After recently growing the habit of randomly checking the source of “referrals” or hits on this blog, I noticed that one of the search strings reads – “HOW TO TOP THE BAR EXAM“. This is the mark of a confident examinee, someone with a strong drive to make it to the top. As the cliche goes, when you dream, dream big. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
I don’t think I’m in the position to give any tips on how to top the bar exams because, for one, I didn’t top the bar =) I did pass the exams, however, so I could give certain ideas (some are based on the ideas of others who topped the bar) on how to make it.
Make an honest assessment of all subjects. For subjects that you’re good at, you could put them last so that you’ll have some leeway should you exceed your limit in other subjects. Allocate more time for the subjects that is the least familiar to you. This is crucial in drafting your study schedule.
Choose the review classes you want to attend. Ask around who are the better lecturers. Some simply repeat what they wrote in their books or would waste your time with jokes. If you add up the time spent in going to the lecture venue, the time you wait for the lecturer to arrive, the jokes, the useless talks, you’d realize that you could cover more topics when reading alone.
Don’t compare your pace with others. Unless you’re ahead that the rest of the reviewees, comparing your pace with that of others will only add up to the intense pressure. This is the reason why I never studied in the student lounge. Gauge your progress with your study schedule.
Pay attention to your handwriting. Your answer, even if correct, will get you nowhere if the examiner can’t read it. I suggest spending some time every day – every day – to write the alphabet as if you’re back in Grade 1 (a a a a a, b b b b b b). You’ll realize, however, that you’ll most likely revert to your usual handwriting as soon as you get to question No. 2 in Political Law. At least try.
Focus on understanding the law, more than memorizing it. There are enumeration-type questions, true, but these questions are integrated in a problem. You can’t give an enumeration unless you understand the problem given. You’re not required to cite a specific provision or case.
Read recent jurisprudence. If there’s a bar ops supporting your group, ask for digests. While you don’t have to attend all review/lectures, as stated in No. 2 above, get the materials because updates on jurisprudence are usually included in these materials.
Relax and pray. Preparing for the bar examination is pressure-packed. It’s not known as the most difficult exam, at least under the Philippine sun, for nothing. From time to time, go to the beach or watch a movie. Maybe you’ve heard of the law on diminishing returns (it won’t be asked in the bar exams; it simply means that after a certan point, your brain will absorb less even if you push harder). If you feel guilty when going out, bring a codal. By the way, if you don’t believe in a God, you could meditate.
Go through the Answers of the previous bar exams. There’s a book published by the UP Law Center. If you don’t have the time to get it or read it, at least be familiar with the style in answering bar questions. You can’t just write everything you know and hope that the examiner will find the answer or the patience to go over everything you wrote. The 3-part answer worked for me. Start with: “Yes (or no), the accused is correct (or wrong) in arguing that his arrest is unlawful” (there’s no such thing as “it depends”). Second, give a short discussion on the instances of warrantless arrests. Third, explain shortly why the facts don’t fall under any of the instances (or why it falls under one). Assuming that your conclusion is wrong, at least the examiner will see that you know the law. Maybe you’ll get a point for the second part.
Know what to expect on the day of the exams. Read about that here.