The New York Bar Exam – Part 3

First things first. I have the utmost respect for those of you who went through the three-day exams. How unthinkable! I had a few friends take the train up to New Jersey to take that bar, and another few who did the ordeal up in Massachusetts. Two days of nervously shaking hands and fidgety madness was more than enough for me. After the MBE, I was spent, ready to pack my bags and get the hell out of miserable Albany, never to return.

I stuffed down a bagel and fueled myself with hot coffee. My mind was numb, probably from the carnage of the day before, and my brain was buffering longer than usual. Great.

And so came MBE day.

Since I was old enough to read street signs, I hated multiple choice questions. Why? Because you can’t bullshit your way through them. Essays, especially through high school and college, are pinnacles of master bullshitting. Even on the bar, I dare say, if you don’t know the exact rule, you can make up a decent sounding rule and bullshit from there. You might end up sounding half intelligent and score some points.

Different story for multiple choice questions. You learned how to use POE to get rid of the obvious wrong answer, and if you at least read your outline, you can probably eliminate another choice. It always comes down to the last two choices. You think you remember bits and parts of that rule from somewhere, buried deep in your ever-congested mind. Clock is ticking. You need to move on. You move on, but only after you circle the question number to come back to it later. Damn I hate that feeling. It’s like stepping on gum on the sidewalk.

The MBE is a battle against time. The last thing you want to do is run through the last twenty questions, blindly filling in those cursed scantron bubbles with supposedly high-probability Cs (or in some cases, “B” for BarBri). So my strategy was to make sure I had enough time to correctly answer the questions I knew for sure. Skip the RAP questions, skip the ones that make you draw little diagrams (seriously). I didn’t want to look back and realize that I had missed all those easy crim questions because I was sulking over some RAP battle.

The first half of my MBE wasn’t too bad. I actually had time left! (unusual, because I am a painfully slow test taker). I decided to use earplugs to minimize the paper shuffling noise, and it helped tremendously. Under that kind of time pressure, critical reading is an invaluable skill. You don’t have time to read and re-read the questions. One shot, get the point, summon up the rule, and dive into the answer choices. Through the simulated BarBri practice test session, I learned that the sound of paper shuffling, to me at least, became annoyingly deafening. Earplugs did the trick. But keep this in mind. They do kind of feel funny when you first use them, and you can hear yourself breathing at times (can be an intimate, even religious experience of sorts). So my advice would be to go through practice rounds with the earplugs so you’re used to having a sponge fill up your ear cavity.

I wasn’t about to have another dry roast beef sandwich for lunch. I wasn’t too hungry anyway. I was glad the first half wasn’t that tough, but an eery fear of a blistering second half was starting to creep up already. The first half was easy, so they must have saved up the tough ones for the second half, as a cruel joke. With a million versions of this thought going through my head, I hustled over to the coffee bar for a muffin and some fruit. Again, good carbs go a long way during the bar. Reading through two hundred of those MBE questions will drain your brain, and sugar is the cure-all.

The second half was, in my mind, tougher than the first. But by that time, after a day and a half of testing, I had less trouble rolling the dice and moving on on the tougher questions. I just wanted to get it over with. Enough of this crap. Fail me if you’d like, you bastards, but I’m getting the hell out of here (I probably already failed the New York portion already). So I walked out of the testing center with minutes to spare. I’d started looking over some of the questions I had circled for myself, but I just couldn’t take it any more. And you know you’re usually better off sticking with your first choice anyway. I said a quick prayer and bailed. Oh the sun was shining brightly, and maybe there were even some birds chirping in the distance. The last thing I expected to see was a group of surveyors with clipboards, grabbing us as we exited, like a pack of blood-thirsty piranhas. I was about to shun them in vain, until I realized they were handing out five bucks in cash. God bless America, I thought, and I giddily answered their questions for my cash.

I broke down in my hotel room. The past eight weeks passed by in my head, like the film rolls in those old movie cameras. All those lectures, the notes, the essays. The trip up to Albany. The first day of testing. The night before the MBE day. What I had for breakfast. The lunch break. Everything was melting together.

I was confident that I had failed. No way in hell I could have passed. Not after I left out or terribly misconstrued those issues on the essays. Not after I completely butchered the MPT. Not after I guessed on all those MBE questions. Sure, there was some relief. We were done, after all! But I just felt like shit. I asked myself, if I had really failed, was I willing to take it again in February? My immediate answer was an emphatic no. Couldn’t imagine going through eight weeks of that hell again.

My roommate dragged himself back to the hotel too. We offered our condolences, and our congrats to ourselves and each other was sincere, none of the half-ass remarks that law students typically give one another. We knew what we went through that summer, and no matter what the outcome, we were done. At least for now, hopefully for good.

The rest is history. The celebration, the plane rides home, the endless misery of waiting for the results (which is another posting in itself).

In the end, we passed. How I managed to squeeze by, I still don’t know. But hey, all you need to do is pass, not ace.

So on this Wednesday night, I offer my sincere congratulations to all of you who have completed this leg of the journey. For those of you fighting on for a third round, the best of luck til the bitter end. Waiting for the results will be even worse than the test itself. But don’t let that worry you for the next few days and nights. Get back out into the world, get some sun, get your life back.

The summer has just begun for you. Enjoy, with vigor! You deserve it.

  1. bartakerworrier said:

    my experience taking the ny bar exam this summer mirrors yours exactly. now that i’m waiting around, i am having trouble quelling my anxiety. i honestly thought that once the test was over, i’d find peace of mind. but no! i am killing myself over all of the mistakes i made and wondering whether there’s a chance i passed. i don’t start work til november, so i have a lot of time on my hands and not enough to keep me busy. how did you cope? congrats for passing!

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