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How to Prepare for the Bar Exam

By: Gabriella Garcia January 11, 2021 no comments

How to Prepare for the Bar Exam

We all know that it takes a great deal of dedication and hard work to become an attorney. One must receive his/her undergraduate and Juris Doctorate degrees, spend countless hours studying and understanding the law, and finally, one must pass the bar exam. But how exactly does one prepare for such a test? We sat down with our newest licensed attorney, Gabriella Garcia to learn more.

What is the Bar Exam?

The bar exam is “an assessment of competency to practice law.” But the terminology of the exam is interesting—the use of the term “bar” comes from the English custom of the wooden railing in the courtroom marks off the area around the judge’s seat, and this is incorporated into mostly all courtrooms in the US today. So, when students became lawyers, they were “called the bar,” crossing the symbolic physical barrier and thus “admitted to the bar.”

Also: before 2021, the State of Texas administered the Texas Bar Exam. However, back in 2019, the Supreme Court of Texas decided to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam (“UBE”) in Texas. And the difference between these two exams is that the Texas Bar Exam included the same multiple-choice portion as the UBE and a few other sections, but the Texas Bar exam was an entire day longer than the UBE because it also tested on Texas law.

Prepping for the Exam: How Did You Prep Months in Advance?

I personally used the study aid, BARBRI and Adaptibar. Barbri was the study aid program that had all of the study material that I needed. When I enrolled, Barbri sent me a box full of study materials, including outlines and different practice questions. I think the box was almost 10 lbs!

Adaptibar is a Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)—this was the multiple-choice portion on the Texas Bar Exam—learning and practice tool. It comprises over 1,700 actual NCBE multiple-choice questions from prior exams. The “adapt” in “Adaptibar” reflects the fact that the platform figures out what topics you know and don’t know—and asks you more questions on the topics you don’t know—thereby FORCING you to focus on your weakness—something that no one likes to do, but it’s necessary for this exam. So no matter what jurisdiction you sign-up for, UBE or a state that still administers its own exam, I HIGHLY suggest Adaptibar. There are a variety of study aid programs out there, but no matter what, enrolling in one is essential to passing. 

How Did You Prepare the Morning of?

The bar exam started at 8 am—so due to nerves, I woke up at 4:30 (I’m an early bird regardless and normally get up at 5 so this wasn’t wildly out of my typical morning) got coffee, and set up my exam space (I took my exam online)—I needed to make sure that the four corners of my “exam space” were free of any prohibited materials. (The Texas Board of Law Examiners sent out very detailed instructions the week of the bar, and these instructions included a non-exhaustive list of prohibited items.)

I did some meditation, and although everyone I talked to advised against it, I went ahead and looked over my outlines—it’s in my nature. There are some people who I know who stopped studying 2 days before the exam. Whatever works for you the morning or and days leading up is what I suggest. I always would study right up until the moment that I had to walk into the classroom because that’s just how I operate. And if you’re about to take the Bar exam, you already know the type of studier that you are (since you’ve taken countless law school exams). Whatever you do, just don’t do something different than what you normally do or how you normally practiced.

Do You Have Any Study Tips?
  1. Set a schedule and STICK TO IT. My bar prep professor and mentor had my graduating class create a study schedule. And he wanted us to include EVERYTHING—sleeping, exercising, eating, meal prep, food shopping, commuting, family time, walking the dog, whatever. He told us that the more realistic and complete your schedule is, the more likely you are to follow it. He told us to treat studying for the bar like a job—because if you’re a bar prepper, studying is literally your job. And unless you’re an exceptional student (and human), you’re not supposed to work at all.
  2. As my bar prep professor emphasized—practice practice practice! DO NOT WAIT TO LEARN ALL OF THE STUDY MATERIAL TO START PRACTICE ESSAYS. This was my biggest mental block—I felt like I needed to know all of the material to do a practice exam. This isn’t true. If you wait to learn ALL of the minor details, your chances of passing reduce significantly. And this is mainly because it’s nearly impossible to learn everything. The amount of material that you could learn versus what you should/need to learn in order to pass is very different. I could still be learning the information to this day, but at some point, I had to realize time was of the essence and I had to move on to practice right after I went over the material for the first time. You just need to zone in on what you need to learn in order to be “minimally competent” aka PASS.
  3. Do as many practice questions and essays as possible. And practice as if you’re taking the real thing. This means, NO DISTRACTIONS. Turn your phone off; turn your notifications off that you might get from your laptop, and time yourself. This is the only real way you’ll know how you’re doing and if you’re on the right path.
How Long Did the Test Take?
  1. The test is divided into how many parts? 
    1. The UBE is divided into 3 sections: (1) an MPT, (2) 6 Multistate Essays, (3) 200 MBE (multiple choice) questions.
      1. Day 1 will have the MPTs and the 6 essays
      2. Day 2 would be divided into 100 MBE questions in the morning and 100 in the afternoon.
    2. The MPT is a “closed” universe portion of the test, meaning you don’t have to know any law because all of the law and information is provided for you. This portion wants to see whether you can competently analyze facts and apply the relevant law that the examiners apply. This is the most realistic portion of the exam in my opinion because there is an “assigning memorandum” from a supervising attorney. The assigning memo usually explains the legal matter that your client is facing, and the supervising attorney wants to know, for example, what the client’s remedies are giving the facts and law.
    3. The Texas Bar included all of the above, except that the Essays were Texas law essays and there were 12, and also a Texas Civil and Criminal Procedure and Evidence portion, which was the short answer portion of the exam.
How Long Did You Wait to Find Out Your Test Results?

I only had to wait about 2 months (I took the test on October 5th and 6th) and got my results on December 4th. It’s my understanding that pre-covid, examiners had to wait almost 3 months to get results back. So I guess my wait-time wasn’t so bad!

How Did You Stay Focused Throughout the Test? Any Tips?

Everyone is different when it comes to test-taking. For me, there is such an adrenalin rush, that there was no time for me to get distracted or not be focused on the test the entire time. And also, the time FLEW by.

What was it like waiting so long to find out your test results?

The first week after being done with the bar Exam was odd—I felt like I needed to be studying and I didn’t feel like I was actually done, because technically until I found out whether I passed or not, I may not have been “officially” done with studying. Needless to say, waiting for a little around 2 months wasn’t fun. It was hard for me to follow my own advice to others—that is, what’s done is done. 

What is left to do after you pass the bar in order to become a licensed attorney?

There are a few more steps which include:

  1. Register with the State Bar of Texas, pay your bar dues, and pay a licensing fee; and
  2. Take the Oath. Any person who is authorized to administer oaths—including a judge, retired judge, clerk, or notary public—may swear you in, either before or after you receive your license in the mail. See Tex. Gov’t Code §602.002.
Anything Else Worth Noting About Taking the Bar?

The bar does NOT test how smart you are—it tests whether you can learn the information that the Examiners set forth on the test and under a TON of stress. As long as you put forth the effort and follow the directions of the study aid program, it’s likely that you will pass.