Some Last-Minute Bar Exam Tips

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It's that time: bar exam time! Any of you taking the bar exam this week (the last week of July) probably shouldn't be reading this, but just in case you are, I'll offer some last-minute tips for the bar exam itself — tips on deportment and taking the exam, not on how many partners can twist the meaning of ''proximate cause'' into something Cardozo wouldn't have recognized in a billion years.

Some Last-Minute Bar Exam Tips

You've done the studying, or I hope so at least. You can't cram secured transactions at this late date anyway, so either you are prepared or just finishing off those last few things.

Here are my tips:

1. The day before you take the bar exam, relax! Get some good sleep, pack your supplies, and just chill. Stressing out will not help any.

2. Arrive prepared. Don't forget your pencils (or laptop if you're using it to take the exam, plus your charger), ID, snack, and earplugs. Even though it's July, take a sweater or sweatshirt — it might be cold. It was during my bar exam. Take some Kleenex and throat lozenges as well so you don't spend your break frantically hunting them down, just in case.

3. Make sure you get good sleep and eat a good meal or two during the exam. The exam is at least two days, possibly three — and you need to be well fed and rested. You'll burn energy like you wouldn't believe, just from the mental stress. Keeping your body in shape is critical.

4. Answer everything on your exam — even if you don't know anything. When I took the exam, they had a bankruptcy question, which I totally blew. I knew nothing, but I at least put down something. I made up for it when I was prepared for the secured transaction question which caught almost everyone else by surprise. That kind of stuff will happen, but you should at least try to get some points by putting something down.

5. Read the question and understand it. Answering the question is vital — if you don't, you lose lots of points.

6. Break it down. Make the grader's life easier by using white space, separate headers, etc. Your response likely will be received with a more generous attitude than the one-paragraph monstrosities covering three pages that some people write.

7. Analyze the question. Circle key facts, relationships, amounts, and other significant facts. Everything is there for a reason — why? It may well conceal an issue.

8. Manage your time wisely. You are almost inevitably going to run out of time on some question. Read all the questions first, and the one you know nothing about, leave until last — you couldn't answer it anyway, right? But put something down, even if it is not a complete sentence. That's better than nothing. This also means that you shouldn't go for perfect! In fact, that's important enough to be the next tip.

9. Don't go for perfect! You just have to pass. No one cares, and no one will know, if you were the high score or the one who was the cutoff. So that means you only have to do an adequate job on any one question. Sure, some questions will be easier than others, and you should look to do a complete job as best as you can in order to make up for that one you're going to bomb later on, but you don't need to hit everything. That's the greatest cause of issues on the bar: perfection is the enemy of the good response. This also means you shouldn't drop case names or statutes to get your point across.

10. However, details count. Be able to define bona fide purchaser for value, consideration, etc.

11. Treat yourself. This is likely the hardest written exam you'll ever take. It's certainly one of the most exhausting. Make sure to get some fun in during the exam days — but save the alcoholic binge until after it's over.

Good luck on the exam, and remember: if you don't pass now but do in February, no one will know or care! So don't panic if you fail this time — it's not the end of the world.


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