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Summary: There are many steps one has to take to prepare for the bar. This guide can help you with these steps.
So, you have worked hard, obtained those coveted grades, and made your way through law school, and now you are just a few days away from the bar exam. Go ahead, celebrate your JD, but quickly move on to your bar exam preparation.
The bar exam is vital and perhaps the most prolific test you will ever take. Many of these ideas listed below can help you greatly during your bar exam journey.
Determine when and where you plan tostudy. You can study in a library, you can study with a friend, or study at home. But, create a schedule that will work for you. Are you working? Will your boss grant you two weeks of leave just before the bar exam? Do you have children that you need to care for? Will you be able to study at home without getting distracted by household chores and family obligations? Ask yourself these questions and plan a workaround. While it is fundamental to prepare well for your bar exams right from the beginning, the last two weeks are crucial. You will need to set yourself a routine that empowers you to study well.
Create a study schedule. This is closely related to the last tip. If your prep course has a schedule that seems good to you, then follow it. If you are studying for your bar exam on your own, it is crucial that you create a schedule and also follow it. If the schedule doesn’t work for you, feel free to modify it. You may realize a few days into the schedule that you cannot keep up, so alter it as per your needs and be confident that you will still pass the bar exam. You can control your own schedule!
Eliminate sources of stress. As mentioned earlier, what you study in the last two weeks before the bar exam is critical. If you think you need solitude, talk to your family and friends and communicate your needs with them. If needed, hire a babysitter to care for your kids. Arrange your finances and pay your bills in advance. Analyze your lifestyle and understand what sort of day-to-day tasks you might find difficult to handle during your study phase. If you think you may have trouble handling your responsibilities, plan accordingly. You may also use your computer and smartphone to remind you about critical items.
Deal with anxiety. Anxiety and the bar exam go hand-in-hand. If you are anxious, take comfort in knowing that the bar exam is serious, and it is natural to feel restless and nervous. However, remember that high levels of anxiety can ruin your chances of success. So find ways and techniques to reduce and channel these feelings. You can de-stress by reading, scratching your dog’s belly, listening to music, running, and/or playing some baseball, for example. Regardless of what you do, seek out a release valve that will ease the pressure of studying for and finally taking the bar exam.
Treat the bar like a quest. When you first sit down to embark on your bar exam studies, everything will seem new, especially when that test date is imminent. But, with every passing hour, even the seemingly insurmountable and difficult sections will seem less challenging. Hard work and focus will enable you to build that confidence. Remember to pay attention to what you learn and master the concepts, and the bar exam will become just another hurdle in your life. Call up a friend or a former professor if you do not understand a certain concept. Maintain those relationships.
Focus solely on preparation. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by websites, Facebook nonsense, some movie coming out, a show on TV, or other disruptions. The bar exam is a paramount milestone in your life that needs your full attention. Remember, you can party later and hang out with friends after the test. Real friends will know to let you focus.
Do not rely on just lectures. As tempted as you may be, do not limit yourself to watching lectures on the internet. Yes, lectures do help to some extent, but they don’t provide actual value and will eat up valuable time. Everything you must know is already in your written outlines and that is what you should concentrate on while preparing for the bar in the last two weeks. Instead of watching these lectures, spend time taking the full-length practice tests as well as reviewing other study material.
Diligence. Diligence is your mantra and key to passing the bar exam. With continuous and systematic preparation devoid of interruptions and distractions, you should pass the exam. Take no more than a 30-minute break once every four to five hours. Use this regimen to make the necessary progress to help you handle the challenges of this test. In the middle of the day, do something physical as mentioned above, eat healthily, and then dive back into those books and your notes from law school.
Sign up for a bar course. If you can, sign up for a bar course, as it will steer you to hot topics and also train you on how to deliver the right answers on the days of your bar exam. Yes, you do need to know the fundamentals and master all subjects pertaining to the legal field. However, during the days that lead up to the exam, focus on the essentials and how to provide answers that will shine the brightest.
Practice tests matter. This challenging exam is not about how much matter, data, and information you can force into your brain. The exam is about how well you can convey what you have assimilated and what is cognizant to you. And the best way to test your learning is to take a practice test or two. You can practice writing test answers out because the actual test will require you to do so and take sets of multiple choice questions to help you prepare. Use your smartphone to time yourself since you will be timed during the actual test. You should not be doing this every day though; you need to be studying for the real test too and not so much focusing on test taking.
Do not over study. This is a mistake that afflicts some students who take the bar exam. Over studying can lead to fatigue and sabotage your performance. If you try and study for 18-20 hours a day for 2 weeks straight, it will not just slow down your ability to learn, but could also render you incapable of sitting through the bar exam. Sleep, rest and physical activity, or a lack thereof, can adversely affect your success with the bar exam.
Get outlines from others. The last two weeks before the exam can be overwhelming. Just the sheer size of the study material that you will have to dive into is enough to induce a panic attack. Request an outline or two from people you know who have passed their bar exams. Outlines can help you stay calm and focused on important sections of the exam. An outline will also help you realize how each subject can be condensed, which will be more manageable. You may also get these outlines on websites such as Lean Sheets and Bar Outlines.
Pause when you have studied enough. Treat studying like you would treat a job. Start studying at the same time each day, remain focused through your study time, and then pause and do something else once you have finished studying. Take a break, get on that elliptical machine, watch some sports or a show or catch up on the news for a short while depending on your schedule. Yes, you need to focus on the bar exam and go all-out but you do not have to be a complete recluse during these two weeks.
Practice under test-like conditions. Okay, you’re all prepped up to attempt a practice test. You must practice writing essays and attempt performance tests within the same time limits that your state’s bar allocates. If possible, ask a former professor come if you can take the practice test in their classroom to simulate the atmosphere of where you will actually take the bar exam.
Prepare to score high on the written portions. To pass a bar exam with flying colors, you must score high on the essay sections. To do this, you need to write clearly and with authority. You need to use the right vernacular as well. Bar graders will want to check if you have been able to spot issues and you know how to analyze the given issues with the facts presented to you.
Memorize. The first 6 weeks of bar exam preparation must be spent learning the subjects and getting the concepts right. About two weeks before the bar, you should have a basic working knowledge of all the subjects in this domain. Spend the last few days before the exam memorizing all vital aspects and prepare yourself to pass this test so you can begin your career.
How well you take the test. As you now know, the bar exam is no cake walk. It is, in fact, a difficult test. The questions and the answers can be confusing and cryptic. Many times, particularly during the multiple choice portion, from two answers that seem correct, you will have to choose the best or “more” correct answer. This can be frustrating. Beyond your writing ability, the bar exam is designed to test your knowledge as well as dedication to the law. This not a guessing game. You need to nail down the right answer.
Eat well. Now, you may wonder what does eating have to do with your bar exam. Nutrition is what helps your brain function properly. So, in order to keep your brain sharp, you need to provide it with a steady amount of nutrition. Consider adding a supplement of Omega 3 fish oil for that extra boost and zest. Your synapses will love it!
Exercise. Nobody thinks about exercise, at least not when the clock is ticking and you are just a few days away from the exam. Remember that exercise helps release endorphins which can help you study more sharply. If you cannot get yourself to step out of the home, try stretching or practicing some yoga poses to spark off the endorphins.
Take another practice test or two in the final days before the exam. Don’t stop working and testing yourself. It will help you spot the weaknesses that you will need to polish. Just be aware to not overdo it. Without any uncertainty, you will want to save a copious amount of energy for the actual test. You have already passed tests in law school, right? This is the time to shore up your weaknesses and fill in any and all remaining gaps.
Adjust your sleep schedule. If you are someone who burns the midnight oil, it is important to adjust your schedule to match your exam. Remember, you will be expected to give your best performance between 8 am and 5 pm on the day of the exam. So, if you are used to hitting the snooze button way after 8 am, it is time you adjust your sleep schedule.
Attend a recap class. If you have the option to attend a Barbri recap class, do it. You will learn judicious tips that can help you crystallize all you have learned during your preparation, and ultimately help you confidently walk in and out of the exam. Again, use every resource available, while staying clear of the assumption your groundwork has made it so you know everything regarding the bar exam. If you realize you have not focused enough on something you perhaps should have, you may still have some time to target that material and get it processed in your head in time for your test.
Plan for the big day. If you are beginning to get anxious, you may practice visualization and relaxation techniques. Imagine yourself walking into the testing center and remaining calm. Remind yourself that you have prepared for this day and you can manage its pressure. Affirmations like these will help you in many ways. Also, make sure your car starts the night before!
Try to get a good night’s sleep a day before the bar exam. We know how hard this can be. However, it is pivotal that you get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep before the day of your bar exam. It is okay if you lay in your bed tossing and turning a little – that happens. Just don’t get up and walk around, causing you to become more awake. Stay in bed, calm yourself, and try to sleep.
Do not talk about the exam with others. On test days, many candidates like to discuss questions and answers to the exam. Hearing their replies can stress you out, particularly if the answers they discuss weren’t the answers you chose or gave. Because of this, it is suggested bar testers eat their lunch alone.
Do what you think is best. Remember, this advice is just a compilation of suggestions from people who have passed the bar. You can still pass the exam whether or not you implement some of these, all of these, or none of these tips. Some folks rarely study past 5 or 6 pm and pass, some study all day and night and pass. Some cram for 10 weeks at a stretch and some take just 2 weeks to get this material into their heads. Know thyself! This is not a one size fits all memorandum.
Armed with these tips, we believe you can not only pass the bar exam but can pass it with reasonable ease.