Passing the California Bar Exam with a “STEM Brain” on Her Second Try

“R” passed the 2024 February California Bar Exam on her second try. She had some obstacles on her first attempt…

💬 “J23 bar exam, I wasn’t able to study because of personal reasons.

💬 “That was something I felt in J23, I was not physically prepared to take the bar exam.

💬 “I have an engineering background, so law school was a whole different beast for me!  I was very near the bottom of my class in law school.  My STEM brain found it hard to grasp the way of thinking like a lawyer!

R had a similar background as mine. Coming from a STEM background, law school was a struggle for me as well.

But once it clicks, it clicks. And it only needs to click once before you can go out there and start your career.

In my case, failing the exam was a huge shock that finally unlocked the part of my brain to figure out this bar thing. That must have been some trauma to keep me on this crusade 10 years later.

Here’s what R (and I) did on our second attempts so you don’t have to traumatize yourself…

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Enjoying Bar Prep: 6 Ways to Make Studying for the Bar Exam More Fun and Effective

Is it possible to enjoy bar prep?

It’s one of the dryest things a person can do on this planet. (Don’t invite space tourists to try this.) But we retain more and pay more attention when things are enjoyable.

I’ve talked about enjoying the process to maintain motivation when it comes to bar prep. How you do that is personal.

Ultimately, you can have fun with anything. It’s a mindset. If something isn’t fun, you can just enjoy not having fun!

You can have fun with bar prep too. Bar prep can be enjoyable if you go at your own pace and get better at it.

The default (typical, boring) approach of bar prep involves sitting still like a statue watching people in a suit drone on as you fantasize about throwing your computer or self out the window. If you’re especially masochistic, you’ll pause the video and make sure to fill in all the lecture notes.

This is surprisingly exhausting. As a bonus, you’ll also forget 99% of what you listened to. I’d rather watch water boil because at least I’d have something to show for it, like edible pasta. (Did you know the singular form of spaghetti is spaghetto?)

Something people forget to tell you is that you don’t actually have to follow the default.

“Just complete the course! Do all the things! Play it safe!”—The National Association of Barbri (probably)

No, instead of playing defense, it’s time to go on offense.

Follow this visual guide of 6 things that can help you make steady progress and enjoy bar prep—without the frustration and exhaustion that come with how bar takers typically approach studying for the bar exam.

(4th one is my favorite!)

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Dominating the Essays: Organize Issues and Prioritize Rules to Know on the Bar Exam

Ever wonder how you’re supposed to juggle everything in your head? How do you prioritize the rules to know for the bar exam?

How are you supposed to learn all this when time is tight? How do you tackle the massive body of rules to know?

How do you know you’ve completed the essay in full? Did you even talk about the correct issues? Are the graders going to give you the points? Are they even going to read your prose?!

You’d love to start practicing essays but feel like you just haven’t learned enough law yet. It’s overwhelming to even begin.

At least the answer is right there in MBE questions… If you’re a bar taker struggling with coming up with what to write, essays are the bane of your existence. Your rambling paragraphs start to blur.

Let’s breathe. We can simplify the essays and make them less scary…

Key takeaways:

  • Issues: Learn not just the rules but also how to present and organize the issues (with examples below)
  • Rules: Highest-priority issues and rules are those that have appeared in the past (there are two other priorities)
  • There are efficient and effective ways to hit both of the above at once
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Bar Prep Wisdom from Succulents

I went to a succulents gardening workshop the other day 🌱

(This is relevant to you, promise.)

I figured succulents wouldn’t wither under my care like the flowers I tried arranging before. There’s a limit to how much talent one person can have, I guess.

There’s no limit to how much I think about bar prep because that’s what I started thinking about when I was listening to the instructor 🤦🏻‍♂️

4 relevant lessons and also photos of my bald-looking succulent bowl:

(First lesson: “You have to kill a lot of plants to be an expert.” 🤯)

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The 3 Things You Need When Starting Bar Prep (Live Stream Replay)

“What should I know when I’m starting bar prep?”

I did a live stream with Jennifer Duclair to talk about how to take the guesswork out of bar preparation and get a better sense of direction as you start studying for your next bar exam.

It was fun! Japes and nuggets of insights were dropped, and I’m pleased with how this turned out. (Maybe I’ll do another one next year…)

Here’s me throwing Kaplan under the bus:

What to do with your schedule when starting bar prep

Here’s the recording (go to 8:12 where I talk about the study schedule shown above), along with timestamps so you can jump to the parts you’re most interested in:

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