Bar-None Prep

The Best in New Jersey Bar Exam Prep, Bar None

See my bar exam articles, regularly appearing on, under the "Bar Exam" tab

and also appearing in this month's print edition of National Jurist

available at most law school's across the country


2017 NJ Bar Exams:

February 21st and 22nd

July 25th and 26th


New Jersey Judiciary Website

National Conference of Bar Examiners


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Fear, anxiety, and needless toil are not required components to passing the bar exam. There are no extra points for suffering.

November/December Newsletter: If They Knew Their Small Margin of Success in Passing the Exam...

...They may be less inclined to shun their fellow unsuccessful colleagues.  That's what I always tell my embattled re-takers.  Every winter, in preparation of the February exam, I meet with broken and battered unsuccessful bar candidates.  They sing the same refrain: "I only failed by X (fill in the small number here). They have visibly rounded shoulders and shrunken egos.  Before we can begin bar preparation work in earnest, I must confront the deep wound of failing the bar.  The first bit of business, then, is to inform these dejected students that the exam is not a test of intellect.  Rather, the exam tests your ability to prepare for and take THIS TEST. Time in does not guarantee passage.  The "Paper Chase" always comes to mind here.  Students think that the mere act of putting in countless hours, holed up in a room with books and no sight of other humans for weeks on end, will itself assure success.  It does not.  You must prepare for the exam in the ways that will increase points.

Second, and more important, is that what divides those who succeed on the exam and those who do not succeed is often the same small margin.  Yes, it's true.  That chest-pounding newly-admitted attorney, based on the standard distribution, probably passed by the same small number that his less lucky colleague failed by. I always remind my students that very few students totally tank the exam and equally as few completely kill it with a perfect or near-perfect score.  Instead, most fall in the middle.  What divides the passers from the non-passers is often a very small margin indeed.  That divide FEELS like a gaping valley to the student who did not pass, but in truth, if the passing students knew the small gap between themselves and their less fortunate classmates, they may pull some of that confidence back, and have some compassion for their smarting friends.

My mission is to give my students the skills they need to master the exam beyond the white-knucle small margin. The exam is like law school. Being disoriented and knocked off your rock is part of the experience. It's part of the traditional "right of passage," but it is not an indicator of intelligence.  It's also not necessary to suffer.  Thankfully, the New Jersey Bar exam is a predictable animal.  It can be thoughtfully broken down to a known universe of law.

Some of my smartest students have been re-takers.  More than anything, they tend to be "toilers," believing that more time spent "studying" (this usually means a lot of passive reading) guarantees success.  But successful preparation requires methodical practice in the two exam parts, with the right emphasis between the MBE and the essay. The two parts are equally judged, but not equal in preparation demand.  To assure a measure of safety in scoring beyond the very middle of the distribution scale, students must practice for both parts of the exam, and do so in ways that gains points.  That's what I do.

Prepare for the Exam Like an Athlete

The comparisons between law students and competitive athletes are endless: driven, results-oriented, dedicated.  The major difference is that law students apply only mental effort in their studies, whereas athletes work with a physical tool in a mental way.  That is to say, athletes use both the mind and the body in preparing for success.

When I meet with students, I often spend a bit of time getting to know who they are.  Preparing for the exam requires an approach that is methodical but that is also flexible enough to attend to an individual's unique qualities, learning styles and life experiences.  After the usual banter about the technical aspects of the exam, I instantly discuss the psyhcological aspects of the exam and how important it is for them to rehearse not only the substance of the exam, but the experience of taking it.  In other words, I prepare them for the physical act of each step.  Anyone who has ever performed as a high-level athlete will tell you, you cannot master any physical act without mentally preparing the body for the intended demand.  You must be able to see yourself carrying out the feat and then see yourself victorious in the end, or it simply will not happen.

In the same way, I prime my students from the beginning to begin the visualization process of breaking down the physical act of taking the exam step by step, starting with waking up feeling prepared, and feeling confident, all the way through arriving at the test center calm and ready, and seeing exam questions that are recognizable, to finally completing perfect essay responses, putting a pencil down on the workbook and saying "I passed"...oh yeah, and BELIEVING IT! Of course you cannot achieve this degree of visual certainty in one day.  Just like my substantive course, it is a process that works best if applied in layers over time. But you get the point.

So much of success on the bar exam is creating a degree of certainty and predictability, of eliminating the unknowns.  Why stop preparation at the legal aspects of the exam?  Why not prepare for the experience of taking the exam?  This is where my students have a significant edge.  We leave nothing to chance.

You Can Master the Essay Portion of the New Jersey Bar Exam With a Simple Shift in Focus
Written by Deborah Sanders   
Thursday, 05 May 2011 02:09

I'm going to let you in on a secret about passing the essay portion of the New Jersey Bar Exam: it's not about finding answers. It's about finding problems! I know this will seem counterintuitive, and many law students poised to take the bar exam will resist this idea.  Whereas success in law school was largely reliant on a demonstration of argument mastery and solution offering, success on the essay portion of the bar exam is about problem finding. Shifting the focus in this way is always a challenge for me in my work because students graduating from law school have just found their authoritative voices and have begun to believe in their ability to demonstrate legal prowess. Trust me, there will be plenty of time for demonstrating these skills in your professional life. For now, your main focus is on passing the bar so you can bring that brilliance into the profession. Think of it this way, you're not still applying the tools your learned in preparing for the LSAT to your course work. Similarly, you must now move from law student to new lawyer.

It's not that there isn't a place in the essay portion of the New Jersey bar exam for demonstrating mastery of the law, it's just that in real legal practice, a single answer to a legal conundrum rarely exists. Instead, good lawyers will most be judged for their ability to identify the legal issues presented by a client's fact pattern. Fashioning a legal approach that reduces legal exposure happens AFTER identifying the issues. In that respect, answer finding is not unimportant, it's just secondary. The primary test to safe and responsible lawyering is the ability to first identify a client's legal problems. In essence, the bar examiners need to make sure you are a safe lawyer to license---that you will not leave a client vulnerable because you failed to assess a risk. After mastering the issue spotting hurdle, finding answers will feel like a breeze. Remember, in practice, you have research engines, the internet, fellow associates and learned senior partners to tap. Keep in mind that because you never know what side of a problem your client will be on, a "right" answer is often a flexible thing. Your tasks are (in this order) identifying the problems, doing your homework (research) and presenting a skilled argument. But if you miss a problem, you won't have an argument prepared and your adversary will leave you, and your client, in the dust.

One thing I have learned over my years preparing students for the bar is that law students, coming from so many disciplines and having just succeeded in law school, are a resilient and intelligent lot. I have had very few instances where the techniques required for passing the essay portion of the exam simply could not be mastered and mastered with a degree of predictable certainty. This task is not like the hair-raising slippery socratic slayings we are used to in law school, where fear and uncertainty ruled the day. The essay portion of the exam can be attacked and approached with fairly reliable precision.

A simple shift in focus allows students to best prepare for what will appear on the essay portion of the exam, and that's what Bar-None does best. Don't leave preparation for the essay portion of the exam as an after-thought. It carries the same weight and deserves the same focus as your MBE. Call us today for more information about our method and our course.