There are three main things that mattered for me (and may matter for you) as I studied for the exam a second time:
(1) How you studied in the past (i.e., Barbri, PMBR, Survival Series, etc).
(2) How much you’re able/willing to spend this time (Is a firm helping to pay? Can you get an affordable bar study loan? Can family help?), and
(3) How much time you'll have for studying now (Are you going to work full time then take a month/two weeks off? Work part time for 12 weeks with the last two weeks off? Not work at all?)
I took barbri and both PMBR courses my first time. I felt Barbri was a good choice (if for nothing other than the good study materials – most repeater courses also depend on you’re having the Barbri Mini-Review and left over MBE questions). I felt PMBR was most valuable for their materials (over 3000 MBE questions that are okay with variously helpful explanations). If you can get the PBMR materials from a friend/craigslist (now’s a good time to look, people sell out their materials right away) it is probably more helpful than the courses which just give you drawn out explanations of the questions and a timed testing situation.
My situation was pretty flexible, I began studying a couple weeks after failing and determined that I would be able to afford about $2500 in study expenses (I’d say this on the low end of the scale when it comes to repeat study costs in order to get significant additional instruction, but is certainly varies based on different situations—I had a lot of ground to make up). Counting down the weeks from 14 weeks before the exam, my plan was to work full time for weeks 14-11, part time (15-20 hours/week at work) from 10-4, and take weeks 2-0 off. This was a good amount of time for me because I started pretty early, but others will find their situation is very different.
I used several resources for my studies, I’ll list them below, but don’t limit yourself to this list, I’ll list others further below).
(a) The Survival Series by Jeff Adachi – This is an amazing set of materials, best bang for your buck by a long shot. The main two volumes are called “Bar Breakers” and train you on writing essays, just incredible stuff there. The other materials are for studying the subjects – the Survival Guide is a set of condensed outlines which are not perfect, but a really excellent summary to memorize. There are also flash cards which are almost identical to the Survival Guide text. I made my own flash cards as per the Essay Intensive suggestion – I found it worked very well, but for three subjects I ran out of time and knew they were less likely to appear on the exam (though one of them did). I think everyone should get the 2 volumes and the survival guide, but flash cards are a maybe. Bar Breakers ($100?) Survival Guide ($30) Flash Cards ($100) (approximately, search for them on Craigslist then get the updates form Jeff’s website for free, great stuff).
(b) The Bar Code – they offer a book (The Cheat Sheets, $139, great – can’t recommend enough!), a class that meets 4 times and you get 15 graded essays (also amazing if you’re working and can’t attend weekly or daily classes – this is what I took , amazing essay feedback and the courses are excellent on helping with hard subjects – cost is $1300), or tutors (tutors are a bit more expensive, but you get 60-70 essays graded with incredible feedback and tons of personal help – this is what I would have used if I had a little more time and substantially more money –$3500-4000).
(c) John Holtz – private tutor ($450 retainer is very reasonable, he’ll go over your essays with you and create a study plan which is reasonable, his feedback is great and he works over the phone/fax) and teaches a Performance Test course (also $450, complex method that worked GREAT on one PT this summer, and was harder to apply for the other PT – overall, it was worth it. Email me if you want a more detailed review of his class and his method). The Bar Code also offers a 2 day PT course that others seemed to respect and the price is the same, $450.
(d) Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) by Kimm Alayne Walton – absolutely the best MBE study guide – all the “tips” and suggestions that PMBR will give you but presented in a much more organized and transparent method. This was highly recommended by John Holtz and The Bar Code tutors/teachers. Absolute necessity for repeaters, should be used by first time takers too.
(e) Flash cards – I made my own based on a summary of the materials in the BarBri Mini-review and the Adachi Survival Guide. I really liked this method. The most important thing is to keep the “answer” side of the card to under 25 words – otherwise it’s more than you can memorize which is the whole point. SHORT ANSWERS! This is super important, Adachi and The Bar Code agreed on this, keep the answers short. If you think there has to be more on the issue, separate it out onto another card. The Adachi cards a too long usually, must your own with SHORT answers. This will be part of you studying for the first 12 weeks and it will be all of you memorization practice for the last two weeks. Memorizing at the end is very important, see the Adachi book for the reasoning here – this made a HUGE difference for me as the first time I spend the first 10 weeks memorizing, then the last two weeks practicing essays – totally backwards!
I thought this was a good combination of affordable and focused on my weaknesses (I needed to make up on my PT and Essay scores which apparently is common). Essay Intensive helped with my essays, Holtz’s course helped with PTs, and I studied by making the memorizing flashcards from the mini-review and Survival Guide.
Finally, you'll know more when you get your score back (i.e., priority for MPE or essays or PTs). I freaked out quite a bit afterwards and did far too much research about the different programs that were available, but focused on the Bay Area. First, you should consider what you can afford in terms of time and money, then focus on what areas you need to work on, and last which programs fit those requirements (mine is only one of many examples).
Random thoughts now, sorry, just passing by, email me for other ideas or check here later for feedback or updates to this.-----------old post repeated here for more options---------
Options, options, options. I've been researching which books, programs, tutors, and bullshit work the best and here's the general plan:
- Jeff Adachi's Bar Survival series - Bar Breakers I and II are the biggest parts, there are also flash cards (pretty good), a "Survival Guide" (has outlines which parallel the flashcards closely), and a book on the MBE's (which is supposed to be inferior to other MBE specific resources). ($100 off craigslist for all the above, ~$325 new)
- Strategies & Tactics for the MBEby Walton and Emanuel - recommended by many online and by John Holtz (see below). $56
Courses, seminars, tutors: (not all recommended, some just listed for convenience)
- John Holtz - PT and Essays, seminar and tutoring. 3 day course on the PT for $450 (reviews range from mixed to very positive, more on the positive end). Based in LA but teaches PT course in SF also. May be available to tutor for a similar price. Tutoring is over the phone and fax. Free study plan by email. You work off materials you already have or can get on the cheap (PMBR big books, Bar/bri stuff, the Walton book above, Bar Breakers, etc). I'll be using him personally, but below are some other options I researched.
- The Bar Code - $1200 for the "intensive" program, $3000 for the "complete program." Mixed reviews, some really like their materials, two of my friends recommended it. (I might use it with Holtz's program/help).
- Essay Advantage - Essays only, substantive review and essay feedback.
- $1500, taught by Jeff Adachi in SF, operated by Bar/bri. Supposed to be similar to the bar/bri experience but with sole focus on essays which get a bit more feedback than in the regular course (this apparently varies, but the same person has been grading them in SF for a while now and gives a respectable level of feedback).
- 12 classes, 6 graded essays. Classes during weekdays so incompatible with work.
- PT advantage - same as above, but for PT only, $450 for "alumni" of bar/bri.
- Emerson's tutorial bar review - Recommended by a friend of mine, but costs $4950.
- Barpassers - $2000, see chart, also recommended by a friend. Commonly used, slick presentation materials, on the affordable side but less personalized than most others.
- MicroMash - $900 for MBE's, $1600 for MBE's + State specific materials (for California at least). This is a computer program that is sold by Thompson-West. Supposed to be good help with MBE's. VERY similar to the Smart Study program Bar/bri students are familiar with.
- The Writing Edge - some people seem to like Vivian Dempsey, but her course is $5500, high even for a private tutor.
- CalBar Tutorial - many random recommendations, some negative though. Paul Pfau is behind this - some love him, some really hate him. Serious spite.
- Hugh Reed / passyourbar.com - good reviews out there, though few. Hugely expensive! Small classes for $4,400, private on-on-one tutoring for $14000 (and some options in between).
- Fleming’s - covers essays, performance exam, and MBE
- National Bar Review - private tutoring, they advertise heavily
- PASS - online course — covers essays and performance test
- Adaptibar - online MBE course.
- Bar Graders - private tutoring for essays
- Bar None Review - essays, MBE, performance exam
- Bar Perfect - private tutoring on essays, performance exam
- Shari Karney - too EXPENSIVE ($6,000 for limited help, $12,000 for the "platinum package" which I think includes hypnotherapy. Not a good choice in my opinion, few independent reviews. On the plus side, she includes her prices on the website (most other private tutors do not because it forces you to call and then they can personally sell you their brand of snake oil).
- There are others, post your recommendations, reviews, additions, or thoughts in the comments!