Barbri Bar Prep Review

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Review — Renewed study of material previously studied.”

-Merriam-Webster Dictionary

This is a crazy time to be taking the bar exam, and I’m wishing everyone who has to prepare/sit for the bar in 2020 the best as they tackle this last hurdle on the journey to become a lawyer.  I honestly can’t believe it’s been one year since I was studying for the bar exam, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the Barbri prep class and some tips I found helpful in learning material and prepping for the bar.  A lot of my tips don’t just apply to Barbri either!  Disclaimer:  I’m not getting paid for writing this review, but I did receive a free Barbri course in exchange for being a rep all three years of law school.  That being said, this review includes my unbiased opinions on the course and no one told me what to write in this review.


Personal Study Plan

The Personal Study Plan (“PSP”) is basically the heart of the Barbri review course; it lays out what lectures are assigned for specific days and what assignments are due on what days.  It bases how many assignments are due on a given day on how much time it allocates to each assignments.  The PSP changes every day once you complete certain assignments and updates with extra assignments from the next day.  At the start of the course, I printed out the pdf version of the PSP to determine what to do each day as it is static and doesn’t change based on what you complete.  Every assignment has its own overview page that explains how to approach completing the assignment, along with any document that you’ll need in working through it.  There’s also an app version of the PSP that you can download for any Apple or Android device.



The PSP also included analytics on your progress through the course and your accuracy on your multiple choice questions.  It compares your percentage correct to everyone else using the Barbri course, which gives you a general idea of where you may score on the MBE.  I found this to be helpful to an extent as it shows your progress of learning the material, but definitely don’t put too much stock in your ranking because it’s not dispositive of how you’ll do on the bar exam.  I definitely suggest looking at it to determine what areas you should focus more on while studying.


Overview Outlines


   

The day before every lecture the PSP assigns reviewing an overview outline (found on the assignment overview page).  I would review this for about 10-20 minutes the night before to familiarize myself with what we would be going over the next day but not as a memorization tool.  However, where I really found this to be helpful was at the end of the course during the last two weeks prior to the bar.  I would write out the information I learned on the outline to further cement it in my mind. 


Lectures/Lecture Notes


 


Finally, the heart of the bar review course.  First, I definitely have to give my props to whoever made the lecture outlines for each of the lectures as I found them to be soo helpful in studying for the exam.  Every lecturer has their own way of teaching material and the lecture notes reflect that.  However, most lecture notes followed a similar structure; a major rule of law in each subject, nuances within that rule, and an example or two of how to apply that rule.  During the lectures, I handwrote all of my notes on the handouts in an effort to reinforce the material through muscle memory, but the lecture notes are all available in a pdf form if typing works better for you.  I used these as what I studied the entire summer as the lecturers focus on the most tested material on the MBE and state specific essays in their lectures and lecture notes.


As for the lectures, I attended in person lectures last summer.  Due to the pandemic, in person lectures aren’t a thing, but Barbri is live streaming their lectures and I highly suggest watching them when they are live.  I found it to be more helpful to have a set time every day that I watched lectures for more discipline during my studying.  I treated the lectures like regular class so I wouldn’t use my phone until breaks (usually 10 minutes after about 50 minutes of lecture!) and didn’t go on the internet to keep focus.  The lectures are really fast paced and are more about re-exposing you to the material and creating notes for you to review after class.  I thoroughly enjoyed most lectures; however, some lecturers were superrrr long winded and made their lectures the hardest to get through (I’m looking at you Schetcher, a.k.a the Torts lecturer).  Additionally, after every subject was covered completely in the lectures, the PSP would assign a Knowledge Check question set that covered the important material the lecture reviewed.  Based on your score, the PSP would assign MBE questions to see if you could apply that material to MBE questions.  I really used these knowledge checks as a way to make sure I focused on the right material going forward and not as a hardline determination of whether I learned the material or not.


MBE/State Specific Outline Books



This is the one resource I really never used during my bar prep; these are extremely long and detailed outline books.  And when I say detailed, they go into so much more detail than what you need to know for the bar exam (most of the outlines are over 100 pages for one subject).  I only looked at these if I first couldn’t understand a concept when reading over my lecture notes and then if the Conviser Mini Review didn’t go into enough detail, which was probably about twice the entire summer.


Conviser Mini Review


Now this is THE greatest resource from the Barbri bar review course.  I have my copy at my desk at work and I’ve seen so many people on Twitter who say they still use their version even as a licensed attorney.  It has condensed outlines for each subject (both MBE and state specific), along with the state differences with references to the outlines and flowcharts and other visuals for highly tested concepts.  If I ever had questions that weren’t answered in my lecture notes, I read the section in the mini review and most times I could find the answer there.


MBE Practice Questions (Book & Online)



The MBE Practice Questions book was separated into three sections:  (1) Learning Questions, (2) MBE Approach Tutorial question sets, and (3) 100 question practice tests.  The Learning Question sets are sets of 8 questions, organized by topic.  The first few questions tested basic knowledge and the last few were practice MBE questions.  The questions were listed in the printed material, but also required you to enter the answers in an online version to see the answer and an explanation of that answer.  Personally, I first answered the questions in the book and, once I was done with the set, would enter those answers on the online system.  Other people just answered the questions on the online portal.  I really liked the detailed explanation of the answers Barbri included.  After I completed the set, I wrote down the rule of law each question tested because the MBE questions test similar concepts repeatedly.  I did a similar thing for the MBE Practice Question sets assigned through the online system, which would test MBE questions related to those subject learned by that point.  Every so often, I would review my notes on the MBE question concepts to reinforce those concepts.  The questions made by Barbri seemed to be a bit harder in general than those on the actual bar exam.


 


After every subject lectures were completed, the PSP assigned a MBE Approach Tutorial.  First, you would watch a review lecture that went over the most frequently tested topics in each subject and tips on how to approach those MBE questions.  Then, twenty-five questions were included in the MBE Question Book to do under timed conditions.  To finish the MBE tutorial, a separate video reviewed the answers to the 25 questions.  During this video, I would focus on the professor’s explanation of the rule of law since I found some of their explanations more helpful to understand the material than some of the written explanations provided in the MBE book.  At first, these videos seem redundant to the material you’ve already reviewed but the tutorials are gold (s/o to Karlyn Meyer for being one of the best instructors for Barbri).


  


Essay Book



This book depends on where you are taking the bar exam.  In PA, this book covers both the MPTs and PA specific essay questions; where in UBE states, the essays are MEE questions.  Since I took a state specific bar exam, I’m going to address what’s included based on my books.  There’s three sections related to the essay portion of the bar review book that Barbri assigns: (1) the questions/answers, (2) KIT, and (3) PEI.  The KIT and PEI seem to be really unimportant and a waste of paper at first, but I definitely though they were super helpful.  The KIT breaks down past exams (sometimes 20 years of past exams) into the issues tested based on what subject/subtopic was tested and gives a summary of the rule tested on each year.  I found this to be a really helpful tool to figure out what things bar examiners think are the most important to be tested.  The PEI was a nice intro to how a bar essay answer should be structured and how to include facts from the questions in an answer.  I didn’t think it was great for learning the law, but when it comes to bar exam answers, structure can be just as important as substance.


So, on to the most important part of the essay book:  the essays.  PA publishes every exam essay question on their website after the administration of that exam, and Barbri collected them, along with the question analyses in this book.  Barbri also included a sample answer and a short summary of the issues tested in that question; i.e. the Supremacy Clause, personal jurisdiction, and direct evidence/mixed motive theory of employment discrimination (yes, those were issues in a question on my exam).  There were no shortage of essay questions assigned during the course, some asking you to write out the whole answer or just outline it.  I personally found that outlining my answer was more effective and efficient for me than writing out the whole answer, so that’s what I did and I barely wrote out any essay answers during my whole summer.  Every week or so, there was a graded essay due that a trained essay reviewer would grade to give you more feedback on your answer (just a caution, some graders are better than others).  In addition to the essays, the PTs are assigned in a similar way.  I focused a little more on creating a full answer with these as less were assigned and it’s less like what you’re trained to do in law school.


  


Flashcards


I used a mix of flashcards during my studying:  the Barbri LawMaster Study Keys and my own written out flashcards.  The Barbri flash cards focus on common law, a.k.a MBE and MEE law, but are a bit different than normal flash cards.  Each topic has three cards: rule (the topic of that set of cards), elements (the rules related to the topic and issues to be aware of), and story (a short example of how the rule is applied in practice).  Some of the cards had a code to scan using the Barbri app that would link to a short video about the rule, a game, or a short quiz.  These were a great review prior to taking the Practice MBE and before the MBE day of the exam to go over the most important issues tested.  Since PA has a state specific portion of the exam (essays), I had to learn the differences between PA and MBE law, as well as some state specific issues.  For those, I made my own flashcards.  I had a set that compared the PA and MBE rules for different crimes, torts, civ pro rules, etc. and another set that laid out the rules for PA specific law, like wills/estates, conflicts of law, employment discrimination, etc. that I based on my lecture notes.  Flashcards have always been super helpful to me when studying so I relied on them more than I did any outlines or lecture notes in the books.


Overall


I highly recommend Barbri’s bar review course.  I’m a person who thrives with routine so the jam-packed days of assignments really worked for me as I knew exactly what to complete during the day and the PSP gave a nice guestimate of how long to spend on each assignment.  However, I will say that I thought some of those estimates were definitely off and I either spent way more or way less time on some assignments.  Personally, I found the assignment to read over an entire subject outline for three hours to not be helpful and instead focused on reviewing my flashcards during that time instead.  But that’s the great thing about the Barbri course, there’s so many ways of reviewing the material so you can find which way works best to memorize the law.


Good luck studying for the bar exam and feel free to reach out with any questions about my processes!  I am planning on a few more posts about the bar exam so watch out for those!

 

All of these pictures are of copyrighted material not owned by me.  They are included for review purposes only.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for putting together this review. It was helpful. Much appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're welcome! I'm so glad it helped!

    ReplyDelete

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