Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bar Exam Realization

Useless Law is kind of notorious in the city because for the past few years we've had a low bar passage rate for first time takers, it usually hovers right around 65-70%. Meanwhile the higher ranked cheaper state school up the road tends to have a pass rate in the 80's. Ever since before my first day at Useless Law when I went to admitted students day there has been a level of tension and worry about the bar passage rate that only those who have seen it can really even describe. Thanks to that I was scared out of my mind for the bar exam before I even knew that I should be scared of my notorious property professor.

My school has done all kinds of stuff in the time that I have been a student to try and increase the bar passage rate. The most notable being that Useless Law offers a free bar prep supplemental program to their alums. Basically professors volunteer to help students learn the essay writing skills throughout the summer and they've provided us with 4 mock bar exams that have covered a mix of topics and have given us all the chance to do performance tests, essays, and MBEs under timed conditions. For the entire summer the supplemental program has been pushing us to memorize memorize memorize. The thought of trying to memorize every single bit of law that they say is essential to passing the bar really is mind boggling, it makes me want to puke. The performance tests for some reason have always just been an afterthought. The mutual feeling among a majority of the students and the professors is that performance tests are nothing to worry about because it really doesn't take much to get an average score and that time is better spent studying for the essay topics and refining the essay writing skills.

For some reason today over lunch I pulled up the exam calculator for the Feb '09 exam for my state and started running some numbers. I about fell out of my chair when I realized that if you do about 10 points above the average score on both performance tests (useless state has 2 PTs) it is possible to be way below the average on every essay question and PASS the bar with a pretty decent cushion assuming an average scaled MBE score of 140 points. Even better, if you manage to get double than the average points on each performance test then you can mathematically pass the bar getting just an average of 2 points per essay with a scaled score of 140.

Now I know getting double than the average points on both performance tests is highly unlikely, after all the average score is an average for a reason. However, it is absolutely feasible that with a little work, practice, and effort you could score better than average on both PTs. And with the way the PTs appear to be weighted the more points you score there the less you need to actually score on the essays. Another mind boggling fact is that typically at least 2 of the 8 essays on Useless State's exam (we use the MEE here) are on MBE topics. The MBE scaled score is added to the score from the writing day in Useless State to get a total exam score. While there's no minimum MBE score required to pass the whole barzam it almost doesn't make sense to study the essay only topics in depth at all. If you're totally solid on the MBE topics to do well on the MBE itself and then get 2 essays that are on MBE topics and do above average on both PTs then you should theoretically (and mathematically) pass easily without ever having to know an ounce of secured transactions or commercial paper.

Now I'm starting to wonder why I have worked myself into a frenzy trying to learn those essay topics!! Am I crazy for focusing mostly on PTs and MBE subjects (with MBE practice of course) for my final week of bar studying? I still plan to review the essay only subjects enough to be able to write down a few things and hopefully score a couple of points on those essays. It just seems more prudent to focus where the points are, I'm just surprised that none of us in my study/support group have figured out just how much of a gold mine the PTs really are, which is making me wonder if maybe we have totally misinterpreted the math and are hopelessly optimistic for no good reason at all.

4 [Useless] Remarks:

Luke said...

Preparing for the bar exam really requires memorization but you also need to study smart. That means focusing your efforts in studying portions of the exam which weigh more and would give you a higher chance of passing. The analysis you did was good as it shows that you are not merely studying blindly. You have to take the percentages or weight of each exam type and do the math like you just did.

Anon said...

I think the PT's are the same nationwide, so we probably all have the same barbri book. While its helpful to do a few, its annoying to try to self-grade as their example answer is not what the graders use to give us points. So I finish one and I am not truly sure if its any good or not.

Useless Dicta said...

I have run into the same problem on the PTs, some of my answers are so different than the model answers I'm starting to wonder how it's possible to get points on these things because I'm sure everyone turns out very different final products. Yikes. I wish barbri either gave us the points sheets or that I could find the points sheets for my state somewhere.

Anon said...

Can we have a trivia boy update? My bar exam life is so pathetic that I am living vicariously off of other people's fun. I'm proud of you for going out. Wish I would have made plans to do the same.