How to Deal with Anxiety While Studying for the Bar Exam

“We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow.  We worry about tomorrow because we are afraid.  If we are afraid all the time, we cannot appreciate that we are alive and can be happy now.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh


The bar exam creates anxiety in people because there are a lot of unknowns.  The scoring is based on the population of test takers so whether someone passes or not depends on who else is taking the exam.  An examinee does not know what subjects the questions will be on.  A person could spend months studying the whole alphabet only to be tested on a letter.  Bar graders are not yet assigned to the questions.  The questions do not have answers. 

Do not worry about the unknowns.  The unknowns are the luck. 


Turn your thoughts away from failure.  Focus your energy on developing skills on the three tested areas.  Certain subjects, performance tests, issues, will be challenges.  Do not be discouraged by low scores on practice exams.  Step towards the obstacles, not run away from them.  Make mistakes now so you can correct them before the exam.


The bar exam is an opportunity.  There are many people unable to get to the point of taking a bar exam – failed law school, had a disability that was not accommodated, or did not have the finances to pay for the exam.

Luck + Preparation = Opportunity.  Have faith and believe unquestionably that it is possible to pass. 

Transition Plan

Get rid of the nervous energy before the studying begins by writing down a transition plan to fight the worst fear - failure.  In the event of failure, evaluate 3 choices – leave it and decide to not do anything, accept it and transition to another profession, or change it and retake the exam until you pass.

Once the transition plan is written, slowly wash your hands, to wash away the stress, and take a breath.  Do not worry further because worry does not change reality.  The only way situations or outcomes change is through action. 

Move On

I once observed a tattoo on the wrist of a waiter in Venice, CA – “Resilience.”  When something does not go as planned, say “everything will still be ok,” and move on.  There is nothing more you can do about it. 

For tutoring services that incorporate skills for time management for law school exams, California Baby Bar, and California Bar Exam:

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