How to Pass the California Bar Exam with a Focused Approach of Discipline and Consistency

Got yet another success story, by a reader who shared with me a very detailed and specific recap of her journey to pass the 2020 February California Bar Exam (26.8% pass rate) on her second try.

It was too good not to share.

Before:

  • Big bar course made her “dumber,” wasted her time, DRAINED her energy and time. She was too wiped out to memorize or practice
  • Did not even know how to START any essay
  • Panic, doubts, insecurities, mind games, pressure

After:

  • Practical and effective approach
  • Used the right tools for her
  • Enjoyed herself because she could see herself getting better

Key takeaways and full story below…

Notice:

Discipline, focus, and consistency, just buckling down and DOING it for three months in an environment she designed for productivity. She still made time for a social life. You can do both—yes and yes!

Being the dean of her own studies. She crafted her own study plan and EXECUTED it

Preparation. This is “bar exam preparation,” not just “studying for the bar exam.” That means the rest of your life is accounted for and set up to allow things to go your way. The more prepared you are, the luckier you seem to get…

Materials used (taken from her writeup below):

▶▶ Magicsheets + Approsheets

▶▶ AdaptiBar (my review if you’re on the fence)

▶▶ Strategies & Tactics for the MBE

▶▶ BarEssays (CA only) (my review if you’re on the fence)

▶▶ Kaplan hard copy outlines [Barbri CMR or other comprehensive source material would also work]

▶▶ MTYLT emails/blogs (you’re on it; sign up for emails here)

Everyone pack up and go home because this is really the all-star list of resources you need, in plain view. No need to overcomplicate things. The rest is up to you.

Here’s Jinnyi’s experience on how she passed the 2020 February CBX (original screenshots are below text):

Hello Brian,

I hope you are doing well and although these emails have been such encouragements to me this past year, I am relieved to say that I won’t be needing them anymore. I passed the February 2020 bar exam!! I was going to quietly unsubscribe and maybe throw in a short thank you but I really wanted to write an email because my heart broke when I found out that 73.2% had failed the bar this round… and maybe share my experience in case it could resonate with someone and help them pass!

(quick bio about me: I went to Brooklyn law school and even had job offers at Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan District Attorney offices lined up – but ultimately decided to move back home and start here bc I knew I wanted to commit in CA. However, the insecurities/stress grew bc I couldn’t apply to jobs until i was in good standing with CA bar – meaning after i had passed the bar and was sworn in. I failed the July 2019 bar and passed the Feb 2020 bar.)

I stumbled onto your site and bought your magicsheets and approsheets about 3 weeks before the July 2019 bar and seriously wish I had them sooner. I was doing the Kaplan schedule and was staying on top of all of my assignments but 1. it was DRAINING my energy and time and I was too wiped out to memorize/practice, 2. it partly helped me get the substantive knowledge down – but honestly, your outlines/approsheets helped me retain the information in a more effective manner, even though they had less content.

Around the end of June, I quickly realized how much I still couldn’t get the MBE questions to a percentage (I was stuck around 65%) where I wanted it (I wanted to be at least at 75%) and I did not even know how to START any essays… the format, what issues were and how to look for them, and being concise so I get to the point and can finish my essays in time. I practiced maybe around 7 essays max… I honestly felt like Kaplan was making me… dumber… and I was just wasting my time. Panicking, I started researching “how to pass the bar effectively” on google and was looking for ORDINARY people who actually TOOK the bar and were not paid kaplan/barbri/themis advocates… When I stumbled onto your blog posts, I felt this tiny puncture that helped release the enormous pressure that was building up. Finally, someone who understands and agrees that the kaplan format is NOT effective…

I still used the Kaplan outlines for my substantive studying – but the magicsheets/approsheets helped my memorization game and how to organize my essays. But there just wasn’t enough time… I failed the july bar by 1 point… the essays were my weak spots.

When I found out I failed, I thoroughly read through all of your blog posts and commiserated with everyone who knew my pain. Man, it was incredibly encouraging and it helped me shake it off and get my head on straight and try again. It was also super helpful because you were practical in getting started again – you knew the doubts, insecurities, mind games failing the bar exam gives you and you knew how to give advice to help us be prepared. For sure this round was harder emotionally/mentally… I knew I had to really buckle down.

So – like you advised, I made my own plan. (I’ve already been readying myself before I knew results came out)
I had my plans down and made Nov. 15&16
Started studying Nov. 17.

I also picked up a receptionist job at a tech company… it turned out to be exactly what I needed. I had a quiet huge lobby to myself with a GIANT new desktop and deskspace with a printer nearby, free coffee and snacks, and being paid to sit down at a desk and not watch youtube/or do anything recreational forced my ass to study for 9 hours straight.

*this really may have been the biggest gamechanger – I had this schedule of:

  1. I woke up at 6:30am and was at the desk ready to go by 7:30am.
  2. I had only one 15 minute break at 10am, 30 minute lunch at 12:30 and another 15 minute break at 3:30pm.
  3. I left the office at 5pm.
  4. I went straight to the gym until 7pm.
  5. 7-9pm I ate dinner, showered, wind down.
  6. 9-10:30pm I did extra adaptibar questions until ZZZ.
    and repeat. Nov. 17 – Feb. 22.

Changes I made:

  • MBE:
    • I first started with the Emanuel book – reviewing each of the subjects from my Kaplan outlines and then doing the subject sections in the book. 
      • *I saved the last 3 practice exams for later, about 2 weeks before the actual bar exam
    • I then moved onto Adaptibar and did 20 questions a day (mixed subjects) almost every day. (exceptions were holidays, or really busy work days) 
      • In total, I had done about a little over 2000
      • I did this towards the end of my days – around 3:30pm-5pm and 9pm-10:30pm
    • I started at around 60-65% average at the beginning and ended at about 75% in February
  • Essays
    • Baressays helped me so much – it showed me the FORMAT because knowing the format helped me understand what issues they were looking, which thus helped me to memorize rules and remember concepts better!
    • I honestly started off with just reading like 10 essays (as different as they could be) for each subject just to understand and see what they’re looking for in each subject.
      • Reading the questions and seeing what kind of issues/rules came up in the answers helped me memorize my outlines better because it made more sense to me, it flowed better than doing outlines first and then reading essay questions/answers.
    • I made a schedule to make sure I hit EVERY essay possible (hit = read, PRACTICE and try without any outlines, and then review and memorize!!) 
    • I also memorized and typed out myself the RULES that the bar essays gave in their answers – 
      • this method was effective for my weaker subjects (corps, trusts/wills, property) I didn’t take any of those classes so they weren’t as intuitive and would often stress me out when I tried to make my own sentences with those rules. So I just plain memorized the rules from the Bar essays answers

This email is already becoming a long essay in itself, so I’ll wrap things up now and not go into any details. Aside from these changes – I really think I actually studied for the Feb 2020 exam. Like, I didn’t go on my phone or waste time on my computer – maybe because I was working/studying in a lobby and people could see if I was doing those things. So, I really was studying straight and HARDCORE – no distractions from 7:30 – 5pm. I’d be ABSOLUTELY DRAAAAAINED the first 2-3 months… but I feel like it’s the same as working out. In the beginning, you suffer and everything is hard and painful. But the more consistent you are, the more results you will see! And, the workout becomes more enjoyable bc I can see myself getting better

It was the same with the Feb bar 2020. I sometimes wouldn’t be able to do as many adaptibar questions/essay review as I planned – but I never gave up. If I needed to take a breather, I would – but get right back into it the next day. My family and friends, my faith in Jesus, and also your emails really helped me fight the desires of wanting to give up (I even had an anxiety attack late january!) and having a daily routine schedule helped me try again and again. 

DISCIPLINE. Not only in studying – but in my diet, sleep, workouts, “fun” social times. If I knew food made me sleepy, gaseous, uncomfortable in any way – I would not eat it!!! (and trust me, those are usually my fave types of food!) I also worked out 6 times a week – I found lifting/strength training to be better than cardio – it helped my neck/shoulder/back cramps and I was able to sleep better and was more focused. Slept 8 hours a day – 10:30 pm sharp till 6:30am. And – I hung out once (and a half) a week – usually Saturday nights – Sunday church was my social life. Sundays I kept the studying light. 

I had to fly down to LA and took the test in Pasadena. I packed my lunch/snacks/gatorade (electrolytes is KEY to keeping hydrated and not having to pee all the time) and canned starbucks double espresso. I knew I would wake up 3 hours before the test, get ready/drive over so that i had 1.5 hours before the test to review/eat breakfast/use the bathroom. 

Man… I will never forget the adrenaline… 

The test subjects were NOT my favorite, but in a good way because I prepared for my least favorite subjects the hardest. I never ran out of time for any of the essays but was pretty close to the time limits for all of them. And damn, I knew after the first time around – I was wearing a long sleeve, t-shirt, sweatshirt, and a PUFFER jacket with a scarf with leggings+sweats, and thick socks because it was soooo damn cold. In July, it was painful writing my essays and I kept running out of time bc I couldn’t type!! my hands were so cold!! I was so glad I was prepared (even tho I looked like a psycho wearing all of those layers in LA….) but felt a bit smug when other people were shivering around me. And hey… not my fault i get cold easily! 

The 5th subject threw me off… and yup – I knew it was going to bother my while I waited for my exams because i was like WTF?! It wasn’t like any of the past essays I’ve ever reviewed and it seemed to be a mixture of so many topics… partnerships/corporations/agency… I BSed like crazy and still wonder how I did on that one… 

MBE… I just went with my first instinct. I noticed while practicing… my first answer was like ALWAYS correct – anytime I stalled and changed it… I always got it wrong. Seriously, I really tested that till the end and when I got 80% on a practice test by just going with my first instinct… I knew I had to stick to that for the real one. 

So, there you have it!! Wow, I honestly forgot what it feels like to not have this bar exam cloud over my head and I feel so free… Thank you for your blogs/site/emails/help – they really truly helped me get out of my darkness and back into the game and I was able to find a more effective plan that ultimately DID indeed work for me by using your advice and my experience (F kaplan!! and all those other bar exam study plans!). And if you actually read this whole email, double props to you!! Keep doing what you’re doing and we’re all appreciative of you helping so many people get through this huge hurdle and onto their dreams!! Thanks again!!

Nice work, Jinnyi! Here again are the tools she used.

Original unedited screenshots:

How to Pass the California Bar Exam with Discipline, Focus, and Consistency
How to Pass the California Bar Exam with Discipline, Focus, and Consistency
How to Pass the California Bar Exam with Discipline, Focus, and Consistency
How to Pass the California Bar Exam with Discipline, Focus, and Consistency
How to Pass the California Bar Exam with Discipline, Focus, and Consistency

Nice work, Jinnyi! Here again are the tools she used.

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