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What Went Right?: How I Passed the 2014 Philippine Bar Examinations

I am one of the 1,126 fortunate souls who successfully made it through one of the toughest Bar Examinations in history. Only 18.82% passed the 2014 Bar Exams. The only question that kept on going through my head was “why?”

I am not one of the most brilliant students that you would ever meet in law school. I am also not very studious. I am usually lax, doodling in my notes and with my head on the clouds during class hours. With some miracle and a lot of prayers, I managed to graduate last year from University of the East, took the bar and passed it altogether in my first attempt. Nonetheless, seeing my name on the list was a very bittersweet experience for me. After screaming and jumping for joy with my family and went back to the computer to check on my schoolmates’, co-workers’ and friends’ names on the list, I was devastated. To tell you the truth, within minutes after seeing the full list, I had an acid reflux, my head spun around and I want to vomit. The mixture of elation knowing that you passed and the feeling of sadness, desperation and hopelessness for your colleagues was a recipe for disaster in me. Then I felt the loneliness. It really is lonely at the top. The mere fact that I was originally examinee number 599 and later bar passer number 98 clearly demonstrates the massacre of the 2014 Bar Exam Results. And as I return back to reality the next day, I learned that for the 32 Bar Exam takers in our Office, only 6 of us passed it or 18.75% which mirrors the 18.82% passing rate.

So what went wrong? For weeks, I was figuring it out on my head. Then I recalled one concept I learned back in my college days: Murphy’s Law. Everything could go wrong in the bar preparations.  Worst, everything could go wrong on the night before the bar that would lead to disastrous results. Secondly, no success story in the bar is alike. My story could be a lot different from those people who said their success story in the bar from yours. Thus, I stopped counting reasons what went wrong to my dear comrades who are part of the 81.18% who did not make it.  Hopefully, they could learn insights that would help them pass the bar. These are the seven things that went right for me and helped me pass the 2014 Philippine Bar Examinations:

First, I trusted my law school education. I thank my two law schools—University of Santo Tomas (UST) where I stayed for three semesters of law school and to University of the East (UE) where I everything else in my law school happened. I thank my law schools for providing me teachers who really pushed me to my limits and at the same time helped me develop a passion and desire to really be a full-fledged attorney. Those nine semesters in law school are made up of my blood, sweat and tears; therefore, after receiving my diploma from UE, I am certain that I learned a lot from law school and that I am just one long quiz away from being an attorney. That being said, I am befuddled with my fellow law school graduates who are returning back to our thick law text books. When I saw a fellow bar candidate then reading the infamous J.B.L. Reyes’ Book I and Book II in Criminal Law, I felt squeamish. To all law graduates, remember that you have finished your law school. You got this. You do not need to go to the fundamentals over and over again for the bar. You are definitely wasting your time with text books! Do not belittle your 4-6 years in law school! Everything is already in your brain so please; do not dumb yourself back to who you are in the first year of law the moment you graduated from law school. Have more faith in yourselves!

Second, I chose my materials wisely. My main memory aid is a copy of the 2011 UST Golden Notes which I used for years. What is great about it is you read faster because somehow you have recall on your materials. There are also some notes which I’ve written while studying all these years for clarification and updates. I suggest to those people who are still in law school to do this. Do not worry about the updates, your review centers would provide you hand-outs on that and even if you would not enrol in one, for sure, good souls would offer it to you or you could ask them for it. It is hard to be a clueless law student who would invest money on several sets of reviewers then get frustrated that he cannot read them all. There is no use in hoarding a lot of reviewers if you would not have time in reading it. After the bar, they would simply be scraps of paper anyway.

Third, I strategized. My unorthodox material was the UP Law Center Bar Questions and Answers from 2000-2013. The mindset that was instilled to me as an Economics major is that there is a trend for everything. I was right about the Bar. Through the years, the chief difficult issues that would be resolved in the Bar Exams are more or less the same especially when it comes to Taxation. Taxation is believed to be one of the most difficult subjects in the Bar but believe me, just read the aforementioned material and you would realize that the examiners kept on repeating the same questions again. I also read San Beda Red Book which also highlight the mostly asked bar questions as well as their predicted bar questions. Of course, I used other materials for the bar (mostly from the handouts that was given from my review center, UP Law Center and the law books that I’ve used as a fourth year law student) but I relied on these two materials for all the eight Bar subjects.

Fourth, I know myself. I know that group studies would be a disaster for me so I stayed alone in our old house for five months in order for to study well. I also know that cutting me off from the rest of the world would make me nuts so while I deactivated my Facebook, I retained my Instagram. I also watched all games in UAAP where UE is playing (yeah, last season broke my heart into a million pieces) and I watch 24 Oras almost every day. The thing is, I know that being a little distracted and taking a lot of breaks in between my readings is the key for me to retain the things that I am reading. The only difference that I made in studying in law school compared to me studying for the bar is that I usually wake up early to study for the bar and do not any more study at night. This is simply because the Bar Exam is from 8AM to 6PM, thus, these are the time where my mind must work best and not any more during 5:30PM to 1AM back in law school. Of course, I do not impose what I have done in my Bar preparations to anyone. I’ve told how I’ve studied to a lot of people and they thought that I was so relaxed. But my point is, this is how I managed through law school and eventually the Bar. I cannot just lock myself in a room and study for like 300 pages a day, seven days a week like some people who passed the bar claim that they’ve been through. I would surely fail because it would dry out my sanity and every brain cell I have. What I am pointing out to future bar takers is to remember how they made it through their law school and do it again.

Fifth, I learned how to answer the bar properly. My favorite law school professor would always be Atty. Manuel R. Riguera. I just love and respect him so much. He was my teacher in Remedial Law Review and he was an outstanding and passionate teacher. But besides teaching me Remedial Law, he also taught my classmates and I the now infamous Jurists Three-Paragraph Method. I would not go into details on how to construct the said way on answering the bar exams. I would just provide the link here. I understand that it feels that this method is too laborious if followed strictly. Nonetheless, this is the best way for you to really show that you know your law and you could argue like a lawyer. Also do not sound like a layman in your answer. It could really turn off your examiners. You must answer simply yet you must answer like a full-fledged attorney.

Sixth, I do not compare anything to my fellow bar takers. Do not ask me on how many readings I made. There is no definite answer. I made a schedule based on the schedule of the UP Law Center’s series of review session yet I did not follow it too religiously. For example, I finished Civil Law about five days from the calendar of UPLC so I went back reading Labor Law which I feel unconfident with. The same happened with my excess hours for Remedial Law which went to my weakest subject, Mercantile Law. I know that I am confident with a subject when I start feeling bored reading the same thing over and over again. I know that I do not know much about a subject when whenever I see new materials on the said topic, I feel like I am reading the topic for the first time. Do not be too rigid on the schedule that you have made and go address the areas wherein you need more help with. Also do not get pressured whenever your friends are telling you that they are already on their third reading when you hardly finish your first reading. Remember that the Bar preparation is a marathon and not a race. The tendency of those who read too much is that they would burnout easily come Bar Examination month.

Lastly, I have a great faith in God. I actually allotted time during my Bar Exam preparations to read the Holy Bible, read about the lives of some saints, attend the mass even during weekdays and lift everything to Him. I am telling you this, almost all the time while I am answering the Bar Exams with my right hand, my left hand is inside my the pocket of my red jacket, clenching into a Rosary given to me by my fellow church-goer in the Sacred Heart Chapel in FEU-NRMF which she claims was blessed by now saint, Saint Pope John Paul II. But to me, it does not matter if St. Pope John Paul indeed blessed the said Rosary or not. What matters to me is that I know that every word I had written in my Bar Examination booklets, I had written it with Him. And in the end, I am just His handmaid and that everything that I would be doing as an attorney would all be for His greater glory.

(One last thing: I do not know if this will help you but my family, especially my father, was on full support for me during the night before the Bar Exams. So much so that they would come with me to Manila Pavilion, where the Bar Examinees of UE were housed, and would stay there until the next day. I think it helped me in the sense that sleeping beside them helped me sleep faster. It is just difficult to me to sleep in a place where I am unfamiliar with like hotels. Having some good five-hour sleep made me refreshed for the Bar Exams the next day. I highly recommend, no, MANDATE all bar examinees to SLEEP the night before the bar. Eight hours of non-stop writing and thinking no joke!)

That’s it. Sorry for this lengthy post. I just want to cover everything that happened to me during the Bar preparations which lead to my victory. I just want more and more law students to achieve their dreams of becoming a lawyer. Being part of the 1,126 persons who had passed the bar might seemed so cool from the start but when you realized how many of your friends and comrades had fallen to desperation, uncertainty and shame that people are thinking that they are not smart enough to become a lawyer, then you would lose the joy that you are feeling for yourself knowing that these people also worked their asses off just to finish the four Sundays of the Bar Exams.

To all people who did not make it, if you are still up for your dream on becoming a lawyer, then still go for it. Identify your mistakes in taking the bar and humble yourself enough to make changes. You can do it. Just go on trusting God and trusting yourself. To my fellow 2014 Bar Exam passers, please keep your idealism alive and let us help our country for its betterment through the workings of justice. We are 1,126 new lawyers who are called to make a difference to our country and we must stand up for that challenge. With all that being said, see you all in PICC on Friday.

– 98. AYUYAO, Maris Angelica C