Advice for the bar examinee – Part 1

My good friend and mentor, Prof. Manuel R. Riguera has written a long but very useful article for law students and bar exam candidates which he entitled “Advice for the bar examinee.”  Since law students also frequent this blog, I have asked his permission to feature the article here. Because of the length of the article, I have divided it into three parts.

Prof. Manuel Riguera is a well known law professor, practitioner, book author and is review director of perhaps the most innovative bar review center in the Philippines, the Jurists Bar Review Center. Jurists pioneered the “coaching style bar exam review” trend now being copied by other bar review centers. Being a graduate of Jurists Bar review, I really appreciate the concept. I so loved the innovations implemented by Jurists that I wrote the articles “Applying blue ocean strategy in the Philippine bar exam review” and “10 reasons why I love Jurists Bar review Center.” I had also the pleasure of serving as bar exam coach at Jurists Bar review center Cebu.

Anyway here is the article by Prof. Manuel Riguera entitled “Advice for the bar examinee”:

As a law professor, bar reviewer, and bar exam coach, I’ve put together some advice and tips for those taking or about to take the bar examination. I hope that they will prove of some help to the examinee who aspires to hurdle one of the toughest bar examinations in the planet.

BEFORE THE BAR EXAM

READ MATERIALS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR AND PASS THE BAR EXAM.The bar exam is not a matter to take lightly. So reading materials on how to prepare for and to pass the bar will greatly increase your chances of seeing your name inscribed in the bar exam hall of fame. You can bring these materials as light reading to your three-day Branson vacation packages after law school graduation. When I prepared for the 1991 bar, I read a well-worn pamphlet by Prof. Jose Nolledo on how to study for and pass the bar. I also read a booklet by Commissioner Regalado Maambong on the bar examination. The two booklets served me well by giving practical advice on how to prepare for the bar and how to avoid costly mistakes during the preparation and the actual taking of the bar. Unfortunately it seems both booklets are out of print.

Bar Blues written by Ma. Tanya Karina Lat, Maria Gracia Gamez, Romel Bagares, and Marlon Anthony Tonson is one good book on bar exam preparation which I highly recommend. Slaying the Bar Exam Dragon by Dean Rufus Rodriguez is another book which I would advise you to read.

TELL YOUR FAMILY THAT YOU ARE IN THE BATTLE OF YOUR LIFE. The bar examination is the toughest professional-admission examination in the country and one of the toughest bar examinations in the world. Your family may not be aware of this and may make inordinate demands on your time and attention. Tell them that the pass rate for the bar is on average about 20%-30% and that you have a massive amount of reading material to wade through. In Jurists, we have a “caregivers” seminar wherein we advise the examinees’ families and friends of the difficulty of the bar examination and the need to give understanding and support to the examinee during the bar review and examination period.

PREPARE AND ORGANIZE YOUR REVIEW MATERIALS. Prepare your list of reviewers after your graduation and buy those that you do not have. Get the opinion of professors and last year’s bar examinees as they are the best judges of law reviewers and can give you the pros and cons of a particular reviewer. As for the copious annotations or comments that you used as textbooks during your first 3 years in law school, consult them only when you want to clear up something which you cannot understand from your reviewer. In short, avoid reading them as much as possible. If you have to transfer residence in order to review, I suggest you don’t lug them with you anymore. They will just clutter up your study area and have a distracting effect.

PREPARE A BAR REVIEW SCHEDULE. A bar-review schedule is your roadmap to navigating the six months of bar review. When you are enrolled in a bar review center, synchronize your schedule with the bar review center’s schedule otherwise you will not be reviewing effectively. In this regard, choose a bar review center wherein there is a topical continuity in the schedule, that is, where one particular bar exam subject is discussed at a time before proceeding to another bar exam subject. Avoid bar review centers with a “mish-mash” schedule where for example negotiable instruments is discussed on one day, the labor relations in the next day, and civil procedure in the day after next. My advice is that you study one bar exam subject before going to another. Some advise reviewing one subject in the first half of the day (say remedial law) and then another (say commercial law) in the second half of the day. The avowed purpose is to minimize boredom. I think this sacrifices focus and effectiveness just to add variety. One should simply have the self-discipline and drive to study one bar subject at a time.

A good guide in dividing your study time is to multiply the number of days available for review with the weight given to a particular bar examination subject.

Assume that you have 130 days allocated for your review (April to August excluding Sundays). Political law has a weight of 15%. 130 days multiplied by 15% will give you 19 days. So you allocate 19 days more or less for political law.

In your review schedule, the last bar subjects that you should study should be labor law and then political law. This will enhance the effectiveness of your review since political law and labor law are the bar exam subjects you will tackle on the first Sunday.

In your daily study schedule, your wake-up time should be at 4:30 a.m. and lights out should be at 9 p.m. This is to make your body clock adjust to this schedule so that by September, you would be used to sleeping early and waking up early.

ENROLL IN A BAR REVIEW CENTER. There are advantages and disadvantages to enrolling in a bar review center. Among the perceived disadvantages are the increased costs, which include the enrollment fee, the transportation and food costs, and accommodation costs for those who reside in the provinces. Also quite some time is spent in preparing and dressing up and in going to and from the bar review center. Despite these considerations, I strongly recommended that a bar examinee enroll in a bar review center. A law graduate does not have the degree of knowledge of the bar subject and the intuitive feel for what are the important topics and probable bar exam questions which an experienced bar review lecturer has. Also a bar review center provides case and statutory updates, which because of time limitations, is often not provided by law schools.

Stay tuned for “Advice for the bar examinee – part 2” !

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