25 May 2014

How to Jumpstart Your Review for the Bar

             “Man belongs to where he wants to go.”
                                              -Wernher von Braun

How to Jumpstart Your Review for the Bar
by Rah

May 25, 2014

Congratulations friend!

Reviewing for the bar was life changing for me. It was challenging yet enjoyable.  But, of course,  I would not have made it without the help of God, my family, my friends, my professors, and all who have prayed and supported my endeavor to pass the bar exams. My heartfelt thank you goes to them.

At this point, you may feel clueless on how to review for the bar after graduating from law school. Don’t worry, that is normal. I am sharing some tips that worked for me when I was reviewing for the 2013 bar. These were compiled from professors, books, friends, people who have shared their valuable experience on how they were able to review. I hope you find them useful in helping you develop your own way of reviewing for your bar.

There is no one best way to study for the bar. That is for sure. There are as many ways to study for the bar as there are creative people. In the course of your review, I am sure you will find a study method that will work for you.

                                                                                                     Enjoy the journey!

Tip 1: Pray before studying
After waking up in the morning, I drink a glass of water. While drinking my water, I say a silent prayer which includes G-A-P.

G is for being GRATEFUL to God, for giving me the opportunity to review and take the bar. I am thankful for my professors, family and friends who support me in my dreams. I thank God for providing for my needs.

A is for ASKING God to grant my prayer of passing the bar. Gratitude helps us maintain our spiritual wholeness. It makes us closer to God’s spirituality. Jesus himself stated in this way, "Mt. 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened."

P is a PROMISE to God that I will do whatever it takes to achieve that dream. Ora et labora. Prayer and work. I offer my studies to God. I believe, “Do your best and God will do the rest.”

Every Thursday I also visit St. Jude in Malacanang to light up a candle. Prayers go a long way, believe me.

Having “panata” helped me in this spiritual aspect. I promised to do away with drinking any alcoholic drink. This developed my discipline and strengthened my will power. You can make up your own personal sacrifice. What can you offer God in exchange of a deeper sense of spirituality? You may want to ask yourself.

Tip 2: Have a battle cry
Write it down and put it in a place where you can see it.  I wrote mine in a Post-It and  had it laminated and placed it in my wallet.

Mine went something like --
Battle cry:

Well planned, regimented, scheduled, structured, serious, disciplined, and fun.”

Favorite Dean Riano Quotes:
“The homicidal instinct to win. The murderous mania to succeed.”

“There are really no problems in life, only decisions to be made.“

“Codal approach.”

“The key to pass the bar is mastery of the concepts, so that when you read the questions on the day of the exam you will smile.”

“Pagaralan ang syllabus, Ano ba ang leksyon? Alam mo na ba lahat? Kung oo, edi papasa.”

“Why worry when you can pray.”

Tip 3: Prioritize
“Prioritize what to study. Do not attempt to study everything. You will lose your mind.” (Riano) 

Give more time understanding subjects that have a higher probability of being asked in the bar. “The bar exams is basic." Master the basics before going to the very complex. Focus first on the most tested areas of a subject.

Pareto Principle concerns itself with priority and efficiency. It states 20 percent of your priorities will give you 80 percent of the results. If you spend your time, energy, and money on 20% of what matters, it will deliver 80 % of results.

You may want to start browsing the syllabus to get you started; topics discussed by the bar reviewer; and frequently asked questions in the bar. These will give you hints of priority topics.

Tip 4: Surround yourself with the right people
Surrounding yourself with people who will encourage you to be your best. Stay away from people who do not want you to succeed.

Surround yourself with wise people. Things turn out well in difficult situations when you surround yourself with people of great understanding. It pays to associate with those whom nature made superior.” (Gracian)

“We have little to live and much to know, and you cannot live if you do not know. It takes uncommon skill to study and learn without effort: to study much through many, and know more than all of them together. Do this and you will go to a gathering and speak for many. You will speak for as many wise as counseled you, and will win fame as an oracle thanks to the sweat of others. If you can't make knowledge your servant, make it your friend." (Ibid)

Tip 5: Organize your materials
Your brain retains more information when your materials are organized. Organize them in a way that when you want to retrieve information you know where to find it.

Compile your hand outs. You don’t have to bind them. A cheap puncher and fasteners will do the trick.

When I was reviewing, I sorted my materials using plastic boxes. One large plastic box per bar subject. I had to use plastic boxes because I had to review in a dorm. At first you will be overwhelmed with a lot of materials. Later on you will realize not all materials will help you. Simplify your materials. Sometimes, less is more.

Tip 6: Draft your personal Bar Review Plan
Personalize your Bar Review Plan.
Sample Bar Review Plan
Name: Juan de la Cruz
Residence during the Review: Manly Mansion, Recto Manila

Study Places:  Well lighted well ventilated place with minimal distractions
1) Apartment “Bar Headquarters.”
2) College Library quiet spot.
3) Law Library
4) Coffee Shop

General Schedule
·         Wake up at 5:00 am, jog. Grab coffee and be at the library around 9. (later on my schedule for jogging was replaced with reviewing my notes.)
·         12:00 to 2:00 Lunch and Nap Free time (later on this was reduced to an hour)
·         Resume studying at 2 pm Study until around 6:00 (didn't always happen because of schedule of the lectures)
·         Study until the library closes. 
·         Go home, free time. 
·         Read UPLC answers to Bar Q before sleeping

Remedial Law
Book/ Materials
Status, Comment
1st Reading
Understand textbook.
Mirror the schedule of the Recoletos Review center 

2nd Reading
Memory Aid in Final Reviewer

The whole month of September
3rd Reading
Bar ready. FINAL REVIEWER 1 Book, Codal. Reviewer.
Example: Memory Aid

Civil Procedure
Riano, Codal

Provisional Remedies
Riano, Codal

Special Civil Actions
Magdangal notes

Criminal Procedure
Riano Notes

Riano, Own notes

Special Proceedings
Chan Robles, Riano Transcript

Misc. Rules
 Handouts,  notes

Legal Ethics
Personal Notes: Funa Book, memory Aid. UP Notes.

Practice Tests
UPLC BarQ/ Samplex Mockbar

Print a calendar detailing your schedule of subjects on a daily basis.

As you will find out later on, things happen along the way, schedule may not go according to plan. Prioritize. Adjust your plan according to your needs and to the times.

Tip 7: Have a one final reviewer per bar subject
Have one material that serves as your notebook and final reviewer at the same time.  Your notebook/reviewer can be a book, memory aid, personal notes. You have one material where you can consolidate your notes and which can also serve as a mind map.

For Remedial Law my final notebook/reviewer was the Recoletos hand-outs which I bound.
For Political law, Legal Ethics, Civil Law, and Criminal Law, I used San Beda Memory Aid.
For Tax: I used Mamalateo Taxation Reviewer as my notebook/reviewer. 
For Labor: JG Chan notes.
For Commercial law: Sundiang-Aquino Reviewer.

Consolidate the syllabus with your final reviewer/notebook. The first week of my review, I got myself a copy of the syllabus and marked the topics that are already covered by my MemAid (which was the material I decided to be my final notebook/reviewer) by doing so, I didn’t have to refer to the syllabus anymore. A tick mark on a topic in my MemAid reminds me that that topic is covered by the syllabus and that it is a possible source of bar question.

Tip 8: Study Actively
Understand what you are reading. Learn the law and how it is applied. Take down notes and develop your personal mnemonics early in your first and second readings. I found the final notebook/reviewer to be an effective mental map.  It can be the Beda Mem Aid, personal notes, or a book. It keeps everything into place.

Recall. Ask yourself, “Did I understand what I read?” A way to test this is by asking yourself an example or by answering Bar questions.

Vary your reading speed. In the course of your review, you will come up with a lot of materials. There are some books that you have to read slowly. Some materials just need to be browsed, skimmed, or to be read in speed. It depends on subject matter. To be sure, if you can, read every material your hands can get into, and then decide on its relevance. Is your friend offering you a certain note authored by a predicted reviewer? Skim it. You’ll never know it might just be asked in the Bar. 

Try to co-relate what you understood with other concepts.

Make memorizations as the exam date nears. As a general rule, understand the topic first, before memorizing.

Choose what to photocopy. You do not need to photocopy something that is already covered by your existing materials.

Have a clear purpose for studying. Know what you are looking for. Consider putting a pencil tick mark or highlight for principles that you think are important and would want to get back to later.

Attend review lectures, especially if you  do not feel like reading for the day. In case of doubt - attend. 

In the morning when I wake up, quick browse all my notes for an hour, then, proceed to my regular reading.

One hour before I sleep, I read UPLC or Pareto notes. It is like taking the bar every day. This boosted my confidence as the review went along.

Do not highlight your materials at least for the first reading – using markers waste valuable time. In your first reading, I advise using pencil to underline or put a tick mark temporarily. This will save you time. Use your markers later on in your final reading when you already need to memorize.

Tip 9: Schedule breaks
Do not attempt to study continuously for long period of time. The brain can only take so much.  Schedule big breaks and small breaks. The  20/5 rule worked for me. That means every 20 minutes of continuous uninterrupted serious study, give yourself a 5 minute break. A stopwatch or timer will help.

Tip 10: Testmanship Testmanship Testmanship
The only connection between you and the examiner is your booklet and its contents.       
Examiners generally look for the following examinee’s booklet:
(1) Understanding of the facts in a given problem;
(2) Application of the laws;
(3) Recognition of the issues; and the
(4) Interplay of the issues through the analysis and application of the law to the given facts.
(5) The examinee’s presentation of his answer

It is advisable to take mock bar exams and to take it seriously.  Mock bars allow you to assess your understanding of the lesson. It builds your confidence, too.

Your penmanship should be clear, readable, ideally the same sizes. Take note of the margins. Do not fold your booklet to make margins.

Maximum of 5 words per line. Use sign pen. Pilot V7 is my pen of choice. NEVER use ball pen.

If you don’t have your own style of answering bar problems yet, try the IRAC method. Organization IRAC is an acronym that stands for: Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion. It functions as a methodology for legal analysis. Use IRAC for case-type questions. Try to condense it into 3 paragraphs.

Answer in a “lawyer-like” manner.  

Always state your legal basis as accurate as you can.

Tip 11: Take care of your mind, body, and spirit
Have a regular schedule for de-stressing physical activities like jogging or swimming. Take care of your health. Eat food rich in vitamins and nutrients. Avoid junk food. Take care of your spiritual well-being. Pray, believe, have faith.

Sometimes, read books or magazines not related to law. Engage yourself in creative pursuits like singing, dancing, drawing, etc.

DO NOT SMOKE. It will never get better. Love your lungs, love your life. If you smoke, stop now. NOT smoking goes a long way especially on the day of the bar exams.

DO NOT DRINK. Not even as a pampatulog, or pampa-relax during the bar review season. Practice self-discipline, practice strengthening your will power.

Tip 12: Be flexible
There is no perfect review.  Relax and let the review grow in you. Eventually you will find a system of review that will work for you. Adapt to changes in your environment.

“Priorities continually shift and demand attention. H. Ross Perot said, “Anything that is excellent or praiseworthy moment-by-moment on the cutting edge must be constantly fought for.” Well-placed priorities always sit on “the edge.” Keep priorities in place. (Maxwell)

Tip 13: Believe and never doubt – “You will pass the bar.”
Resist the subconscious will to fail. Resist thoughts that lead to self-doubt.  Think of the reason why you will succeed. These are the only reason worthy of your thought.

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves." (Buddha)

“I can!” generates the knowledge, the power, and the skill to pass any exam. “Belief in great results is the driving force behind all great human achievements.” Positive belief is one of the most essential ingredients of all success. (Shwartz)

List down ten reasons “why you can” for every doubt in your mind. There is only one conclusion that you can honestly reach - there are more reasons why you can - than why you cannot. (id.)

“People are NOT measured by size, money, or status in life. People are measured by the size of their thinking. How big you think determines your worth. Positive belief does not demand a price, but in every step forward, positive belief pays dividend. Believe you can be the best that you can be. Believe that you have what it takes.” (Id.)

Positive is possible!  “Imagination is the light by which we can penetrate new worlds of thought and experience” (C. Haanel)

“Feel good first. Do not deny yourself of the power to create a positive moment. Happiness is your birthright. Try not to make happiness depend upon a condition or a goal, because that goal might never happen. Link your happiness with the power to create it in the moment, NOT on the condition of achieving something. Start by claiming it and using it to make your journey fun all the way and not just at the end.”  (Chandler)

 “When our attitude is right, our abilities reach a maximum effectiveness and good results inevitably follow. Right attitude wins for you in every situation.” (Ibid).


Again, a heartfelt thank you. God bless and more power. :)



The Magic of Thinking Big. David Schwartz
The Master Key System. Charles Haanel
7 Habits of Highly Successful People. Steven Covey
100 Ways to Motivate Yourself.  Steve Chandler
The Art of Worldly Wisdom. Gracian, Baltazar
Developing the leader within you. John Maxwell
Bar Blues. Ma Lat, et al.
UP Law Center
Dean Riano
Recoletos Law Center
Francis, Ramon, and Avril