Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Once, for the record

I totally understand if my constant worried frenzy and obsession about the bar exam seemed overblown and more dramatic than necessary. If I weren't in it, I might think so too.  I totally understand the inclination of others to say, "Don't worry.  You're smart.  You'll do great."  In fact, I understand the meaning behind those words and appreciate them.  The fact is, though, this test wasn't like other tests in both format and grading.  That means that none of my previous successes really bear much weight in terms of predicting the outcome.  A number of people have asked how I thought it went, or how I think I might have done.  I have no idea.

I can, however, explain how it works.  The Tennessee Bar exam is two parts.  The first day is two hundred multiple choice questions.  They were horrendous, to say the least, and not at all similar to the ones I had been given in practice exams by my bar review course.  In TN, each examinee must pass a minimum number on the multiple choice.  If you don't make that minimum score, no matter what you do on day two won't matter.  This is my biggest concern.  I've never been great at multiple choice, and I felt completely unprepared for the types of questions that were asked.  If I didn't pass, I feel fairly strongly that it will be because I didn't score well enough on the first day.

The second day is twelve essay questions.  The number that you have to pass is determined by your score on the multiple choice test.  They are each written by a separate bar examiner and that examiner grades all of the answers to that question.  I feel like I did much better the second day.

I'm still recovering now, not from the test, but from the studying.  I graduated May 14th, and my bar review course started May 18th.  For the first month, it was five days a week.  Starting in July, I studied every single day of the week, for at least eight hours.  I'm not a lunatic and I didn't over study.  It takes that long to adequately study each topic covered on the test and to read sample essays and take practice exams.  It was one subject a day.  It is terrifying to go to sleep each night knowing that everything you'll know in a given area is what you were able to get to that day, and that there won't be a chance to do more.  By the way, these are huge topics--as in, some are separated into two semesters in law school.  Even a basic subject like Civil Procedure, a first year course, has a thousand balancing tests, rules with three elements, and specific time limits, etc.  You have to actually know them.  It was physically and mentally exhausting. 

The terror wasn't from actually taking the test.  The pressure is what causes the fear.  First of all, the bar review course that everyone takes costs $2500.  Not to mention, many places (including the one I want to work) won't hire anyone until they have passing  bar results.  That means you're not making attorney money, but your law school loans come due in November.  That also means that you have to get a temporary job, only to quit, to study again for two and half months for the February exam.  The Bar exam itself costs about $650 in total.  That's no small sum and is the reason I cringe when people say, "Well, you can just take it again."  That's another thing, you can't just take over and over and over.   They will deny you.  The Bar doesn't have to give you permission to take the exam.  Lastly, it is embarrassing to fail and to have to tell people that you failed.  In fact, in Tennessee, you don't really have to tell people because a pass list is posted online.  Everyone already knows.

There.  I said it.  I've explained everything I know.  Hopefully I'll pass and I'll never have to worry about again.  Hopefully, all the fear and studying and hard work and money was worth it.  I'm cautiously optimistic about my results.  Being completely honest, I didn't feel good about the first day.  Fortunately (I guess), I've heard other people say the same thing.

Anyway, this is the last I hope to say about the thing until October.  I know no one else wants to hear anymore about it, anymore than I want to discuss it.  I so very sincerely appreciate all of the support that I received.   The only thing to do now is wait.  The results are supposed to be posted October 8th.

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