Passing the Tennessee Bar Exam

I took the Tennessee Bar Exam in February 2016 and recently found out that I passed. The results were released by the Board of Law Examiners on April 8, 2016. The exam is pass/fail, conducted twice each year and scores are not released to successful examinees. The following are questions I am most frequently asked about it.

How long was the bar exam?

When I took the bar exam it was a two-day exam lasting six hours per day. On Day 1, we had to answer nine state-specific essay questions and one Multistate Performance Test (MPT) essay question. On Day 2, we had to answer 200 multiple choice questions known as the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).

How did you pass the bar exam?

I took the BarBri bar exam prep course and invested in a giant book of MBE practice questions published by Kaplan. In the months leading up to the exam, I treated bar prep like a job with a set schedule each day. I went through more than 1,000 MBE practice questions covering the subjects of Constitutional Law, Contracts & Sales, Criminal Law & Procedure, Evidence, Federal Civil Procedure, Real Property and Torts. If I got a question wrong, I reviewed the explanatory answer and marked it for extra practice. I only focused on the MBE questions marked for extra practice in the last week before the exam. The National Conference of Bar Examiners publishes sample MBE questions on their web site at http://www.ncbex.org/exams/mbe/preparing/ .

For the Essay portion of the exam, I studied the subject-specific outlines from BarBri and practiced writing out at least one essay from each of the potentially tested subjects: Agency, Civil Procedure (State and Federal), Commercial Paper, Conflict of Laws, Corporations, Domestic Relations, Partnerships, Personal Property, Professional Responsibility, Restitution and Remedies, Sales, Secured Transactions, State Constitutional Law, Wills and Estates — in addition to the MBE subjects mentioned above. I also made my own condensed outlines from the subject-specific outlines. Closer to the exam, I studied the condensed outlines and practice essays to commit the most important points to memory. BarBri and Kaplan publish books of sample essays, and the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners publishes old essay questions on their web site at http://www.tnble.org/tnlaw/first-time/essay-questions .

For the MPT portion of the exam, I did several practice memos under timed conditions. The National Conference of Bar Examiners publishes sample MPT questions on their web site at http://www.ncbex.org/exams/mpt/preparing/ .

Why did you take a bar prep course after law school?

Law school taught me the substantive law I needed to know for the bar exam, but it was the bar prep course that taught me “how” to take the bar exam. My alma mater, Nashville School of Law, and other law schools around the country have added “bar exam class” into their curriculum to help students maximize the time they will spend studying for the bar exam after graduation. See Schools Add Bar Exam Class to Curriculum and Find Success  (ABA Journal, April 2016).

How long did you have to study?

Studying for the bar exam was a full-time job for me — all or nothing. I had to leave my day job to devote 40 hours per week to studying in the months before the exam.