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Tame the Fear: Preparing for the Bar Exam Amidst a Global Pandemic

Preparing and sitting for the bar exam is no small endeavor and is usually accompanied with high levels of stress. Mix in the challenge of the unique circumstances that COVID-19 has presented to society, leaders, medical professionals, and not to mention, each of us as individuals and there is an amalgamation of factors out of our control. No other collective class of legally trained and educated individuals will experience what you will in late July in either Tampa or Orlando. With that in mind, the below considerations will serve to facilitate your approach and will encourage you to keep your eyes on the prize - successfully passing the bar exam – while staying mentally and physically well leading up to, during, and after the exam.

1. Take comfort in facing the unknown. While maintaining sensitivity to all of the unknowns that we collectively face, draw in ease and exhale the discomfort with the thought that you are not alone. Normally, there are thousands who sit for the bar exam just in Florida in July. If you can for this moment, zoom out, and consider the number who will be sitting across the country. That number is huge! While each jurisdiction is taking its own approach, consider that each individual is just as nervous or more than you about the unknowns of the day of the exam, the topics that will actually be tested, and how you will feel the day(s) of the exam.

2. Mental visualizations. This is a great tool to have in your pocket especially when you are taking a break from studying. Often times, sitting comfortably still with your eyes closed can aid this technique in allowing you to visualize yourself at an event in the near future. If you have taken the bar exam before then build on your experience and impressions. If you have not, imagine the activities of the entire day from the moment that you wake up to the minute you leave the exam and begin to wind down from the events of the day. Think about how you will feel when you enter the test site and when you sit at your desk in the examination room. Imagine yourself cool, calm, and collected despite any nervousness that you may feel.

3. Practice. Knowing the law is one thing, knowing how to apply it to the questions on the bar exam is another, and doing it while wearing a mask is a whole other thing. I encourage you to spend time learning and remembering the rules as well as spending equal or more time practicing questions and reviewing the answer descriptions that follow. Make it your job to understand why your answer was right or wrong. Learn from any questions that you struggle with. Also, practice questions under similar time constraints as the exam. As uncomfortable as this might seem, doing this will make you immeasurably more comfortable on exam day. And finally, practice wearing your mask. While this might sound trivial, no effort in your preparation will be wasted.

While this was not how you might have imagined your summer preparing for and taking the bar exam, your resilience and adaptability is a tribute to your ability to handle anything that comes your way. May you expect the unexpected, take good care of yourself, breath by breath, and know that you can do it. I look forward to congratulating you on the other side.

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