This is it, bar exam takers; the bar exam is just days away. For the final post of this bar exam season I wanted to give you your bar exam pep talk.
Take a moment to congratulate yourself.
So many students spend these last days focusing on the fact that they don’t know everything (remember, knowing everything is practically impossible). Instead, I encourage you to congratulate yourself.
“For what?” you might be asking.
For surviving the bar exam study process!
This prep period has not been easy and you have had to remain disciplined and focused. And you have made it through. Take a moment to think back at the first days of bar prep. How little you knew, how few MBE questions you got right, and how you had no idea how to put together an essay question or performance test.
Today, you are a different bar exam taker.
Sure, you don’t know everything—but you know a lot! And be proud of that!
Things may happen that you didn’t expect, but you will be okay!
You are prepared. You got everything done you needed to do in the days before the exam. Your hotel room is stocked with healthy food to eat, pencils are sharpened, and you have tested the exam software on your computer.
Now, sometimes unexpected things will happen. The year I sat for the bar exam there was an earthquake that affected the testing centers in Southern California. When my father took the bar exam (back when you brought a typewriter), the power strips on his side of the testing center went out. I have friends who have had computers crash or people next to them get sick—you name it.
But do these crazy occurrences stop one from passing the bar exam? No! You can still pass. Thousands of attorneys in Southern California passed despite the earthquake and my father passed after handwriting the rest of the exam (when the typewriter wasn’t an option anymore).
I challenge you to decide right now that if something crazy happens, you will not give up. You will take things as they come and continue to do your best to pass this exam. It is not the end of the world; finishing the test and doing your best are what’s important.
Don’t worry about what other people are doing before, during, or after the exam.
If you have never taken the bar exam before, I will tell you that waiting to enter the testing room is a strange experience. There you are standing with hundreds of anxious people, hugging laptops to their chests and clinging to plastic bags containing driver’s licenses, pencils, and highlighters. Some people are studying, while some just look scared. The key is to stay in your own zone. Try not to concentrate on how everyone else is doing; just worry about keeping yourself calm and focused.
During the exam it is also important not to get distracted. You will notice that people approach this exam in different ways. Some folks will bring in every item allowed by the bar examiners and set up what seems like a campsite around their laptop. Others will just put their watch next to their laptop, pull out a pen to take notes, and get started. You might know people next to you or you might not (I was actually a summer associate with the guy sitting next to me at the exam). No matter, just focus on what you are doing. If you do find yourself getting distracted by other exam takers, take a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you are going to pass the bar your way, the way you have practiced and perfected.
After the exam, it is important that you don’t indulge in discussion among students about the test. Nothing good can come of this. If you absolutely must talk to someone, call somebody who wasn’t at the exam, like a family member or significant other. They will be happy to listen but won’t give you any negative feedback on your answers. It is important to move on after the test section is complete and not dwell on what happened.
Rest and don’t “overstudy” between exam days.
I know I talk a lot about rest, but it is so important when it comes to bar exam studying. And testing days are no different! Two full days of exam taking is grueling and if you are in California, that third day is even more challenging. It is important that you rest between exam days. Cramming or studying in the evenings is likely not going to help your performance. Don’t believe me? Think for a moment how much you actually learn during a cram session. Balance that against the possibility of being tired or burned out on exam day—and the extra time studying just isn’t worth it.
During the exam, stick to your exam-taking plan!
When nerves hit as you open up the question packet (and believe me they will), it is important that you stick to the exam-taking plan that you have practiced. Hopefully, you have an approach for essays, MBEs, and performance tests (if applicable). Relying on them is key to managing anxiety and getting the exam started off right. Nerves can make those approaches want to fly out the window. Don’t let this happen to you. You have likely developed great test-taking habits throughout your studying period. Stick to them. Don’t let anxiety take over! Don’t worry that the guy next to you isn’t outlining his exam answer or is finishing 20 minutes early. Just be in your own zone and take the exam as you have practiced in the past.
It is game time!
This is it. It is time for the biggest exam in your legal career. But you are prepared for it. You have studied hard. You have been practicing positive thinking. You have taken one practice exam after another. You know enough law to pass. You can pass. Just go in there and show the bar examiners that you are ready to be a licensed attorney. Good luck with the final days of studying—and good luck on exam day!
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.