Lots of nervous, recent graduates from law schools will be sitting down to take the bar exam soon. For some it might be their first time, for others it’s the 2nd or 3rd time at the rodeo. It’s been a few years since I took the Bar (which I passed easily, while also going out drinking between test days), but here’s my bit of advice.
Bar Exam Tips
- If you have to go to a different city to take the Bar, go two days early. Hopefully you already made reservations for this one, otherwise it might be too late. Why? X-factor. Something random you can’t predict, flat tire, whatever. True story: I convinced one of my friends who took the Bar with me to check in two days early. When we checked in, he got a smoking room (he was a non-smoker) and the hotel was at capacity – they couldn’t put him in a different room until the next day. He said it was awful and woke up with a horrible headache. But since he was there a day early, he could shrug it off and still be ready for the Bar. Don’t let fate put a roadblock in your path. Get there a couple days early in order to prevent anything throwing you off your game.
- Explore the test area. If you’re at the test site early, you’ll have time to scout the location and surrounding area. Don’t walk into the test site for the first time on the day of the exam, you’ll be putting yourself into a confused and anxious state (more than you already are). Where do you go? Where to register? Where are the bathrooms? Where are nearby restaurants? Where is a nice quiet spot away from everyone, but near the test site? Those are all questions you’ll likely be asking yourself the day of the exam if you’ve never been there before. By taking the time to explore the area, you’ll be a bit more confident and sure of yourself the day of the exam.
- Eat and drink healthy. This isn’t the time for sugary treats and salty carb-laden snacks. You don’t want your blood sugar spiking up and down. It’s also probably not the best time to be drinking sodas full of sugar (but if you’re already in the habit, stick with it). Ideally, you’ll be eating lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Nuts are a great snack through the exam, with plenty of protein and fat to keep you going. Drink lots of water. Caffeine is okay and can boost performance, but it doesn’t need to be tied to sugar. Coffee with no sugar. Tea. Diet sodas are good too. But make sure you consume enough water.
- Have a wrist watch/stopwatch. Many young people no longer wear watches, relying solely on their phone for the time. But bar exams won’t let you have your smartphone during the exam. There will be a clock somewhere in the room but you don’t want to have to be searching for it or twisting around to look at it. Bring your own. Know how much time you have and plan accordingly.
- Laptop preparation. Most students use their laptops for the written portion of the bar exam at this point. It should go without saying, but make sure your laptop is fully charged the night before the exam. You might also want to consider bringing an extra power cord and battery. You don’t want some 11th hour power problem preventing you from using your laptop. Also, disable all energy settings and screen savers in settings/configuration. Most bar exam software will lock you out from the rest of your computer. It’s bar software or nothing. You don’t want your laptop to drop into energy saving mode or the screen saver kicking in and locking you out.
- Don’t use this extra time to study new/extra material. There’s nothing you can do to magically cram something into your brain at this point. There is going to be no sudden “aha!” moment where you finally figure something out. It’s too late at this point. You’re done.
- Do review your outlines/one sheets. At this point you should have distilled all your studying into a few pages of material. It shouldn’t be to help you learn anything new, it should be a refresher of what you know. Take an hour or so each evening to look it over. Maybe wake up a bit earlier and look over it as well. But don’t obsess over it.
- Don’t discuss the exam with other people. No point in second guessing your decisions and obsessing over what’s been done. Just skip the topic all together. Some people go into complete isolation mode and don’t want to interact with anyone – which is fine if you are one of those people. I still hung out with people I knew, we all just agreed to table any Bar discussion.
If you’ve taken the time and prepared, you’re likely going to pass. Just go in there and make it happen. And after you pass the bar exam, make sure you’re prepared to make the transition from law school to practice.
And once you pass the bar, you know what to do.