“Successive narrowing” article published on the LEX Law Prep website.
1. Reading comprehension: the seventh subject. The MBE is often characterized as testing six subjects: constitutional law, contracts, criminal law/pro, evidence, property and torts. But, in fact, probably the most important “subject” is none of the above. It’s reading comprehension. Many times, the key to the right answer choice is but a few words in the stimulus. If you miss those words or do not understand them in context, it does not matter how well you know the law. You will still have no way to recognize the right answer.
Thus, reading comprehension is something that you should practice consciously. Develop a reading style that adheres to the correct pace and focuses on relevant information rather than irrelevancies that distract you from the trail.
2. Take advantage of the format. The MBE is a multiple-choice test. There are a number of classic multiple-choice test strategies that should be second nature to you by exam day. For instance, even when you cannot see what’s right about the right answer, you can oftentimes see what is wrong with the wrong answers (good old “process of elimination”). Every time you eliminate even a single wrong answer choice, you make a big step toward the right answer choice.
3. You take the test; it does not take you. Do not let the test be in control. Set your own pace, and attack the questions in the order that you have worked out with your tutor. Stick to your game plan, and do not let yourself get into a time deficit.
4. Be a mercenary. Your task on test day is not to please your professors, show your knowledge of the law, or understand the nuances of the cases that confront you. Your only job is to get points and thereby pass the California Bar Exam. Everything you do that is not directed toward getting the most points that you can is but wasted time. Therefore, stay detached enough to avoid getting fixated on interesting or difficult problems.
5. Go the distance. The MBE can be pretty tiring, but you cannot afford to run out of gas. You should start the test at your best and maintain that concentration level throughout the day. (Hence, our Test at Your Best™ motto.) Know your vulnerabilities and plan to offset them.
(Original publication date: June 9, 2010 (LEX))
1. PRACTICE. While studying the substantive law is crucial for the essays and MBE, preparing for the performance test is all about doing. By the time test day rolls around, the doing—performing—of the performance test should feel like old hat to you.
2. ANSWER THE QUESTION. Sticking very closely to the assigned task is half the battle on the PT. Read the task memo as many times as you need to read it. Patiently. Then simply stick to what the memo has asked you to do, doing everything required and no more.
3. ONE STEP AT A TIME. It’s interesting how widely the model answers can vary from one another; some model answers even contain inaccurate statements of law. This variation demonstrates that doing the tasks like a competent and thoughtful professional and presenting your work product in the right package will serve you well, perhaps even more so that having the “right” answer.
4. STAY COOL; DON’T FREAK OUT. Part of what the PT tests is your ability to handle uncertainty. If you can simply carve out a reasonable response to uncertainty, you can pass. While the other portions may select for mastery of the law, the PT selects for those who can master themselves.
5. KEEP IT SIMPLE. The easiest way to adhere to all of the above rules is to adhere to this one. Be very simple in your approach. If you can’t see the big picture, do a good job on the parts that you can see. If you don’t know what the whole thing should look like, simply do whatever step you do see needs to be done.
(Original publication date: June 8, 2010 (LEX))
1. Remember that your essay is being graded by a human being. Many people studying for the bar exam get so caught up in memorizing obscure rules and rigid outlines that they forget the basics of writing a decent essay. An essay is not an outline. It is not an unprocessed mass of all the things you know about a topic. Instead, it is a communication between you and the reader. Write like a human being who is writing to another human being!
2. Establish and maintain the correct tone. The tone used in writing an essay is different from that used in writing a performance test deliverable. In an essay, write as though you are addressing an educated person who knows little about law but who can be brought up to speed by a clear, concise explanation. Thus, you want to mention basic principles briefly without belaboring them and then move on to cover the specifics of the present stimulus.
3. IRAC works. There is a reason why the IRAC ( issue, rule, application, conclusion) structure is taught in virtually every legal writing class: it works. Some people complain that this structure is too rigid. But the fact is that you are not writing an essay to become a famous author. You are not trying to appeal to the masses. You are trying to get points and pass the bar exam. Well-written IRAC applied to each of the major issues is a good way to get that job done.
NOTE: BarRev created the ILFAC™ method, because that method scores higher and allows students to move faster. The ILFAC™ method is still the best choice, but IRAC works if done well.
4. Get some points right up front. A one-paragraph “roadmap” of the major issues and what you are going to say about them makes a good first impression on the reader. If the reader knows in advance that he or she is going to get high-quality work from you, he or she is more likely to be in a receptive frame of mind while reading the remainder of your essay. Use this psychology to your advantage.
5. Hit the right stride and stick with it. You must develop an internal gauge for the right mix of reading time, organizing time, and writing time. Don’t get yourself backed into a corner by over-analyzing, but don’t rush into writing without any sort of plan. Finding the right balance is a matter of practice, review, and more practice.
(Original publication date: Jun 6, 2010 (LEX))