Stephanie was a classic repeater of the California Bar Exam, who followed a big box course on her first try and then switched to better (more efficient and effective) learning strategies on her second, successful try.
It’s a familiar story you see all the time. Too many stories of repeaters regretting using Barbri and other cookie-cutter programs.
Here’s how she did it and the tools she used to do it:
- Resources used
- Stephanie’s story on how she passed the 2022 July CBX (original screenshots are below text)
- Takeaways from Stephanie’s approach
- ✅ Get diversity in MBE practice.
- ✅ Emphasize practice with past exam questions. This goes for MBE, essays, and PTs.
- ✅ Learning takes mental work.
- ✅ If you are stuck in the mud, get someone to help push you out.
- Original unedited screenshots
Essays and PTs
▶▶ Approsheets (issue checklists and flowcharts for essays)
▶▶ Past essays and PTs
▶▶ Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam by Mary Basick
▶▶ California Performance Test Workbook by Mary Basick
▶▶ Passer’s Playbook 2.0 (tools and techniques for effective bar prep)
More below on how she put all of this together.
Stephanie’s story on how she passed the 2022 July CBX (original screenshots are below text)
Thank you!!! It didn’t feel totally real until they published the list, ha! I am so glad it’s behind me now. Happy to share what I did, and hope it helps someone else. I’m a little behind but here’s the story…lots and lots of extra detail- hopefully some good pieces to pluck out in here!
I passed the CA bar on the second attempt. On the first try, I opted for a Barbri course and supplemented it with critical pass flashcards, approsheets, and Mary Basick’s Exam Writing book. The central thing that, I think, prevented me from making it over the finish line was not having enough diverse MBE practice questions. I’m the classic type of person who hates multiple choice and definitely should have used more varied sample questions to practice.
Things that I think did work — The Basick book was incredibly helpful. Using the book’s sample essay questions and the MTYLT cooking method is a winning strategy, in my opinion. The book’s sample answers are helpful, but even more helpful (especially if you’re crunched on time) are the answer grids that layout issues with sample rule statements. The most tested issue grid provided in the book is also great and pointed me in the direction of areas worth spending extra time on (definitely saw some on the test!). I used my own outlines and the MTYLT approsheets for quick review of rules between practicing essays.
For the MBE portion- on the first attempt I practiced with pretty much every Barbri sample question provided and some past MBE questions that I accessed online, and then reviewed and re-reviewed rules on the flashcards. On the day of the test, I felt like the questions looked wholly unlike anything that I had studied and found them harder than expected. So, in the second attempt one of my biggest concerns was that I diversify my MBE study questions. I would not recommend using only one form of practice question if you struggle with multiple choice. (And, flashcards can be helpful, but I think gave a false sense that I knew rules better than I actually did–when really I had memorized them, but was still vulnerable to getting tripped up by a tricky question.)
I probably over-supplemented in studying the second time—hopefully my experiences help someone else from doing the same…Second time– For MBE practice questions I used Emmanuel’s Strategies and Tactics book. I found the questions incredibly difficult, and at times thought that I was never going to pass because I wasn’t getting as many of them right as I thought I should be. But, in actuality, I think they really set me up for success better than any other practice questions because they were so hard and because I took time to read each answer given to learn where I made a mistake. I included, at the very least, 20 questions in my every day schedule (and upped the number closer to the exam).
I also used Uworld and paid for four hours of tutoring. Honestly, I didn’t find the tutoring very helpful. (May be different depending on which company you choose, but for me, I felt like it wasn’t worth the money, and that it didn’t reveal to me any new additional knowledge or strategies). I found Uworld helpful in the first half of studying because of the visual explanations and because their questions tested on minor rules/exceptions that seemed helpful to know as ‘pick up’ questions but ultimately stuck pretty consistently with the Emmanuel’s book (and some of the Barbri questions that focused on specific sections that I needed more work on)
I felt pretty good for essays on the second round but did add in Basick’s CPT workbook. I’d recommend it for a good layout of sample CPT questions and for practice. I also accessed the past essays and CPTs provided online and, initially, did some cooking of essays as practice, but as I got to crunch time, I reviewed those past questions/answers when I needed something a little lighter study-wise, to get a sense of what the examiners look for and what scored well.
Also notable! The exam is a beast and not passing it is soul-crushing. I was so far beyond overwhelmed and had no idea where to even start again. The passer’s playbook was so helpful because when I found myself stuck, I could usually find the answer there and the sample study schedules gave me a really good starting place on how to dive back in so I could get back into a good study rhythm quickly.
Hope that helps!
Takeaways from Stephanie’s approach
✅ Get diversity in MBE practice.
Stephanie used questions from various sources:
Emanuel’s S&T + UWorld + Barbri questions that focused on specific sections she needed more work on (straight out of my suggestions).
It’s OK to use simulated questions like the ones written by prep companies. They can be useful to grind areas without “wasting” real questions, as mentioned in the Playbook (which also suggests a ratio of real/simulated).
💬 “I’m the classic type of person who hates multiple choice and definitely should have used more varied sample questions to practice.“
Speaking of which…
✅ Emphasize practice with past exam questions. This goes for MBE, essays, and PTs.
Without seeing how the law is used, it’s just words and facts on a page.
You can and should memorize the rules (and issues), but your body may not know what to do with them when you come face to face with a hypo.
💬 “Flashcards can be helpful, but I think gave a false sense that I knew rules better than I actually did–when really I had memorized them, but was still vulnerable to getting tripped up by a tricky question.“
Using the law to solve practice questions helps you understand how it’s used. You can use efficiency techniques too:
💬 “Using the book’s sample essay questions and the MTYLT cooking method is a winning strategy. . . . I used my own outlines and the MTYLT approsheets for quick review of rules between practicing essays.“
Speaking of which…
✅ Learning takes mental work.
It’s supposed to be uncomfortable. It’s not an easy process.
It’s not just about powering through and going through the motions. Spinning your wheels doesn’t move you forward if you’re stuck in the mud. Improvement comes from constant feedback and learning every time you try to solve a difficult problem.
It takes some strain to pull the Lego pieces apart in your brain to make castles with them.
💬 “I think [the Strategies & Tactics questions] really set me up for success better than any other practice questions because they were so hard and because I took time to read each answer given to learn where I made a mistake.“
Speaking of which…
✅ If you are stuck in the mud, get someone to help push you out.
Stephanie’s soul was crushed, overburdened, and overwhelmed. So she leveraged the tools out there.
The bar exam is difficult. Let’s recognize that! There’s no shame in asking for help.
In fact, one of the (unspoken) secrets of successful students is that they cut through the noise instead of trying to reinvent the wheel alone.
💬 “Also notable! The exam is a beast and not passing it is soul-crushing.
I was so far beyond overwhelmed and had no idea where to even start again. The passer’s playbook was so helpful because when I found myself stuck, I could usually find the answer there and the sample study schedules gave me a really good starting place on how to dive back in so I could get back into a good study rhythm quickly.“
Original unedited screenshots
Nice work, Stephanie! Here again are the tools she used.
Did this inspire you to think about your own approach? Comment below with your thoughts to solidify what you learned.
I hope to feature you next!