Pre-prep bar issues: Are books enough?

Although we’re moving next week and I won’t be able to get down to serious bar study until about June 5th (that’s the goal, anyway), I still can’t help but think about this monster every single day. For a prep course I’m currently debating whether to pay for the Bar/Bri books-only option, or to spring for another $150 and have the option to attend classes if the urge strikes. ((The Bar/Bri course for Montana only costs $795 for books-only, $945 for books plus classes. There is no tape, cd, or iPod option.)) I’d definitely prefer the classes, but I’ll be living a 5-hour drive from where the classes are offered so it seems unlikely I’ll be able to attend many of them. Mr. Montana Bar/Bri (who has been very nice and helpful) says that some people do make the drive to attend classes in those subjects about which they’re most concerned. My costs could skyrocket if I started doing that, though. ((Gas each way would probably be about $30, plus a hotel if I wanted to stay overnight. That means attending two classes in a row would cost me about $100, three classes in a row about $140, a whole week $220). And how often will I really want to take 10 hours of potentially valuable study time to make that trip?

On the other hand, I’m pretty far from the world’s most self-disciplined kind of studier. ((Yeah, sure “studier” is a word. One who studies. I don’t need no stinkin’ dictionary!)) Grr.

So do any of you who have grappled w/the bar exam and Bar/Bri have any thoughts on this dilemma? Are the books pretty good? Were the lectures very helpful?

Another “grr”-inspiring thing about the Montana bar exam is that I have to do it all by hand—no computers. ((Apparently this is fairly common—it’s the same way in Maryland and Michigan, for example. My question: Why!?!)) I’ve probably written a total of two pages by hand in the last decade (much to the chagrin of my friends who enjoy the personal touch of a handwritten missive) so handwriting a bunch of essays ought to be a real joy.

But it gets better! Lucky for me, Montana decided to add the MEE (Multistate Essay Exam) and MPT (Multistate Performance Test) to its battery of fun this year. The MEE sounds like extra special fun:

The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) is a three-hour, six-question essay examination covering agency and partnership, commercial paper, conflict of laws, corporations, decedents’ estates, family law, federal civil procedure, sales, secured transactions, and trusts and future interests.

Three hours of handwritten essay goodness! Good thing the only classes I took in the tested subject areas were corporations and civpro! I wouldn’t want to be over-prepared or anything.

The MPT sounds like the NCBE‘s attempt to test how you might do in “real world” situations:

The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) consists of three 90-minute skills questions covering legal analysis, fact analysis, problem solving, resolution of ethical dilemmas, organization and management of a lawyering task, and communication.

So there’s another 4.5 hours of super good times to look forward to! And, of course, the regular Montana portion of the exam will have its own essays to write, plus the MBE. So it will be like this: The state portion comes first on Monday, July 24th (4 60-minute essays), followed by the MEE (6 30-minute essays) and the MPT (3 90-minute “skills questions”) on Tuesday, and finally the MBE (200 mult. choice questions in 6 hours) on Weds. It’s nice the way they leave the MBE for last—it really gives you something to look forward to.

As for other random bar data miscellany, Montana appears to have a similar passage rate to most other states—about 80% (PDF). The pool of test-takers is not large—just over 150 each year (counting both the Feb. and July test dates). A quick glance suggests that puts Montana in about the bottom 10-12 states and territories in terms of the number of people who take the bar exam each year. I guess that’s a good thing? [tags]barbri, mbe, mpt, mee, ncbex[/tags]

7 thoughts on “Pre-prep bar issues: Are books enough?”

  1. That’s insane that there’s no tape/ipod option. The classes are pretty important — it gives you the main points you’re likely to be tested on. The least they should do is be able to send tapes on the multistate subjects from some other jurisdiction — if Montana BarBri isn’t helpful I would complain to the national BarBri offices — they should be able to send you something.

  2. Oh — and that’s not the way it is in Maryland — they send tapes if you are live somewhere where they don’t offer classes nearby.

  3. I don’t mind your footnotes, but this new color scheme is driving me a little crazy — hard to read the orange-on-orange and gray-on-orange. Is this just something showing up weird on my computer (Mac w/ Safari?)


  4. You should sign up for PMBR as well. In Georgia, the non-class version was only a couple hundred bucks and came with two THOROUGHLY FANTASTIC multiple choice books and three CDs with lectures. I downloaded the three CDs onto my iPod and I was good to go.

  5. I’m a GW Law graduate (class of 2005) who passed both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bar exams last July. Combined, the exams were about 18 hours (six hours each day — Pennsylvania-specific essays on the first day (including an MPT), MBE on the second day, New Jersey-specific essays on the third day). From what I’m reading, the amount of testing I had to do seems comparable to the amount you had to do. But given that you’re taking Montana’s bar exam, feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt.

    Regarding the Bar/Bri situation, I’m assuming that you’ve already explored (and exploited, to the extent possible) all avenues of economic hardship discounts (amazingly, they actually do provide those on a limited bases — it’s worth pursuing if you haven’t already). Now, regarding the question of actually attending the classes — it is surely a tough issue, given how you’ve indicated that money is pretty tight right now. It gets tougher when you realize that wholly secluding yourself for the entire six-weeks of preparation creates a jolt to the system to anyone but the most hardened study-veteran (i.e., the person who lived in Burns library throughout their three years of law school). If you had any soul at all during those three years, chances are that your mind is only going to be able to take so much studying. More likely than not, this means that having a modicum of access to friends and family will be essential to keeping your sanity.

    So what to do? I concur with others who say that the classes are vital. They are taught by persons who know what is normally tested on the exam, and that pinpoint knowledge is vital to being able to concentrate on the things you must concentrate on. The books themselves do not give you that, and *every* bar exam is chiefly about allocating your time and energy to only the things you need to focus on, to the exclusion of everything else. Passing the exam will be incredibly difficult without the Bar/Bri classes. I also concur with the advice that says you should try and prod Bar/Bri to see which of the lectures are taped (unfortunately, a lot of them might not be taped, because given your indication that there are a small amount of people sitting for the Montana exam generally, the amount taking the Bar/Bri class will certainly be smaller — likely too few to justify taping the lectures). For the six multistate subjects, however, they are taped. Therefore, for at least I’d say 1/3 of the subjects you need to learn, you’ll simply have to find a way to view the tapes. If Montana Bar/Bri is anything like Pennsylvania Bar/Bri, you’ll be able to check the tapes out and take them home with you to watch and study from (of course, driving them back and forth is going to be a bitch as well).

    Regarding taking PMBR, I took the PMBR 3-day cram session about a week before administration of the exams. Given that I did pretty well on my exams, I’m apt to say that *if* you have the means, you should take both courses. Stylistically, the PMBR questions more closely resembled the questions that I saw on the Multistate exam. Moreover, as already mentioned, PMBR lets you have three CDs in the multistate subjects of your choice, that you can most certainly use (in concert with the Bar/Bri books and lectures) to help create outline for the Montana essay portions.

    If you want to talk or need more advice, just email me.

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