 140.

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