If you failed the New York Bar Exam and are planning to retake it this summer (and you should!), you are going to be sitting for a completely different exam. New York has adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and it will be administered for the first time starting in July 2016.
So… does this mean the test you will be taking this July will look entirely different than the one you took last time?
Yes… and …no.
The exam itself will technically be a little different. BUT… the way you should train for the exam as a “retaker” should largely remain the same.
Here are the 5 most important things to keep in mind about the UBE:
THE MBE IS WORTH MORE: Previously in New York, the MBE (Multiple Bar Exam) was worth 40% of your overall exam score; the essay portion, New York Multiple Choice, and the MPT made up the other 60%. Now the MBE will be worth a full 50% of your total grade, with the essays and MPT sharing the other 50%. The New York Multiple Choice component was eliminated altogether. While this change obviously means that you must put greater study emphasis on the MBE, regardless of whether you did well on it the first time or not, simply doing more questions won’t improve your score.
In order to improve your score, you need a comprehensive approach that is designed to not only increase your legal knowledge but, specifically, increase your MBE score. You need a method to study and a plan of attack on the exam. While there are many different approaches for conquering the MBE, I have created a method called the Substantive Analytical Exercise (SAETM) that has worked for tens of thousands of students and helped raise JFK Jr.’s MBE score over 40 points. The SAE is an important skill-building exercise that you should practice every day during your study period. If you follow this approach and practice it daily, you WILL see your MBE practice scores improve. Try it and see if I am wrong.
THE MPT SECTION IS ALSO WORTH MORE: Before the UBE came into town, there was only one MPT question on the exam. As you know, the MPT is the “closed universe” question where you are given everything you need to answer within the “file” or “library.” Now you will have two MPTs, each worth the same, therefore this section will count for twice as much. If you did well on the MPT before, this is good news for you. If you did not, don’t worry — it is not hard to improve your MPT score. The key is practice. But practice doesn’t make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. You need to practice completing MPTs under real timed conditions. This is one section where it is important to get expert feedback on whether your organizational and writing skills are maximizing your points and advice on how you can improve these areas before test day.
ON THE MEE SECTION, THE ESSAY METHOD IS STILL THE KEY: So, if the MBE is worth more and the MPT section is worth more, something must be worth fewer points than before, right? Yes, and it is the essay section. The MEE (Multistate Essay Examination) will now only be worth 30% of your score. Even though it is worth less, it is still important because picking up an extra essay point here and there is often the difference between passing and failing with a borderline MBE score. There will be 6 essays and you will have 3 hours to complete them — so you are going to want to spend half an hour per essay — no more. Within this precious time crunch, you will need to do a lot of issue spotting. One thing that can make a difference is knowing how to score points on your essays even if you are unsure what law you need to write. This is a method I have been teaching students for years with great success.
THERE ARE FEWER RULES TO MEMORIZE: There were 22 subjects tested on the February 2016 New York Bar Exam. The UBE tests only 14 subjects. So obviously there’s less substantive material to memorize, however, it does not mean you can get away with spending less time preparing for the exam. In my UBE Retaker Course, students spend a large chunk of their time learning how to score points on each section of the exam and then practice my techniques on questions just like the ones on the exam. You will not just be reading and re-reading the elements of each tort you need to know. You will practice applying those elements on MBE multiple choice questions and MEE essays using the techniques that my course teaches you.
FORGET ABOUT ANY NEW YORK LAW YOU KNOW: One of the biggest changes to the exam is that New York-specific law and distinctions will no longer be tested. While New York Bar Exam retakers had to worry about the exceptions to a Multistate subject, NY Civil Practice Law and Rules, etc., they are not on the UBE and can be put out of your mind for now. The time spent studying these rules will pay off when you get to practice in New York and you will be further ahead than students taking the UBE in the future.
I have been helping students pass the bar exam for forty years. In particular, I am known for being able to get students who have been previously unsuccessful to pass. If you are going to be taking the bar exam again this July, send me your score report(s). I am happy to go over them with you for free and give advice as to what you need to do to pass the next exam.
Just think, once you get your results for the July 2016 exam, you will be able to say that you were in the very first group to have passed the “new” New York Bar Exam!
The above article was written by Professor Joseph Marino prior to his passing. Professor Marino was a fixture in the world of legal education for the past 40 years. His wife Emily and son Michael continue his commitment to help law students pass the bar exam and accomplish their goals as successful attorneys through The Retaker Bar Course for the UBE, Bar Exam Tutoring, and Continuing Legal Education. If you were unsuccessful on the bar exam and would like a free evaluation of your score report, just email it to email@example.com.
People fail the bar exam because they don’t finish the essays. They spend so much time on an early essay that they can’t write the later essays. Or they work on all of the essays, but without finishing some or all of them. Either way, these bar candidates are writing too slowly, and it costs them their ticket to a law license. Change what you do, and you can finish the essays and your tasks on the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) or the California Performance Test (PT), perhaps even with time to spare.
Here is how to write the bar exam essays faster.
- Use the time allotted as a guidance for your structure. Write down what time you will start each essay and what time you will finish. Most state bar exams allow you 20, 30, 45 or 60 minutes for each essay. Find out how much time your state allows. Always be conscious of time. Develop a sense of urgency. Write down what time you will start and finish each paragraph. Most paragraphs will take between six and eight minutes, depending on the length of the essay.
- Always use principles of law to make your outline. You must read each fact pattern two or three times while you outline—not reading carefully is no way to save time. Outline based on the rules of law and, where applicable, by plaintiff-defendant pairs. You may change your mind about your conclusions while you are working on the essay. As Scott Turow says in One-L, a fact pattern can seem to go through “Merlin-like changes” as you work. But you won’t change your mind about whether answering that essay question requires applying the UCC Statute of Frauds. Circle key facts in the fact pattern if you must, but don’t try writing the facts into your outline. Focus on the law. Then you can apply it to the facts as you draft your essay.
- Once you have your outline ready, think the essay through quickly, and then start writing. One bar candidate who came to me complaining about never finishing the bar exam essays turned out to be taking an extra five minutes to make a list of all the facts before he started writing. Don’t do that. Don’t stew in your outline, don’t fester, don’t rewrite your outline or make new notes or rewrite the facts. Just start! Slow writers are usually writers who stall at the beginning. Train yourself to start fast.
- Treat each paragraph as a separate timed task, like a short-answer question. Mentally plan how to prove your points, using law and facts, within the time you have available for each paragraph. Decide in your head how you will prove your points, checking to make sure that you can write down your ideas in time. Then work your plan. Constantly check to make sure you are on time. You are not being paid by the word, like Dickens. Do not keep desperately trying to give the bar examiners every suggestion they might conceivably reward. Your job is just to be professional and to start and finish on time.
- Before the exam, train yourself to write concisely. Then use your self-editing skills on the bar exam. American legal writing is more like Hemingway than like Melville. Everything is active voice, not passive voice. Write: The murderer shot the victim, not: The victim was shot by the murderer. Use few or no modifiers. Write: The murderer shot the victim, not: The cruel murderer shot the helpless victim. Practice making your writing and your thinking concise. Figure out how to paraphrase the newspaper reports you read. Figure out how to summarize case holdings in a few words. Make it a game. Practice outlining and writing old bar exam essays, always keeping track of the time, using a stopwatch or a kitchen timer.
When it comes to passing the bar exam, writing concisely is second only to knowing the law and applying it.
Originally published 2012-06-05.
Last updated October 13th, 2017.
Read the next post in this series: "Tips for Finishing the Bar Exam Performance Test on Time."