After passing both the CA and FL bar exams in the past few years I can compare the two notoriously difficult exams and say that although CA requires a higher overall score to pass, the FL bar exam is actually the more difficult of the two. The main reason for this is that 25% of the Florida Bar Exam comes down to the FL multiple choice section, which has long been overlooked by bar prep companies and test takers alike. The Florida multiple choice section is brutal because it's Florida specific law and unlike essays there is no room for elaboration or partial credit. In Feb 2023 the Florida Bar had a 38% passage rate for all takers, a 25% passage rate for retakers, and my alma mater the Univeristy of Miami had under a 50% passage rate for first time takers.
Yes this is indicative of a problem rooted in corporate greed behind the institution of education, but solving that problem won't help people who need to pass this exam on their next attempt. I don't think it's appropriate to have such poor passing rates for a professional licensing exam to practice law; and I could precisely attach responsibility to multiple sources including the law schools, the commercial bar prep programs, and the exam writers - however, I choose to focus my attention on accepting the reality of the difficulty of the exam and mastering the art of passing it as it stands and helping students.
For July 2023 the format of the test has been altered so Commercial Paper, Secured Transactions, and Trusts will be tested, if at all, as multiple choice subjects instead of essay subjects. I feel like this is a fair move to shift the weight of the subjects on Part A from essays to multiple choice so it is more evenly divided, but I personally loved those three subjects as essay subjects and am sad to see them go. Nonetheless, the overall approach to studying Part A remains the same.
I believe the most important part of any bar exam is the essay section because there is the most room for excellence, meaning two or three great essays can carry a student to a passing score even if they are average or a bit below average elsewhere. Ultimately, there is a three step process that includes memorization of testable points, issue spotting all previous essays, and either writing or deeply reading and meditating upon every essay prompt given over at least the past ten years. If this does not sound like your cup of tea - trust me - practicing law is even less fun. This is not about doing what you want this is about preparing for war. Mastering the previous essays by learning to emulate the model answers is a non-negotiable to passing this test. That process involves memorizing the key points of law for each subject, practicing issue spotting on real prompts, and writing as many essays as possible under timed conditions and comparing them to model answers.
I have created blank questionnaires (and included sample answers) that serve as memorization banks for every essay subject. I have also gone through and outlined most model answers by teasing out all of the rules of law that scored rubric points. I highly recommend that every student memorizes each one of my FL questionnaires as the first step in becoming a master of essays.
The second step is to practice issue spotting by reading the prompts and identifying as many issues as possible and then comparing them to the model answers to see if any issues were missed. Issue spotting is fun and doesn't take long because there is no writing requirement. The goal is not only to get better at spotting issues, but to get quicker at it.
The third step in mastering essays is the one most people take for granted. People spend a lot of time memorizing the law, a little bit of time issue spotting, and barely any time actually writing practice essays. It is imperative to practice writing essays under timed conditions to train yourself to perform at your absolute peak on test day. The biggest isssue most students have is they run out of time. Address this by adhering to a strict one hour timer for each practice essay. Adjust this time as necessary if you have accommodations.
I have a formula for writing essays that I can teach in tutoring sessions or over the course of my classes. I can boil it down here to 1. reading the call of the question and structuring your essay to directly answer the questions asked, 2. issue spotting as if you got an award for spotting the most issues, 3. prioritizing your issues based on the call of the question, 4. writing IRACs for each issue and making sure to argue both sides vigorously, 5. arriving at weak conclusions (a court would likely find), and 6. using as many buzz words as possible while writing in a concise manner that demonstrates your mastery of relevant material and its application to the facts.
When it comes to multiple choice for both the MBE and Florida my process is militant. Study the material and then do as many simulated practice questions as possible. When doing questions, take note of the questions you get wrong. Each time you get a question wrong write down the reasoning in a journal or online document. Over time you should develop documents for each subject that are composed of bullet point explanations to questions you got wrong. Study these "cram guides" to reinforce the learning process and help you turn wrong answers into right answers and weaknesses into strengths.
The best part about studying for multiple choice questions is that it is measurable. I recommend doing at least 2000 MBE questions but I would strive for 4000. The goal is that in the weeks leading up to the test you are scoring 75% or higher in every subject. It's ok to memorize answers but recognize that this is why your score may be much higher in practice than on test day. For this reason and also considering test day fatigue and anxiety, I encourage students to strive to perform at a much higher level than is necessary to pass on test day. I train my students to score in the 150s, knowing very well that their score could be 10-15 points lower on test day.
Florida multiple choice is very hard and is apparently getting harder with the new sections. The same approach applies in terms of studying the material, doing practice questions, and documenting incorrect answers to create self study guides. Unlike other companies we have tons of materials focused specifically on Florida multiple choice. We have created 400 brand new questions, answers, and explanations for the July 2023 exam including the new subjects of Article III, Article IX, and Trusts. As always we are covering FL multiple choice in my crash course and every tutor at Ibis Prep understands how important the multiple choice section is.
If you're like me and like to skip long articles and get to the conclusion to get the juice: here it is. The Florida Bar Exam is a monster and in order to pass you need to go above and beyond and dig deeper than you ever have before. Focus on simulating exam conditions by doing timed practice essays and multiple choice questions. Thoroughly review your performance compared to correct or model answers and meditate on your results through the process of documentation and review. Set high goals for yourself and try to accomplish them including 75% on MBE questions and doing 2000+ FL multiple choice questions. My team at Ibis Prep is the most dedicated, down to earth, and supportive team in regards to the Florida Bar Exam especially, but not exclusively. We tutor for every subject under the sun and believe that students should over prepare and over perform, they should study by leaving no stone unturned, and they should never give up on achieving their dreams. Good luck to anyone sitting for the FL Bar Exam, and do not hesitate to reach out to us for any reason at all. -Andrew