Advice on Passing the Bar Exam: Part II

"A word about panic: I took the California exam and my computer failed..." Though my heart just stopped on her behalf, Jessie passed the bar anyway. How did she do it? Read on! --Ed.

For those prepping for the [July] sitting, a word about panic: I took the California exam and my computer failed in the middle of the second essay day. My screen just turned bright blue. I raised my hand and the proctor handed me a piece of paper that instructed me to try restarting and then switch to a bluebook. So I restarted - and started writing in the bluebook while my computer rebooted. My computer crashed again about one minute after rebooting, at which point I abandoned it and stuck to the bluebook.

I think two things saved me...

1. My outline helped me remember exactly what I'd written and what I still needed to write.

2. My ability to stay calm saved me time and mental energy.

The proctors will not help you - so don't waste time arguing with them about that. Likewise, stressing over whether or not your computer will have stored the work you've already done or will come back to allow you to finish will not help you. Assume your computer saved up until the last 30 seconds of work and will be able to retrieve those saved materials. Go from there. Don't waste time explaining to your readers - they'll know exactly what happened.

My essay outlines were key because I had already figured out more or less what I was going to say and then could look and back and figure out about how much I had already said. I didn't need to repeat myself and restate arguments I'd already made. I was also able to maintain a sense of organization despite writing my answers in two different formats.

The not-panicking goes for much more than computer crashing scenarios. Practicing for the exam, I always circled MBE questions I didn't know for sure. After circling the first 25 questions of my actual MBE I realized that that approach was no longer viable. So I stopped circling all but those I had no clue about and just kept going. I didn't slow down and try and spend more time understanding these questions, I just kept moving. At the end of the day I had circled half of the MBE questions as ones where I truly had no clue between two answer choices - or no clue, period. For those keeping track at home: That's half. So even if I got every single question I didn't circle correct (unlikely) I'd need to get half of the ones I did circle right to pass comfortably (also unlikely). Needless to say - I felt like crap after day two, but that didn't change the fact that I still needed to get through day three. I just kept telling myself that everyone feels like that about the MBE (and they do) and moved on.

My point is this: You can do it! Just stay with it, keep working, and when you can't make it work, move on.

Good luck!!



Heh. Is it wrong that when you say "make it work" at the end, I hear that in Tim Gunn's voice? [/off-topic reference to <i>Project Runway</i>]. Jessie!!! I can't believe that happened to you! I'm so glad you stayed calm and passed anyway! If you can't tell by my overuse of exclamation points, I am not sure that I could remain half so calm. Thanks for sharing your experience.


This story makes me want to take you to coffee.  So much of life is "moving forward"—I think you will do well wherever you decide to apply your gifts.  You are truly "tested" and found worthy.  Congratulations!

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