By Janet Wallace • June 13, 2011•Features, Advice on Passing the Bar Exam
Ed. Note: This summer, back by popular demand, Ms. JD is pleased to feature a series of posts on bar exam prep. The series will include some of our most highly-read articles from past years, as well as new content for all those taking on the bar exam challenge. Good luck!
Just one year ago [now three years ago--wow!], my law school class and I were studying for the California Bar Exam--sitting through BARBRI lectures, cursing timed essays, and spending hours in coffee shops drinking espresso and making flashcards (and complaining).
For those of you currently studying, I've collected a few bits of advice, one year later, from my lovely and brilliant law school friends. Here's what they have to say:
Michelle says: Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good
The bar is supposed to be minimum competency. Trying to achieve perfect scores on all sections will drive you crazy and likely harm you in the long run.
Katie says: Study Smart
If something BarBri is telling you to do is not working for you, be brave and try something new. You have time to adjust.
Mary says: Get Out of Your Own Way
I felt I was doomed the majority of the time studying for the bar and it was depressing and discouraging and just made things way worse than they needed to be. The day before the bar started I decided I was going to pass and that was that, no need to worry. Somehow telling myself that worked, and I was almost excited. (Almost.) I would recommend that all bar studiers tell themselves that from the beginning, and not wait till the day before the bar.
Shannon says: Put in 105 Percent
About 80 percent of the test is overcoming the fear, and the other 24 percent is hard work/studying. The last one percent is divided between luck and copious amounts of Muscat wine on days you take off. And, yes, the math is correct: You need to put in 105 percent.
Michelle says: Focus on You
Evaluate your own personal strengths and weaknesses and study accordingly. There will be plenty of people who will be more than willing to offer you unsolicited comments and advice. You don't have much time, so be smart as to how you allocate your resources –even if other people are doing things differently. Remember, on test day, it's just you and the exam.
Janet says: Think of your Future Self
Studying for the bar is tremendously boring, stressful and discouraging. But, when you want to give up think of your future self. You want to be able to say, on the day after the exam, “I truly gave it my best shot.” You do not want to regret giving it less than your best.
Shannon says: Be Prepared to Handle What You Don’t Know
You have to accept that it is literally impossible to know everything that might possibly be tested. And while that may be an uncomfortable thought—that you're going to get in there and not know the law—you simply have to realize that if it's happening to you, then it's happening to most everyone else as well. Be prepared to walk into the test, see something you don't know on an essay prompt, and then still write like a lawyer.
Mary says: Find Your Katie
Spend all your study time and much of your leisure time with Katie, because she will not stress you the hell out and it is nice to have someone there sharing your misery. (And if not Katie, find someone like this.) [Ed. Note: Katie is unwilling to study for the Bar Exam with you, so find someone like her, someone who will not stress you out while sharing in your misery.]
Katie says: Don’t Skimp
Don't measure how you're doing by the number of hours you're putting in (though you're going to have to put in a lot of hours!) and skimp on sleep, eating well, exercising and spending time with non-crazymaking friends (e.g. Mary). Others will tell you about the 23 hour days they're putting in, seven days a week. Don't listen.
Mary says: Get Enough Sleep
In my opinion your schedule should include studying, exercise, at least one hour of enjoyable activity per day, and at least one pleasant conversation per day (even if only 5 minutes) with a person who doesn't stress you the hell out. (These people may be hard to find.) And then sleep. Do not neglect sleep!
(P.S. I actually even went to the movies with these women during that summer (gasp!) and we still all passed.)