By Alexandra Echsner-Rasmussen • May 06, 2017•Features, Bar Exam
The decision has been made. You have signed up and sent in all of the necessary paperwork for the next bar examination. You have marked the date(s) of the exam on your calendar and you know that you need to start studying, again, and soon. Everything outside of these two thoughts might seem blurry and potentially overwhelming but I assure you, you have the tools and y-o-u are capable.
Whether this will be your second time or fifth time preparing for the bar, the following is food for thought about how you will position yourself to be in the best possible place to pass and to make your dream come true of becoming the licensed lawyer you worked so hard to be.
1. Take the time to seriously think about and even analyze all of the events, behaviors, habits, and stressors that might have been present in the past. Things happen and thing will happen that you have no control over but you can monitor your daily thoughts, actions, and reactions to those external stressors. Think about ways, no matter how small, that you can make this time easier for yourself. For example, do you have a housemate who can pitch in a bit more while you are studying in the months/weeks leading up to the exam? Do you have a friend who has once offered to cook for you or watch your children? Take them up on it, they want you to succeed and this is the universe helping you out!
2. Dive deeper into ways that you can make this time easier on yourself. For example, characterize your "musts" and your "shoulds." Musts are non-negotiable activities that you innately know you must do to pass this exam once and for all. Your musts might include studying, eating, sleeping, relaxing, and recharging in a way that gives you energy. Shoulds are a bit more nebulous, although I know that you might be able to think of a few on your own. They usually come from external expectations, things that you could take or leave but that are put upon you by those around you. They might include anything that does not recharge you and that does not positively contribute to your study plan and overall goal of passing the bar exam.
3. Reach out. Talk to tutors. Talk to with anyone you know who is or was in the same situation. Ask them what worked. Think about ways to incorporate what worked for someone else into your routine, if you think it will be helpful. While everyone has a difference experience, the feeling of not passing is shared. A friend of mine, who was successful the fourth time, shared with me the importance of taking time for yourself because this simple act made all of the difference for him. In addition, he said that creating and sticking with a study schedule was crucial because you know when you need to be focused 110% and your non-study time can be used to have fun and recharge.
4. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize. Picture yourself the day before the exam. What will you be doing? Where will you be? How is your stress level? Are you cramming or are you feeling steady, strong, and confident? Visualize the entire day. Next visualize the day(s) of the exam. Your path to the exam center, how you will feel walking to your seat inside the exam room, etc., etc.. Use your prior exam experience to your advantage, with visualizing, especially since you already know, more or less, how the room feels and what it looks like. Of course, you will be nervous and you might have butterflies in your stomach. That is completely normal! Learn to accept these feelings, no matter how uncomfortable they are. Practice staying present, staying in the moment. When you can master your thoughts and feelings about the test, you can master the test.
5. Put the time in. There is no substitute for taking practice exams, working practice questions under timed conditions, and quite frankly, immersing yourself in the subjects. Figure out which subjects need more attention and work accordingly. Remember to not underestimate the importance of reading the answer explanation and figuring out as well as understnding why you arrived at the right or wrong answer.
At the end of the day, do what works and feels best to you. Are you a morning owl or an evening lark? Is there a difference in your energy and focus when you study at the library or at home? Figure out when and where you are most productive, make a schedule, and stick to it. With these insights, you are now better situated to put yourself in the best possible position to pass. While the prep time leading up to the exam can feel uncomfortable - believe in yourself, remember that this too shall pass, and feel in your bones that you can do this!