OT - IN Bar Exam

Submitted by IndyBlue on July 23rd, 2010 at 9:48 AM

So I'm preparing to take the Indiana Bar Exam next week and if I remember correctly, there's a few lawyers that post on this board.  I was just wondering what experiences/recommendations anyone who has taken the IN (or any other state for that matter) Bar Exam has for a first time taker.


Chicago Blue

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:00 AM ^

Based on my experience taking the Illinois bar 6 years ago, I'd advise you to do the following:

1) Identify the subjects you have the most trouble with and spend 65% of the next few days improving your understanding of those subjects. Be honest with yourself, even if they are subjects you absolutely hate (my worst -- and least favorite subject -- was commercial paper).

2) Spend the remaining 35% of your time nailing down the fundamentals of the other subjects. Do practice exam questions, write out full essays, make flashcards. Most importantly, try to replicate a  test environment. Write your essays out by hand and time yourself. Don't cut corners.

3) Do something you enjoy the night before the exam. Don't spend the last few hours before bed cramming. It won't help.

4) Make sure you eat something on the morning of the first day of the exam. East something that will sit well, like a banana or toast with peanut butter. 

5) During breaks in the exam, avoid talking to your fellow test takers about the exam. A post-mortem will only make you paranoid.


Good luck!

03 Blue 07

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:56 AM ^

Well, shit. I guess me and ChitownBlue had different approaches. I took the IL bar 2.5 years ago, and echo most of his sentiments, but can't echo the sentiment about "doing something other than studying the night before." Besides, it isn't like you're going to be able to not think about it the night before.

For me, what I did was I pared down all of my notes into one-to-three pages on each topic, sort of outline style, but really, just the main stuff they teach you in BarBri, and notes about stuff that I tended to get tripped up on.

And he's right on re: subjects you hate. I hated Commercial Paper also; cram the shit out of the subjects you hate and/or think you're weak in. And yes, absolutely, eat something the morning of the test.

Just center your chi and stay focused during the test. KEEP TRACK OF TIME. Use the test-taking skills they've taught you, and don't ever get caught up writing a really long answer that chews up too much time and leaves you not enough for the other questions. Do them in order of what you know best, first. As in, if there are 6 essays, and on 3 of them, you know the answer perfectly, on 1 of them, you have a pretty good idea, and on 2 you're going to be pulling it out of your ass, do the 3 you know first, do the 1 you have a good idea on second, but do NOT ignore the 2 you know nothing about- you can still pick up some points by throwing out some stuff, such as what the issue is (that's almost always easy to spot) and this will give you SOME points on those, and you never, ever want to leave points on the table.

Bangkok Soiree

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:05 AM ^

Don't die.  That's really really bad for everybody.  

I heard that I guy who took the Florida Bar exam keeled over right in the middle of the exam and started twitching on the floor.  Freaked everybody out and caused some additional bar exam stress for those in the vicinity.  Nobody knows if he was dying or just suffered from some kind of bar exam seizure.  They eventually rolled his twitching body out of there.  It's probably safe to say he failed.  


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:35 AM ^

I had a guy in my test room that as they were passing out the blue-books actually made a funny squicky noise and then he got up and ran out of the room, never to return.

Fight or Flight.  Some just can't take it.

But I've never heard of Fight, Flight, or die.  That's some intense Darwrinism. 


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:06 AM ^

I echo the advice gvien by the first responder. See a movie the night before the exam, don't talk to your friends in between sections (it's basically a "whipping it out on the table" session comparing answers, and no one gets everything right.)

Make sure you get enough sleep starting two nights before the exam.

Most importantly, relax. You've studied for over three years to take the test, if you think about it. You'll do just fine.


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:20 AM ^

I have given this advice many times:   Simply, relax and get it over with.

Those people that tense up and freak out before/during the exam probably take 5 years off their life.  And the stress negatively effects their performance (and mental health).

Literally, almost everyone passes... so it's not a final exam where you need an A- to keep your GPA. 

You try your best, and then hope to be in the top 85%.   If you look at it that way it will be the easiest, and least stressful, test you'll ever take.

"Hey, look Mom!  I got a D- on my test... I'm a Lawyer now!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

EDIT:  And take the above advice to heart:  Don't talk to anyone during breaks.  You will see circles of nerds comparing mental notes and sizing each other up to determine if they answered the question correctly.  It will drive you insane because, essentially, it's a circle of lawyers trying to convince everyone else that they are right.  It's irrelevent at that point.  It's over with and your answer can't be changed.  Only your stress level will change.  Avoid these "circle of nerds" at all costs.

Clarence Beeks

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:25 AM ^

You try your best, and then hope to be in the top 85%.

Wow.  What state has that type of passage rate?

EDIT:  And take the above advice to heart:  Don't talk to anyone during breaks.

This is absolutely phenomenal advice.  I wish I would have remembered to say this in my post.  This is so true.  I would even take it a step farther and say don't talk to anyone about the test.  At all.  Even after it's over.  You're going to wait a couple of months for your results and really, the best thing to do is just to forget about the test completely.  If you talk to people about any of the questions you are certain to hear something that you didn't write (which really isn't a problem since most of the questions, at least in my experience, have way more areas to cover and get points in than you could possibly cover in one answer - in other words, two people could have two very different answers and still pass)

Captain Obvious

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:50 AM ^

Factor in the people that don't finish (had 2 in my room alone run out and never come back), semi-annual failers (someone on their 3-4th try is not likely to pass) and people that realllllly freeze up and freak out, the effective passage rate for someone that can remain calm and answer all/most of the questions is 85% +.

Also, remember there are people working and trying to pass in a 2d jurisdiction, those that slacked and those in the bottom 5% that went to a school worse than you taking the exam.  If you are a fresh grad that devoted 100% to the exam and took Barbri, you are very unlikely to fail.

Unless you are in CA.  CA Bar is death.

Clarence Beeks

July 23rd, 2010 at 11:11 AM ^

Wow.  I hadn't realized that.  Both of the states I'm licensed in had passage rates under 80% on the exams that I took.  In fact, my second state was under 70%.  Admittedly, though, I haven't paid much attention to the exams in other states.

EDIT - I just looked up the resutls from my first state and it was actually right at 80%.  I hadn't remembered it being that high.  I suppose my recollection was skewed from the 67.3% passage rate on my second state's exam.


July 23rd, 2010 at 12:43 PM ^

If you just graduated and took Barbri, you won't fail.  CA is its own beast, so no statements about that.

Most of the people who fail are people who've already failed once or more times.  The only other people I knew that failed simply didn't take it seriously and put in the requisite amount of work, if you can actually believe that.  Barbri tries to scare you, they don't tell you what you need to pass, they tell you what you need to pass comfortably, which is a big difference (it is after all in their interest everyone passes because that is their selling point).

Clarence Beeks

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:28 AM ^

I haven't taken the Indiana exam, but I can give some thoughts based upon my personal experience in other states.  This type of question is always so hard, though, because everyone's style and preferences are different.  To be completely honest, though, at this point, just relax.  You're four days away from the test and there's not a whole lot else that can be done.  Try to get a few good nights' sleep, eat well and try to do something other than study.  I've taken (and passed) two bar exams and each time I ended my studying the Friday before the exam and didn't pick up any notes again until the night before the exam.  It always seemed to me that right about this point, after the two months of studying, that my mind was a fog and that I was convinced that I hadn't retained much of anything that I'd been studying.  After having the weekend to let my mind recover I always felt so much better and actually realized that I had retained the material.  Again, that's just my personal experience, though.  A few other things that I've learned that should make you feel better at this point if you've diligently prepared are:

(1) It's curved (at least the MBE is, anyway - some states curve the state portion and others don't, from what I understand).  You're competing against other people.  So if you don't know it, odds are pretty good that other people don't as well.

(2) The test itself isn't actually that hard.  I realized after the second state (which was the harder of the two exams and which I did far better on) that, especially with the MBE, a large portion of the "difficulty" of the bar exam is hype and anxiety.

(3) The goal is not to get the best score.  The goal is to pass.  Literally no one will care what you actually scored on the exam if you pass.  Although, really, this is probably better advice to give at the very outset of studying.

Good luck.  I've you've done your work in preparing you'll be fine.


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:28 AM ^

I saw one person get kicked out of the exam because his cell phone went off in his backpack.  He probably wasn't able to take the test again for another 6 months.

That was in a state with a "zero tolerance" policy on cell phones.  Hopefully Indiana is more merciful.

Otherwise, just relax and be confident.  Channel the following photo:





July 23rd, 2010 at 11:30 AM ^

Better yet, take the damn battery out of the cell phone.  Someone's phone went off during my exam as well and, after a moment of panic due to having the same ring tone, I started breathing again knowing that while my cell was in the front of the room, it's battery was in my pocket in the back of the room.  

Still in AA

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:28 AM ^

I took the Michigan Bar a few years ago.  My first mistake was being too cheap to stay in a decent hotel.  Instead I was in a dump motel next to some train tracks.  Between nervousness and the trains, I did not sleep at all the fist night.  I was a zombie during the first day (essay portion for us).  As soon as I got back to the motel the next day, I walked to the party store, got some Tylenol PM and a 40oz and went to sleep.  The next day was much better.  I did pass the exam even after all of this mess.

I tried to avoid discussing the exam between sections, but it was impossible.  Second-guessing yourself probably isn't the worst thing in the world though - great preparation for the future.

After the exam, I went home and slept for two days.  Then I got bombed everyday for a week.  Then I took a vacation.  Enjoy the month after the Bar, you might never have that much time off again.


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:37 AM ^

You probably have the option to take the exam on laptop or handwriting.  You probably also had  that same option during law school exams.  I recommend writing the BAR essays in whichever format you did for your law school exams.  Don't switch up.

Make sure you're aware of whatever rules are in place before you walk in.  If you handwrite, and need to use blue ink, that's something you want to know about before you sit down with nothing but black pens.  Even though you'll easily borrow a pen from a friend, that kind of thing just flusters you. (I offer this advise from personal experience).  If you're taking your laptop, be sure its reliable. 

Otherwise, its standard stuff.  Don't burn out studying or trying to learn new things this late in the game.  Focus on the practice essays so when you see a question on an exam, you'll have a wealth of topic specific responses on recall.  It's amazing how automatically you can recall exactly what you wrote on your practice essay in response to a similar issue.  Once you've written enough practice essays and familiarized yourself with the answers, the BAR exam itself just comes down to issue spotting.  Once spotted, hopefully your mind will just dump its contents onto the page/screen.  

It if is a two day exam, seriously consider a hotel for the night in between.  For me, I didn't want to see my wife or family in between the two days of the test.  I just wanted to try to not think about the test, and even positive encouragement from family forces you to keep thinking about it.  I called my wife after part one, and spend the rest of the evening in the hot tub of the hotel I was at. 


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:54 AM ^

I wrote by hand during the bar. I always found I did better on exams during school in which I hand wrote. I guess it made me slow done and really think before I started writing, rather than just typing away.


July 23rd, 2010 at 11:00 AM ^

I'm taking both PA and NJ, handwriting both although they allow laptops and I always did law school exams on the laptop.  Based on the practice essays, you can pretty much get away with writing a single 5-sentence paragraph for each issue, and each essay has about 4 issues.  So, you've only got to write about 20 sentences per essay, which is much more manageable than the word vomit law school exams turned into.  I'm not too worried about not having enough time to finish the essays.


July 23rd, 2010 at 12:12 PM ^

I took PA and NJ a few years ago, and I handwrote both of them with plenty of time. 

To OP...all of the advice here is good.  But I do have to echo the advice of not talking to people after each section.  Unneeded stress.

And another bit of advice.  After you take the exam and (hopefully) do something fun, like a vacation, try not to worry about whether or not you passed.  Easier said than done, I know, but you'll find out soon enough that you easily passed.  And you'll regret wasting time on your vacation worring about it.  Your main focus should be lounging on a beach in Thailand for a few weeks without a care in the world.


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:35 AM ^

Thanks for the all the comments/advice.  I'm hoping this is the one and only time I have to take this exam (unless I decide to get licensed in another state in the future)!


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:41 AM ^

Good luck on the exam- best advise is to relax and enjoy the night prior.   I was wondering- have any of you taken both the CPA exam and the Bar exam?   My wife recently completed the CPA Exam in Michigan- and I was surprised at the level of difficulty and the depth of the overall exam.  She did end up passing on the first try with a very good score, however, the time committment was substantial, more so than either of us had anticipated.


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:41 AM ^

For the MD bar exam, I went out with my friends to see a movie before the MBE (Lethal Weapon 4) and then again before the essay part (There's Something About Mary--yes, I'm old).  The best thing to do is shut your brain off for a little bit.  I honestly think that relaxing a little before each test night is critical to sucess.

Also, echoing many of the comments above, DO NOT, under any circumstances, talk or compare answers to anyone during breaks or afterwards.  That is a recipe for disaster.

And, as a parable, don't be the person who was sitting across from my buddy--There was about 15 minutes left in the essay part, and the girl across from him got up and went to the bathroom.  With a minute left, she got back, put a big "X" through a page and a half of her essay answer and started writing anew.  Then, they called time.  Probably not the best bar strategy.

Just keep your answers simple and follow pure IRAC analysis for each question.  Good luck!


July 23rd, 2010 at 10:41 AM ^

I took the MN bar last summer. I would say don't spend too much time on any one subject when studying. You really just need to know the basics of each area in order to pass.

Also, I found it helpful during the essay portion of the exam to get up and go get a drink or go to bathroom after I completed each question. You may not have enough time to do this, but I found it helpful to clear my head a little.

Try not to worry aboout previous answers either. Just do your best on each question and move on, you won't have enough brain power to focus on the question at hand and worry about a previous answer.

Hopefully, these suggestions are somewhat helpful.

Good luck.

Bob Probert Owns You

July 23rd, 2010 at 12:12 PM ^

Hear, hear to all the MN bar members!

As for advice... if you know the stuff in your BarBri workbook and memorize the stupid little sayings, you will be fine.

The worst part about the bar is the deafening silence.... the best part is the euphoric imbibing of cocktails post-exam.  Great times.


Good luck!

My name ... is Tim

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:53 AM ^

My main advice is not to freakout. If you've done reasonably well in law school (read: never in danger of failing out) and put in the time, you'll likely pass.

My more specific advice would be to attempt to nail the living hell out of the MBE. I don't know what Indiana's exam is like, but the essays will also likely feature MBE subjects. Taking the NY Bar I just focused on knowing the basics for the state specific subjects and knowing MBE multiple choice like the back of my hand. Managed to land a 161 on the MBE (and I only had a 3.1 at a top 100 school) and if you can do something like that the rest will take care of itself.

Again, relax. Take it seriously, but maintain confidence that you'll likely pass it.

Edit: Also, I used a bit of an intimidation factor by giving myself a mohawk for the bar exam (not that you should get a mohawk, but maybe do something that you think will quietly get in the heads of the other test takers). I'm not sure it had any effect but I think some people were definitely thrown off by it judging from the glances. Either way, it helped me convince myself that these other test-takers were mincemeat which I was about to devour. It might sound dick, but this is about you passing the bar. uI think having the mindset similar to a crunch-time scorer in a basketball game helps. Recognize your nerves but go out there with confidence and go for the jugular, leaving a wake of destruction in your path.

My name ... is Tim

July 23rd, 2010 at 11:19 AM ^

NY, for example is 40% MBE score and 60% state specific. NJ was 50/50 I think. I think the MBE is something though that you can (due to its sample size) work on to the point where you can ensure your success to a certain degree and give yourself ample wiggle room on the state specific essays/multiple choice questions. So for NY, if your score on the MBE is 30% higher than the minimum passing score, you can now score 20% lower than the minimum passing score on the state specific day and be OK.


July 23rd, 2010 at 12:43 PM ^

It depends on the individual state whether or not the points carry over.  Some states allow it, some only allow it if the other state's test is also taken that same week (Indiana, for example), and some states don't allow them to carry-over at all.

Also, states weight the different portions of the exam differently.  In Indiana, the MBE questions are worth 50%, the Indiana essays are worth 30%, and the Multi-State Perfermance Test is worth 20% (similar to writing a research memo with the pertinent materials given to you).

Clarence Beeks

July 23rd, 2010 at 1:10 PM ^

Yeah, carry over from state to state is a whole different animal (and a stupid one, at that, in my opinion).  I was talking about carrying over MBE points to the state specific, or vice versa.  For example, in Florida, you need an average score of 135 to pass the exam.  MBE and state specific are weighted equally.  For example, say you received a 140 on the Florida section.  That means you only need a 130 on the MBE to pass over all.  Some states do this and others don't.

03 Blue 07

July 23rd, 2010 at 1:07 PM ^

Yeah, I had my freakout about 2 weeks before the exam, when I only got like 100 on a practice MBE, and started cursing myself for having slacked off the first 3 weeks of my Barbri course and playing way too much NCAA 2009. But all's well that ends well.


July 23rd, 2010 at 12:49 PM ^

Not a chance.  Although I live with a Notre Dame fan, so there's definitely some shit-talking that goes on there.  Especially since I went to the game last year, and called him as we walked out to the chants of "It's great to be, a Michigan Wolverine!"

Sounded something like this (video is from 2006).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfAhfiqFP5w


July 23rd, 2010 at 11:02 AM ^

I took the Michigan bar exam in 2008 but hope my advice applies to any bar exam. If you've studied hard, you should feel great at this point. I felt extremely confident going in that nothing I would do during the 3-4 days before the exam would improve my score. But whether you study during the exam should depend on how comfortable you are with the material to be tested that day. You may feel like you should freshen up on the tricky details of a particular topic. Or, you may find, like I did, that you are better of resting your mind. You should probably have a really good idea what approach you should take by the weekend, based on where your score is and what topics, if any, you are having the most difficulty with. Whatever the case, don't freak out. Smile and laugh during the breaks.
If you haven't done this already, start taking 10 or more questions from each of the multi-state subjects and making your own test. This will help you stay fresh on all of the subjects as opposed to just taking questions from one topic area.
The bar exam is not as difficult as some will make you believe and it's not that different than exams you took during law school. Importantly, you'll probably find the bar exam to be easier than the questions in the PMBR and Kaplan books. I had a scaled score of 126 on the last PMBR practice test but received a 179 on the multi-state portion of the bar exam.
Finally, surpress your Mgoblog addicition for the next few days :)
Best wishes next week, IndyBlue.


July 23rd, 2010 at 11:16 AM ^

Semi-unrelated question:

Has anyone taken both the FE and the Bar? I'm assuming the Bar is a bajillion times more difficult, but just curious.


July 23rd, 2010 at 11:36 AM ^

I looked up a couple example Bar questions, and I'm now 100% sure that it's many times more difficult, relatively speaking. Granted, most take the FE after 3.5 years of undergrad (and at least from my school, over 95% pass), and the Bar is taken after law school, so that's not a surprise in the least.

Jim Harbaugh S…

July 23rd, 2010 at 11:21 AM ^

last summer. 

I'm sure you've been studying hard all summer, if you have, you should be well prepared.  The MBE questions you have been practicing with will be nearly identical to the types of questions you will get on the actual test.

As for the actual test days:  Try to eat something substantial beforehand.  I reccomend a mega protein powerbar - taste leaves something to be desired, but it is good brain fuel.

As for test taking, on the MBE make sure you answer every question even if you just have to fill in a few bubbles at the end.  Chances of getting a guess right are much better than getting a blank answer right.

Most importantly, even if you think you totally bombed day one, show up for day two.

Jim Harbaugh S…

July 23rd, 2010 at 11:47 AM ^

2 person tables from one end of the ballroom to the other, about 20 rows deep.

Needless to say, the breaks in between sessions had bathroom and food lines like a ball game.

I think part of the reason that there were so many people is the passage rate for the Feb 2009 bar was just awful, so there were a lot more people than expected.

Due to the massive number, I've heard rumors that FL might have the bar split up into different cities in the near future.

Clarence Beeks

July 23rd, 2010 at 12:10 PM ^

2 person tables from one end of the ballroom to the other, about 20 rows deep.

Yeah, 2,503 people in one room at two person tables.  That's insane.

I think part of the reason that there were so many people is the passage rate for the Feb 2009 bar was just awful, so there were a lot more people than expected.

That's really about the norm for Florida for a July sitting.  There were some extras because of retaking, but form what I understand the number wasn't really that much different.

Due to the massive number, I've heard rumors that FL might have the bar split up into different cities in the near future.

I've heard that, too, but the last official position I've heard on it is that they are going to keep it the way that it is because they had problems ensuring uniform conditions in the past when it was split up at different sites.