Cara passed the 2023 July California Bar Exam on her third attempt. The third time was the charm.
But the stakes were incredibly high. Her third try was the decisive attempt where her life would change completely depending on the results.
Everything was on the line, all of her hopes, fears, and dreams riding on this last attempt as a third-time repeater. She was also juggling full-time work while studying for the bar exam.
💬 “I knew when the 3rd time came around, it was my last time to take this exam. My new job was on the line and I knew if I failed, I’d be fired. This would have resulted in me having to move back to the East Coast where I was barred because I could no longer afford to live in CA without income. I had wasted my savings moving, the bar exam (i.e. materials galore and exam fees), and covering myself for the short period I was unemployed. My friends were relying on me, my boyfriend was relying on me, my family was relying on me, and my job was relying on me. I realized then that I had to make some big changes in how I approached the exam the third time, especially with what felt like insurmountable pressure.”
To transform her life in the direction she wanted, she transformed her approach first.
❌ Exhausting herself with giant books and lectures that she could NEVER remember
❌ Fear and paralysis by the OVERWHELMING amount of information she had to know (from too many resources)
❌ Going through the motion with DISTRACTIONS and absolute BUSY WORK that bogged her down and didn’t move the needle
✅ Completely ditched the bar review course and all of its materials
✅ Focused on the positive (such as Fire-up Fridays) and stopped focusing on the doom and gloom on social media
✅ Preparation that was designed to increase proficiency and competence
Resources Cara used for her third attempt at the California Bar Exam
💬 “I must have read that Playbook 10 times in full. It’s the holy grail.”
▶ MTYLT emails (sign up here)
▶ Tutor: Daniel Garrett of BarWinners
Here are the mistakes she made the first two times and what she did differently on her third attempt…
- Resources Cara used for her third attempt at the California Bar Exam
- Mistake #1: Relying on a bar prep course
- Mistake #2: Using too many resources
- Mistake #3: Focusing on the negatives on social media
- Change #1: Work with a tutor.
- Change #2: Ditch the bar review course. Customize a study schedule that fits her work schedule.
- Change #3: Take care of the body and mind.
- Change #4: Learn from practice.
- Change #5: Stick to what works for you.
- Cara’s full story
Mistake #1: Relying on a bar prep course
Notice she said “relying on.” If you want, you can still use a prep course without relying on it! Especially if you have the time to slog through the program.
💬 “Though I was moving cross country, working full-time, and trying to study at the same time, I realized quick that I didn’t have the time Barbri requires after falling behind consistently throughout the 10 weeks I studied.”
Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s a tool for YOU to use, not the other way around.
💬 “Barbri did nothing to prepare me for how different CA essays were as compared to UBE. I was also exhausted from watching lectures that I NEVER remembered, and I had the HARDEST time memorizing the rules Barbri put out into a giant, convoluted book. Handouts for the lectures were over 100+ pages for most of the subjects. I was completely lost.”
Part of BEING USED BY your bar prep course is going through the motions completing the meter or checking off the boxes they give you. What a waste of time—if it’s not serving you.
💬 “I felt that I HAD to still put in 2-3 hours of study (as I set out) because I am a perfectionist, and I felt that I would be failing myself if I didn’t. It took me too long to realize I was just checking boxes rather than learning anything or advancing in my studies. I would have to repeat what I did the next night. It got to the point at one time that I was so mentally exhausted from doing this, that I would sit for an hour doing questions and not remember one question or answer I did or what essay issues I was misremembering.”
The boxes are merely suggestions. Everything you do should serve a purpose toward advancing in your studies. Be conscious and deliberate.
If you notice that something isn’t working for you, it’s time to change it.
Mistake #2: Using too many resources
This is the fourth mindset that holds you back from being an effective dean of your own studies.
💬 “Gathering too many resources (literally every single one out there, name it, and I had it) and trying to memorize too many different sets of rules – After deciding to ditch Barbri, the first thing I decided to rely on was your Magic Sheets and Appro Sheets.”
Whittling down her options was a challenge at first. Cara felt that MORE was better—MORE advice, MORE information, MORE resources.
Eventually, you have to CUT THE SHIT—I mean, cut the noise, ignore distractions, and focus on a few that will help you LEARN the material.
💬 “But given how amazingly (and thankfully condensed) the Magic Sheets were, I started to panic by reading Facebook and Reddit and gathering advice from one too many people. I was afraid to just rely on material that was 5 pages per outline compared to Barbi’s 100+ pages per outline. I figured, if Barbri has that much material, it MUST mean I need to know it.”
If you’re spending your time consuming all the things, you don’t have any time left, let alone energy, to do what it takes to retain, remember, and USE the material.
💬 “I constantly panicked juggling multiple resources (7-8 at times), wasted DAYS on cutting out my own flashcards and laminating them (why? I never used them), and I just felt like I was working so hard and getting nothing done. I couldn’t remember a thing because all the rules were so different given how many sets of rules I tried to use.”
She might have even passed on previous attempt if she hadn’t wasted time juggling too many resources.
💬 “If I wouldn’t have been juggling so many materials in the beginning of my study period, I likely would have passed [the second time].”
Not only did Cara jump from resource to resource, she also jumped from method to method. She found that a waste as well.
💬 “Similar to gathering too many resources, I was convinced that there was one best way to study to pass the exam, so I tortured myself gathering advice rather than listening to myself about how I KNOW I study best. I would waste days switching methods such as using flashcards, writing my own outlines, listening to rule recital tapes, writing rules on poster board, making tables for essay issues, and about 200 different memorization tricks. . . . It was exhausting and a HUGE waste of time.”
Mistake #3: Focusing on the negatives on social media
Sure, you can commiserate with others going through the same thing. That’s normal!
If you’re indulging in it, though, then check if it’s actually helping you vent with others who get it, or if you’re just being a downer to yourself (and others), or if you’re just procrastinating.
💬 “Procrastinating by reading horror stories on Reddit and Facebook instead of studying: I realized I was doing this, sometimes for hours, each day, rather than studying. It took a lot of self-reflection, and with the sole help of your Passer Playbook and emails, I realized that I was doing this because I was afraid to fail in practice.”
For Cara, indulging in horror stories was tanking her self-confidence!
💬 “I had to stop tanking my own self-confidence by reading the internet and start gaining confidence and willpower through practicing over and over and using your materials.”
OK, so what did she do differently this time?
Change #1: Work with a tutor.
Not everyone will need a tutor or vibe with one. In Cara’s case, she sought accountability and extra help for essays and PTs. Possibly, having a lot riding on this exam justified the expense.
💬 “I worked with a tutor for encouragement, accountability, and help with essay grading to refine my essays and PT.”
Who did she use?
I recommended Daniel Garrett of BarWinners to Cara. He tutors for the CA Bar Exam and the Uniform Bar Exam.
If interested, ask Daniel for a free consultation. Mention MTYLT for extra attention and a discount on any tutoring package you end up signing up for.
(Daniel also wrote a guest article for me if you want to see his style.)
Change #2: Ditch the bar review course. Customize a study schedule that fits her work schedule.
Cara was working full time while studying and needed a schedule to organize her time.
💬 “I made a customized schedule with you and Daniel that didn’t overload me for work days.”
She used the scheduling guidance in Passer’s Playbook and made some modifications to her draft schedule based on my suggestions. Her schedule is available for your reference in Passer’s Playbook as an example of a work-study schedule. (There are plenty of other examples and sample schedules and plans.)
Change #3: Take care of the body and mind.
Sleep. (Mental Engines students know what’s up. “The mind is 50% of the exam.”)
Don’t borrow energy you don’t have from your future self.
💬 “If I was mentally exhausted from work, I didn’t study that day and I let that be okay. Instead, I made sure to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep a night. I just made sure to cover anything I missed on weekends.”
She stopped diminishing her potential by reading debilitating stories from social media and instead focused on my materials.
💬 “I ceased reading Reddit and Facebook and instead focused on the Passers Playbook and your emails.”
💬 “I do want to share my story with you so that it can serve as an inspiration to those taking the future exams because your Friday emails with other’s stories are literally what kept me going.”
💬 “Whenever I felt the need to go check out negative opinions, I would read the Passers Playbook or your emails, especially the Friday success stories. I must have read that Playbook 10 times in full. It’s the holy grail.”
(I follow a coach who recommends reading his book 10-15 times. I feel like him now!)
Change #4: Learn from practice.
It was only five days before Cara’s second attempt at the bar exam that she started drilling essays, and she jumped 70+ points!
For reference, CA bar takers often struggle to close gaps of 50-100 points between attempts. It’s remarkable that she did that while dealing with emotional distractions.
She used an approach (“essay cooking”) that reduces the time needed to practice essays.
💬 “I experienced a job loss, my boyfriend’s job loss, and the loss of my cat. I completely shut down at the beginning of January and lost hope. I didn’t pick up my study materials again until 5 days before the exam. I focused on drilling the Magic Sheets and cooking as many essays as I could. Surprisingly, I came out of this exam missing the boat by only 12 points. I had raised my score 70+ points, even with the 6-week break and life events, and I attribute the raise in score to the 2 weeks I spent with the Magic Sheets and cooking the essays.”
On her third attempt, she focused on practical application even more.
💬 “I focused on practicing MBEs and reading all explanations, writing down in a notebook the ones I missed and why. I would cover those at the beginning of each MBE session.”
She also followed my suggestions on how to transition between writing full essays and cooking essays, and regarding the issues in essays:
💬 “I focused on writing full essays for only the first couple weeks of the study period, and then I used the essay cooking technique, focusing on ISSUES rather than perfect rule statements.”
Change #5: Stick to what works for you.
“Trust the process”? Cara trusted herself this time (with some guidance).
This is another story pivoting from “trusting the process” to “trusting oneself.”
💬 “I stuck with my own strategy for studying and blocked out the noise of everyone else. I got through several years of law school somehow, right? Only I knew what worked best for me, and I worked hard to believe in myself and what I chose to do this time around (again, with help from your Playbook!).”
She even used an emergency technique of making up rules if needed—and practiced for it!
💬 “I practiced essays that I didn’t know how to answer by writing out made-up rules in 60 minutes in case I encountered this on the exam.”
You could argue that “trusting the process” before got her this far and her own refinements got her to the finish line.
True, you don’t have to listen to all these stories that conveniently happen to be from successful passers. Countless people wish they had listened the first time, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.
Following your own path could mean that you try what you know first. It could mean you ignore everything I just said. And that’s OK (genuinely).
I’m only sharing one out of a million ways that could work—one that was an embodiment of preparation.
In the end, she passed with just 6 weeks of study while working full-time.
💬 “I passed the California Bar Exam the third time, without only 6 weeks of study, while working 40-50 hours per week because I recognized my mistakes and did something to fix them. A large part of realizing my mistakes came from your resources!”
Great work, Cara! Here’s the list of resources she used again.