How to Deal With Bar Exam Study Panic

dark futureHere at the Bar Exam Toolbox, we spend a lot of time talking about the mental game of studying for the bar exam. We think this is really important, and if you are struggling, we invite you to review these helpful posts here.

But today I want to share something that I often see happen to bar studiers — first timers or repeat takers. They come down with a case of bar exam study panic.

If you have studied for the bar exam before, this is likely something that is familiar to you. The bar exam study panic is the moment when you decide that things are going all wrong. You do an MBE set and get a low score (40% YIKES!), you totally bomb an essay question (oops) or you get some disappointing feedback from your bar review provider. This happens to everyone at one point or another during bar preparation.

The key is not to ignore the panic, but just be honest with yourself about it, deal with it and then get back to work. If you feel a moment of panic coming on, keep in mind these tips:

  • The bar exam is a marathon and not a sprint. You are going to have good days and not so good days. One or two bad days doesn’t mean your studying is going down the tube. You need to keep perspective and realize there will be some bumps in the road.
  • A few bumps in the road does not mean you are going to fail. You know why you do all those MBE questions and essay questions? So you can practice and get better. If some practice doesn’t go so well, learn from it and apply it to future questions. Then the mistakes aren’t a waste. But you don’t want to these “bumps in the road” as evidence of your impending failure. If you decide you are going to fail the exam, you might be creating a self-fulfilling prophesy.
  • Take a break. Sometimes these bumps in the road can be caused by fatigue. Fatigue is not your friend during the bar exam as it can make you stop reading carefully, forget things and increase your anxiety. If you think fatigue may be causing some of the issues, it is time to schedule in a mental health day. It’s okay, the exam is still months away.
  • Take a breath. If I can’t convince you to take a break, at least take some time to breathe. That will calm your nerves, make you feel a bit better (hopefully) and allow you to evaluate your situation as best you can.

The key with the bar exam study panic is to not allow it to derail you. Spinning into an anxious state isn’t going to get you any closer to passing this exam. You need to dust yourself off and get back to work.

Now, if the bad results keep happening over and over again, that may be a sign that something is wrong with your study approach. Then it is time to re-evaluate and not panic. Re-evaluation can help you pass, panicking likely will not.

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About Lee Burgess

Lee Burgess, Esq. is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, a resource for law students that demystifies the law school experience, the Bar Exam Toolbox, a resource for students getting ready for the bar exam and Trebuchet, a legal career resource. Lee is also the founder of Amicus Tutoring, LLC, a company she started to help students find success in law school and on the California bar exam. Lee has been adjunct faculty at two bay area law schools teaching classes on law school and bar exam preparation. You can find Lee on Twitter at @amicustutoring, @lawschooltools, @barexamtools & @trebuchetlegal.


  1. I would like to have few condense and concise books along with price, for Cal. Baby Bar Examination

    • Lee Burgess says:

      Hello and thanks for reading. We do not provide materials for the California Baby Bar. I wish you the best of luck preparing for it.

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