You are on page 1of 17

Know the enemy and know yourself, and you can fight battles with no danger

of defeat. - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Preparing for the 2017 Bar Examination requires that bar reviewees should be
cognizant of the recent trends and developments in the bar examination, to

1. The continuance of the essay questions lead role and the phase-out of
2. Importance of a logic-driven or argument-driven approach to bar
3. Use of issue-spotter and remedy-focused questions.
4. Setting back the cut-off date for laws and jurisprudence to 30 June of the
prior year (2016).
5. Increased use of objective-type questions.
6. Salient changes made in the bar exam coverage.
7. Return of legal forms or practical exercises

Continuance of essay questions lead role in bar exam and phase-out of MCQs

The 2013 bar examination was notable for the revival of the essay questions
preeminent role. The examination comprised 80% essay questions and 20%
multiple-choice questions (MCQs). This was a turn-around from the 2012 bar
exams format of 60% MCQs and 40% essay questions and the 2011 bar where
the use of problem-type essay questions was entirely discontinued in favor of
MCQs and performance tests.

The lead role of the essay question was further entrenched in the 2014 bar
examination. For instance in Remedial Law, there were only 8 MCQs having a
weight of 1% each or a total weight of only 8%. This allocation was substantially
the same in the other bar subjects. In the 2015 bar examination, the use of
MCQs was discontinued altogether.

Importance of a logic-driven or argument-driven approach to bar preparation

The restoration of the essay questions leading role and the jettisoning of the
MCQs is a clear indication of the importance given by the High Tribunal to
testing the examinees ability to think and argue like a lawyer.

In December 2012, the Supreme Court issued Bar Bulletin No. 1 for the guidance
of the bar reviewees. The bulletin enumerates the basic elements of problem-
solving or what we may call as competencies that the examiners shall
particularly look for:

1. Proper understanding and appreciation of the facts, particularly of the

components or details that can be material in resolving the given problem.
2. Appreciation of the applicable law or laws that may come into play.
3. Recognition of the issue or issues posed.
4. Resolution of the issues through the analysis and application of the law to the
given facts.

The bulletin states that the examinees presentation and articulation of his or her
answer shall also be given weight. The guidelines for the 2013 to 2016 bars
provide that in a 5-point essay exam, the examiner can give credit even if the
answer is not exactly correct but the answer is well-written and logical.

These statements in the bulletins and guidelines indicate that the examination
will be argument-driven or logic-driven rather than conclusion-driven. This
information is important since most law students have been taught in law school
to be conclusion-driven rather than argument-driven and little if any time has
been devoted to the proper presentation and articulation of ones answers.
The examinee thus has to be trained in presenting his answer in such a way as to
display to the examiner his familiarity with the basic elements of problem-

Issue-spotting and issue-responsiveness

One of the competencies the examiners are looking out for is the recognition
of the issue or issues posed. Issue-recognition is a core competency which may
be developed by a rigorous mock-bar and coaching program.
The bar examinee must be trained to distinguish between the call or immediate
issue and the core or underlying issue of a bar exam question.
Let us look at Question No. 4 of the 2016 remedial law bar exam:

Eduardo, a resident of the City of Manila, filed before the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Manila a complaint for the annulment of a Deed of Real Estate
Mortgage he signed in favor of Galaxy Bank (Galaxy), and the consequent
foreclosure and auction sale of his mortgaged Makati property. Galaxy filed a
Motion to Dismiss on the ground of improper venue alleging that the complaint
should be filed with the RTC of Makati since the complaint involves the
ownership and possession of Eduardo's lot. Resolve the motion with reasons.

The call (or the immediate issue) is the issue which is apparent from the text of
the problem. In the above question the call or immediate issue, rephrased, is:
Should the motion to dismiss the complaint for annulment of REM on the ground
of improper venue be granted or denied?
On the other hand, the core issue or the underlying issue is that which is not
apparent from the text of the problem but whose resolution is essential in
reaching the correct conclusion to the problem.

In the problem above, the core or underlying issue may be stated as follows: Is
the action for annulment of the REM a personal or a real action? If it is a
personal action, then the motion to dismiss should be denied since the venue
may be laid in the place where the plaintiff resides. On the other hand, if the
action is a real one, then the motion to dismiss should be granted since the
venue should be laid in the place where the real property is situated.

Let us look at Subquestion No. 4(a) of the 2015 remedial law bar exam:

IV. Strauss filed a complaint against Wagner for cancellation of title. Wagner
moved to dismiss the complaint because Grieg, to whom he mortgaged the
property as duly annotated in the TCT, was not impleaded as defendant.

a.) Should the complaint be dismissed?

The cursory reading of the question readily shows the immediate issue: Should
the complaint for cancellation of title be dismissed for failure to implead the
mortgagee? A perusal of the question then leads to the unraveling of the core
or underlying issue: Should the complaint be dismissed for failure to implead an
indispensable party?

Identifying the core or underlying issue requires a familiarity with the legal rules
and proper training and coaching in issue-spotting under a certified bar exam
Process or remedy-focused questions

In the 2013 bar, open-ended questions, which asked the examinee to give the
appropriate legal steps, process, or remedy that is available to one of the
parties, were widely used. Examples of such type of questions are questions
IV(C) and IV(D) in Remedial Law:

IV(C) Still in another case, this time for illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the
prosecution has rested but you saw from the records that the illegal substance
allegedly involved has not been identified by any of the prosecution witnesses
nor has it been the subject of any stipulation.

Should you now proceed posthaste to the presentation of defense evidence or

consider some other remedy? Explain the remedial steps you propose to

IV(D) In one other case, an indigent mother seeks assistance for her 14-year old
son who has been arrested and detained for malicious mischief. Would an
application for bail be the appropriate remedy or is there another remedy
available? Justify your chosen remedy and outline the appropriate steps to

Open-ended, practical, and elucidative questions are not new. They have
been used on occasions in previous bar examinations and were the norm in the
1983 bar examination where the examinee was placed in the position of a
lawyer acting for or advising a client. Their extensive use in the 2013 bar
examinations indicates an exigent need to train bar reviewees on how to
analyze and answer these types of questions.

An example of a remedy-focused question in the 2014 remedial law bar exam is

Question No. 20.

Tom Wallis filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) a Petition for Declaration of
Nullity of his marriage with Debi Wallis on the ground of psychological incapacity
of the latter. Before filing the petition, Tom Wallis had told Debi Wallis that he
wanted the annulment of their marriage because he was already fed up with
her irrational and eccentric behaviour. However, in the petition for declaration
of nullity of marriage, the correct residential address of Debi Wallis was
deliberately not alleged and instead, the residential address of their married son
was stated. Summons was served by substituted service at the address stated in
the petition. For failure to file an answer, Debi Wallis was declared in
default and Tom Wallis presented evidence ex-parte. The RTC rendered
judgment declaring the marriage null and void on the ground of psychological
incapacity of Debi Wallis. Three (3) years after the RTC judgment was
rendered, Debi Wallis got hold of a copy thereof and wanted to have the RTC
judgment reversed and set aside.

If you are the lawyer of Debi Wallis, what judicial remedy or remedies will you
take? Discuss and specify the ground or grounds for said remedy or remedies.
While another example of such a question is subquestion 4(b) in the 2015
remedial law bar:

IV. Strauss filed a complaint against Wagner for cancellation of title. Wagner
moved to dismiss the complaint because Grieg, to whom he mortgaged the
property as duly annotated in the TCT, was not impleaded as defendant.

a.) xxx
b.) If the case should proceed to trial without Grieg being impleaded as a party
to the case, what is his remedy to protect his interest?

as well as Question No. 15 of the 2016 remedial law bar:

Chika sued Gringo, a Venezuelan, for a sum of money. The Metropolitan Trial
Court of Manila (MeTC) rendered a decision ordering Gringo to pay Chika
P50,000.00 plus legal interest. During its pendency of the appeal before the RTC,
Gringo died of acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis. Atty. Perfecto, counsel of
Gringo, filed a manifestation attaching the death certificate of Gringo and
informing the RTC that he cannot substitute the heirs since Gringo did not
disclose any information on his family. As counsel for Chika, what remedy can
you recommend to your client so the case can move forward and she can
eventually recover her money? Explain. (5%)

It cannot be gainsaid that these types of questions are quite challenging for a
bar examinee who after all has yet to practice law. Special attention should
therefore be paid to training and coaching the bar candidate to field these
types of questions.

Gradual phase-out of MCQs

The 2015 bar examination was notable for the elimination of the MCQs role. In
the 2011 and 2012 bar exams, the MCQ portion was allocated a weight of 60%
of the examinees grade. In 2013, however the weight of the MCQ portion was
substantially reduced to 20%. In 2013, the number of MCQs was drastically cut
from 100 MCQs in the 2011 and 2012 bar exams to only 10 to 20 MCQs, albeit
the number of options was increased to five from four. In the 2014 bar, only 7-8
MCQs were asked with a total weight of only 7%-8% and the standard four-
option MCQ was reverted to.
The table below illustrates the vicissitudes of the bar exam format from 2010 to


2010 100% 0%
2011 40% 60%
2012 40% 60%
2013 80% 20%
2014 92%-93% 7%-8%
2015 100% 0%
2016 100% 0%

Importance of jurisprudence and statutory updates

Traditionally the cut-off date for jurisprudence and law to be covered in the bar
examination was 30 June of the previous year. The 2013 bar exam proved quite
challenging in that the cut-off date was 31 January of the same year. It even
became tougher in the 2014 and 2015 bars which provided that 31 March 2014
and 31 March 2015, respectively, were the cut-off dates.

In the 2014 remedial law bar exam, Question No. 12 was based on a Supreme
Court decision promulgated on 10 February 2014 (Republic v. Olaybar) while
Question No. 15 was based on a decision promulgated on 25 March 2014
(People v. Go).

Needless to state these two cases could not have been taken up in law school
by the 2014 bar candidates. Yet it would be foolhardy for the bar reviewee to
undertake a case survey during the bar review. More or less a hundred cases
are promulgated by the Supreme Court every month and a bar examinee
would not have the time or experience to wade through all these decisions and
choose the salient ones. It is thus imperative to attend a bar review program
where seasoned bar reviewers are surveying recent cases and statutes in order
to choose those which may form the basis of bar exam questions.

A welcome relief for the 2016 bar examinees was the setting back of the cut-off
date to 31 May 2015. In the 2017 bar, the cut-off date is 30 June 2016. These
are laudatory measures. From the time a case is made publicly available, a
time lapse of about six months is necessary for the academe to digest the
case and turn it into actionable information that can be used by the bar
examinee or law student.

Salient changes made in the bar exam coverage

Some salient changes were made on the coverage of the bar examination. For
example in Criminal Law, the Anti-Money Laundering Act was deleted from the
bar exam coverage.

After having been jettisoned in the 2013 bar exam, legal forms or practical
exercises makes a comeback in this years exam. The legal forms on which the
examinee will be tested are however limited to the following, as per the bar
exam coverage on Legal and Judicial Ethics and Practical Exercises released by
the SC:

1. Quitclaims in labor cases.

2. Simple contracts lease, sale of realty or personal property.
3. Promissory note.
4. Verification and certification of non-forum shopping.
5. Notice of hearing and explanation (all levels).
6. Affidavits loss, change of name.

In Item No. 6, it appears that the Affidavits change of name referred to are
the petitions for change of name under R.A. No. 9048.

The bar exam subject with the most changes appears to be Remedial Law. I
have drawn up a comparative table between the 2016 and 2016 Remedial Law
bar exams to highlight the changes:

2016 REM BAR 2017 REM BAR

Doctrine of Primary Jurisdiction. Deleted.
Distinction between real-party-in-
interest and locus standi added.
ADR and Pretrial and Discovery Deleted.
Memorandum decisions added.
Final Judgment Rule; exceptions
Participation of the Solicitor General
during appeals added.
Appeal from CTA. Deleted.
Dismissal, reinstatement, and
withdrawal of appeal added.
Dual function of appellate courts
Harmless Error Rule added.
Extended coverage of Special Only Writs of Habeas Corpus,
Proceedings, including Settlement of Amparo, and Habeas Data are
Estate of Deceased Persons, Change covered in Special Proceedings.
of Name, and Correction of Entries in
Civil Registry.
In Writ of Habeas Data, the persons
who may file petitions for writ of
habeas data is added to the
Chain of Custody in drugs cases. Deleted.
Rule on DNA Evidence. Deleted.
Rule on Electronic Evidence. Deleted.

Importance of mock-bar and coaching program further underscored

The new developments in the bar examination format underscore the need for
a training and coaching program that involves not only a series of mock-bar
examinations but also one-on-one coaching with a feedback mechanism. The
mere taking of practice exams by a reviewee and the giving to him of the
answers would be inadequate. The reviewee must have the benefit of
feedback from an experienced and competent trainer and this can only be
had under a program that provides for one-on-one interaction with a coach.
Using a series of specially crafted mock bar exams, the coach would be able to
diagnose the weaknesses and strengths of the reviewee and to monitor and
guide his progress.

Individualized coaching is especially important for training the bar reviewee for
the essay examination. Since the essay question requires the subjective
judgment of the examiner, the examinee must be trained and honed in the
proper manner of presenting his answer. Each examinee has his own strengths
and weaknesses in approaching and answering essay questions and a one size
fits all lecture or training session is not the proper approach. The comprehensive
training program should especially train the examinee in the basic elements of
problem-solving that the examiner is looking out for.

Practice is also very important. It is absurd to just lecture a bar examinee on bar
methods and techniques and then expect the examinee to magically deploy
these during the bar examination. That would be like lecturing a child on how to
swim and then throwing him into a ten-foot-deep pool. The examinee should
undergo a series of mock-bar exams where he can get the feel of applying the
bar exam tactics and strategies with guidance from his coach.
The Supreme Court itself recognized the salient role played by mock bars and
bar exam coaching. The guidelines for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Bar Exams
recommend thus:

Practice Exams
A good practice for law schools/review classes to observe is to hold practice
examination sessions with the Bar candidates, both on the Essay and the MCQ
formats. In evaluating these practice exams, attention should be given to both
the law and the Bar candidate's presentation and use of English. In many
instances, incorrect English is more serious as a problem than the lack of precise
knowledge of law, and has been the cause of high failure rates. [Emphases

Clearly discernible from the guidelines is the need for someone to evaluate the
practice exam. It is strongly advised that an experienced or certified bar exam
coach be the one to undertake the evaluation, taking into account the obvious
limitations of self-coaching.

Fine-tuning of coaching and training to read and answer essay questions

In light of the increased role of issue-spotter questions, Jurists fine-tuned its

coaching program to further train the examinees in issue-spotting skills, including
the use of fact-pattern recognition, embedded-rule recognition, and other
issue-spotting and rule-spotting techniques. Issue-spotter questions are rarely if
ever seldom asked in law school; hence the overwhelming majority of bar
examinees have not had the benefit of any training and coaching on how to
tackle them. With this in mind, Jurists has added to its data bank of issue-spotter
questions for use in its training and coaching program and undertaken further
training of its corps of coaches to respond to the latest changes.

Jurists has fortified its essay question training program by adding more process
and remedy-focused questions to its bank of mock-bar questions and devising
the appropriate training modules to help the reviewee tackle these kinds of
questions. Jurists has also further fine-tuned its logical and analytical matrixes to
help the bar examinee better confront the increased use of problem-type essay

Time-management training

The great number of questions which an examinee has to tackle in four hours
puts emphasis on the need for training on time-management. Thus simulated
tests under the guidance and supervision of certified coaches has become
imperative. The table below illustrates the time-pressure which the bar
examinee has to work with. (Note: Items refer to question numbers while actual
questions include the sub-questions. Thus an item containing two subquestions is
counted as not one but two questions)



POLITICAL LAW 22 27 8 min 53 sec
LABOR LAW 22 34 7 min
CIVIL LAW 20 34 7 min
TAXATION 22 42 5 min 43 sec
MERCANTILE LAW 16 39 6 min 9 sec
CRIMINAL LAW 22 35 6 min 51 sec
REMEDIAL LAW 18 41 5 min 51 sec
LEGAL ETHICS 24 36 6 min 40 sec

The third column (No. of Actual Questions) would give a better picture of the
challenge confronting the examinee. Let us look at the remedial law bar exam.
At first blush, the number of items, which is 18, would appear to be
manageable. If we count however the subquestions, there would actually be
41 questions all in all.

The fourth column gives the average time needed per question, obtained by
dividing 240 minutes (4 hours) by the number of actual questions. The average
time ranges from a high of 8 minutes and 53 seconds for the political law exam
to a low of only 5 minutes and 43 seconds for taxation. For the critical remedial
law exam which makes up 20% of the bar examinees grade, he or she has only
5 minutes and 51 seconds on average to answer a question.

This table is quite useful for a bar exam coach. Taking into account that 8
minutes and 53 seconds is not a whole lot of time for a single question (lets not
even talk about the 5 minutes and 43 seconds for taxation), the coachee must
be trained to think fast using fact-pattern recognition and other exam tactics
and strategies.

The number of questions in the 2016 was more reasonable. Nonetheless time-
management is still an important aspect of bar exam training and coaching

Shock and awe questions asked in 2015 bar

The 2015 Bar has gained notoriety for its trend of asking bar examinees to define
some esoteric legal terms or to discuss the history of legal concepts which would
challenge even the most avid lexicographers and legal historians. In Political
Law, bar examinees were asked to discuss the evolution of jus sanguinis under
the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions. In Labor Law, the word of the day was
equity of the incumbent, an anachronism whose term of office had long ago
expired. In Civil Law, they were asked to define depecage. In Commercial
Law, the shock-and-awe word to define was Jason Clause. One cannot
discount the posing of shock and awe questions in the bar exam. The bar
reviewee must also be trained on how to react and to answer such kinds of

Shock-and-awe questions were not employed in the 2016 bar, but the examinee
should still expect them in any bar exam.

Objective-type questions

While the great majority of the questions in the 2015 bar were problem-type
essay questions, there was a liberal sprinkling of objective-type questions, which
call for distinctions, definitions, and enumerations, as well as questions which ask
for discussions or explanations. The bar examinee thus has to prepare and train
for these types of questions. See for instance question no. 3 of the mercantile
law bar exam:


A. Discuss the three-fold character of a bill of lading. (3%)

B. What is a "Jason clause" in a charter party? (2%)
C. Are common carriers liable for injuries to passengers even if they have
observed ordinary diligence and care? Explain. (2%)
In fact the use of objective-type questions increased in the 2016 Bar. Consider
the following items in the 2016 remedial law bar:

State at least five (5) civil cases that fall under the exclusive original jurisdiction of
the Regional Trial Courts (RTCs). (5%)


[a] Briefly explain the procedure on "Interrogatories to Parties" under Rule 25 and
state the effect of failure to serve written interrogatories. (2.5%)

[b] Briefly explain the procedure on "Admission by Adverse Party" under Rule 26
and the effect of failure to file and serve the request. (2.5%)


What are the contents of a judicial affidavit? (5%)

[a] What is the "most important witness" rule pursuant to the 2004 Guidelines of
Pretrial and Use of Deposition-Discovery Measures? Explain. (2.5%)

[b] What is the "one day examination of witness" rule pursuant to the said 2004
Guidelines? Explain. (2.5%)


[a] xxx

[b] What is the writ of continuing mandamus? (2.5%)


[a] xxx

[b] What does "personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances that the
person to be arrested committed it" mean? (2.5%)


[a] xxx (2.5%)

[b] Distinguish "Summary Judgment" and "Judgment on the Pleadings." (2.5%)

It has to be emphasized however that the study of definitions, enumeration, and

distinctions is the nuts and bolts of answering problem-type questions. Hence
regardless of whether or not objective-type questions will be asked in the bar,
the examinee still has to pore over definitions, etc., in order as part of his over-all
preparation for the bar.

Utmost preparation and training

With the substantial use of issue-spotter questions and process and remedy-
focused questions, there is a felt need for a bar review program which would
properly train the reviewee, taking into account that these types of questions
are not widely used in law schools. A traditional bar review program based
exclusively or heavily on lectures and passive study without any or scant training
and mechanism for feedback would ill prepare the examinee for the argument-
driven and competencies-based bar exams and could lead to the bitter agony
of defeat. On the other hand the examinee who backstops a rigorous study
regime with a tested mock-bar and coaching program would significantly boost
his chances of savouring the thrill of victory when he is granted leave by the
High Court en banc to take the lawyers oath and to inscribe his or her name in
the hallowed roll of attorneys.


20 March 2017
As a long-time bar exam coach, one of the common errors or shortcomings which I note in my coachees is the
misstatement or assumption of facts. I strongly advise my coachees to read carefully the facts of the question in
order to avoid this error. One of the most irritating experiences for an examiner is to read answers which misstate or
assume facts. The following suggested answer to Question No. V(B) of the 2014 Remedial Law Bar Exam shows
that even the experts may fall prey to this kind of oversight.

Landlord, a resident of Quezon City, entered into a lease contract with Tenant, a resident of Marikina City, over a
residential house in Las Pias City. The lease contract provided, among others, for a monthly rental of P25,000.00,
plus ten percent (10%) interest rate in case of non-payment on its due date. Subsequently, Landlord migrated to the
United States of America (USA) but granted in favor of his sister Maria, a special power of attorney to manage the
property and file and defend suits over the property rented out to Tenant. Tenant failed to pay the rentals due for five
(5) months. Maria asks your legal advice on how she can expeditiously collect from Tenant the unpaid rentals plus
interests due. (A) What judicial remedy would you recommend to Maria? (B) Where is the proper venue of the
judicial remedy which you recommended?

Suggested Answer of the UP Law Center Committee to V(B): If Maria decides to file a complaint for collection of
sum of money under the Rules of Summary Procedure or Small Claims, the venue is the residence of the plaintiff or
defendant, at the election of the plaintiff. (Section 2, Rule 4, Rules of Court). Hence it may be in Quezon City or
Marikina City, at the option of Maria. (Emphases supplied).

The suggested answer overlooks however that Landlord had already migrated to the USA prior to the filing of the
complaint. Clearly therefore Landlord the Plaintiff no longer resided in Quezon City and hence the collection suit
may not be filed there.

There is a psychological explanation for this oversight. The problem starts out with Landlord, a resident of Quezon
City, and this fact stands out and remains embedded in the mind of the reader, creating a mental blind spot to the
significance of the phrase migrated to the United States. That is why I always tell my coachees to read carefully
the fact-setting of a problem twice and to underline important facts. The examinee should take note of fact-
changers or fact-modifiers. For instance the examinee might have underlined twice migrated and then put an
x atop resident, thus alerting him that resident is already a superseded or modified fact.

It is advised that a bar reviewee take practice exams and have the same reviewed by another person, preferably a bar
exam coach. Factual misstatements are often not detected by the examinee himself even if he reviews his answer
since he is still laboring under the same blind spot. A certified bar exam coach can spot these errors and identify and
remedy the mental blind spots which lead to these blunders.

The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important. -- Bobby
Knight, Hall of Fame Basketball Coach.

I have put together some advice and tips for those about to sit for the bar examination. These are based on my two
decades experience as a law professor, bar review lecturer, and bar exam coach. I hope that they will prove of
some help to the examinee who aspires to hurdle one of the toughest bar examinations in the planet.


to take lightly. Hence reading materials on how to prepare for and to pass the bar will greatly increase your chances
of seeing your name inscribed in the bar exam hall of fame. You can bring these materials as light reading to your
three-day vacation after law school graduation. When I prepared for the 1991 bar, I read a well-worn pamphlet by
Prof. Jose Nolledo, Pointers for a Bar Candidate (1960). I also read a booklet by Commissioner Regalado
Maambong on the bar examination. The two booklets served me well by giving practical advice on how to prepare
for the bar and how to avoid costly mistakes during the preparation and the actual taking of the bar.

From the current crop of bar prep books, I strongly recommend Bar Blues (Central Books)written by Tanya Karina
Lat, Maria Gracia Gamez, and Marilyn Manait. Bar Blues is comprehensive yet very readable. Slaying the Bar
Exam Dragon by Dean Rufus Rodriguez is another book which I would advise you to read.

Other useful books in this genre are Performance Boosters to Conquer Any Law Exam (Not Just the Bar Exam) by
Siegfred Mison; Effective Bar Review Methods by Abelardo Domondon; and the inspiring The Law School Boot
Camp (Create Yourself, Achieve Your Dreams) by Ma. Christina G. Castillo (Central Books, 2015).

PREPARE AND ORGANIZE YOUR REVIEW MATERIALS. Prepare your list of reviewers after your graduation
and buy those that you do not have. Get the opinion of professors and last years bar examinees as they are the best
judges of law reviewers and can give you the pros and cons of a particular reviewer.

As for the copious annotations or commentaries that you used as textbooks during your first three years in law
school, consult them only if you need examples or illustrations of particular legal provisions. This is an area where
annotations or commentaries have an advantage over most reviewers which tend to put too much emphasis on rules
without giving the underlying fact pattern for such rule.

In this regard, I strongly advise the use of reviewers which are in Q&A form or which give examples or illustrations
of the rules. This reviewers will serve the dual purpose of being a review material as well as a training material for
answering the bar which is substantially made up of problem-type or fact-based questions.

I also recommend that you study the Q&As of the preceding ten bar examinations. This will give you a feel of the
trend or style of the previous bar exams and of recurring fact-patterns and themes. Who knows some of the
concepts examined in these exams may be asked again? In fact Abelarto T. Domondon claims that 5% to 20% of
the concepts examined in the immediately preceding bar are repeated the next year. (EFFECTIVE BAR REVIEW
METHODS 49). The percentage will certainly increase if you study the preceding 10 bar exams. Aside from its
predictive value, this study will sharpen your fact-pattern recognition and analytical skills and increase your

PREPARE A BAR REVIEW SCHEDULE. A bar-review schedule is your road-map to navigating the six months
of bar review. If you are enrolled in a bar review center, synchronize your schedule with that of the bar review
center. Otherwise you will not be reviewing effectively. Its not advisable to listen to the lecturer discuss negotiable
instruments and then go home and read up on labor relations. In this regard, choose a bar review center wherein
there is a topical unity and continuity in the schedule, that is, where one particular bar exam subject is discussed at a
time before proceeding to another bar exam subject. Avoid bar review centers with a hodgepodge schedule where
for example, negotiable instruments is discussed on one day, then labor relations on the next, and then civil
procedure on the day after.

My advice is that you study one bar exam subject before going to another. Some advise reviewing one subject in the
first half of the day (say remedial law) and then another (say commercial law) in the second half of the day. The
avowed purpose is to avoid ennui. I think this sacrifices focus and effectiveness just to add variety. One must
simply have the self-discipline and drive to study one bar subject at a time.

If you are not attending or viewing bar review lectures, you have to prepare your own detailed schedule. A rule of
thumb in dividing your study time is to multiply the number of days available for review with the weight given to a
particular bar examination subject. Let us say that you have 156 days allocated for your review (May to October,
excluding Sundays). Political law has a weight of 15%. 156 days multiplied by 15% will give you 23 days. So
you allocate 23 days more or less for political law.

In your review schedule, the last bar subjects that you should study should be labor law and then political law (the
so-called mirror schedule). This will enhance the effectiveness of your review since political law and labor law are
the bar exam subjects you will tackle on the first Sunday.

You should also prepare a daily study schedule. The latter is a detailed daily planner of your wake-up time, meals,
breaks, and your lights out which you should follow strictly in order to get into the groove of rigorous studying.
I recommend that your wake-up time should be at 4:30 a.m. and lights out should be at 9 p.m. This is to make
your body clock adjust to this schedule so that by November, you would be used to sleeping and waking up early.

After you have drawn up your schedule, stick to it at all costs! If you see that you are running behind schedule, pick
up your pace. This is the reason why you should select and prune your reading materials. Many reviewees make
the mistake of being overly ambitious in their study load with the result that they fall behind schedule. Study smart!
The point is that you are not studying to be a legal authority but to pass the bar. The bar reviewers (with rare
exceptions) will not quiz you on arcane areas of the law. Leave the scholarly stuff for later after you have passed the
bar and have decided to write a law journal article.

ENROLL IN A BAR REVIEW CENTER. There are advantages and disadvantages to enrolling in a bar review
center. Among the perceived disadvantages are the increased costs, which include the enrollment fee, the
transportation and food costs, and accommodation costs for those who reside in the provinces. Also quite some
time is spent in preparing and dressing up and in going to and from the bar review center.

Despite these considerations, I strongly recommend that a bar examinee enroll in a bar review center. A law
graduate does not have the degree of knowledge of the bar subject and the intuitive feel for what are the important
topics and probable bar exam questions which an experienced bar review lecturer has. Also a bar review center
provides case and statutory updates, which because of time limitations, is often not provided by law schools.

Take note that law and jurisprudence is in a constant state of flux and what you thought may have been good law
last year or even last month may no longer be so. Recent developments affect the law as a whole and not just
specific or isolated provisions. Hence these should not be taught or learned in a truncated or isolated manner but
should be imparted to the reviewee in a holistic manner, that is, seamlessly woven into a bar review subject as an
integral element thereof. Only a seasoned bar lecturer, with his experience and intuitive feel of the law, is capable
of performing this challenging feat. A bar reviewee who relies on past review material and simply tries to
incorporate updates into his study is playing with fire.

A recent innovation is online bar review. The bar reviewee need not go to a brick-and-mortar bar review center
but can review in the comfort of his own home or wherever there is internet access. This has the advantages of cost
and time efficiency.

In this regard, Jurists Bar Review is offering JURISTS COMBO, which combines the structured regimen and face-
to-face coaching of the traditional review with the convenience and flexibility of an online review.

CHOOSE YOUR BAR REVIEW CENTER WISELY. There are three important things which you should take into
account in choosing a bar review center: The line-up of lecturers, the schedule, and the existence of a coaching or
mentoring program.

The line-up of lecturers is important. Get the line-up and study this carefully. In appraising the line-up, get the
opinion of successful bar examinees and your law professors. Word usually gets around among the bar reviewees
and the law academe about the outstanding and the mediocre or irresponsible lecturers. Pay special attention to the
lecturers in the subjects in which you feel you are weak.

The schedule is also of capital importance. Some bar review centers draw up their schedule based on the
availability of the lecturers rather than on topical continuity. As previously stated, avoid bar review centers with
hodgepodge schedules. This will greatly undercut the effectiveness of your study.

If you have taken the bar more than three times, ensure that the bar review center is run by a recognized law school
or that it has an accreditation agreement with one. The Supreme Court will not allow you to sit for the bar
examination unless you get a certification from such a bar review center.

look out for is if the bar review center has a coaching program. The program should not be limited to the mere
administration of mock bar exams, but should provide for one-on-one coaching wherein a coach reads and evaluates
the examinees answers and then sits down and discusses the same with the examinee, seeking to identify the
examinees strong and weak points, to remedy the latter, to coach the examinee on how to read and answer the bar
exam questions, and in general to improve and maximize the examinees test-taking abilities.

See to it that the mock bars replicate the bar examination (thats why theyre called mock bars) and that there is a
series of mock bars and coaching sessions (not just one or two) so that there will be adequate feedback and
performance monitoring.

Professor Mario Mainero, one of the foremost bar prep experts in the U.S., advises thus: taking a practice exam
under exam conditions is the best way to prepare for an exam. If you do not take them as actual run-throughs, your
mind and body will not become used to taking law school [bar] exams, and you are more likely to freeze up or
perform at a less-than-peak performance level. (Dennis Tonsing, 1000 Days to the Bar).

Analyzing and answering bar exam questions is not a matter of gut feel or intuition. The examinee who thinks that
it is enough to just read and attend lectures when preparing for the bar is taking a huge risk. A bar-exam coach or
mentor would be most invaluable in helping the examinee acquire the necessary competencies for succeeding in the
bar exam.

The high mortality rate in the bar examination is traceable to the sole or over-reliance on passive study and the
absence or lack of training and practice on bar exam strategies and tactics. This matter has been raised as early as
1959 by Dean Wenceslao G. Laureta in the preface to his classic Secrets on How to Pass the Bar Examination (Rex
Book Store, 1959 ed.)

Thus, it may be proper to remind the bar candidates some of the myths involved in the domain of bar examinations. Almost
invariably the bar candidates have the mistaken belief that by - - (1) Attending the best law schools; (2) Listening to lectures of
renowned bar reviewers during review classes; and (3) Memorizing the law or the rules of procedure, including doctrinal rulings
will guarantee his passing the bar examinations.


There is no question that the above circumstances will help to enable the bar candidate pass the bar examinations.
But the blooming secret in this regard is simply this: Present good answers that will make the examiner take
notice. Good answers anchored upon logical reasoning, written in readable English and more importantly, justified
by appropriate legal authority.

It would do well for the bar candidate to study carefully the manner in which answers are framed and the
corresponding comments given. He will not fail to see why a given answer is poorly presented and the value of the
corresponding remedy to improve it in a manner acceptable to the examiner. He must not make the tragic mistake of
assuming that he knows all these things. He must supplement his reading by actual practice in answer framing.
After all, one may know all the techniques on swimming which he can master from books on the subject, but until
he jumps into the water, he will never learn to swim. [Emphases supplied]

Bar exam strategies and tactics is a nuanced field which cannot be acquired from merely reading books and listening
to omnibus lectures. The services of a competent bar exam coach or mentor would be most helpful. A mock bar and
coaching program is also in line with the recent pedagogical trend of shifting stress to outcome-based education
from the conventional input-based learning.

The Supreme Court itself recognized the salient role played by mock bars and bar exam coaching. The Guidelines
for the 2014 Bar recommend thus:

Practice Exams

A good practice for law schools/review classes to observe is to hold practice examination sessions with the
Bar candidates, both on the Essay and the MCQ formats. In evaluating these practice exams, attention should be
given to both the law and the Bar candidate's presentation and use of English. In many instances, incorrect English is
more serious as a problem than the lack of precise knowledge of law, and has been the cause of high failure rates.
[Emphases supplied]

In line with the Supreme Courts observation, Jurists has brought back the lecture English for Bar Examinees in
order to train the bar examinees write in correct, readable, and concise English. This would be especially helpful for
those who need improvement in their legal writing and English proficiency as the course would provide them with
helpful tips in order to surmount their challenges.

FOCUS ON THE FUNDAMENTALS IN YOUR BAR REVIEW. The key is not really studying more but studying
smart. It is simply impossible to read during the five months of review the entire code provisions of a law much
less the texts or annotations thereon. Besides some code provisions and comments are unimportant for purposes of
the bar and are seldom if ever asked in the bar.

During your review, you need to concentrate only on the primary review materials: a bar reviewer, the code
provisions, and the bar review materials provided by the bar review center. In reading the code provisions, do not
read the entire code but only those which are important. You know a code provision is important if it was discussed
by your professor or bar review lecturer or mentioned in your bar reviewer.

A useful supplement to your reviewer is the Lex Pareto Notes written by Zigfred Diaz, Maria Patricia Katrina de
Guia, Alrey Ouano, Louella Matsumoto, Ma. Salud Barillo, Danell Fernandez, Nolito Dayanan, and Helenytte Yu.
This is a breakthrough work wherein the authors, applying the Pareto Principle to the field of bar exam review and
forecasting, have found that approximately 80% of the bar exam questions are derived from 20% of the law. The
authors have pinpointed this 20% of the law on which the reviewee should spend 80% of his study time thus
optimizing the effectiveness of his review.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH AND FITNESS. Remember to exercise daily or at least three times a week.
Exercising improves blood circulation to the brain and makes one think more clearly. It also builds up ones
resistance to sickness and infection and improves ones stamina. Remember that the bar exam is a grueling four-
hour exam in the morning and another one in the afternoon. So Im not greatly exaggerating when I say that its like
training for a 20-kilometer run. Im not saying though that you should train like a triathlete - - brisk walking or a
short jog will do.

Get enough sleep. At least six, preferably seven hours of daily sleep is advised. Lack of sleep will result in
drowsiness and sluggishness when studying, aside from making you susceptible to sickness or fatigue.

Proper diet is often overlooked but it is of the utmost importance. Observe a balanced and healthy diet, not
forgetting fruits and vegetables. Please take it easy on fast food especially instant noodles! (Well, from time to time
fast food is alright but dont make it your staple food). A diet which would send a cardiologist into fits is not
likewise appropriate for a bar reviewee. For coffee drinkers, black coffee is the best. Take it easy with the popular
3-in-1 coffee preparations which tend to contain a lot of sugar and fat. Drink plenty of water when studying.

In fine take care of your health. Good health is the foundation of an outstanding bar review.

IMPROVE YOUR HANDWRITING. Handwriting is of capital importance in the essay exams. Your answers may
all be logical and correct but if your handwriting is illegible all your hard work will go down the drain. If your
handwriting is difficult to read, the examiner will most probably not take the time to decipher your booklet, taking
into consideration that he has about five thousand other booklets to read.

You may think that your handwriting is legible when its actually not. Take a mock bar examination and show your
booklet to another person and have him read it. You may be surprised to find that your handwriting is actually
difficult to read. If that is the case, work on improving your handwriting.


ATTEND OR LISTEN TO PRE-WEEK LECTURES. Pre-week lectures are important. This is where experienced
pre-week lecturers condense or synthesize the law and concentrate on the topics or areas which are most likely to be
asked in the bar examination. As I earlier said, a law graduate does not have the degree of knowledge of the bar
subject and the intuitive feel for what are the important topics and probable bar exam questions which an
experienced bar review lecturer has. A bar reviewee who forgoes entirely the pre-week lectures would be missing
out on a vital area of bar exam preparation.

In line with its tradition of bar review leadership and innovation, Jurists Bar Review came up with another first in

This is a useful option for bar reviewees during the hectic pre-week review period. Instead of travelling to and from
the pre-week review venue, reviewees can save valuable time by viewing the full 2017 Jurists pre-week lectures
off-site via on-demand videos through their desktop computer, laptop, PDA, tablet, hand phone, or any other
electronic device with internet access.

This 2017, another new program, JURISTS PREWEEK COMBO, will be made available to reviewees. Jurists
Preweek Combo combines the features of Jurists Preweek Classic with Jurists Preweek Online. This would be
attractive for reviewees who may want to attend some pre-week lectures on-site and to view others online, or those
who would want to have a back-up measure in case they would be unable to attend some pre-week lectures on-site.

AVOID UNNECESSARY STRESS AND DISTRACTIONS. Some stress and nerves is unavoidable during the
review and exam week and in fact helps to drive you harder in your studies. However undue and excessive stress
and nerves is an enemy of the bar examinee as it results in lack of sleep and hinders proper thinking both while
studying and taking the exam itself. If you feel that you are unduly stressed or worried, learn relaxation techniques
like yoga and deep breathing. Prayer and meditation are powerful relaxation techniques.

Ignore useless distractions. Usually rumors of who the examiner is become widespread during this time and
examinees worry themselves silly with the type of questions the rumored examiner usually asks and with obtaining
notes and materials written by or about the rumored examiner. This is just a useless exercise which would distract
you from doing what should be done: studying. All examiners are in the main bound by an unwritten law that their
questions should be on the basics of the law and on significant jurisprudence. So just ignore rumors or information
on the examiners identity and stick your nose to your review materials.

The bar exam month features the annual frenetic paper chase by bar examinees. Examinees go on a quest for the
Holy Grail of the bar exams: the red or blue notes from San Beda or Ateneo or the UP notes. These notes are
supposed to embody the answers or even leaks of bar exam questions. This is balderdash. I graduated from
Ateneo and worked in the bar-ops. I know that the so-called blue notes are simply compilations of probable bar
questions with answers prepared by law students with a little assistance from the faculty. While they are definitely
helpful, you dont have to wail and grind your teeth if you do not get them. What is contained in the blue notes is
more often than not also in your bar reviewers and review materials.

One examinee I knew spent a lot more time looking for notes, tips, and leaks and compiling dossiers on the rumored
examiners rather than actually studying. He failed the bar five times and is now exploring career opportunities with
the CIA.

GET ENOUGH SLEEP ON THE NIGHT BEFORE THE EXAM. This advice cannot be overemphasized.
Adequate sleep makes the mind sharper and allows us to recall what we have studied with facility. So do not
make the mistake of studying until the witching hour. The extra hours of study is not worth it if you find yourself
sleepy and thinking sluggishly during the bar exam.

You should hit the sack by 9 p.m. Do not panic if you find that you are unable to sleep. Just relax and continue
lying down in bed, at least your body will be rested. But do not make the mistake of standing up and studying. In
that case you will lack both sleep and rest, and the chances of a disaster are multiplied threefold. Ron de Vera slept
for only an hour the night before the first Sunday exam and for only 30 minutes the night before the second Sunday
exam of 2004. He placed second. (Lat et al., Bar Blues, p. 85). Of course Im not saying that you get only an
hours sleep if you want to place in the top ten, what Im saying is that there is no need for you to call 911 if you
find yourself unable to fall into the arms of Morpheus.

I advise against taking sleeping pills. They often have the side effect of muddling up your thinking. There was an
examinee who, finding himself unable to sleep the night before the Civil Law exam, popped a sleeping pill. He was
able to sleep all right, but the next day he found himself unable to distinguish between loco parentis and crazy

REMEMBER TO FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. Before you start reading and answering the questions, take the time
to first read and understand the instructions. Quite a lot of examinees in their eagerness go straight to reading and
answering the questions without bothering to read the instructions. This could be disastrous.

NEVER LEAVE ANY QUESTION UNANSWERED. Even if you are clueless as to the answer to a question, give
it your best try. Never leave any question unanswered. The examiner may feel slighted if you do not answer a
question. He may think that you felt that the question was not properly crafted that is why did not answer it.
Moreover a blank response will get you zero while giving it your best shot could net you 2 or 3 points which could
spell the difference between flunking and passing.

MANAGE YOUR TIME WISELY. Many examinees spend too much time on the first part of the exam only to find
themselves rushing through the second part or worse running out of time and leaving some questions unanswered.
Learn to pace yourself properly. Taking mock bar exams will help you learn how to pace yourself in an 18-to-20
question examination. Aim to answer at least of the total items plus 1 by the halfway mark. Thus if the exam is
from 8 am to 12 noon with 20 items, aim to answer at least 11 items by 10 a.m.

DO NOT BE FLUSTERED BY SHOCK AND AWE QUESTIONS. Those who took the 1991 Bar Examination
(like me) will never forget the infamous first question in Political Law: What is the Writ of Amparo? Discuss its
constitutional basis. Considering that the only Amparo we knew of was Amparo Muoz (the 1974 Miss Universe
who won her title in Manila, if youre a Millennial), the question had the effect of a sneak punch to the solar plexus.
I can still picture in my mind the bar exam room at MLQU, with everyones jaw plunging to the floor in utter

Of course, now every law student knows what a writ of amparo is, but back then in 1991 B.G. (before Google), only
a law student or law professor who had travelled to Latin America could have known of this most extraordinary

Other shock and awe questions include one which asked who the current president of the International Court of
Justice was, one which asked for the meaning of the acronym ACID (from a speech of Chief Justice Artemio V.
Panganiban), and another which asked the examinee to define the Denicola test in intellectual property law.

Shock and awe questions were trending in the 2015 Bar. In Political Law, bar examinees were asked to discuss the
evolution of jus sanguinis under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions. In Labor Law, the word of the day was
equity of the incumbent, an anachronism whose term of office had long ago expired. In Civil Law, they were
asked to define depecage. In Commercial Law, the shock-and-awe word to define was Jason Clause. In
Remedial Law, the examinees were confronted with the common-law terms, larceny and voir dire. It did not
help any that larceny was used in a fact-setting which did not involve any unlawful taking of property but rather
violence and sexual abuse, while voir dire is a term that a Filipino lawyer would be unfamiliar with unless he is an
aficionado of American jury trials.

The examiners penchant for throwing screwball questions put the bar examinees in a serious funk. Many spent
quite a bit of time accumulating a glossary of legal gobbledygook in the various bar exam subjects instead of
studying the fundamentals and important jurisprudence. I even heard a story (probably apocryphal) that a law
school engaged a lexicographer to beef up its bar ops.

This brought back memories of the 1991 bar examination. After the examinees were torched by the Amparo
question in political law, the succeeding preweek reviews were turned into a Gobbledygook chase. The fad back
then was the M&A (mergers & acquisitions) craze in Wall Street (remember Michael Milkin and Ivan Boesky with
his infamous Greed is Good mantra). In the mercantile law preweek, we parroted terms like hostile take-over,
leveraged buy-out, white knight, junk bonds, and a plethora of other investment-bank junk rather, jargon. I
think this was partly to blame for the dismal pass rate of 17.81%. An examinee who flunked the bar leveraged
his experience to apply for and land a job in the M&A department of a leading investment bank.

My advice is that a bar candidate should not spend precious time burning the midnight oil with Blacks Law
Dictionary. A cost-benefit analysis would lead one to conclude that time spent on looking for and even studying
obscure legal nomenclature would only result in dividends that are well, de minimis. Better to just study the basic
legal principles and significant jurisprudence and encounter legal terms in the course of such study.

Moreover, screwball questions are not really expected to be answered correctly by the majority of the examinees
(and even law professors) but are meant more to test the resolve and fortitude of one who aspires to be a lawyer.
Do not panic or lose hope if you do not know the answer to the question. Just give it your best try and proceed to
the other questions.


DO NOT DISCUSS THE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS. After you have taken a bar exam in a particular
subject, forget about it and concentrate on preparing and studying for the next bar exam subject. After all you
cannot undo what you have already written. Avoid discussing the probable answers and avoid people who delight
in discussing them. The time spent on arguing and discussing the probable answers is better spent relaxing and
preparing for the next exam.


To paraphrase Bobby Knight, the key is not the will to pass. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to pass
that is important.

The bar exam is a formidable challenge but like any other hurdle it can be surmounted by assiduous planning and
preparation. The following quote from Steve Nash, a player of less than imposing physical attributes but who went
on to become one of the NBA all-time greats, is inspiring:

You have to rely on your preparation. You got to really be passionate and try to prepare more than anyone else, and
put yourself in a position to succeed, and when the moment comes you got to enjoy, relax, breathe and rely on your
preparation so that you can perform and not be anxious or filled with doubt.

When your moment comes, enjoy it!

March 2017