BarMax logo source: Instagram
This is a word vomit recollection of my personal purchase and use process. I purchased BarMax in December 2016 (Added an update to this on Jan 10, 2017). I haven’t found any blogs that really go into detail about the software purchase process and end-user experience, so I am sharing my experience with the product. Please note that my conclusion is that I am somewhat happy with the software and intend to use it even though I must be too stupid to use it since I will be going to a correspondence law school. (See Why I Chose Correspondence Law School)
How I found BarMax
I first heard about Bar Max (https://testmaxprep.com/bar-exam#) when I was researching law schools and the First Year Law Students Exam. A student at People’s College of Law had attributed his passing of the “Baby Bar” on the first attempt to using BarMax’s MBEs specifically. For the record, he murdered the fuck out of his MCQ’s.
I recently purchased the “California Baby Bar Exam – FYLSE” (https://testmaxprep.com/bar-exam/courses/california-baby-bar-review) What is great about what TestMax provides prior to purchase, is an opportunity to apply for a Public Interest Scholarship. If awarded, you receive a discount of $50 off the purchase price. Subsequently, I applied, and was awarded.
Right now, I am a 0L, and I am gathering all of the required materials from my law school as well as all of the supplements I think will be of use in anticipation for the Baby Bar. I won’t be sitting for the Baby Bar until June 2018, so the other great reason I am buying this software roughly 1.5 years early is because it never expires. Most supplements I want to buy, expire per bar administration, like Bar Essays; or annually like Themis, Quimbee, etc. So as I twiddle my thumbs waiting for my first year to start, I can start perusing the software to get a feel for it and maybe learn a thing or two.
The software has the following listed features on it’s website:
- 10 hours of clear, concise lectures…
- A Calendar to guide you through the program
- E-mail and phone support
- 600+ real MBE questions
- 75+ practice essays…
- Over 250 flashcards
- Skeleton Outlines in Word Format
- Welcome Packet Materials
- Lifetime Access to the app…
- Great tips and tricks on how to structure your studying…
Upon purchase, you receive an e-mail that says to remember to download the product and that in 2 hours you will receive an activation code for the product. I purchased mine I believe near end of day 5 pm. Hoping it was automated, I waited 2 hours, then I e-mailed them to request that they manually activate. The e-mail bounced back.
My welcome packet also was sent right after purchase. It is a zipped file and contains an outline shell that my computer said could damage my computer possibly if I unlocked it. Gotta love Windows. The unzipping process produced a lot of warning messages about the encryption as well. I’m running Windows 7 and Office 2010, in case that matters. In case anyone wants to talk shit, I used to be a Network Admin and resident IT lady, while cutting the checks. I know what the fuck I’m doing and I love my dinosaur computer. If XP was still supported, and I could run CIV VI on it, I’d be using that. I digress…
The welcome packet has a sample study calendar dated for the last baby bar in October 2016. For reference, I purchased this in December 2016. It has the shell outlines, essays with answers, essays by themselves, an introduction, and a copyright notice. Just know depending on your computer, the viewing of the items might be a bit tricky due to security issues embedded within the files. Specifically encryption from the BarMax materials.
Using BarMax on the Web
As I waited for my activation code to arrive, I listened to a lecture via the web and followed along with the outline that displayed inside the lecture module. Again, I’m a 0L but I’ve been a 0L prepping for approximately a year and I have a pea sized understanding of Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law. I listened to the first lecture and my opinion is that it is pretty basic. I much prefer listening to Law School Legends at this time. I then checked out the flash cards, only to find that they are an exact regurgitation of the outline. My contact at PCL said he didn’t use it for the lectures, he used it for the MBE questions, so keep that in mind.
On the web, there is a filter icon for a menu bar so, I clicked it and it displayed the menu. I clicked on the MBE questions and it displayed -and still displays at the time of this writing- a blank page.
I e-mailed the original e-mail address from tech support I had been dealing with after 2 hours had passed because the software was still giving me like a trial version of it. Certain areas where greyed out. I wanted them to have my e-mail in their queue the next morning due to my impatience and time difference. They seem to be based on the east coast (NY?) while I am in California. [Side note, Calexit is not a thing here, the media needs to stop.]
UPDATE JANUARY 10:
I logged into the web version and the MBE’s no longer had a blank image, it actually has something there now. So I click on Contracts and…
Nope, still a fucking mess. The only thing that is possible is scrolling through questions by clicking on the Questions tab at the bottom which opens a drop down list that allows you to choose to display a question from 1-279. To me, it’s not functional.
I went back to my e-mailed link from tech support to confirm that I get study mode and test mode and yes, I do. So, I have to use the direct link when I’m on my PC if I want to use this feature with functionality.
BACK TO THE ORIGINAL REVIEW FROM DECEMBER 2016
I then downloaded the actual application to my iPad, found the MBE questions there, so crisis averted. (?!)
The next day they responded to my e-mail and said that I had already activated it, I have to assume it was by creating an account using the e-mail address I ordered with, because I never received or input an activation code. I then e-mailed them back letting them know about the web issue from above (December ’16). They responded with a direct url to the MBE’s that does work. I just think they should program that URL into the menu so a blank page doesn’t display via the web. Now I have to bookmark this URL and archive the e-mail just in case. Oh, and I’m using Chrome. I haven’t tried with Firefox yet.
As you’ve read and seen, my technical use issues upon purchase are lengthy. I will conclude this portion by saying that presently, it is quite confusing to get to where you need to be within the software. The program displays the General Bar in addition to the Baby Bar and add-on supplements for California. If you go into something you didn’t purchase then it gives you a message saying you need to pay for access to the other courses. When I couldn’t find the MBE questions due to the blank page I tried both California Supplements thinking that since they say MBE maybe that’s where I needed to go. Nope.
The Actual Application
Inside the app it has the courses, you select the appropriate course and then you have to choose the exam date. As mentioned before, the exam date has not been updated so I just chose the date available. All it does is tell you, you have X amount of days until the exam. I was hoping for a digital study schedule, but no.
The good thing about the software is that you can reset flash cards and the multiple choice questions, so when you’ve run the whole bank you can start over at 0.
The essays are from previous California Baby Bar exam. They compiled them by subject into a pdf in the welcome packet and on the app they display as a forever scrolling page. Pro’s and con’s are:
Pro: If you don’t have the essays they go as far back as 2002.
Con: I have essays from 2000 to date saved already from the actual bar website. The bar keeps 10 years archived.
Now they also give answers to the essays, which are the same sample answers that the bar released. So know, you’re not getting some new essay that someone created. You are getting essay materials that are already available for free.
MBE/ Multiple Choice Questions
I like the MBE section on the direct link through the website. As mentioned earlier, you have to get a separate link to get this page to display properly. It has two modes, test mode or study mode. Test mode has a count down so it forced you to move on within the 1.8 minute time period tutors recommend. What is also great is that they allow you to choose how many questions you want to work within a subject or all subjects. The minimum is 25 and the maximum is 100. You can work the questions at any time and “quit” when you’ve had enough. This allows you to review the questions with the correct answer shown with a brief paragraph about each answer and why it is correct or incorrect. It does also show you what you selected.
Also, there is a feature to ask a question about a MCQ. I saw one comment from last year where someone asked why the answer was correct and gave receipts as to why they didn’t agree and I didn’t see a response. So don’t rely on the “message board” too much.
MCQ’s on the iPad
In stark contrast, I dislike running the MCQ’s via the app only because you can only choose by subject or all subjects, my app doesn’t allow test mode versus study mode. It seems to be in test mode because when I start it, it has a 1 minute 48 second count down running for each question. I did let it lapse and it seems to just stop running and you stay within the question. So the plus is, you can start training yourself to answer the questions within the recommended time period.
However, the good thing about the app is that you can download the subjects for offline use which is a huge plus for me because I don’t like using free hotspots due to blackhatters and pwners. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, never use free wifi dummies. Or if you do, don’t log into any accounts or buy anything. Your bank accounts and credit cards could be toast if you do. For the millennials, your Facebook could get hacked! OMG!
Just Buy It
In conclusion, it has some bugs I didn’t expect, but I’m going to work it 100% because they have a money back guarantee of about 70% (something about iTunes fees that can’t be refunded) after you provide proper documentation. I know it has worked for someone else who passed, so I don’t think it was that bad of an investment and you can take it anywhere as long as you have an apple product., i.e iPhone, iPad, iPod. I had to dust off the iPod I bought in 2012. I’m not an Apple fan.
My Suggestions to BarMax
What I would like to see is for the links to all work on the web and for less confusion with the courses listed when you log in., the e-mail addresses you put in your automated e-mails to be working e-mail addresses, and I’d like to be able to speak to someone on the phone. I called the next morning when my e-mail hadn’t been responded to, and automated prompt had me leave a message. I believe they should have been open by then I called around 6 am pacific/9 am eastern.