If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time now, you know that I keep saying – practice, practice, practice! And I’m not changing my tune here. However, in this article I would like to address some specifics. Exactly how do you best use practice MBE sessions to increase your score?
What do I mean by this, exactly?
At the beginning stages of Bar prep, you should begin taking practice MBE’s by section. Do a practice set on one subject at a time in order to steadily gain mastery over each subject individually. This is the time to start studying the answers like your life depended on it.
Look at it this way. Each and every question that you practice proactively is a lesson. Whether or not you got the answer correct, read through everything as you review the session. DON’T take short-cuts. Don’t assume that because you got an answer correct that you got it right for the right reasons. Big mistake.
When you review, reread the each question and all the possible answers. Then, after you’ve fully absorbed the questions and potential answers again – move on to the explanations. Read those suckers carefully. You need to know why the right answer was right, and why the wrong answers were wrong.
This is so critical – I can’t stress it enough!
Doing this will not only teach you the law and how the Bar examiners expect you to be able to apply it, it also teaches you how the Bar examiners attempt to trip you up! Learning these things is essential for good performance on the MBE.
So to review, carefully reading through each question and answer explanation on practice MBE’s:
- Teaches you the law
- Teaches you how the examiners want you to be able to apply the law
- Teaches you what tricks the examiners routinely use to trip you up!
The value of this is immeasurable. Constant practice in exactly this way works. I didn’t even know that this was the recommended course of action, but I used it when I studied and it reaped enormous results. I got extremely good at spotting the red-herring answers and avoiding them like the plague. I practiced this so much that it became second nature to differentiate the ‘fantastic sounding wrong answers’ from the actual correct ones.
So start from day one. Dive into these questions and answers and take a swim! I believe that the biggest mistake people make in studying for the MBE is skipping over the explanations “to save time.” You are not saving time. You are losing valuable opportunities to learn how to take the Bar Exam.
Let me say that again: if you skip over a detailed analysis of each answer on practice MBEs –
- You are losing VALUABLE opportunities to LEARN HOW TO TAKE THE BAR EXAM.
I apologize if this is obnoxious repetition. However, under the pressure of trying to cram in as much as possible during Bar prep, this is a frequently short-circuited portion of studying for the MBE. But it is not only time well spent – it is the most valuable time spent on the MBE.
Tweak Your Outline As You Go
As you plow through all of the explanations for MBE practice questions, tweak your outline. There will be areas that you know well, and areas that you pretty consistently don’t do well on. For the weaker areas, find ways to enhance your study outline to help you learn and remember the material. Yes, this is making your outline longer – but you can condense it later after you’ve mastered the material.
Do whatever you must to aid your memory in weak areas. Make up a mnemonic, or a song, or draw pictures – whatever helps you to recall the rules. This way, when you see it on the exam, your mind’s eye will recall and properly apply the information.
Tweak Your Study Schedule As You Go
After a few weeks of this type of study you should be recognizing your stronger areas, and your weaker areas. Now is the time to put extra study time into the weaker areas. Maybe drill more MBE questions in those areas to sharpen your skills and ability to ferret out the correct answers from a series of well-written wrong answers.
Don’t Get Hung Up on Practice Scores
Practice scores can be a blessing or a curse. If you study for the MBE the way I have suggested, I believe that most of you will begin doing well and be pleasantly surprised with the improvement in your MBE practice scores. However, there are those that may continue to struggle.
If your scores aren’t improving, or are going down (YIKES!), keep at it. The more you dive in to get a better understanding of the test, the more you should eventually improve. If you are good at tracking your trends, and actually work on your weaker subjects, you should see some improvement. Don’t worry if it’s not as drastic as you’d like. Improvement means that you are getting it.
If you really don’t see any improvement after about ½ way into your study period, you might want to think about getting a tutor. I say this here because there are some students who really do need help with direction and what to focus on. So don’t forget that tutoring is an option.
Eventually, You Need to Mix It Up
After you’ve gone through practice MBE’s and analysis on each subject area – it’s time to mix it up! About 4 weeks (or more) before the test date you should begin doing timed mixed MBE sections. Grade yourself. Then continue to analyze.
Think of this entire process as an athlete would. This is, quite simply, training for the big game. It is building up your test taking skills/muscles. It is building up your endurance so you can sit through 3 hours stretches without your brain getting weary and zoning out.
And in the end, it will get you to your goal!
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