Friday, September 28, 2012

Retaking the bar: change what you think you know....

Now that I passed, I started to wonder why.  Not that I question passing as much as what was so different about this time.  Incredibly this time I felt the least prepared.

I have been reading a ton of different blogs by other students that are retakers.  I don't know exactly why I did not do this in the first place, I mean generally, misery loves company.  But I started thinking about the difference this time.

So, why now?  First, let me say that I let my insomnia roam.  Sounds weird, but I began to realize that my sleep aids (particularly prescription meds) were messing with my fight or flight response.  The previous times I took it, I never had that adreneline response test takers talk about.  I had almost no nerves.  A few months prior to taking the July exam, I weaned off the sleep aids completely.  When I took the exam this time:  I had this nervous energy that ate me alive.  I still appeared calm on the outside, but my restless leg syndrome was in full throttle --- I am so sorry to the men on each side of me that had to endure the leg bouncing and shaking I do when like this.  Pretty sure they wanted to see me dead by the first 2 hours of the 1st day of the exam.

Those that say you have to change how you studied are right, but they are wrong.  I think you have to change your study material.  Not all bar study programs are the same.  Barbri just did NOT work for me.  At all.  Instead, I built outlines based on the Board of Bar Examiners subjects, I sat down with my Black's Dictionary, my Strategies and Tactics book, and some hornbooks, as well as some online outlines and went to work.  And what I found is that this time, in researching, I learned not only the subject matter --- but how to take the MBE exam. Until you learn how to take the test, the test will defeat you.

I did not overstudy.  I was known before for studying at a steady pace, then kicking it into gear in July with 12-16 hour days.  This time, I did not do that.  I took an occasional day off even.  (though to be fair, I at least read through 2 outlines on those days).  I did not make flash cards for EVERY single item, but rather targeted them towards the exceptions -- hey, I already knew the blackline rules.  Studying that many times has drilled some things in my head that I will never forget.

I made charts.... yes, visual charts.  This organized simply subject matters that had a ton of tests (worked really, really well for all the tests contained in Con Law).

Real life examples and analogies were attached to difficult subjects.  I found real facts and case law that painted a picture in my head of the legal principle.  And so when I took the exam, if I remember the facts and ruling of the case, I could come up with the answer I needed.

This was a drastic departure from what I always did before, which was work the traditional program.  That did not work for me.  At all.  Period.  The lesson is that people learn so differently.  And these prep programs are made for the 80% who learn a certain way... I am not the 80%.  I am me, unique.

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