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]