How Doreen Passed One of the HARDEST California Bar Exams (33.9% Pass Rate)

The 2022 February California Bar Exam was a tough one.

The typical average raw written score needed to be on track to pass hovered around 60-62 points in past California exams that required a 1390 scaled score.

The raw written score needed to be on track to pass in 2022 February was an average of 62.78 points!

But Doreen managed to pass the 2022 February California Bar Exam…

  • Unexpected to her (“I don’t think I passed this bar … just [being] realistic” “I will probably take it again in July, and I will be using your methods and materials again” “I was completely prepared to treat it like a practice exam, learn from my mistakes, etc.”)
  • Even though essays were the bane of her existence, and
  • Even though she only had 6 weeks of preparation.

How did she do it? Her full story and takeaways below…

Quick stats:

  • Number of attempts taking the CA bar: Two attempts. One in February 2021 (sitting remotely), and then the second one in February 2022. 
  • Weaknesses: Essays, getting enough memorization done, learning the black letter law in enough detail, and practicing essays (“practicing essays was a struggle from start to finish”)
  • Unique challenges: ADHD, major anxiety when it comes to studying, being a night owl

Materials she used to prepare:

▶▶ Magicsheets

▶▶ Passer’s Playbook 2.0 (her “secret weapon more than anything”)

▶▶ AdaptiBar [UWorld would also work; see review and comparison here] + Quizlet

▶▶ Emanuel’s Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (but not as much as AdaptiBar)

▶▶ BarEssays (CA only)

▶▶ Mary Basick’s essay book

Summary of her study approach:

Stuck to a schedule (taken from Passer’s Playbook). When you’re feeling lost, your study plan is going to act as a compass, giving you direction and clarity.

Followed proven strategies and resources. I go into strategies in detail on the blog and in Passer’s Playbook. Things she did:

  • MBE: Reviewed every problem, whether correct or incorrect, and all of the different answers.
  • Essays: Touch upon as many essays as she could, reviewing sample answers and answers from BarEssays (model answer, an 80 point answer, and a 60 point answer).

It’s OK to work around your own needs. If you’re a night owl, work more at night, around your schedule. If you need to make lifestyle changes, do so.

It’s OK to get help. The (unspoken) secret of those who appear to have effortless success is that they obtain the right resources. Set aside any notions of ego and unfairness about getting help. “No man is an island.”

What she would have changed had she not passed this time:

🤔 Spend more time on bar prep (10 weeks instead of the 6 weeks she had (!))

🤔 Practice more MBE questions on paper

🤔 More essay practice (and use Approsheets more)

Doreen’s story on how she passed the 2022 February CA Bar Exam

Minor editorial edits for clarity and flow. Original screenshots (with extra material) are below the text.

Brian… I literally cannot believe it and I’m still in shock to be quite honest but I PASSED THE CALIFORNIA BAR !! 

I was completely prepared to treat it like a practice exam, learn from my mistakes, etc. etc. and I had to reread the “Pass” about 10 times for it to actually sink in. I don’t know what happened this time, maybe it was your wizardry, maybe the graders were having an extra special day, but whatever happened I’m extremely grateful to you and all of the resources you provided us all with!! 

I’m seriously still bamboozled because I wrote approximately three sentences on the Business Associations [BA] essay (had not studied BA AT ALL) and spent the rest of the time working on my PT! 

I’m actually thinking that maybe that’s what saved me…. cutting my losses on BA, which I knew was a lost cause, and racking up as many points as I could on the PT and the crim essay (the other two essays of the afternoon). For the multiple choice, I finished the AM session with plenty of time to spare, and then didn’t have enough time in the PM and bubbled in (B) for like 5 or 6 of the last questions!! 

In terms of studying for the MBE:

I signed up for Adaptibar and completed as many questions as I could. My goal was to get to 1300 questions, including practice tests, but I think I only got to about 900 or 1000 questions done. I also had Emmanuel’s but did not use that as much as Adaptibar. I definitely wish I had practiced more questions with pen and paper, because the timing is so different and it actually matters! By the end I was averaging around 60% correct on Adaptibar, IIRC. I followed your advice and reviewed every problem, whether correct or incorrect, and all of the different answers. Most of the time I would add the info to my flashcards, using Quizlet (the best way to make flashcards IMO, takes way less time than paper cards and you can take them everywhere because they are on your phone. Besides, aren’t we all staring at our phones all the time anyways?)

I used your model calendar study schedule and got at least 20 mbes in per day, and it was always a good way to start the day since they’re faster than essays. 

I also used my old Themis books (from my first time around) and especially the outlines- when I got an MBE wrong, it was super helpful to look up the law in there!

Studying for the essays:

Tried to take your advice AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE and touch upon as many essays as I could. I used baressays.com to practice and reviewed at least 2 different sample answers for each essay I did. Usually I would review the model answer, an 80 point answer, and a 60 point answer. 

I also had Mary Basick’s book which I HIGHLY recommend, she has great outlines in there that I used to study/make flashcards. Really well organized info and easily digestible, plus it’s SO HELPFUL that you can look at the outline and then flip to the sample essay and see how she actually uses the law to write the essay!!!!!!!!!!

I mentioned this before but I wish I had done more essay practice!! If I had had more time (only 6 weeks this time) I would have worked with your Approsheets much more… this time I only used the Magicsheets!

Lifestyle changes:

I figured out I have ADHD, got medication for it, wasn’t living with family in the height of COVID, way less stressed and depressed than right after law school, etc etc. and I found the wonderful drink that is Celsius (caffeine without the jitters and anxiety of coffee is AMAZING). 

Plus, it seriously helped that the test was in person and not online. I thrive on that test center atmosphere- keeps me going when I want to quit! 

Passer’s Playbook:

Other than the above lifestyle changes, this was the most valuable and helpful tool I had!!!!!!! Reading about changing my mindset about the bar, how to approach studying, having a guide to it all, plus the emails you would send out… it felt like you were my friend guiding me through it the whole way. 

Whenever I would have a freak out moment, I would just scroll through the Playbook and read your advice and it would help me calm down!! I know everyone loves the Magicsheets and Approsheets, but this was my secret weapon more than anything. The 10 week, 6 week, 4 week, etc. sample schedules were EXTREMELY helpful!! I didn’t need to waste time figuring out what to work on, I could just follow your schedule. 

One thing I would add:

Some advice to nights owls like me! I tried my best to adjust to the timing of the test and not go totally nocturnal as I am want to do, but there’s still ways to study and pass and not totally guilt yourself for not waking up at 6am!! I think I woke up around 8:30-9 every day and started studying around 10-11… and it was fine!

Thank you seriously SO MUCH Brian….. just knowing I could reach out and email you for help was hugely comforting. Please let me know if there are any questions you have, as you can see I am more than happy to talk about it!!!

I had a few more conversations with Doreen and got the following nuggets from her:

Extra advice 1:

Another thing that I did the second time around that helped a lot: Not being afraid to ask for help from my friends and family. I’m lucky because I have friends who were supporting me, doing flashcards with me over the phone, and motivating me to study. I was also very lucky to have a mom who would cook and send me home with food, so that I didn’t have to worry about anything but studying. I also had a cleaning service come about 3 weeks before the test, so that I didn’t even need to worry about cleaning. 

I know that these are all very privileged things and I’m so lucky to be able to afford them. But especially when you live alone, it’s important to lean on others/outsource the chores like cooking and cleaning so that you can focus on studying. 

Extra advice 2 (essays):

Practicing essays was a struggle from start to finish. I always had doubts that I had studied enough material, would get sidetracked trying to review before starting the essay, and struggled to finish writing an essay. Major anxiety when starting didn’t help either. 

I still think that I should have practiced more essays in general and in more subjects. However, I did use your triangle method to zero in on the parts of the test, and even the essay subjects, that would most likely show up! That way, when I was faced with a BA essay prompt that I knew nothing about, I could spend more time working on the PT or the PR or even the community property essay. I knew those would show up, it wasn’t a surprise, so making use of my time concentrating on those subjects paid out!

Original screenshots

She wasn’t even sure she passed
This exam had a 33.9% pass rate, one of the lowest in California Bar Exam history

Nice job, Doreen! Here are the materials she used again.

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