The February 2012 Florida bar exam is rapidly approaching. With that in mind, I would like to offer a few tips on how to maximize your preparation during this last month.
1. Do not ignore the Florida-specific multiple choice.
As you probably know, the first day of the Florida bar exam is filled with three essay questions in the morning and 100 multiple choice questions in the afternoon. Both portions test your knowledge of Florida law. Over the years, I have encountered many test-takers who completely ignored the multiple choice on the first during their test preparations. Essentially, these people conceded 25% of their overall score on this exam. This is foolish!
The proper approach would be to learn the facts and figures for Florida civil and criminal procedure that are most likely to appear on the multiple choice portion of the exam - make flashcards or use whatever memorization techniques work for you. Next, review and do as many sample questions as possible in the Barbri testing manuals volumes I & II in the subjects of Florida civil procedure, criminal procedure, evidence, and wills. Doing these will provide a small glimpse of what to expect on the actual exam. I say this because many people find the actual multiple choice exam questions to be significantly more difficult. While this may be the case, it should not prevent you from preparing adequately for this portion of the test.
My advice to you is to pick up a copy of the 2012 Florida Bar Exam Review and memorize as many numbers/dates in the Florida civil and criminal procedure sections. You can learn everything you need to do well on the Florida wills and evidence sections by doing practice questions and reviewing outlines.
2. The Florida bar exam rewards issue spotting.
Unlike say the California bar exam, which has 6 essays that require heavy amounts of analysis to achieve a passing score, the Florida bar exam calls for more issue spotting. I am not saying that you should ignore analyzing each question - analysis is good and necessary. However, if you look at model answers from previous Florida bar exam essays, you will notice that essays with excellent issue spotting and a thorough analysis of the issues will achieve high scores. I've even seen model essay answers with clearly incorrect black letter law.
My advice would be to spend your time wisely during the last month of studying. Don't attempt to write out 8 essays a day; rather, grab a couple of old essays, issue spot, then write out preliminary answers to each question. Then, review the model answer and repeat. By doing so, you will train your brain to function as it needs to on the morning of the first day of the exam.
3. Should you type or handwrite?
This can be a problem for some test takers. I never took typing in school so I characterize my typing skills as "fast hunting and pecking". Early on in my preparations for the bar exam, I became concerned about whether typing was the smart way to take the test. This is a decision everyone will have to make.
I typed a passage, timed how long it took for me to type it, then proceeded to handwrite the same passage. I was astonished to find out that even when I hunt and peck, I still type faster than write by hand.
When you take the Florida bar exam, you will notice that the convention center hall is divided into 2 sections: typers and handwriters. Either type can easily pass this exam.
The advantages to typing are ease (for those who already type well), the ability to edit on the fly, and the neatness. The downside to typing is that there might be a problem on test day with the exam software or your computer. It happened to me and it can be very stressful but if you've prepared properly, this should not fluster you to the point of failing the exam.
The advantages to handwriting are that you can outline your answer more quickly and graders tend to be more sympathetic to handwriters with less-than-stellar handwriting and and tenuous grasp on the law. The disadvantages are mostly due to the inability to edit your answers as easily as on a laptop.
The choice of whether you type or handwrite your exam should be made with care and concern.
Soon, I will unveil my ultimate tips for success on the Florida bar exam.