A good bar review course should be (1) concise, (2) starting from scratch, (3) of plain language, & (4) within the syllabus
Regrettably, many bar review courses in the market does not encompass the 4 characteristics, but instead suffer from the following 3 problems
Problem 1: Too many useless features / distractors
- Highly commercialized bar review course companies tend to invest heavily in fancy features to attract customers’ eyeballs
- Those fancy features do not really add value to a student’s performance in the exam – instead, they distract students from focusing on the necessary learning materials
- See the curriculum of a bar review course below – Come on, just cut the crap!!! Students don’t have the time to digest those non-value adding items!!!
Problem 2: Lecture coverage does not match the syllabus
- Lectures of bar review courses usually “cherry-pick” featured topics that the course coordinators consider to be more likely to appear in the exam
- The “cherry-pick” strategy might have worked in the past, but probably no longer to be true nowadays – bar exams questions are drafted by NCBE, a very sophisticated organization that evolves continuously
- It is no longer sensible to guess what particular topics will appear in the exam, because NCBE is intentionally making the whole exam unpredictable
- If you read the official NCBE bar exam syllabus carefully (available here: https://www.ncbex.org/pdfviewer/?file=%2Fdmsdocument%2F227), you will be shocked with how inadequate your bar review course lecture materials are
- I still remember how speechless I was when I encountered a 2017 past paper question on “Power of appointment”, where the lecture completely skipped it
- There are A LOT of testimonials on Reddit that suggest most of the mainstream bar review courses fail to match what actually appeared in the exam – see below gallery of redditor’s reaction shortly after July 2021 Bar Exam
Problem 3: Too much to study in the textbook / revision notes
- Both traditional and self-study bar review courses offer thick textbook / over-inclusive revision notes that are drafted in very long sentence structure & difficult English
- Those materials usually exceed THOUSAND of pages
- My own experience: no matter how hard I tried to memorize 20 pages a day, the next morning I forgot 90% of what I have read
- Traditional study method may work for an extremely talented, hardworking, self-disciplined, cream of the crop type of person – however, most of us are only ordinary reasonable person
- Traditional study method simply feeds you hard with everything, leaves you in despair, and drains all your productivity – you will never learn how to apply the concepts in a real question
- We have extremely limited time constraint – our brain is unable to process thousand pages of legal jargon without explanation in plain English layman’s term
- As I would elaborate more in another blog, the tricky bar exam never asks you to memorize a rule word-by-word – it tests how capable you are in avoiding the traps the examiner set up in the question
But I have seen a lot of positive testimonials on those bar review course websites and social media pages – are they fake?
- Well, I can’t speak of it – there is no way for me to authenticate them
- But even assuming those testimonials are all real, it doesn’t matter – their sharing may be survivor bias
- If you wish to read real, honest, unlikely biased comments, please visit Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/barexam/ or https://www.reddit.com/r/Bar_Prep/) especially shortly after every bar exam session – almost all bar review courses got criticized by Redditors severely in some ways
I just enrolled in a bar review course. How do I know if you are scaring me off?
- I would suggest a quick way for you to verify what I have said
- Step 1: Choose randomly a topic to study, let’s say Constitutional Law. Go watch the video, read the lecture handout, or read the thick textbook. Make sure you set a time constraint for yourself (let’s say 2 to 3 days)
- Step 2: Work on the practice questions offered by your bar review course
- Step 3: Still feeling not bad? OK, now go to NCBE study aids page (https://www.ncbex.org/study-aids/), pay $125 for the “Everything Bar Exam Value Pack” (trust me, its worthy and you will thank me later)
- Step 4: Work on the real recent past paper questions offered by NCBE
- After the above 4 steps, check the results, and you would probably realize how messed up you are.
I am shitting my pants now. What should I do?
- Don’t worry. 🙂
- From next blog onward, I will share with you my personal experience of how I pass the bar exam for my first attempt
- And it is not just me, I have tutored my study-mates and they all passed with my together regardless of whether they are first-takers or re-takers
- Just remember, the style of bar exam in the US is very different to exams in law school or attorney-qualification exams in other countries.
- It is of paramount importance to understand the very nature of bar exam in the US. So, perhaps let me end this blog with a quote:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War