What Is The Maryland Bar Exam Like?
In this post, George, a bar exam taker who has sat for both Michigan and Maryland describes his experience sitting for the Maryland bar exam!
What Is The Maryland Bar Exam Like?
I think there are three important things for success on the bar. I’ve now taken (and passed) both the Maryland bar exam (2016) and the Michigan bar exam (2017). I worked full time while studying for both. What helped me to stay on task, particularly the last two weeks, was to make, and stick to, a schedule. While you definitely should give yourself wiggle room to do some spur-of-the-moment things, the people I know that failed all had one thing in common. They studied if/when they felt like it, and tried to play catch-up in the end. Get yourself in the habit of doing the same thing almost every day, start studying early in the process. By the end of whatever course you are doing, you’ll be fine.
Second, and almost equally as important, is physical exercise (preferably outside). It sounds silly, but being physically healthy helped me to stay mentally healthy, and also gave me an outlet for any nervous energy I had. Physical activity allowed my mind to leave study mode for enough time to refresh myself. It also kept my schedule full, which helped with my first suggestion. Finally, right along with physical activity, is eating well. I felt a noticeable difference in how efficiently I was when I ate well. I retained information better, and had a lot more energy. Finally, I avoided going out a lot. This made it easier to function earlier and better the next day.
The Day Before the Maryland Bar Exam
The Maryland bar exam is administered in Baltimore. I took the train early Monday afternoon from Union Station in DC to Baltimore and headed straight to the hotel, the Springhill Suites by Marriott Baltimore. The hotel was fine for what I needed which was:
Reasonably close to the Convention Center
Free, hot breakfast. (Don’t underestimate this. Not only does it save you time in the morning, it gives you flexibility to go back up to your room if you need to, and to change your mind eight to nine times about what you want. Also, there weren’t that many examinees there, so you could pretend it was just a normal Tuesday/Wednesday morning). The breakfast was actually quite good, and had lots of good, safe foods, along with a well-stocked coffee/tea area.
Besides the above, the room was fine. There was a microwave, mini-fridge, desk, nice bed and a couch. The TV was somewhat oddly placed, but that wasn’t a huge deal. The hotel is actually an old bank, so it was a bit interesting to look around and see how they had converted things. There is a gym in the basement, which is serviceable. There were lots of restaurants and such nearby and, again, it is easy walking distance to the Convention Center (and Inner Harbor). The best thing, however, is that they held my bags for me on Wednesday, which was a huge help.
After doing the whole check-in process I took a trip down to the Convention Center, just to map out my route for the next morning. That part of Baltimore isn’t unlike DC in that it consists of normal city blocks and such, so the walk was fine. Other than walking there and back I just ordered a pizza, did some last-minute flash card/multiple choice question work, and watched a movie.
Maryland Bar Exam General Test Day Items
Again, I’ve now taken (and passed) both Michigan and Maryland, but I took the Maryland bar exam first. When you arrive at the Convention Center, everyone is spread out in the hallways, doing a mix of studying, chatting, and wandering aimlessly. They don’t open the doors to the exam room until around 30 minutes before. The exam room is fine, just a very large room with concrete floors. I wore sweatpants and a sweatshirt with shorts and a t-shirt underneath, which I highly recommend doing. The room was cold to start, but as people sat it gradually warmed up. Also, it is still July, so it is rather hot outside.
One of the best things about the Maryland bar exam was test takers could stack bags against the back wall. You could also have your phone in your bags (but make sure to turn off your phone. They pulled one out of someone’s bag when it rang and took it). I am not sure if this is still allowed. I will say that having the bags there makes life much easier, particularly during the breaks when you need/want your phone to take care of lunch orders.
During the test you can use the bathroom, which is right in the front and center of the room. There are also a few water fountains. You are allowed to have water and small snacks and, most importantly for me, a small analog watch. There are two people to a table, enough room for you both to somewhat spread out, and a plug for each of you.
For lunch, it is definitely a bit of a scramble to get in and out on time. Don’t worry, you have adequate time. There is a large number of sit-down restaurants right in the general area, but I went to Panera Bread a few blocks away. The first day a friend picked me up and drove me, but the second I just walked, and it was fine both times. To shamelessly plug for Panera for a second, not only is there food (generally) a nice, safe, filling option, but they have all sorts of caffeinated products. The order-ahead service also meant my food was ready when I got there.
The Essay Day of the Maryland Bar Exam
First of all, remember that the essays are worth twice as much as the MBE, and that all the MBE subjects are tested on the essays. So even when you study for the essays, you are also (somewhat) studying for the MBE. The best thing I did when prepping for this was to read/outline/write out as many essays as possible. Even by just reading them, you can see the structure of the test, how information is (generally) presented, and how to structure the answers (and, you know, learning the information). For both the MPT and Essays, the sample questions they released were great for seeing how things were laid out.
The Maryland Bar Exam Essays and MPT
For the MPT, the actual test is not much different than the samples (unless they’ve done a full revamp). The only horror stories I heard were people who spent almost the entire time on this. Be smart, pack a watch, and allocate your time accordingly. While it is worth more points than the traditional essay, the time/point ratio doesn’t reflect their guidelines (25 minutes for 6 points on the essay, 90 minutes for 9 points on the MPT). So while you should use most of your time in the morning on the MPT, I did knock a few minutes off the suggested MPT time to concentrate a bit more on the essays.
For the essays, the sample essays were not much different from what I practiced. That being said, like most people my brain locked up on a few of them. I struggled to remember some things. Thankfully, as people keep reminding you, the exam is graded on a curve. Most people I talked to struggled on the same questions. Flashcards were a great help here (you’ll notice a trend on this), but mostly it was issue spotting, and being able to put at least something down for each issue.
You can leave early if you finish early, so long as it is not within the last 15 minutes. I know opinions differ on this, but why bother! Just stick it out! Especially on the essays, 15 minutes is basically the entire time allotted for one question!
Night in Between
I wandered around Inner Harbor, checked out Camden Yards , ate the rest of my pizza, and watched another movie. I’m a big advocate of not studying on this in-between night. Just use it to let your brain recharge. It is obviously up to you, but I knew that my day to pick up points was the MBE and I wanted to be as fresh as possible.
MBE Day of the Maryland Bar Exam
There is literally no difference between the Maryland MBE and every other state. It is a long multiple choice test. While practice/sample essays were helpful for the first day, I found three things the most helpful. First, whenever I took sample tests, I only allocated myself a minute per question. This way, if for some reason I froze up on test day, I had some insurance. Also, I like to take a quick recharge trip halfway through the test (bathroom, water, snack) so this allowed me to do that without worrying.
The second thing that helped me was making flashcards for almost every term/issue I could think of. The advantage of this was that I forced myself to define the term/answer the question without the help of a multiple choice answers. By test day, I could read the prompt, read the question, and have an answer in my head before I looked at the choices. This was both a huge time-saver and a great confidence boost. I had lots of time left over in the end.
Finally, before I took the essay test, I correctly answered every multiple choice question my prep company had on its website. I did this for Michigan as well, and it (sadly) makes you feel somewhat invincible.
General Bar Exam Advice
The only other piece of advice I will give here is in regards to pencils. I think I brought upwards of 12 sharpened pencils, with broken-in erasers. That way, I didn’t have to worry about sharpening pencils during the test or having a bad eraser if I needed to change an answer.
That’s everything! Good luck, stay calm, and remember you just have to beat 30-40% of the room.
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