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“The bar is a high stakes examination and students realize this is so critical for their future success,” explained Mary Jane McGinty, Director of Bar Exam Preparation at Cleveland-Marshall. “As such we are constantly reviewing and evaluating our plan and programming to make sure our students are as prepared as they possibly can be to pass the exam.”
Bar exams vary slightly from state-to-state. The Ohio Bar Examination is a three-day test given every February and July and consists of three parts: 200 Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) multiple-choice questions covering Constitutional Law, Contracts/Sales, Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts, 12 one-half hour essay questions covering the MBE subjects (see above), Business Associations (Corporations, Agency, and Partnership), Civil Procedure, Commercial Transactions (Commercial Law and Secured Transactions), Legal Ethics, Personal Property and Wills (Estates and Trusts), and two 90-minute Multistate Performance Tests (MPT) consisting of a writing assignment based upon a closed-universe of materials.
Preparation for the exam starts as soon as a student begins as a 1L, as information essential for the bar exam is integrated in classes throughout the span of law school coursework. C|M|LAW additionally offers a specialized course titled “Ohio Bar Exam Strategies and Tactics” (OBEST), to be taken the semester prior to sitting for the bar exam. OBEST reviews law covered on the bar and familiarizes students with the style of testing on the exam. The class is viewed as a critical component to bar exam preparation as 2008 analysis showed students who took the class passed the bar exam at an eight percent higher clip (88%-80%) than those who do not take the course.
“Our faculty members understand what they can do to help students prepare for this exam with the type coursework, testing and feedback they use,” said McGinty. “Students always come back and say OBEST has been very helpful to them. The course mirrors what the bar is like and at the time it seems like a lot. But when we’re in the parking lot in Columbus (site of the Ohio Bar Examination), they say ‘thank you for doing this [OBEST course], because this really prepared us’.”
The OBEST course is not a substitute for a traditional bar review course. Commercial bar review courses are common among students for bar preparation but often cost upwards of $3,000. C|M|LAW recognized the challenge this was posing students and acted in 2012 as the school negotiated an agreement with BARBRI, a nationally-known provider of bar exam preparation courses, under which BARBRI will be the exclusive provider of bar preparation courses for C|M|LAW students. BARBRI’s complete bar review course will be provided by C|M|LAW to all incoming first-year law students at no additional cost to the student, eliminating a huge financial burden.
“The BARBRI partnership is about more than simply providing a bar review course.” said C|M|LAW Dean Craig M. Boise. “BARBRI is on the cutting edge of education science and will be working closely with us to provide some supplemental materials and workshops for our students, as well access to their sophisticated online learning tools in the area of bar exam preparation.”
Many students feel what really sets C|M|LAW bar preparation apart is the personal attention each student receives. In the weeks leading up to the bar exam, a six-week MPT Workshop is offered where students are given sample MPT essay questions and receive individual feedback on their responses. Faculty members also offer a bar presentation series. During these one hour meetings leading up to the bar exam, faculty give presentations in their areas of expertise covered by the bar exam. Students who have attended these sessions have praised the faculty for their help in clarifying difficult issues and answering last minute questions.
The individual interaction does not stop there as students are also assigned to a faculty member who contacts them leading up to the bar exam to help them with any questions or issues about the test and offer often times much needed words of encouragement.
“Students find it very helpful to have somebody from Cleveland-Marshall on their side and available to them for any last minute needs,” said McGinty.
C|M|LAW’s preparation goes far beyond simply instilling students with the knowledge to succeed come the bar exam. The school focuses on preparing students for the entire experience surrounding the three-day test taking event. That includes preparing for test specifics such as wording used in the test as well as planning items such as food and lodging. C|M|LAW also brings in a sport psychologist who specializes in helping athletes, performers and other professions that face high-stress work and situations that demand training towards a peak performance. This expert speaks in the classroom and is also available to meet with students who need advice on an individual basis.
“We do work on all areas of preparation, including planning the logistics and dealing with the mental aspect, including stress management,” explained McGinty. “It is a one-time experience, so we talk to them specifically about the testing situation and what they can do to make it easy on themselves so they have everything they need and can focus on the task at hand.”
The school’s all-encompassing approach to bar planning is paying off. At the February 2012 Ohio Bar Examination, C|M|LAW led all Ohio law schools in bar passage rates for first time takers at 92%.