Today’s story is from Sam, who is YET another passer of the 2023 February CA Bar Exam.
I KNOW I KNOW… I want to share some UBE stories too. Blame too many of my CA readers for being part of the 32.5%.
But Sam had to go through a first round of suffering.
It’s not an uncommon story to do what you’re “supposed to” the first time, and then switch to a more conscious and effective approach and pass as a second-timer.
I stayed up late and spent a whole week studying this story because it’s an excellent example of taking control of your bar studies. It’s a lesson for first-timers who want to avoid mistakes and an inspiration for repeaters who have been there before.
This UK attorney passed the California Bar Exam on his second try (and checked results while on vacation in Maui, like a BALLER).
- Attempts: California Bar Exam 2 times
- Weakness: MBE
- Unique challenge: Reacquainting with the process of studying for an unfamiliar exam format that tested unfamiliar subject matter
Resources Sam used for his second time preparing for the bar exam
- Find a code here for 10% off your entire cart (including any add-ons such as video lectures)
▶▶ Emanuel’s Strategies & Tactics for the MBE
▶▶ [CA only] Mary Basick’s Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam
Golden nuggets from Sam’s success story
I extracted a 6-piece nugget combo for you today:
- 1️⃣ Realize whether or not you’re doing busy work.
- 2️⃣ Learn the exam, not just the law. Learn how to learn.
- 3️⃣ Craft your own study plan.
- 4️⃣ You can still be strategic about your preparation.
- 5️⃣ Use resources that are proven to work.
- 6️⃣ Do what works for you.
- Sam’s unedited full story
1️⃣ Realize whether or not you’re doing busy work.
I say this all the time. Well, I’m gonna say it again since Sam’s experience is validating me. Deal with it:
There is a difference between knowing the law and knowing how to use the law.
This internal drive to know everything just in case can lead to MASSIVE time loss.
Your job isn’t to transcribe video lectures, take perfect notes, or recreate outlines.
Personally, I made this mistake in law school, and I made it again in bar prep. Meanwhile, the guy who was top 4 in his class never took notes 🤔
If you’re watching lectures, simply pay attention. If you’re going to take notes, only write down key parts you’ll come back to. If you’re thinking about creating outlines, why not use one of the many streamlined options out there?
2️⃣ Learn the exam, not just the law. Learn how to learn.
This is a trap many experienced attorneys fall into, which is that they write like a lawyer.
Instead, write like a bar taker. Write in a way that the graders care about. Here’s a stupid simple walkthrough of how to IRAC.
While the PT came more naturally to Sam since he was an experienced attorney, he also needed to learn:
- a specific way of writing essays for the bar exam (e.g., formulaic, issue-focused) and
- a way of learning (e.g., using the material to memorize).
3️⃣ Craft your own study plan.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”—Old logging aphorism (not Abraham Lincoln contrary to belief)
Sam spent more than 4 hours sharpening his axe—crafting a study schedule that took HIS needs and weaknesses into account.
I feel like a big part of the value of a course is a sensible study schedule.
Does it make sense that courses give everyone gets the same schedule, whether the student is a 20-something fresh grad or someone who is working full-time or has family duties?
(The answer is no.)
Pop quiz: Which approach would you go for?
- Go through each subject quickly (2-3 days) even if you don’t “get through” it, and cycle through the subjects multiple times.
- Go through each subject in full even if it takes a week.
My answer to the pop quiz is (1) to keep your memory charged.
If you do (2), you will have forgotten everything when you come back to the first subject after 12 weeks, leading to panic, despair, and desperate decisions.
4️⃣ You can still be strategic about your preparation.
Sam used two of my favorite techniques: the Tripod Approach and Essay Cooking. This allowed him to save time by focusing on the parts that were more valuable.
5️⃣ Use resources that are proven to work.
That’s a bit of clickbait because it’s not the tool but the wielder of the tool (you).
In other words, everything can be “proven to work.” It’s your responsibility whether you pass or not.
But it’s difficult to do it by yourself. It’s practically necessary to use some sort of supplementary resource, even if it’s a bloated supplement like a bar review course.
I listed the resources Sam used above (tap to see them above). Combined, they cost less than any single bar review course.
Sam describes how he used them in his full story reproduced below. Use them yourself, or find your own. But don’t obsess over minutiae.
6️⃣ Do what works for you.
The old way wasn’t working for Sam.
Despite everything I said so far, it’s up to YOU whether to listen to me or not.
I mean that sincerely. Don’t call me a guru or ask me for “tips and tricks.” I’m merely sharing an autobiography, what I’ve learned from a decade of talking with thousands of bar takers, and showing you options as a sherpa on this dark terrain we’re on.
If there’s ONE SINGLE THING I want you to take away from all my years of writing about bar prep, it’s that bar prep is personal. It’s YOUR bar prep!
Yes, most people are mostly the same. But you can (SHOULD) try different things assuming you’ve got the basics down.
I find every approach interesting to hear about. It’s part of the reason I study and feature diverse success stories from my readers and customers.
Another reason is to PROVE to you that there are many individual and unique ways it can be done. When I say you can do it, it’s not a platitude anymore.
(Before you call me out on the diversity, I heard from too many successful CA people this round for some reason OK?! You can take what applies to you, or find success stories from other jurisdictions here.)
It’s up to you whether to find Sam’s story inspiring or not. Your situation may call for a different approach, your own personal style.
YOU are the dean of your own studies—not Barbri, not your law school, not your tutor, not me. As the dean, you have a team of advisors and consultants, but you make the final decisions.
So how do you know what’s for you or not?
In Tanvi’s story, she knew things weren’t working because things were not sticking. That’s one clue.
To find that out in the first place, you have to try things before it’s too late.
No one ever showed me a conscious way of approaching bar prep like this. Since you’re in the fortunate position to consider this now, I hope you do with more than a grain of salt.
Don’t come crying to me if you mindlessly follow a stock schedule where you finally finish 7 weeks of cramming lectures and end up in the wilderness left to fend for yourself.
(If you do find yourself in that situation, Passer’s Playbook has emergency “scramble” schedules you could try which are 1-3 weeks long.)
Nice work, Sam! Here are the tools he used to make this his last time.
Sam’s unedited full story
Nice work, Sam! Here are the tools he used to make this his last time.