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Conquering the Bar Exam: Knowing Thy Enemy

published July 16, 2012

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Tips on the Day of the Bar Exam

Preparing for the bar exam
First and foremost, when you are taking a test for multiple days, you want to be comfortable. The air conditioning might be blasting or not working at all. Additionally, on days when exam takers are using a computer for essays, the rooms will be much hotter than multiple choice days. However, you should be prepared no matter what your test environment may feel like. Individuals also should eat breakfast and lunch on the day of the exam. This is going to be a very long test, so you don't want to skip a meal or go a full day without eating properly. Believe it or not, managing stress is a big part of passing the bar exam. Since there might be 1,000 test-takers at the examination center, you want to arrive early and know where you are going to park. You will not be permitted to take the test if you arrive late. In addition, some test takers get hotel rooms close to the exam center. One of the major tips for taking the bar exam is to avoid discussing the bar exam with others. There is no benefit in discussing the exam and it only increases stress, so you should avoid this altogether. For example, if you discuss an essay during a break and every party to the conversation had a different opinion about the essay, this could throw off a test taker's confidence. Some people suggest eating a heavier breakfast early in the morning and a lighter lunch so that the test taker stays sharp in the afternoon. Further, a test taker should stay hydrated because dehydration may lead to headaches and a decreased attention span. (Depending on the test center, a student may not be allowed to bring water into the exam. However, we suggest drinking a lot of water during breaks. The bar exam is a marathon not a sprint.) An additional tip to calm the nerves is to do some light cardio before the test; however, a student should not overdue it on testing days. A test taker should do some exercise before the test so that the first time a test taker's heart rate jumps in the morning is not at the beginning of the test. When a test taker's heart rate jumps, a test taker could have a difficult time calming down and focusing on the test. After a bit of light exercise, a test taker will often be able to refocus quickly. Finally, do not freak out before the exam or while you are taking the exam. You must be thinking rationally and if you do freak out, stop taking the exam and take three depth breaths, physically stop typing, and put your pencil down. After these breaths, get back in the game. You took the preparation courses and you are ready for the bar. Remaining calm is one of the keys to passing.

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Preparing for the Bar Exam

In order to prepare for the bar exam you need to build your confidence. You need to work extremely hard in order to pass the bar exam the first time. You never want to take the bar exam as a “trial run.” Sitting for the exam with the intention of taking the test over will only make things more difficult for you. Next, you need to prepare yourself financially. The bar exam is expensive. According to Southwestern Law School, the application and the fees for a preparation course could exceed $4,000. You don't want to have to work while preparing for the bar exam. You should talk to your school and look into applying for one of the various loans available or other available financial aid. Remember, studying for the bar exam is a full-time job. It is highly recommended that you study eight or more hours a day for a six day week. An individual will typically study for three months after he/she has graduated from law school. It is also recommended that you take a Bar Exam preparation course. In fact, people will often take multiple courses. For example, in addition to the standard overall courses a number of students will seek out additional seminars, tutoring, or books to strengthen areas of weakness. There are many good courses, which provide a wide variety of teaching methods. When you attend these bar prep courses you need to pay attention, complete as much of the suggested exercises as possible, and review the sample answers and notes on any submitted practice exams because these bar preparation classes are prepared by experts in the field. You must attend lectures, study the outlines, and take some timed practice exams. You should try and get a taste of what it feels like to take the MBE questions, performance test, and essays while being under timed pressure. Another suggestion you might take into consideration is creating your own schedule during the last month. Taking the bar exam is a demanding process that involves attending Bar Review classes and taking practice exams, so you need to set aside a plan for how you will review the materials leading up to the bar exam. The best way to do this is by creating a schedule. A lot of students will review the different topics for three days and then do one day to one half day reviews before the exam. However, each student approaches the bar exam in a unique and individual way, so do what works for you.

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