Today, we interview the Author of the #1 Amazon Best-Seller Kris Rivenburgh The Bar Exam is Easy. He shares his tips, strategies, and advice for making the bar exam easier than you probably thought possible.
You can also Email him at Kris@TheBarIsEasy, on Facebook, or Twitter.
Here is a full transcript of this interview:
Intro: You’re listening to the IPassedMyBarExam.com podcast. Helping you pass your bar exam with ease and confidence, episode number 15: How To Make Your Bar Exam Easier.
Dustin: Greeting, future bar exam passer! My name is Dustin Saiidi, founder of IPassedMyBarExam.com, and creator of the Bar Exam Mental Edge. Today we have another special guest coming on to the show, his name is Kris Rivenburgh, and he took the Texas bar exam, he failed it the first 2 times and passed on the third time. Since he has passed his bar, he has decided to write a book on his journey through the bar exam. The book is called The Bar Exam Is Easy and you can get it on Amazon, it is a #1 bestseller with a bunch of five star reviews. So let’s go straight into the call today to find out how you can make your bar exam easier.
Alright, welcome! We are here today with Kris Rivenburgh from TheBarIsEasy.com, who’s going to come on the podcast today to tell us why the bar exam is easy and how you can make the bar exam easier than you think.
Hey Kris, how are you doing?
Kris: I’m fantastic, Dustin. It’s great to be here.
Dustin: It’s great to have you on. If you want to start today by telling the listeners a little bit about you and how you came to be helping people in the bar exam space, and how you came about to write your book and what your kind of journey with the bar exam was.
Kris: Well, the bar exam hit me like it does with a lot of law students, it just comes to you all at once when you’re about to finish. And I only heard the myths and the other legends about it and how hard it was, that’s all I knew about it. So having heard that, I was looking for the best answer and everybody seemed to be defaulting to taking a bar review course. And I questioned it for a second but seeing as how you’re just up against the wall and you just need to pass the bar exam, and that seems like the best thing to do.
So I end up taking the bar review course. I actually failed the bar exam twice, and I took a bar review course both of those times. And then the third time, I decided that I was just going to do it on my own. I didn’t need the bar review course anymore because I’ve actually taken the test and I’ve actually seen what the test look like. And once you have that experience you gel stuff together, you piece together, and it’s really not all that complicated. So when I saw that, I was just like, “Well you know, I got my study plan, this is all I really need to do. It’s not this all other stuff that they’re telling me.” and passed it easily. And so then I was just like, “This information should be out there.” and so I decided to write my book.
Dustin: That’s awesome! And just so the listeners are clear, you took the Texas bar. Is that correct?
Kris: I took the Texas bar exam, yes.
Dustin: What did you go through then, when you took the bar exam those first two times with the bar prep program and then you said you know, the third time you realized kind of what you can eliminate. What did you eliminate from your bar prep?
Kris: I eliminated, I think it’s just easier to say what I kept. You know, all I kept was the essay book, the MBE book, and the MPT book, and Texas actually has a Procedure in Evidence Section that most other states don’t have. So I kept those books and basically it was just keeping practiced questions and model answers, and that’s all it was. And all the other stuff, I didn’t use anything else like apps, video lectures, outlines, flash cards, all of the other stuff. And I understand some of that may help other people in the way that they learn, but for me none of that did any good.
Dustin: I see. And do you feel that way because you’d taken it already or do you feel like a first time taker, they don’t need the videos, and the outlines and those stuff as well? They can just kind of boil it down to a few specifics?
Kris: No. I definitely, I wish I could have done that the first time because it saves so much time and it’s so much easier because you’re not – when you have all these different media and different stuff to study from, it’s a distraction and it takes away from your focus. And the focus should just be on the questions and so I would definitely – and if I would have done that in the first time it would have been so much more time saved. So much more free time to just relax and go have fun which you need to do. Everything would have been so much more efficient, so I definitely would recommend that right off the bat.
Dustin: That’s awesome. So can you tell the listeners, I guess a little bit about what you’re doing before hand? And then, specifically day-to-day, what did you find was the best path to study? Like, day-to-day what were you doing, and about how many hours were you spending doing that?
Kris: Okay. Well before hand when I was doing the bar review course, I’d go to the bar review course and I would sit through the video lecture and there would be, typically you have whatever subject and it’s like 2-3-4 maybe even 5 hours, it might be spread over 2 days. You go through that. You sit through that and then they tell you “Go ahead and do the practice questions.” It’s basically what a bar review course boils down to.
What I did in the third time I took it, when i passed, all I did was I set-up a desk. I bought a desk at Cost Co., it was just a $20 desk and a chair. And I just plop them right in my apartment kitchen, and studied from there. And the reason it was on the kitchen is because it had the best lighting. And that’s all I needed to do. I didn’t even study but for a few hours a day. It wasn’t like, I had some torrid pace. And the Texas bar exam passing is 67.5, and I can’t remember the exact number now but I think a 70.7 or something like that.
Dustin: Okay. So you’re just literally doing the questions day-in and day-out, not studying anything else?
Kris: Not studying anything else. I was looking at the question, for example, let’s go MBE – I would take 8 questions from each subject. Go through say, 8 questions of torts, review each answer, mark how many I got right, and then I would move on to the next subject. And that’s how I was doing, and basically the same with the essays. And you know, for most bar exam that’s like 80% of what you’re going to need so that was the most important things. But other than that, the same concept applied. For example, in Texas Procedure and Evidence, same exact drill just go in to the past questions.
Dustin: Nice! And let me just say, on the record too, I completely agree with that approach as well. And I think that’s the key to not only doing better but also saving the time and the stress by just focusing on exactly what it is you’re going to be tested on, and not spend as much time on the memorizing rules and lectures and all that other stuff.
Kris: That seems to be the consensus especially when, I mean, I’ve looked around the internet just seeing what people are saying. A lot of people like yourself, who have passed, are saying that that is the best way to do it.
Dustin: Now, about how many hours a day where you studying using this new approach that helped you pass?
Kris: I’m going to say 3 to 5, and that’s what I recommend in my book. Actually it really varies. I think you got a lot of flexibility when you study for the bar exam and it does depend on what exam you’re taking. I think for someone like yourself who’s passed the California, or the New York, maybe you up it a little bit because we all know that some states are just more difficult than others. But it’s the same formula, and so you just might want to adjust on the variable of the state. But 2 to 5 hours it just – you know, I allowed myself a lot of flexibility, and I wasn’t going to worry about it. I was just going to do my best and not, you know, you don’t want to go the point where you’re going insane from studying 10 to 12 hours a day.
Dustin: How may hours were you studying before when you were using the bar prep programs and going through all the lectures?
Kris: By the time I got done through the lecture and then the practiced on top of that, it was probably in the area of 8 hours a day. But the caveat to that would be that, my hours weren’t as concentrated, they were broken up. You know, I was with other people – my friends, studying for the bar exam. Not directly engaged at all times, you know sometimes you’re going to go work out or going to the gym, and it’s not all study time. So I would say, I was at the desk probably at least 7 hours. But then again, there’s different things that are distracting you or taking up your time. So it wasn’t as concentrated as I would just sat down in my apartment and do it.
Dustin: Nice! So it’s kind of an oxymoron. You actually spent maybe 3-6 hours less per day, and you ended doing better on the bar.
Kris: Yeah. I mean, because that’s the whole thing once you get down to it. The thing about the bar review courses is that, they’re sending you after they get you done with the video, they’re like “Okay, go practice.” Like, you need to go practice. And they recommend it too. They don’t recommend against it, they just need to justify themselves and legitimize themselves, so they have to put in other things to show you, “Hey, here’s how we’re providing the value.”
Dustin: Yeah, yeah. I love it, that’s a great insight.
You talked a little bit about doing other things and having fun as well, so you spend some of those other hours, what did you do in terms of fun and relaxation?
Kris: Well, I think the main thing I did was I worked out a lot, and that was extremely helpful. I always, I mean, that’s always something you want to do. But you just can’t – a lot of people get so worked-out about the bar exam, and you really can’t. It doesn’t do you any good to psyche yourself out or make it the biggest thing ever. And it’s not, but a lot of people do that, and what I did was I just went out my own pace. I worked out, I went to the movies, I would hang out with friends, and I kept everything else, but I just made sure that I kept a workman-like approach to the bar exam. And now, I understand that everyone can’t do that. Some people have families, other jobs, and all that other stuff. But you still want to make sure you have a re-creation and exercise. I think exercise is very very important. You’re mentally thinking so much clearer when you have exercise.
Dustin: That’s awesome! I completely agree to both of those. Exercise, scientifically, has shown to not only provide more clarity in thinking but also to relive a lot of the stress. And then doing fun activities, I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but when you disconnect from the bar and get outside the world it gives you the energy to come back in and attack the bar exam prep as well.
Kris: Yeah, I think what you just described would be, what I call brain re-set. You have to allow yourself to re-set because if you don’t you’re not going to absorb the information as well and it’s inefficient studying anyway, so you’re wasting your time that way. So the people that try to go out and do the 10 hour days or even more, they’re just hurting themselves because it’s totally unnecessary.
Dustin: What are some other ways that you recommend for stress management and also brain re-set,what are some other suggestions?
Kris: Well, one important thing is I think you have to not talk to people about the bar exam. I noticed, especially the people who are studying on campus with the bar review courses, and then otherwise they’re talking to their friends a bout it. And that’s a huge problem because you’re directing your energy towards it but nothing is happening as far as getting your results. You’re just talking amongst yourselves about it, worrying about it, hearing how good people are doing on the MBE or how bad they’re doing, and I just saw people drive themselves up the wall with that and it was ridiculous.
I really don’t recommend you talk to anybody about the bar exam, even your fellow law student friends, or whatever. Just talk about something else because the time you spend on it needs to be reserved for just that, time you spend on it. Otherwise, I would leave it alone. And so that helps reset because you’re not constantly going over it. If you do have questions or you need some support, then you should contact an independent source for that. For example, I talked to a lot of people just through email or they can even call me and I’ll talk to them about the bar exam if they have any questions. So if you have questions like that then go to a source but otherwise, I would stick away from people.
I would also say eat very very healthy, that goes right along with exercise but it helps so much with your mental clarity and you can think clear. Obviously, you want to get a lot of sleep. I think you don’t want to deprive yourself at all. Basically you want to indulge yourself, make yourself as healthy as possible and it’s going to make things so much easier.
Dustin: Awesome! That’s absolutely a fantastic advice and not only for the bar exam but when people become attorneys as well. I think that’s a great advice.
Kris: Yeah, I think so. And I think a lot of people just loose sight of that, you know it’s like work, work, work, work, work. And that’s absolutely wrong. You have to take care of yourself first and work comes second.
Dustin: How about multi-tasking? I know of people like to do multi-tasking and there’s been a scientific research that shows it’s not effective at all. What are your thoughts on multi-taking?
Kris: Yeah, I would completely eliminate that. You know, people not only multi-task and they would try to do other things, like they’ve got a lot of projects going on besides the bar it could be any number of things. On multi-tasking, specifically during the bar exam, you have to eliminate it. It’s not going to help you. You need to concentrate on one thing and then keep at it until you finish. So for example, a lot of time when you might have an MBE book open and an essay book open, you’re kind of flipping of back and forth, you can’t do that. And you have to just – if you do it, if you start on MBE you have to do, I think I recommend that you do at least 15 minutes before you stop. And I did that sometimes too, just because I like to mix it up and I have my brain kind of jumps from place to place. But you want to stick with something for at least 15 minutes to make sure you’re not just wasting time or trying to create an air of studying when you are not actually studying.
And then as far as when, you know, I get a lot of questions about people asking “I have a kid.” or “I have a job.” or “I have a both.” or “I have a disability.” And I hear all these stories and these people have a lot going on, and what I always emphasize to them is that, you have to make the bar exam a priority and work around it. You can’t just allow a bunch of excuses to surround yourself and then get lost in them. You have to clear out space for the bar exam and then everything else will work itself out from there. But just a lot of people ask me about that and I wanted to cover it.
Dustin: What about, you said you went through failing the bar exam twice, right? How did you kind of deal with that mentally and emotionally because some people, they’ll go through that failure and question themselves, “Is this the right thing for me?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “Can I mentally go up and get the energy to do this again?” How did you deal with that, maybe the first time and the second time, and getting through it?
Kris: Well, I completely took another view of it than everyone else. I just saw it as an extra vacation. It’s not that I wanted to fail, I just was like, “Okay well, I failed. So that’s what it is, not a big deal. I’ll go out and pass.” You know, when people ask me “What are you going to do now?” “Well, I’m just going to take it again, and I’m going to pass it this time.” So it was never a big deal to me. I understand why people put a lot of weight on it. They need to move forward with their life. They need to go get a job, whatever. But I just never let it bother me too much because there’s really no point in doing that.
There’s people crying, and people are embarrassed. And there’s no reason to be embarrassed about it, it’s the bar exam. About 70% people will pass and 30% won’t, or whatever it is. Sometimes people don’t pass, it’s okay. There’s nothing embarrassing about failing a bar exam, and that’s what I sensed about a lot of people. A lot of people have a lot of shame about it, they wouldn’t want to show up on facebook or they wouldn’t want to congratulate they’re friends or they’re friends don’t know what to say to them. It’s not really a big deal, especially when you look at it in the grand scheme of things. You’re going to pass okay, if you really put your best foot forward and you give it a good faith effort. If you got through law school then can get through the bar exam. So if you failed 1 time or 2 times, you can pass. I just never saw it as a big deal and I think people get way too worked-up about it because they’re just looking for something to get worked-up about. And even if you do make it out to be the biggest things in the world, so what? I mean, it doesn’t do you any good to worry about it so worrying or feeling bad about yourself or creating a cloud of negativity that doesn’t help anything.
Dustin: That’s great! Great perspective. Failure is not a “No”, it’s a “Not right now” and just an opportunity to learn and grow from it, I think. That’s fantastic. What about, do you have anymore tactical steps that you recommend to make the bar exam easy? I know you obviously hit the big one which is, just focusing on the practices and also controlling your mindset and your energy through exercise. Do you have any more like, specific tactical steps, maybe how you handled the essays or the MBE or whatever else?
Kris: Well I think one thing that I wanted to cover was that I like the idea of approaching it. First, you develop a game plan tailored to you state’s bar exam, and so that’s very very important because you want to set the foundation to be strong. So I would go and look on the state bar exam official website and I would look at the past exams, and i would also look at any updates and make sure you have all the information. And I think that’s why a lot of people like the bar review courses because they provide security of like, “Okay, they’re going to tell me everything I need to know.” Well, if you go look for yourself you’re going to have everything you need to know, so I’d start right there build a solid foundation.
And then when I studied, I would study in an ascending time increments rather than descending. What I mean by that is, a lot of people like to say, “Okay, I’m going to go crazy. I’m going to start studying 3 months out. And the first month I’m going to study 10 hours a day, or whatever.” Well, the problem with that is you’re not sending yourself to peak during the bar exam, and I recommend that you set yourself up to peak at that, right about when you are about to take it. So, starting smaller and then just growing as your brain becomes accustomed to the number of questions you do. And it does take some adjusting so you can’t just go from not studying at all for the bar exam to hitting 150 MBE questions a day, or whatever it is. You have to just grow to it. So that’s one thing I would do.
On essays, I would reverse-engineer the model answers. And by that I mean, if you look at the model answers for your states questions, you will see how to answer in the format they want whether it be CRAC, IRAC, whatever it is. That’s all I did, is I just looked and I was like, “Okay, I can see exactly what they want. I don’t need anybody to tell me what they want. I can see, it’s right here in front of my face.” So that’s another tip for essays.
For MBE, I never looked once for any secrets or tricks, and I know they’re out there, and I’m sure some of them are okay but the MBE is really about repetition. The one thing that I want people to know about the MBE is that, if you look at the questions over and over again, there’s only so many ways they can test so many different things. So they can only – even if they want to be creative as they can, they still come back to the same testing, the same analysis, the same questions. It always comes back. If you do enough MBE questions, you’ll see them repeated basically almost word for word. And they’ll be threaded in the questions almost word for word, you’ll be like “Wow, I’ve already seen that!” Same thing happened to me with the essays. There was actually 1 or 2 when I was taking the different Texas bars, that were exactly the same, like not even re-worded.
So, and that’s another advantage of just going through the past questions, is you’ll actually get free points on the bar exam. Now you do have to look closely at the MBE because they’ll try to trip you up on that. You’re not going to get the exact same MBE question but it will be that same kind of concept, it will be just like a different twist.
Dustin: Nice, awesome! The bar exam graders love to rinse and repeat, is how I say it.
Kris: Yeah, they definitely do!
Dustin: That’s great! And other tips for making the bar exam easier?
Kris: I would say, “Know that it’s not that hard.” Know that it’s really actually easy if you just study the right way. You’ve got to get the right MBE study materials, that’s absolutely crucial. If you look on my blog, I have the MBE study materials I either study from or that I read extensively on and recommend. So you have to get the right study materials. I don’t know this to be a fact but I’ve heard repeatedly that BarBri is too easy of MBE questions, and by that I mean they’re not bar exam level difficulty questions. So you need to get exposure to bar exam level difficulty questions, that’s very very very important. Other than that, i think we’ve covered everything.
Dustin: Nice! So Kris is the author of The Bar Is Easy you can find them at TheBarIsEasy.com. Can they also email you at firstname.lastname@example.org?
Kris: Yes, they can.
Dustin: And he’s also authored his book, you’re book by the way, is a #1 bestseller. It’s pretty much got all 5 start reviews on Amazon as well, is that right?
Kris: Yes. I’m very happy that I’ve been able to help people and that I’m getting such a positive feedback. It’s really nice to see that it’s making a difference for people.
Dustin: That’s awesome! Yeah, it’s great to see people like you coming out there and helping others with their bar exam and with that journey that they’re going through.
Kris: And Dustin I just want to add one more thing, I just thought of something. I don’t want to, I think there are some bar review courses out there that can provide a good value, But it’s just – I think they need to skip out on a lot of the fluff, lower their price. And once they do that, the bar review materials that they provide are often excellent, so if they can just lower that price and getting it down to where they kind of streamline the information along with giving you the excellent study materials, all in one package then that would be something better than a lot of the bar review courses offered now.
Dustin: Yeah, it kind of sounds like what you are talking about now is BarMax.
Kris: Oh really?
Dustin: Maybe. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them.
Kris: I’m not. I’m not familiar with them.
Dustin: I don’t know actually if they’re in Texas but I know they’re in California and New York. They have a significantly lower price than like BarBri or Kaplan, and everything is very very streamlined with them.
Kris: See, that sounds like they’re actually getting to the point and being efficient which is what we’re all after.
Dustin: Right, that definitely helps in the end. Cool! Well, thanks Kris so much for coming on to the podcast today.
Kris: Well, Dustin thank you very much for the invite.
Dustin: And I’ll have some links to your blog and to your book as well on my website so the listeners can check that out.
Kris: Alright Dustin, thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Dustin: Alright! Thanks Kris, take care.
Alright and there you go, some practical tips from Kris Rivenburgh on how you can make your bar exam easier. So right now go ahead and head on over to IPassedMyBarExam.com/Easy and it will take you to Kris and his site where you can get his book. Also, if you’re listening to this on a podcast network, I would greatly appreciate you giving it a 5 star review and subscribing so you can be notified of future podcast episodes automatically.
Thanks so much and until next time! Go out there, go do well this week, and always remember that your name appears on the pass list.