Tips for Examinees to Pass the Bar Examinations

Law school graduates who take the Philippine bar examinations, reputed to be one of the hardest in the legal world, receive tips and recommendations on how to take and pass the bar exam from various sources — law schools, bar review centers, lawyer-friends, classmates. There’s one more source of valuable tips on how best to approach the bar exam — the Supreme Court itself. While specifically covering the 2017 bar examinations, the guide issued by the Supreme Court’s Office of the Bar Confidant contains helpful tips for future bar exams. Here’s the full text:


For the interests and success of the Bar examinees in the 2017 Bar Examinations, the Committee has issued this Guide and Rules to help them on how to best approach the examinations. This Guide contains as well the rules that every Bar examinee should observe in his/her conduct during the examinations for its peaceful and orderly implementation, taking into account not only the interests of the Bar examinees, but of the University hosting the examinations, the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) and its Bar personnel conducting the examinations, and the public at large.

Every Bar examinee should read this Guide and Rules, thoroughly, as part of his/her preparation in the bar examinations.

Preparing for the Examination

Knowing the Coverage

The 2017 Bar Examinations Committee has uploaded in the Supreme Court Website the Syllabi relative to the coverage and topic of the 2017 Bar Examinations for every bar subject. The listing of covered topics is not intended and should not be used by law schools as a course outline, and that listing has been drawn up for the limited purpose of ensuring that the Bar candidates are guided on the coverage of the 2017 Bar Examinations.

All laws, rules and issuances pertinent to every subject and its listed topics as of JUNE 30, 2016 are examinable materials within the coverage of the 2017 Bar Examinations.

Principles of law are not covered by the cut-off period stated herein.

Managing the Examination

Performing well in the Bar Examinations requires a good understanding of the basic principles of law and of relevant jurisprudence, and an adequate ability to understand and communicate in the English language.

Knowledge of English comes from the Bar examinee’s accumulated study of, and experience, in communicating in this language. Knowledge of law, on the other hand, is based on years of study in law school and in the Bar review classes. In order to pass the Bar examinations, the examinees need to exert effort to be as precise as possible in their knowledge of the law and in communicating this knowledge during the examinations.

Some Tips in Answering Bar Examination Questions in General

1. Every Bar examinee should master this Guide and the examination Instructions in cover page of every Questionnaire. This Guide is provided well ahead of time to give the examinees time for its study.

2. The Bar examinee should read and examine the Instructions on the cover page of the Bar Questionnaires as soon as they are allowed to do so by the head watcher. The number of pages as stated in the Instructions, and the number of pages in the distributed questionnaires, should carefully be compared. The correct number of Essay questions should be confirmed to ensure that the Questionnaire is accurate and has no missing or duplicated pages.

3. Only one booklet shall be used in answering the Essay questions. Bar questions should be answered in the same order that questions are posted in the Questionnaire.

4. After confirming the correct number of Essay questions, the Bar examinee should plan his/her answering time and, accordingly, pace himself/herself. The examination in every subject is for four (4) hours and the questions have been formulated and calculated to be answerable within this time, with an allowance for the review of the examinee’s answers.

5. As a good rule to observe, it may be best to simply mark the which answer/s the examinee is not sure of, and to move on to the succeeding questions that the examinee can answer, in order not to waste precious time. The examinee can later return to the more difficult questions initially marked and left behind.

Some Tips in Answering Essay Questions

1. Read each question carefully for its full and complete understanding. Pay particular attention to the directive or direction word/s the essay question uses. Examples of direction words are argue, compare, contrast, define, decide, and distinguish. The answer should respond to what these directives or direction words exactly require.

2. Again, time planning and pacing are essential, remembering that the essay questions contain the bulk at 100% o f the examination.

3. Every well-written essay question specifically asks for the resolution of the legal problem posed. The examinee’s task is to provide the resolution that the essay questions calls for, nothing more and nothing less, with sufficient explanation of how the examinee arrives at his/her conclusion. Note that in a 5-point essay exam, the examiner can give credit even if the answer is not exactly correct but the answer is well written and logical. Consider, however, that the use of the “shotgun” approach in answering essay questions may not be the best approach as it indicates the lack of exact or specific knowledge about the questions asked.

4. Go straight to the point if you know the exact answer to the question. As a good rule to follow, draw an outline of the proposed answer – after reading the question and understanding what it requires, take some time to note (mentally or on a scratch paper) a brief outline of the proposed answer. The examinee can use the questionnaire but not the exam booklet to do the outline. The outline allows him/her to systematically present all the pertinent information in a logical order.

5. Write clearly and legibly. Use black, blue or blue-black ink only. Pencils shall no longer be used nor allowed for the examinations. As a rule, five to six words per line significantly contribute to readability.

6. The examinee can help the examiner’s assessment of the answer by providing clues to the line of thinking used and the answer’s pattern of organization. Use transitional words such as first, second, next, finally, on the other hand, consequently, furthermore and in conclusion.

7. Answers should always be proofread. Because an essay exam is also a test of the examinee’s writing ability, he/she should spend some time to review his/her answer. Look for mistakes in grammar and punctuation, check for misspelled or missing words and omit needless words.

8. Make sure no uncalled for name, distinguishing or identifying mark is placed in one’s notebook. Care should be taken not to use a specific name when no such name is called for. Do not write any prayer to God nor any special plea addressed to the examiner. Leaving or making a distinguishing or identifying mark in the exam booklet is classified as cheating and can subject the examinee to disqualification for the whole examination.

Practice Exams

A good practice for law school/review classes to observe is to hold practice examination sessions with the Bar candidates on the Essay formats. In evaluating these practice exams, attention should be given to both the law and the Bar candidate’s presentation and use of English. In many instances, incorrect English is more serious as a problem than the lack of precise knowledge of law, and has been the cause of high failure rates.

This sample Bar Instructions is given to acquaint the Bar examinee with the type of instructions he/she will meet in the actual Bar examinations.

The Actual Bar Examinations

Before the Examination

1. UST’s Espana gates open at 5:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon on examination days and close thirty (30) minutes before the given examination time. After the gates close, no one will be allowed to enter without the permission of the Bar Chairman or in his absence, the Bar Confidant.

Failure to take any or a portion of a Bar subject, the examinee shall be barred from taking the rest of the Bar examinations.

No refund of the examination fee will be allowed. In case the Bar examinee fails to take the Bar examinations, 75% of the fees paid may be applied to a future Bar examination.

2. Bar examinees assigned to take their examinations at the St. Martin de Porres Building (Medicine Building) and at St. Raymond’s Building (AB/Commerce Building) may enter the campus only through Gates 2 or 3 along Espana Boulevard.

3. Bar examinees should always wear their color-coded building assignment prominently displayed on their chests, together with their Notice of Admission/Permit. Together, these two items of identification shall serve as the Bar examinee’s pass for admission into the UNIVERSITY compound, into his/her assigned building, and into the assigned room. Let not the absence of one or the other requirement be a problem as the absence of one or the other can bar the examinee from admission.

4. Before going to their assigned building, every examinee is obliged to submit himself/herself to inspection and shall deposit electronic gadgets (ipad, tablets, laptops, and the like) in his/her possession, if any, to the security personnel assigned at the entrance.

5. Bringing of deadly weapons anywhere within the University is strictly prohibited. Any such weapon found in the examinee’s person shall be confiscated and the incident shall be reported to the Office of the Bar Confidant for assessment if further investigation is warranted for violation of the Bar Examinations Rules of Conduct.

6. Possession of alcoholic drinks and smoking are not allowed anywhere within the University campus.

Alcoholic drinks are subject to confiscation and the fact of confiscation shall be reported to the Office of the Bar Confidant for assessment if further investigation is warranted. The same rule applies for drinking of alcoholic drinks inside the University at any time between, 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., during the Bar examination days.

Possession and drinking of alcoholic drinks, and smoking, are considered violations of the Bar Examinations Rules of Conduct.

7. Pursuant to its Styro-Free campaign, UST prohibits the use of Styrofoam inside its premises. Examinees who will bring their own lunch arc encouraged to place their food in Styrofoam lunchboxes or in carton containers.

8. Bar examinees are not allowed to alight from or park their vehicles inside the University.

9. Upon arrival at their assigned examination building in the morning of each examination day, they should consult the bulletin boards along the ground corridor and at their assigned floors to confirm their room assignments.

10. Bar examinees are required to immediately proceed to their assigned rooms and are not to wander around upon arrival at their assigned examination buildings.

During the Examination

1. Bar examinees shall be allowed to enter their assigned rooms before the start of the examination upon submission of their Notice of Admission to, and upon confirmation of their identification through their color-coded IDs by the head watcher. They are required to conduct themselves properly and avoid loud discussions and conversations with other Bar examinees. Everyone is encouraged to attend to their personal toilet and other needs before the FIRST BELL W 7:30 a.m.; 1:30 p.m.)

2. After the sound of the FIRST BELL, no examinee shall be allowed to leave the room. All books and notes, together with their hand carried light snacks, should be placed outside the room. After which, the examination notebooks shall be distributed. The light snacks can be accessed during the examinations with the permission ofthe head watcher or watcher.

An examinee will be considered cheating if caught with notes or “codigos” during the examination, or if caught copying or allowing the copying of examination answers by another Bar examinee. Conversing or talking to other bar examinees during the examination shall be prima facie evidence of cheating. Any communication with another Bar candidate can be done only with the prior permission and in the presence of the exam head watcher.

1. The Bar examinee may begin answering only at the sound of the SECOND BELL at 8:00 a.m. ; or 2:00 p.m.

2. Only light snacks, which the examinees may take in the course of the examination, shall be allowed inside the examination rooms. Eating lunch is allowed only at the Quadricentennial Park located at the back of the Main Building, on park benches, the Gazebo Area inside the Main Building, and inside the canteens located in the Benavides and St. Martin de Porres Buildings. Examinees may also take their lunch outside the University campus but must return before the University gates close, i.e., thirty (30) minutes before the next examination.

Rules in Writing on your Exam Booklet

1. Only sign pens and fountain pens in permanent blue, blue-black or black ink shall be used in writing answers. Changes in the color of the ink used shall not be allowed. Changes in the style of handwriting within one notebook should be avoided.

2. Answers should be written legibly and erasures be avoided. In case of a mistake, the Bar examinee should simply draw a line across the word or words to be changed or erased. NO ERASURES OR TEARING-OFF OF ANY PAGE OF THE NOTEBOOK IS ALLOWED.

3. THE BAR EXAMINEE’S NAMF. CANNOT BE WRITTEN IN ANY PART OF THE NOTEBOOK NOR IS ANY UNNECESSARY MARKING OR IMPERTINENT EXPRESSION ALLOWED TO BE MADE ANYWHERE IN THE NOTEBOOK. Names of persons other than those specifically mentioned in the questionnaire cannot be used. Unless particular names are called for, persons shall he referred to by letters of the alphabet such as A, B, C, etc.

As a reminder. prayers or personal notes written in the examination notebook shall be considered as markings that shall disqualify the Bar cxaminee from the WHOLE bar examinations.

4. Answers should be written on the face or side of the page of the examination notebook fronting the examinee. In case all the front sides of all pages have been used, the examinee may use the back sides of the pages of the exam notebook starting from the back side of the first page and the back side of every page thereafter. In case of any doubt in this regard, directions should be secured from the head watcher.

5. The THIRD BELL (11 :30 a.m.; 5:30 p.m.) signals that only thirty (30) minutes are left before the end of the examination. The FOURTH BELL (11 :55 a.m.; 5:55 p.m.) signifies that only five (5) minutes are left before the end of the examination.

6. Bar examinee finishing the exam before the FIFTH BELL may immediately submit his/her examination notebook to the head watcher and shall forthwith leave the room.

At the FIFTH BELL (l2:00 noon; 6:00 p.m.), all Bar examinees should submit their examination notebooks. finished or unfinished. Failure to submit the examination booklet as required will result in the examinee’s disqualification. For example, any Bar examinee who leaves the assigned room for any length of time. however. brief without submitting his/her examination notebook, can no longer make a submission and is considered disqualified from the whole Bar Examinations.

7. The examinee can bring home the examination questionnaires or submit it together with the examination notebooks. A copy of the questionnaire in every Bar subject will also be seasonably posted in the Supreme Court website. Although an examinee can bring home the questionnaire for every Bar subject. it is best for a Bar examinee to clear his/her mind of the past examination and to move on to the next subject.

8. After every examination and before leaving the room. the Bar examinee should ask for his/her Notice of Admission from the head watcher, who shall accomplish the certification found at the back of the Notice of Admission as proof of the examinee’s completion of the examination.

9. The Notice of Admission will be retained by the head watcher at the end of the last Bar
examination, i.e.. after the Legal Ethics examination on the 4th Sunday, for submission to the Office of the Bar Confidant as required.


1. Every Bar examinee with special medical or other needs (e.g insulin injections or taking medications during examination hours) should so inform the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) on or before August 30, 2017 so that appropriate preparations can be made or taken well ahead of examination time.

2. If the Bar examinee feels sick during the actual examination, he/she should immediately call the attention of the head watcher or watcher so that appropriate action may be taken. The Court has prepared for this contingency.

3. Every Bar examinee should attend to his/her toilet needs before the FIRST BELL. If he/she needs to go to the toilet at any time during the actual examination. the attention of the head watcher or watcher should be called for directions on the procedures to observe in these eventualities.

4. The conduct of the 2017 Bar Examinations is an official function of the Supreme Court, and is an integral part of every examinee’s application for admission to the Philippines Bar. Thus, Bar Examinees are reminded to observe proper decorum. including dressing appropriately and comfortably. Bar Examinees can wear only shirts with sleeves and collars. and with jackets. slacks or denim pants, below-the-knee length dresses or skirts. and closed shoes.

The following kinds of attire are prohibited during the Bar Examinations:

(a) Gauzy, transparent, or net-like clothing:

(b) Sandos; sleeveless, strapless, or spaghetti-strapped blouses; tank tops (unless worn as an undershirt); cold-shoulder blouses; and blouses with over-plunging necklines;

(c) Micro-mini skirts; walking shorts; cycling shorts; legging; tights; jogging pants; Capri pants; cropped pants; legging; stir-ups; distressed or tom jeans; pedal pushers; culottes or pajamas;

(d) Sandals; step-ins exposing the toes; rubber sandals; slippers; or bakya.


In the Resolution dated 30 September 2014 in Bar matter No. 2819 (In Re: Application to Take the 2014 Bar Examinations) the Court, for security measures, DIRECTED the bar examinees to put their books, pens, food, water and other personal items inside the transparent or see-through bags, clear zip lock bags, pouches, lunch boxes, clear water containers and other similar containers.

the Office of the Bar Confidant similarly ADOPTS the aforesaid Resolution for the forthcoming 2017 Bar Examinations for the same security purposes.

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