No groundbreaking secrets here, just the ground work to pass the bar. I ended up taking the bar exams in two states, Illinois and New York, due to the move. And, guess what… I am no longer in either of those states, but I don’t see a third bar exam in my future. So, the first lesson I’ve learned is not to move so much if you want to practice law, or work for the federal government, then a license from any state will do. Here are a few other things I learned:
- To succeed at the bar exam, it’s not enough to know the law, you also need self-discipline, endurance, time-management and stress-management skills. You must train for each of these requirements accordingly.
- Remember the three “Ps” of performance: prioritize, plan, prepare. You need them as you study for the bar. To make my life easier, I just followed the schedule of the bar review course. You must have a schedule and stick to it. You won’t be able to catch up if you seriously fall behind because of the large volume of the material.
- Find a routine that works for you. It may consist of lectures in the morning, a lunch break, a short study session, a nice nap, another study session, a workout, dinner – you get the idea. See how your energy flows throughout the day and adjust your activities accordingly.
- Pace yourself and take study breaks. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, you need to build up your endurance and mental toughness and not to burn out in the process. Incorporate some type of exercise into your routine to bring oxygen to your brain, relieve stress and stay healthy. Take naps if you can. You are going to be learning so much every day, an afternoon nap will help you consolidate your memories. I started meditating daily for about 10-15 minutes when I was studying for the bar.
- Don’t try to make yourself more miserable than you need to be. Reward yourself periodically with some fun and entertainment, but avoid anything that can give you a hangover, insomnia or indigestion. The idea is to make you feel better, not worth. You can even combine your studies with something pleasant. Pack your books and go to a park or to the beach.
- Do lots of practice questions for the MBE portion of the exam. After reading a lot of questions, you become more attuned to the language and start recognizing patterns better. Time yourself when you do them. Getting the pace right is very important at the bar exam, so you should practice time-management early.
- Make sure you practice writing your full essay answers within the time constraints. Go back and edit some of your essays to make the writing more crisp and concise. Find better ways to state legal rules and standards so that you can use those phrases in other essays. For the rest of the essay questions, outline your answers to see if you can spot all the issues.
- Do the in-class, practice MBE exam, you need to know what a six-hour exam feels like. You can also schedule your own practice test or partner up with another bar candidate and take it together.
- On the day of the exam, the last thing you want to worry about is getting lost or being caught in traffic, torrential rain or blizzard. Visit the place beforehand. If you have to drive far or if the weather is unstable, consider staying in the hotel nearby for the days of the exam. When I moved to Buffalo, New York, I decided to take the February bar exam. Buffalo can get lots of snow, and I didn’t want to concern myself with the weather, so I stayed in the hotel where the bar exam took place. I slept better and longer.
- Finally, no matter what, just remember that it is going to be over soon.