by John P. Virgino

Graduation for law students is so anti-climactic. As if the spartan life we have lived the past four years is not enough, we still have to gear up and march to the Coliseum and wage an even greater battle. The fight is filled with uncertainties, for when we step into the ring, we are on our own. There is no assurance that we would emerge as victorious Gladiators cheered upon by the crowd, or be the next Happy Meal for the royal lions.

The first thing a reviewee must do is to accept this reality. Studying for the bar is one big marshmallow test. It would entail a drastic change in habit and lifestyle. Sacrifices must be made. The sooner you accept it, the better you could cope with the bar exam’s demands and challenges.

As Sun Tzu once said, the art of war includes knowing ones enemy. The number one enemy that a bar reviewee must confront is his fear – of the unknown, the anxiety as to what lies ahead. It is human to fear what one doesn’t understand. So, the main goal of this exercise is to help you understand what the bar is. I hope this article could serve as a map that would aid you conquer the bar’s perilous terrain.

The tips contained herein are not foolproof. Its objective is modest-it is simply to pass the bar. Most of the suggestions contained here were culled from my experience. However, to give it some credibility, I also included the effective habits of fellow reviewees, as well as sound advice from previous topnotchers (Macel and Raj).

I. PREPARING FOR THE BAR

· Set your goals and devise your own strategy on how to do it. When you have no gameplan, you simply conform and follow what the others are doing. This can be dangerous.

· Strategize and maximize. Follow the Pareto principle. Each one is given more or less the same amount of time to study. You must be able to manage your scarce resources. Concentrate on your critical few, the 20% input that would produce 80% of your output.

· Organize your materials ahead of time. Buy the right books and review materials.

Political Law -Outline by Nachura
Labor Law- Azucena’s Everybody’s Labor Code and Alcantara
Civil- Jurado
Taxation -Dan Calica’s Reviewer
Commercial -Miravite/Villanueva
Criminal -Ortega Notes
Remedial -Regalado
Legal Ethics -Aguirre

STARTER KIT

a good and sturdy bookstand
a good lamp, white light
a cubicle made from illustration boards, this would give you privacy and minimize distractions (for student lounge people)
earplugs, to block off noise. It also sends a signal to noisy co-reviewees to shut-up
vitamins/supplements
notebook, index cards
a good supply of highlighters
post-its. The tags can be used to divide the material, which can mark your goal for the day. By breaking the books into parts, it makes reading more manageable.
II. STUDYING FOR THE BAR

· Master the codal provisions. This is a minimum requirement. You can never go wrong with this strategy.

· Manage your time according to the weight of the subject. Not all bar subjects are created equal.

· Prepare a tentative schedule for your bar review.

· Adjust your body clock. Sleep early, start early. Some reviewees even go to the extent of simulating the bar month by making Monday their rest day (since Mondays are brain-dead days during September)

· Have a study buddy so that you can have a benchmark. This would help pace yourself, giving you the extra push to study. Your study buddy must have good study habits. She need not be your girlfriend.

· Learn the art of answering the bar. Study how bar questions are phrased and how it should be answered.

The bar questions are crafted differently from the usual law exams we have. Look at the Suggested Answers published by the UP Law Center. Some questions repeat over time so make sure you get the survey of bar questionnaires to concentrate on areas, which are favorite sources of questions.

· While studying for the bar, take down notes and prepare your mnemonics. Whether we like it or not, the bar is a memory game, and there is no substitute for memorizing.

· Emphasis should be made on the quality of your study time and not the amount of hours you spend studying. Don’t be obsessed with the number of pages you read in a day. The problem with being obsessed with the number of readings is that you are tempted to postpone your understanding of the material since at the back of your mind, you intend to second and third read it any way. Next thing you know, it is already bar month and you’ll be cramming all the information in your head.

· Read to understand and not for the sake of simply reading. Reading can become a mechanical exercise. Most reviewees brag that they have read their bar materials three times. Don’t be alarmed. Some read faster than the others. However, speed-reading should not be done at the expense of comprehension. It is better to have one good reading than have three lousy readings.

· Less is more. One important faux pas to avoid is the temptation of reading a lot of materials. We have this thinking that five months should be spent reading all the materials we can get. Anything less would make us feel guilty and insecure. You may read all you want, but remember that you should not spread yourself too thinly. The truth is, the bar is composed of only 30-40 questions per subject. You must be conscious of the fact that the examiner will grade you solely on the basis of the way you answer these questions. The fact that you read all the commentaries would be immaterial.

· Practice good handwriting skills. This is important. Your exam may be readable to your law professor, considering that he is checking around fifty bluebooks. Imagine multiplying it by one hundred. Bar examiners are humans too. Their patience could be equated as inversely proportional to the number of bluebooks they will be checking. The bar examiner might not have the forebearance to decipher your encrypted hieroglyphics.

III. CAVEATS

· Learn the proper way of highlighting materials, since you will re-read the materials. Highlight only the important words and phrases. Avoid highlighting everything since it defeats the very purpose of highlighting in the first place.

· Read carefully. Don’t accept everything you read as gospel truths. There are a lot of errors that you need to correct in your reading materials. Also, make sure that the law you are reading is udpated.

· Avoid the Maricon virus (the syndrome of photocopying all the materials that one can get his hands into. A tribute to Maricon, the xerox empress) like the plague. The next time someone flash you a candidate material, think twice. Inspect the materials carefully and determine if you truly need it, or whether you will be able to read it. Photocopied materials give us a false sense of security. We justify this photocopying spree saying that you need the option of being able to read it if your time permits it. The danger lies in the fact that if we have too many materials at hand, it might overwhelm us and reduce us into a state of helplessness. It also make us lose our focus. Added to this, is the sense of inadequacy if we failed to finish our ambitious reading list.

· Rumors are just rumors. In the duration of the bar review (even after), be wary of the rumors that would spread. One example is that you will hear that this person is the examiner, so the next step you will take is to ask if he has written a book so that you can buy it. We have this standing theory that the one responsible for spreading these rumors are the book publishers who wants to increase their book sales. Don’t believe these rumors! Be aware of the fact that you are extremely vulnerable as a reviewee. Withhold belief even when the person tells you that the information comes from a “very reliable source.” With respect to knowing who the examiner is, don’t preoccupy yourself with it. As a co-examinee bluntly puts it, in spite of the fact that we know our law professors, we still could not predict the questions that they ask during finals. This is the same case with the bar examiners.

· Hot tips are not hot, even if they are stamped confidential. Tips are overrated and you should take it with a grain of salt. It caters to a reviewee’s psychological need, a placebo. Even if you did not receive any hot tips, don’t despair. You can do good without it, maybe do even better.

IV. RECOMMENDATIONS

· Should you enroll in the bar review classes? Well this is open to debate. I enrolled in the bar review classes because my philosophy then was never to shortchange my review. I told myself that six thousand pesos might spell the difference between passing and failing. Enrolling would preclude me from blaming myself, in the unfortunate event that I fail, thinking that I would have passed if only I enrolled myself. However, I was disappointed with the way review classes were conducted. The lectures could be boring and slow at times. Listening is a skill, it drains too much energy and takes too much of your time. Sometimes, you will be deluded into believing that your understanding mirrors that of the lecturer. Your option would be to just borrow the materials from a co-reviewee and have it photocopied. Take time to sift through the materials and segregate the materials you think might be useful.

· Should you billet yourself in a hotel? I talked to my classmates who did not stay in hotel and they said that they were more relaxed. If you decide to stay home, think of these two things:

a. how to receive the tips (if you still think it is indispensable) b. how to get to the examination area on time (6 am ideal)

If you decide to stay in a hotel, I suggest that you don’t share a room, to minimize movements and distractions.

· Study in the student lounge. Personally, I think my stay there has helped me pass the bar. The daily interaction with fellow reviewees, the jokes, small talks and power naps form part of the student lounge experience. It has definitely kept my head above water in those grueling five months. There, we found humor in our collective misery.

· Exercise. It is normal to gain weight during the bar review. We reviewees use eating as a mechanism to deal with tremendous stress. I eat five full meals during the bar, excluding merienda, because I used eating as an excuse not to study. Don’t worry, you will shed the unwanted fats after the bar review (I did say my advice is not foolproof right?) To deal with this, some co-reviewees enrollled in gym classes. Others simply jog around the academic oval. Exercise improves blood and oxygen circulation, even when it only means a walk to the vendo machine.

· In the duration of the review, pamper yourself once in a while. This is part of stress management, to combat the possibility of burnout.

V. IMPORTANT REMINDERS

· During the night before the exam, try to get a good night rest. Bubble bath. Drink a warm chocolate. · Ask someone (your bar buddy) to prepare your food. Grab a sliced Subway so that you can eat and read in the afternoon within La Salle.

· Be sure to bring all the papers (exam permits, I.D). It is suggested that you buy a transparent envelope and hang it in your neck (with a fancy ID holder) so that you won’t lose these important documents. This is simple but this would be very helpful, as it would reduce unnecessary stress.

· Bring a jacket or umbrella.

· Do not bring your celphones inside La Salle and avoid the hassle of depositing it.

· Go to La Salle early to avoid the madness in the hotel lobby. Know in advance which gate you would have to go to.

· Choose the materials you think you have to read in the interim before the exam. Bring only these materials, lest you want to subject yourself to a panic attack. Remember, you need to relax yourself.

· Never leave your blue book, switching is not a remote possibility

· Bring mineral water, sweets/chocolates as brain boosters during the exam.

VI. DURING THE BAR EXAM

The thirty minutes before the exam after the proctor told us to bring our things in front was really nerve-wracking. Imagine staring blankly at your co-examinees and whispering to yourself that the minutes could have been productively used reading codal provisions.

· After the distribution of the exam questionnaire, scan the questions. Compute the number of questions and allocate your time accordingly. Remember that it is okay if you feel you don’t know the answer. This is the so-called information rush. Breathe and allow things to settle down.

· In answering bar questions, take a deep solid breath and process the question. Be responsive and try to answer clearly and directly. Cite legal provisions or case law to support your arguments. If you don’t know the exact provision, cite a provision that you think comes close. It is rare that you know all the answers to the questions, don’t fret. In the event that you don’t know the answer, guess, but support it with legal arguments or case law. Use good English to mask your ignorance. My experience with the bar is that even if I know the answer, I had difficulty answering because I wanted to craft and formulate my answer in the best possible way. Be conscious of time, make sure to start writing, never mind if it is not as grand as you initially wanted it to be.

· Skip questions you are not sure of the answers. Just be sure to get back to it. Review your answers, make sure you answered all the questions sequentially.

VII. AFTER THE BAR EXAM

· Learn how to compartmentalize. Even if you didn’t do well in one exam, don’t despair. Don’t let the bad feeling affect your performance in the next exam, otherwise it will not only be one subject you will have to worry about. I avoided discussion of answers with fellow reviewees. It is cathartic for some but it is depressing for most. I personally believe that the exercise is very counter-productive. It only depresses us more to know that our classmates were able to eloquently answer the questions we thought was difficult. Often, our co-reviewee approached the legal problem from a different angle and we tend to blame ourselves for failing to see it the way he did.

· Be contented with your answers. You have already submitted your bluebook have already done everything from your end. It is already up to the examiner to appreciate your answers. It is futile to feel sorry. Sure you could have answered better but it is sad that it always seems to dawn only after you submitted the booklet. Remember that given the limited time we had, we may have failed to give our best and most rational answer. The ratio of last clear chance comes to mind.

· Sweet Surrender. Pray and trust in the Lord Almighty. As a friend puts it, the bar is a humbling experience. It is impossible to control all the factors that would guarantee our passing the bar. Undergoing the bar experience makes us more keenly aware of our limitations as human beings. Within the limited time we have, we can only study and prepare so much. I believe that there is more to the bar than the bar questions we need to answer. The real exam is surviving the four Sundays without cracking from the tremendous pressure the whole exercise brings. In the course of writing this article, I may have committed some mistakes, grammatical or otherwise – my apologies. For whatever this article might lack in logic and coherence, is made up for with a genuine and sincere desire to help you hurdle and pass the bar.

Goodluck to all of you!

========

Taken from Pinoylaw.com Message Board.

http://p082.ezboard.com/bpinoylaw74510.showUserMgr?language=EN

10 Responses to “Practical Suggestions on How to Pass the Bar”

  1. der delgado Says:

    Thanks in advance, i’m just taking my first year in law school. Your wisdom regarding the bar will generate more passer in the years to come. I will not regret to include your best advice, but i’m definitely convince that whoeverer read your article will definitely passed the bar.

    Thank you for the wisdom that you impart, just keep on doing good things .

    Derdell

  2. der delgado Says:

    Thanks in advance, i’m just taking my first year in law school. Your wisdom regarding the bar will generate more passer in the years to come. I will not regret to include your best advice, but i’m definitely convince that whoever read your article will definitely passed the bar.

    Thank you for the wisdom that you impart, just keep on doing good things .

    Derdell

  3. Don Kishote Says:

    TO DERDELL:

    The honor goes to Atty John Virgino, the author….

  4. hope ermita Says:

    does a good university matters a lot? or does it depends on how a law student handle it well?

  5. Don Kishote Says:

    May kasabihan among Law students:

    “Wala yan sa pana, nasa Indian…”

    roughly translated, it is not with the school, it is with the student.

    There are plenty of Bar topnotchers who came from provincial schools.

  6. hope ermita Says:

    does it really require to memorize the different art. or sections? or much better if you’ll read it thoroughly to understand? im an upcoming law student in university of perpetual help-las pinas, where in fact i was able to fulfill the entrance exam in san beda.

  7. Don Kishote Says:

    of course… you need to memorize and understand.

    citing the correct articles for jurisprudential reference is important

    anyways, your ‘questions’ will be answered by June. when your first recitation is up.

  8. Jake Lla Says:

    Just to let you know, John Virgino graduated from UP Law and is practicing energy law, specifically, power law. He has an LL.M. from American University in Washington, DC, and was a Fulbright scholar in 2003-2004.

    1. John Virgino Says:

      Thanks Jake

  9. Don Kishote Says:

    congratulations…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s