Here's a PT tip for all of you who are in the midst of taking the bar exam this week. If you find that you run out of time at the end of the PT, resulting in a weak last section (which shows the grader you ran out of time), try this strategy I developed while doing practice PTs.
First, you have to get the PT organized. So once you've read through the library and facts (however you like to approach the material), plan out the organization and get it written down using headers.
Second, write out your first section or two. This is important because you need to have a strong start to impress the graders, AND if your organization is faulty, you should become aware of that within the first section or two. If that is the case, you can get the organization corrected before too much time has passed.
Third, and this is the most important part, skip to the end! Yep, skip all the middle sections and write your last section. Now, no matter what happens, you won't have a weak finish. Graders look to see if you ran out of time, and a weak finish will affect you poorly. You are now pretty much guaranteed that you will not look like you ran out of time. If you're thinking that you can't do the last section because you haven't done the prior ones, you would be wrong in almost every situation. It is rare that the last section on the PT would be wholly dependent on the legal conclusion reached in the prior sections. Plus, the PTs are designed so that once you have the organization correct, each section is pretty much an independent analysis. [Note: if the last section is a sub-section of a greater issue, you can't just do the last sub-section. In that case, you must do the entire last section with all its sub-sections.]
Fourth, go back and finish the middle sections in their respective order. If you run out of time, it will be hidden somewhere in a middle section, and not as obvious to the graders. This will minimize the overall effect of running out of time on your score.
A final tip to help even more is to write out the rule for each section when you write down the organization/sections. Articulating the rule for each issue is, as you know, a big part of your PT (and usually where a lot of time is spent). If you do this, you will already have the I and R for the entire PT. Then you write the first 1 or 2 sections, then the last section. If you're running out of time towards the end, it is much easier to breeze through an analysis and conclusion. You don't want to be racing the clock and trying to formulate the legal rule - you are too stressed in that situation for your brain to think efficiently, and your rule statement won't be as good as it would be if you had thought it out well.
Get all the points you can!
Okay, well maybe not actual gold. But your passing score could very well be wrapped up in the PT, so even better.
I think it's important to mention the PT today because the July 2011 exam is drawing near. Not to freak anyone out, but there are 45 days remaining according to the countdown clock to the right. If you haven't had a serious conversation with yourself about the role the PTs are going to play during the exam, now is certainly the time to do it.
The PT is not something to be dismissed as less important than the essays or MBE. Along with the essays, the PT makes up the written portion of the bar exam. The total weight of the written portion is 65%, 26% of which is dedicated to the 2 PTs you will take. While this may not seem like much, it is actually the most heavily weighted portion of the exam because that 26% is divided between only 2 tests. That means each PT you take accounts for 13% of your total score. That is twice as much as any essay, each of which contributes 6.5% of the total score. Each MBE question, if you’re wondering, counts for 0.175% of your total score.
When you realize how many points are riding on each PT, you begin to see how truly important it is to do well and receive as many of those points as you can. If you get an MBE wrong, it will only cost you 0.175%. Then you can move on to another MBE, and another, and another. Hopefully you will get enough of them correct so you score well on that section. It's more of a pray & spray approach - you get out your fully automatic weapon and start shooting. You're working as fast as you can to get through those 200 questions, and when it's all said and done, hopefully you've hit more targets than you've missed.
With the essays, it's more of a sniper method. You have 6 specific targets, so you're going to want to take some time and aim at your targets, getting as close to the bullseye as possible. And at a weight of 6.5%, even if you tank one, you still have a good chance of being able to make up some points elsewhere.
At a weight of 13%, if you perform poorly on a PT, you have lost a great deal of points, and that loss will be very difficult to bounce back from. The PT is more like a missile in this respect. Missiles are very expensive weapons that can be extremely effective, but if they miss their target, they are extremely devastating. Likewise, the PT is "expensive" when you consider how much time is spent on each one (3 hours). Three hours is a big investment in bar exam world, and if you waste any of that time on a wild goose chase because you don't know what you're doing, it is going to cost you dearly. If you know how to guide the missile effectively, however, you can be very effective in annihilating the target (ie, getting all the points possible).
Therefore, it is important to put in just as much effort on the PT as you do for the other portions of the exam. There are some very dangerous ideas floating around and being told to bar examinees. Ideas such as it is impossible to study for the PT; no one really knows what the bar examiners are looking for in PT answers anyway; it is not as important as the essays or MBE; it isn’t important to take pratice PTs. Believe these lies and you will be shooting yourself in the proverbial foot.