Today I am sharing my experience of the Bar Exam. The Bar Exam is the examination you must pass to become a licensed attorney. You cannot work as an attorney, esquire, or put “Esq” at the end of your name until you pass the Bar Exam.
How the examination is set up:
The bar exam is made up of two parts – Part A and Part B. Part A is the Florida portion of the exam and takes place on the first day. Part B is the Federal law portion of the exam, better known as the MBE – multi-state bar examination. Each part has two sections – three hours in the morning, a break for lunch, and then three hours in the afternoon. You go to bed and wake up and do it all over again the next day! It was so exhausting!
What is on the exam?
-Part A (Florida portion) – 100 multiple choice questions and three essays. The essays take place in the morning. You have three hours to write three essays and can divide your time however you would like. The multiple choice questions take place in the afternoon. Florida can test any of the following subjects – business entities, professionalism, contracts, criminal law, constitutional criminal procedure, juvenile delinquency, evidence, family law, dependency, federal constitutional law, Florida constitutional law, Florida civil procedure, Florida criminal procedure, property, torts, trusts, UCC article 3, UCC article 9, wills, and administration of wills. You have to know the distinctions between Florida law and federal law. Florida Bar essay questions for July 2017 (the exam I took) can be found here. The essays are supposed to be written in IRAC format – Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion.
-Part B (MBE portion) – 200 multiple choice questions divided up with 100 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon. You have 1.8 minutes to answer each question. Each question is at a minimum 4-5 sentences long and there are five answer choices to choose from. There are seven types of law tested – Torts, Criminal law & procedure, Contracts, Evidence, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Property. Only 175 out of the 200 questions count, however you don’t know which ones count. Also, the questions are not labeled or divided by subject. You must decipher what type of law to apply when analyzing the questions. The questions are designed to be difficult. Some questions are definitely easier than others.
How do you pass:
Overall – Pass with an overall average of 136. So you can fail one part but still pass if you score high enough on the other part. The Board of Bar Examiners are not very transparent on how exactly they score and how you get a 136.
Pass both sections – Score at a minimum 136 on the Florida part and MBE part.
How I prepared:
I. STUDIED. EVERYDAY. from May 16 – July 23ish. I did take one full day off to go to Crystal River with friends to let loose for a day. But after that day, I was back to studying all the time. I used BARBRI, Adaptibar, and met with a tutor three times (at the very beginning of bar prep). I completed approximately 85% of Barbri. Towards the end of the BARBRI program, the questions get very difficult which really crushes you after all the studying you have done. It can be quite discouraging which is why towards the end I focused on what my tutor told me to study for Florida multiple choice and used Adaptibar for MBE.
I studied seven days a week. Sometimes I only studied five hours (like on a Sunday) and other days I would study for thirteen hours a day. I tried to study approximately 8-10 hours every day. It can be hard to focus with all the distractions of social media so I tried to only check my phone when I gave myself study breaks.
BARBRI: BARBRI is a nationwide test prep system that 10000s of people use to study for the bar. They definitely know what they are doing because they have been around for a long time. It did help me but sometimes the amount of work was overwhelming. BARBRI covers MBE and Florida. I didn’t write every essay they assign – a lot of times I would just read the answer or outline the answer.
Adaptibar: Adaptibar is so helpful! Adaptibar is multiple choice practice questions that are alll previously tested MBE questions. There is an app so you can do practice questions on the go. I would do practice questions on my phone before bed. I also purchased all the lectures that are available on Adaptibar for MBE. I really studied the notes from those lectures. The instructor puts all the information into sections that make it easier to memorize. My goal was to complete 1600 Adaptibar questions. I think I completed about 800. It is also really important to read the reasoning behind why the answer choices are correct or incorrect.
Tutor: I met with a tutor three times before bar prep officially started with BARBRI. His name is Phil Sandon and he was so helpful! I am so glad I met with him because I think he definitely prepared me for the Florida portion of the exam. If you want his information please email me!
NCBEX practice tests: I recommend taking all of the practice tests that they offer. You do have to buy them but its worth it! The practice test scores are a good indicator of your actual test scores. The more practice questions you complete, the better.
*I did not work. It was so important for me to pass the first time, that I completely focused on passing the bar. I didn’t even think about work or getting a job until after the exam. I still did not want to look for a job until I found out my results. I was too worried about failing and how embarrassed I would feel if I was offered a job and I didn’t pass. If you can avoid working, I definitely recommend not working. I understand that this does not work for everyone. Bar prep was my job, seven days a week, 8-12 hours a day.
How I felt during bar prep/stayed sane:
Bar prep is a mental and emotional roller coaster. There are times that I felt like I was going to crush the exam and other times that I felt like I would never be able to study enough for each subject. I was lucky to have two friends that I studied with a lot. We kept each other accountable and could always complain to one another about the grueling process. I also was constantly comparing my scores with everyone else’s scores. I wanted to know that I was doing better or about the same as other people that had passed or that I knew would pass.
Towards the end of bar prep, I found a motivational video (here is the link) on YouTube that I shared with my study group – as lame as it sounds, that video definitely helped me stay positive. I watched the video the morning before the exam. It is so important to go into the exam with confidence – even if you don’t feel confident, tell yourself that you are.
I also tried to work-out/ do something active or nice for myself each day. I also planned a weekend getaway for my fiancé and I after the bar was over to The Breakers in Palm Beach. The trip gave me something to look forward to while I studied each day.
How I felt right before taking the exam:
I was so over studying. I felt that I could not retain anything else and that studying more would exhaust me even more. It is so important to rest before the exam. I put lavender oil on my pillow and used an “ocean” noise maker on my phone to help me fall asleep. I made sure I was in bed early before the first day of the exam. I also put in an order for room service to be delivered to my room before the exam.
Side story: the hotel marked the room that I was staying in as empty! Someone tried to open my hotel room door in the middle of the night before the exam! Luckily I had the dead bolt locked so they were unable to get in. Then my food for breakfast was not delivered to my room before the exam because room service couldn’t figure out what room I was in. I was able to get everything sorted out with the hotel but it caused extra stress the morning before the exam. (They also lost my keys attached to my car key at the valet -_-….)
The hotel we stayed at was walking distance from the Tampa Convention Center which is where the bar exam takes place. The morning before Part A, you have to go to the Convention Center and stand in line to get a badge with your name and picture on it. The room where they give out badges is not very big for how many people take the exam. The room is anxiety inducing for many people – the lines are long, the room is super hot because so many people are crammed in there, and everyone is worried about what will be on the exam. Luckily, you only have to do that the first day.
Next, you get in line to go through security like at an airport. You cannot bring any food or water in. This stressed me out because if you know me, you know I always have a water bottle with me at all times! You can only bring in a few things that appear on a list of items that have been approved. Then you wait until they open the doors to the exam room. It is one GIANT room with nothing but wooden tables set up with seating for two people at each table with ginormous clocks at the very front of the room. There are around 5,000 people in that room taking the test at the same time! It is crazy.
Once you find your seat, you wait for test instructions to be given by the proctor. This can take awhile. You are fingerprinted four times – before each section of each part of the exam. After all of the instructions and fingerprinting are completed, they start the countdown clock and you are able to begin your exam. I said a few prayers during this time to help myself relax.
How I felt during the exam:
You have to work so quickly that you don’t have time to think about much more than the exam. However, I do remember during the Florida essay and multiple choice portion thinking, “I wonder what everyone else thinks – whether they think it’s easy or hard.” I hoped they thought it was hard because I sure did! I actually got up and went to the bathroom during the exam – 3 out of 4 of the sections. It was nice to get up and walk. I noticed when I would take practice tests that my scores would dip around questions 40-60 because I would get tired and fatigued. Standing up and walking around helped lessen the fatigue.
My plan on how I tackled the very first part of Part A, the essays: I quickly scanned each essay question and labeled each question with which type of law applied to the facts. Each essay pattern had more than one type of law that applied to the issues in the question. I also wrote down words that would remind me of the rules that applied to that issue so I would not forget anything. After I did that, I started with the essay question that I knew the most about. Then I moved on to the question that I thought was the “medium” question. Once I finished that, I moved onto the essay that I knew the least about. The essay questions for July 2017 were the absolute worst… I never want to hear/see/talk about UCC article 3 and 9 ever again.
The night after Part A, I went out to dinner with one of my friends. We ordered wine so that we were able to relax enough to go to sleep LOL. I definitely didn’t think I would drink between Part A and B but I think it helped me “chill out.”
How I felt after the exam:
RELIEF. I felt so happy that it was over! I was pretty anxious about whether or not I passed. I was planning on leaving and heading home after the exam. However, my friends talked me into going out that night and I am so glad I did! It was nice to be able to celebrate with the friends that I had studied with all summer.
Waiting for results:
Waiting for the results was awful lol…the exam was over July 26th and we did not get the results until September 18th! I tried to keep busy and not think about the exam because I was so worried about whether I passed or failed. The exam is only offered twice a year and I did not want to ever go through that again.
When I passed…
I was so happy when I found out that I passed. I only wanted to take that exam once! My studying and hard work truly paid off. All those times when I felt hopeless, anxious, and worried were well worth it. I felt like I could never study as hard as I did… and I have never studied so hard my entire life. I felt like I was going crazy! It is so exciting once you pass to go to the courthouse and get sworn in!
Please feel free to email me for help or questions about bar prep!