So I finally retook the Illinois bar this February after a long wait and fruitless job search. I don't know the results yet because they come out in April, but I had a better feeling going into it. This is what I did and when the results come out, I will let you know if it worked or not.
1) I paid for Micromash software for the MBE subjects. I realized that I had not done nearly enough questions the last time and needed more practice with the MBEs so I called the Micromash people.
- Here's the scoop: You can purchase JUST the software. This is not advertised, but when I called they allowed me to purchase just the software for the MBE without the books for a much cheaper rate. I did about 34 questions a day and read through the explanations. What I did not do, but wish I did, was make flashcards based on the answer explanations early on in the studying regime.
- I rate Micromash a B. It helped me because I could do it from home or library, but taking questions on the computer was a little difficult at first. My scores ranged from 35-80%.
2) I joined the Minority Legal Educational Resource (MLER) program. This program is very reasonably priced ($200 or $250 depending on how late you register) and is NOT just for minorities. Yes, that's right. Anyone can join MLER and many non-minorities do!
- The greatest thing about this program was the sense of community that forms because of small group sessions and the opportunity to get real help based on your individual struggles with the bar exam. The program was also wonderful at fleshing out the amount and type of studying that needs to be done for a complete preparation for the IL Bar.
- The program focuses on essays mostly and does a fantastic job breaking down the step by step organization of the bar exam essays.
3) I made a study buddy. This helped me stay on track and keep motivated. Very highly recommended! We didn't always study together, but we asked each other questions about points of law that were confusing or called each other to talk about some new nuanced points we discovered.
As for the Barbri books, I used the essay book the most to highlight points of law and made flashcards from those. I also did the advanced drills timed on all the subjects. I hadn't used the essay book much last time and I realized that you can't familiarize yourself with the essay writing style unless you read a lot of the sample essay questions and answers and become very familiar with the format of answering them.
What I should have done more of: I knew that the MBE topics were being tested as essays this time, but I did not adequately prepare for that. I think it is important to prepare to be tested in essay format on the major issues in each of the MBE topics.
I also made sure I got plenty of rest each day before the exam.
THE ACTUAL EXAM EXPERIENCE
This year, we were not allowed to bring a timer, so I took a large watch with me. This was essential because for the first couple of hours, no clock was visible in the room. The proctors then managed to make a clock available for the test takers.
I tried to be very meticulous about time. If I went over the time on an essay I tried to catch up immediately. This was very difficult to do and I did end up winging a full essay.
For the MBEs, I made marks on the question sheet of the place where I should be every half hour and kept very close to that time. Every minute was essential and I know that if I had relaxed on the time requirement, I would have missed several questions like last time. I ended up changing 4-5 of the answers in the morning session, but did not have time in the afternoon.
I guess in April I will find out whether my preparation was adequate. Stay tuned if you want to find out. Next weekend, I will post a big update on my job search.