- A chapter from my book Winnin’ Time
- A copy of a past exam from the California Bar
- A free 30-minute webinar lecture on Torts
The Short Review: What Steven Did For Me
When you read this in your despair having failed the bar exam the first time or for yet another time, please take this to heart: I feel you right now in this moment. I was there twice, and I carry the memory of that pain with me always. So please believe me when I say the following: please don’t give up on yourself. I failed the California Bar Exam 2 times in a row before I met Steven. I went through my 7 stages of grief each time over the course of that terrible weekend of the results. And each time, I picked myself up and signed up again with the hope that I could succeed. When I signed up for my 3rd California Bar Exam, I followed my gut. I chose to listen to what I wanted (to pass California’s Bar Exam) and not what others thought would be best for me. I had to conquer this beast. So now, I beg you to listen to your heart. Really. Do you want to conquer this? Then don’t give in. But now, you must make the hardest decision yet – can you give it all you have THIS time around? Despite the past, that is. Can you fully open your heart to the optimistic mindset that you CAN pass this time? You must let go of your baggage (as much as you can) if you’re going to do this again. But that’s not enough. Once you have the optimism again, you must pour all of your time and resources into passing THIS time. No excuses. You must take the time off work to do this right. And you have to have a plan. You must put your expenses on credit. You must spend your credit to get the right books and tutoring. Find a way to make it work. You can’t afford to invest 1/2 of what it takes emotionally and financially to pass. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. To pass, you must give it all THIS time.
So when I signed up for Steven’s tutoring service, I knew I had to give it my all despite what I’ve already lost. It didn’t matter that I already spent X amount of money or time on 2 failed Bar Exams. It didn’t matter that my current job was compromised. It didn’t matter that I once again had to hand over the wedding planning to my husband (then fiance). I had to focus on one thing only: I had to pass THIS time. I had to get this done right for once and for all. So when I chose Steven, I chose to give up everything I believed and feared about the bar exam. I chose to subscribe 100% to Steven’s way. In doing so, I ended up guaranteeing my success. In return, Steven came through for me. He never let me linger in a single second of despair. At every point in our tutoring relationship, Steven gave me the micro and macro structure I needed to tackle the California Bar Exam. He gave me an elaborate yet flexible schedule so that I couldn’t waste time on things like organizing, labeling, and highlighting. Every minute of my studying required me to jump right into his books and assignments and just work. At the same time, he held my hand the whole way so that I never felt alone or stupid. He knew how my mind worked (especially as a repeater) better than I did. Even my husband (then fiance) had vocalized to me several times how impressed he was with me because my work ethic changed completely and I stopped having my huge emotional brake downs. He said I was like a super gunner firm lawyer, and hearing that made me even more sure of myself.
Because Steven took the reigns from me in terms of my whole study approach, he took the weight of the whole California Bar Exam off of my shoulders and put it on the table in front of me so that I could actually attack it. I followed his methods religiously, and in doing so, I was able to truly achieve my best. I shined in my studies. I went from getting 50s in my essays to 65s and 70s! I stopped avoiding the model answers on the California Bar website and began to endeavor to achieve those model answers!
Below, I have written a much longer review that goes through my best memory of the whole tutoring experience. It is my hope that my experience will give you great insight. Most importantly, though, please know that the California Bar Exam can be made YOURS even if it doesn’t seem like it now. Steven opened my eyes to this, and I am forever grateful.
The Long Review: My Experience
How I found Steven:
A friend referred me to Steven after I failed the California Bar Exam 2 times in a row. She had passed on her 2nd attempt with Steven’s tutoring services, and her recommendation was incredibly self-assured. I told her that I had just signed up for my prior bar course’s tutoring program. She said forget the prior course, go with Steven. Her recommendation was so confident that it reached me to my core. I cancelled with the prior review course and called Steven immediately. That’s when he gave me an incredibly insightful and inspiring analysis of my prospects for a 3rd California Bar Exam attempt.
The first impression:
When I first spoke to Steven, he asked me for the complete breakdown of all the points I had received for every essay, MBE subject, and performance test in both of my past failed Bar Exam attempts. I told him I used my prior course both times, and I increased my score by 87 points just from studying harder. Steven then gave me his incredibly optimistic outlook on my situation: my great point increase was something to be proud of and it indicated to him that it would have to take me at least 3 times to bring myself to pass the California Bar Exam. He helped me treat my past two failures as stepping stones to passing. Steven further noticed that all my improvement came out through my MBE points and not at all in my writing points. He explained to me that by changing my way of seeing the written part of the exam, I had a really good shot. Finally, he gave me a really great idea of how I would study for the bar again without being able to take 2 whole months off. I loved how flexible he could be with the constraints of my work schedule (as long as I took off at minimum 3 weeks). In addition to many other things he said, Steven was overall so positive, stayed within the limits of reality, and gave me a detailed breakdown of his tutoring model. He described to me that with his help, I would have a day-by-day schedule with tons of written feedback and analysis. He described many other things, like the essay review week and the memorization period. After hearing it all, I was sold, and I signed up that day.
The first sessions:
When I signed up with Steven, he told me that I had to put 100% of my complete trust into his teaching model. If I resisted his approach, it would hurt my chances of bringing up my points high enough to pass. I completely opened up my mind to his style and did everything he said. He gave me a monthly calendar with daily work assignments that I had to complete. He adjusted my work assignments according to my work schedule. It was very rigorous at first. I came home straight from work every night and studied until it was time to go to bed. I had to work on all 3 aspects of the exam so that I wouldn’t weaken one skill to improve others. I did specifically assigned readings, tons of MBEs every night, and wrote tons of essays. Steven taught me from the start how to do an essay minute by minute. He showed me that I never adopted a real approach, which was a huge problem. Then, he showed me I had to re-learn writing just for the bar exam. So I didn’t write out essay answers as much as I transcribed them from his book. He had me copy things straight out of his books. It was very weird to me, but I promised to trust him. During our weekly meetings, I met with him in person (I live nearby) and he gave me a full hour of his undivided attention every week. He was positive and funny. I looked forward to our meetings every time. At our meetings, he presented me with thick stacks of my essays, which reflected similar scores that I had gotten on the real Exams. He broke down my answers by sentences. He typed up his own analysis of my sentences and offered alternative wordings to help me improve. The more analysis he wrote me, the more I began to be able to see my own writing in those sentence fragments, chopped up and measurable by points. Most significantly, he opened my eyes to the fact that every essay subject is only tested in a limited number of ways. I didn’t have to try to memorize that whole CMR on Torts; I just needed to focus on 3 – 4 subtopics (for the essays)! Steven shrunk the size of the Bar Exam (in my mind) to a manageable level.
In the thick of it:
As I transitioned out of work into my 5-week pure bar study period, I noticed that I was too busy to ever lose time to my own bad study habits. I would wake up and work straight until bedtime with short lunch and dinner breaks. I had so much to do that I never had time to obsess over highlighting and sticky tabs. All my time was productive (wow). I began to improve my writing. By transcribing my answers out of his books, I had to do my own thinking (search for the right answers according to subject matter), but I couldn’t write it my own way. I had to write it his way. This helped me tattoo the correct writing structure into my brain. I stopped thinking like myself and subscribed to the model-answer way of thinking. Once I fully accepted the “requires…because” structure as my new religion, my essay scores picked up (from 50s to 60s), and I was starting to understand that writing for the Bar isn’t creative but formulaic. It’s all math, and I have to rack up the points.
At the same time, I continued to do MBEs every day, special assigned readings, and performance tests on the weekends. The performance tests were usually a hit or miss. I passed my first one, which made me cry at the table at the cafe in front of him because the performance tests were always the scariest part of the Exam for me. But then I bombed the next one (which I happened to have had taken in the real Exam). So as I wallowed in my misery, Steven used my bombing that performance test as an opportunity to conquer my own negative past with the Bar as well as to learn from my mistakes. We talked through what was right and wrong and he’d joke, “now you’ll NEVER make that mistake again!” The way he explained the things I did wrong helped me actually avoid making those same mistakes again. Especially with the performance tests. He taught me to see them as a scavenger hunt with 5 – 7 treasures (with minor exceptions). It completely blew my mind away. Finally, I have a PLAN for attacking the performance tests! He made sure that I had a taste of each type of performance test so that I wouldn’t lock myself into one approach.
Towards the end:
I remember having one day where I broke down in hopelessness. I was working so hard and making progress yet bombed another performance test. Steven called me in response to a desperate email and then gave me the day off (it turned out, he had already scheduled that day to be off – what timing!). It was the break I needed to push through to the end. After that, I really got rolling. I had done so many essays that my essay scores went up to the 65s – 70s! I even began to have a sense of my own scores before Steven gave them to me. I learned to grade myself and correct myself.
Next, it was time for the Essay Review Week. It was about 2 weeks before the bar exam. I had to spend 7 days reading model answers for each subject from the California Bar website. It was a kind of backwards approach: I had to read the model answers first and then the questions. I had to highlight the facts discussed in the model answer and highlight that same fact in the question. The whole question ended up highlighted…it was then that I felt like Neo from the Matrix – I see it all! Every single sentence/fact in the question is somehow discussed in the model answer! Lots of people tell you, “oh well those model answers are A+ answers, so don’t worry about them.” No. You have to endeavor to achieve the model answer as much as you can, so that you can better improve your chances of passing!
Then, came the hardest part yet: the Memory Work period. I spent a week and a half actually memorizing all the material I had been transcribing in my essays all this time. The first day was hell. I couldn’t memorize it all within the given time frame. But I knew that after all I’ve invested in this, I couldn’t give up. So I pushed through and memorized what I could because the next day I had to move on to memorizing even more. Every day was harder because I had to add a whole new subject or two to my memory, and every day, I had to review what I already memorized. So by the last day (two days before the Exam), I was pretty maxed out. I wished that I could remember it all perfectly, but I just couldn’t. The last day before the Exam, I followed Steven’s advice and stopped memorizing by 5pm. I was done, and now I had to perform.
I followed Steven’s advice very strictly and didn’t study at all the entire three days. I only reviewed a couple of broad notes about exam approaches (like reminding myself to “stop writing rule statements after 45 minutes”). During that first morning session, I remember feeling so surprised that I knew exactly how to approach every single essay, even the tricky Remedies question that I had dreaded ever getting! Steven was in my head every step of the way as I outlined, kept track of time, and moved on from essay to essay. His voice popped up to stop me from going back to my prior essay. All the memory work I had done was a success: all the answers floated from my mind to my outline. I felt like it was an open book test. I knew all the rule statements; I just had to piece them together and analyze. It all felt so natural and for the first time ever, I actually knew what I was doing!
I remember suffering through both my performance tests. The first one combined two of my most hated formats (which I had bombed already during the tutoring period). There was a point in the middle of it that I was so ready to just give up. But Steven’s voice came to mind because he had told me I would have this moment. So I listened to his voice and pushed through. By the end of that first performance test, I was destroyed inside. I called Steven after the first day to say I felt like I had failed the Exam already. But he let me talk him through the whole day so that he could give me a guesstimate of my grades for that day. Hearing him give me his objective analysis (as opposed to my own crazy pessimistic one) got me to finally let go and move on to the next day. The MBEs went well, as that was my stronger suit, and then came the third day. I was so certain that the final performance test would be a breeze since the first performance test was a monster. But then, it was another one of my hated formats that I had bombed in my studies…In the middle of it, I had a terrible suspicion that I had completely taken the wrong approach just like I had done when I bombed this same kind of performance test in my studies. But I listened to Steven’s voice and stuck with my approach. I didn’t go back and try to re-format. Once the day was over, I went home and broke down entirely. I thought I knew I had failed. I called Steven, and he once again talked me through the whole day and the whole exam. He gave me guesstimate grades for every part and said that it sounded like my strong work in the essays and MBEs could get me to pass. I felt reassured and tried to put the whole thing to rest.
So after the many months of waiting for my results, it was Friday and I was on my honeymoon. For the first time, I resisted checking immediately because i was so used to failure that I couldn’t bring myself to hope for passing. I didn’t check until late on Saturday night, the last night of my honeymoon. I couldn’t believe it. I was in denial. I honestly didn’t cry out in joy or feel anything other than fright. No, that text can’t be green. Why isn’t it red?? I was absolutely terrified of accepting that I had passed because I was so convinced that I had to gear up for another round of the 7 stages of grief from failure. But no, I did it! I actually did it! I emailed Steven along with notifying close friends and family, and Steven was so happy and proud of me that we spent a long time discussing my success on the phone.
In the end, it wasn’t passing to me. It was a victory. A victory that wasn’t meant for me. But I forced it. I refused to accept no for an answer. And my stubbornness won. — Sara Rosell, Esq., passed the July 2013 California Bar Examination