Six Tips for Surviving Bar-Exam Prep

Published: May 21, 2018

 Education       Grad School       Law       
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Test prep for the July 2018 bar exam starts next week—it’s officially time to switch from graduation-party mode to study mode. With all of the pressure surrounding the exam, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Instead of worrying about whether or not you’ll pass, focus on steps you can take to be in the best position to pass. Below are six tips for surviving bar exam prep.

1. Make a Schedule

While you can’t control the kinds of questions you’ll receive on the bar exam, you can control how you prepare for those questions. The number of topics covered on the bar exam can be daunting, but making a schedule can help you gain some control over the process. Determine how much time to devote to every topic and plot your daily schedule from now until test day so that all of the topics are covered. Be sure to leave time for full practice tests, as well. A schedule like this ensures that you cover everything and gives you a roadmap to keep you on track each day, especially if you’re tempted to skip studying.

2. Treat Bar Prep Like It’s Your Job

One positive aspect of having a schedule is that it keeps you accountable for studying. Embrace this accountability, and adopt the mindset that studying for the bar exam is your job for the next few months. Choose your daily “work hours,” and stick with them every day, the same way you would if you were going to an office. You may even want to designate a certain space your “office” (a room in your home, a certain library, a particular coffee shop, a regularly empty classroom) and set up shop there every day. This consistency will help breed the job mentality and keep you on your schedule.

3. Carve Out Free Time

While having a regular schedule is important, it’s also important to make some time for yourself separate from studying. While this is likely the most important test of your career, it won’t be productive to study 24/7 and burn out. That doesn’t mean your study hours shouldn’t be long—you’re going to put in a lot of hours and hard work preparing for this exam. But when study time is done, leave the books and outlines behind and relax. And once a week, try to plan something fun after study time so that you can truly unwind and regroup before another round of bar prep.

4. Practice

By now, you’re a pro at law school exams, and you may feel like you don’t need to actually practice doing questions for the bar exam. You would be wrong. The more comfortable you feel on exam day, the better. Getting yourself familiar with the format of the exam, the types of questions asked, and the time constraints can go a long way. Factor time into your schedule to complete one-off, timed practice questions and also take advantage of any full-length bar exam simulations that your test prep company may offer. Also, as you work on practice essays this summer, try to handwrite a few—you never know when technology will fail, and if it does on test day, you should be ready.

5. Stress-Proof Exam Day

The last thing you want to do on exam day is stress out, which means you should do everything you can to logistically prepare. If the exam is far from your home, book a hotel room at the test site or close to the test site now. If you have to drive to the test, figure out the driving route and include time for morning traffic. Recruit someone to drive you so you don’t have to worry about parking and can zone out on the ride. Perhaps you live in a city with public transportation—map out the various commute options and how much time you will need to reach the test site (and make sure you have more than one mode planned, in case your chosen method of transportation is delayed that day). In terms of food, the test site may offer boxed lunches for the day—order one. The last thing you want to be worried about is finding food  between test sessions. In the days before the test, pack a bag of everything you’ll need for test day, from your computer to power plug to pens and pencils (should your computer break or the test technology fail) to a sweatshirt should the room be cold to drinks and snacks to your ID to your test-site information and any other items you’ll need that day. Don’t wait until the morning of the test. You will likely be a ball of nerves that day. The only thing you should worry about on test day is taking the exam.

6. Remember There’s an Endpoint

The anxiety and time commitment that comes with preparing for the bar exam is finite. Although summer may appear to be slipping away before your eyes as family and friends go on beach trips, hang out in the park, meet for rooftop happy hours, and generally enjoy the warm weather, you will be joining them before you know it. Resisting the urge to ditch your outlines for fun in the sun isn’t easy. But if you approach your studying like it’s a job and stick to your schedule, you will be better mentally equipped to say no. The rest of the summer awaits once you answer that last question.

Good luck!