What Is It Like To Take The New York Bar Exam?
This post was written by a bar exam taker who took the New York bar exam in Albany in February 2018. He answers our questions about what it is like to take the New York Bar Exam!
What Is It Like To Take The New York Bar Exam?
I took the bar exam in Albany, NY. On the Saturday before the exam, I flew in from Ireland to acclimatize myself to Eastern Time. I used the time on the flight to hammer through around 100 MBE questions and answer explanations in the Emanuel Strategies and Tactics book, which was totally invaluable. With respect to my commercial course provider, had I relied on the style of their own questions, the real MBE would have run me over.
Any tips you have in terms of where to stay?
I used Air BnB for my accommodation. Most students will use local hotels and the proprietors know the bar exam is happening so due to sheer demand, the prices can skyrocket. Apart from being considerably cheaper, the main benefit of Air Bnb is that you are staying in a temporary apartment, which is easier to relax in, cook in, make your own smoothies and nice coffee. Mine had a wooden deck overlooking Albany so it was wonderful to wake up to a nice breakfast and view before the hardest test of my life. My Air Bnb had a dog in it who became my bar exam mascot. Thanks Peppy, we did it!
What could you bring into the bar exam?
NY BOLE has a fairly in-depth guide detailing exam security policy and listing what you can and can’t bring in (http://www.nybarexam.org/docs/secpolicy.pdf); no need for me to reiterate it. The proctors strictly enforced it. A woman behind me brought in highlighters and was promptly told she could not use them.
What was the exam room like?
I handwrote the exam, which I initially thought was a mistake but it turned out to be a great decision. Because there are a lot less handwriting students, we were partitioned into smaller rooms which really took the tension out of the air. Walking past that big hall in Empire State Plaza with about 1,000 frantic people and laptops would not have done much for the nerves. The temperature in the room was fine. The proctors were amazing. So friendly, calming and helpful. The main proctor in my room greeted me by my first name at the start of each session. Really nice touch. It was so funny when halfway through the MPT, we could hear kids enjoying a basketball game in the next room. Them in the prime of joy and us, sitting there, trying to figure out if a woman could be municipal judge and precinct chair all the while serving on the board of a utility department. I had earplugs so it was fine.
The exam room was very calm. Even during the exam, the proctors were always vigilant to see if anyone needed anything. Before and after the testing sessions whilst we were either awaiting the papers or waiting to be released, we were freely allowed to talk and joke. There were desks with two seats each. Despite this, there was a lot of space for all papers and pencils etc. Lastly, the proctors insisted that we keep our clear bag of things on the ground, and not on the table. I couldn’t quite see the utility of that rule, but it is what it is.
What was the exam like?
I felt great on the day. NY is a UBE state with day one being MPT in the morning and MEE in the afternoon, then day two is the two MBE sessions. I feel like I crushed the MPT. It was a very fair test of what the MPT proposes to examine, i.e. one’s ability to digest information and draft an answer to a legal problem. The MEE was nice too. I’ll be honest and say the first bar exam essay I ever wrote in full was on the bar exam itself. The criminal law question was sent from God, and the property law one from the other place. I didn’t notice any extreme panic in my room. People were visibly nervous, but nobody left for medical help. I was able to focus for the most part, with the exception of briefly noticing that basketball game.
Any personal details about what you ate before the bar exam and at lunch, what time you woke up and went to bed, whether you studied the day before the exam or in between exam days, etc?
I made sure to book my accommodation close to the testing centre so I could go back there on the breaks for lunch. I went to Whole Foods on the Sunday after my arrival and stocked up on snacks, fruit, nuts, soups, bone broth, etc to make sure I had ample sustenance for the mission. On the morning, I ate some organic raisin granola with almond milk and half a cup of coffee which my host had lovingly brewed before I woke up. The sun was shining so I ate on the wooden deck and meditated shortly after. I honestly don’t remember what time I went to bed or woke up. Imagine Christmas morning as a kid, and then imagine the complete opposite of that. Instead of running down to see the presents, I was laboriously walking down Clinton Avenue in Albany wondering would a Trusts or Wills essay would keep my law license from me. Thankfully there were no trusts or wills questions, and they could not keep my law license from me!
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