A Few Last Words the Day Before the Bar Exam

black and white laptop

Well, it’s finally here. Tomorrow, thousands of law graduates around the USA will sit for the first day of the bar exam. You’ve prepared for this for months, if not years (counting your entire law school education). You’re ready!

Now is the time to do your final non-academic readiness check. Do you have all your materials and equipment ready and in good working order? If you will take a remote exam at home, have you prepared your test space in compliance with your jurisdiction’s instructions? If you will take the exam elsewhere, have you planned your route, parking, meals and snacks? Do you have a mask, if required by your test location or your own health? If you will be allowed any materials for some parts of the bar, have you checked those specific instructions and organized your allowed materials? Will you be able to get access to them easily when appropriate, and put them away when required? Have you set your alarm to wake you up in plenty of time each morning?

Aside from logistics, here are some day-before tips adapted from Profs. Riebe and Schwartz:

1. Get plenty of sleep the night before each day of the bar exam. A well-rested brain will help you in the inevitable situation where you encounter something unfamiliar on the bar; you’ll still be able to make an intelligent guess, or craft a coherent analysis, even if you don’t know or remember much about a particular topic.  If eatings carbs at night helps you sleep, consider doing that. Avoid alcohol.

2. Stay focused, persistent, and resilient. Use your healthy stress management strategies. If talking to friends or family members causes you stress right now, ask them to give you some space and reconnect after the last day of the exam.

3. Turn off text and social media notifications on your phone, and avoid social media this week.

4. Carefully review all instructions from your jurisdiction, including any published on the website of your bar admissions office and all emails from your jurisdiction.

5. On the day of the exam, If taking the bar outside your home, arrive early. It’s better to wait and have plenty of time to settle in than to rush in at the last minute.

6. Remind yourself to use your time wisely during exam sessions.

7. Make yourself forget each question after you finish each answer; every question and every exam session are fresh opportunities to do well.

8. Avoid talking with other bar-takers about the exam, or comparing notes, after each session ends. It won’t help you, and it might sap your confidence during the exam — even if it turns out your answers were right and someone else’s were wrong.

9. Remember that you CAN pass the bar exam! 

We wish you all the best of luck tomorrow and on Wednesday!

Go get it!

Building Endurance NOW for the Bar Exam

Bar studiers, as you know, the bar exam starts two weeks from today. A recent research report from AccessLex confirms some of the advice you’ve been hearing for a while now, so here’s a summary. To maximize your odds of passing the bar on your first attempt, try these in these last two weeks.

  1. Sleep about 8 hours/night. The bar exam requires endurance and persistence, which are fatiguing. Your brain is part of your body — treat them both well so they can both support your success! Adequate nightly sleep in the next two weeks is essential. Taper back your caffeine intake so you can sleep soundly on a regular schedule.
  2. Put in full study days, up to 10 hours daily (now including on weekends), taking 30 minute breaks between study sessions of at least two hours. Breaks allow your brain to process what you’ve been learning or fine-tuning, as well as to switch between subjects in ways that support learning and retention. Getting some exercise during one of your breaks will also help!
  3. Study in the morning for 3-4 hours (not counting breaks). In the research study, bar-takers who studied in the morning had significantly higher odds of bar success. This may be because they have “trained their brains” to be alert and focused on bar topics and questions at the time of day when they will actually take the exam. If you haven’t done this yet, now is a good time to shift your sleep and study schedule so you are getting up at the same time every day when you’ll have to get up for the actual exam, and studying during the same hours when you will take it. If you’ve been working, now is the time to cut back on work and focus on bar readiness. Ask your employer to give you this week and the next off so you can study in this final stretch, during normal work hours.
  4. Take more practice exams under test conditions, both timed and sitting still in a specific location. Endurance matters when you take the bar exam — both mental and physical. You’ll want to practice answering every kind of question (MBE, essay, MPT) under the same time and space restrictions you’ll have on the real bar exam. Emory Law grads this year have access to the full set of practice materials from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, including several practice MBE exams that provide explanations once you finish the full simulations. Practicing with real, released MBE questions from NCBE is the best preparation at this stage. Not all bar courses provide those, so make sure you practice with questions made available by NCBE, and thoroughly assess your own performance so you can keep improving.
  5. Practice actually writing and producing the kind of written work product on essays and the MPT that bar examiners expect to see. Attention to instructions and details matters a lot and can affect your grade — both are entirely within your control. Use a clear format like IRAC for essays, and closely follow the instructions for content and format on the MPT questions. Review released MPT questions and point sheets.
  6. Eat nutritious food and stay hydrated. Again, your brain is part of your body, and both need good nutrition for peak performance! They also need hydration and it’s easy to forget that in the heat of summer and the final days of bar study. Staying hydrated is known to actually improve academic performance, so why not give yourself that edge?

You’ve come a long way since May! By now, if you’ve been working steadily, actively, and constructively, you should feel very confident that the work you have done will serve you well during the real bar exam. That confidence will give you a boost too!            

   

 

Three Weeks to Go — You Can Do This!

We’ve been thinking of you all, and we know how tired everyone is by now, just three weeks before the bar exam starts. You can do this! As we always say: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The final stages are crucial. Here are some tips that might help you keep going over these last weeks:

1. Finalize your plan for where you’ll take the bar exam, including reminding any roommates or family what your needs will be on those days. Make sure any laptop you have registered to use is in good working order and conforms to the requirements of the bar officials and the bar exam software. Review and follow all related instructions, paying attention to any deadlines.

2. Review the daily schedule and FAQs for your bar exam; Georgia’s are here: https://www.gabaradmissions.org/july-2021-exam-faqs

3. Quiz yourself to test your recall of all bar topics as often as possible, even in short bits of time, using flashcards, apps, or whatever you have been using to test your memory.

4. Keep doing practice questions daily: about 34 MBE questions in mixed-subject sets, every day. If you haven’t yet taken your course’s practice MBE exam, do that now and review your scores and answers carefully to make sure you understand what you got wrong, why, and how to answer correctly next time.

5. Keep doing weekly practice essay and MPT questions: 2 essays weekly, 1 MPT (and attend our online MPT workshop on July 15).

6. Take care of yourself so you’ll be in great shape for test-taking: take breaks, give yourself little rewards for completing study goals, exercise daily, eat right and stay hydrated.

7. Adjust your sleep and study schedule to be consistent with actual exam days; i.e., go to sleep as early as you will before exam days to get enough sleep and be fully alert at the time you’ll take the exam, and start getting up at the same time you’ll need to be awake on exam days. 

8. Study during the same hours when you’ll take the actual exam, to “train your brain” to be fully alert and in the habit of doing good work at that time of day.

9. Stay on top of stress, using good self-care practices, and plan ahead for how you’ll handle any stress you might feel during the exam. Remind yourself of all the work you’ve done so you can feel confident about passing the bar.

10. Plan a safe celebration for after the exam!