There tends to be a close relationship between the proximity of the bar exam and anxiety level. As the date of the exam creeps closer and closer, bar preppers start to feel more and more stressed. Much of this increasing anxiety derives from insecurity, fear of failure, and an overall concern that they aren’t making enough progress in their studies. While a little skepticism of your own abilities can be a good motivator to keep working hard, too much self-doubt can actually hinder your focus and performance. So it’s time to give yourself a confidence boost! You need to start believing that you are going to pass the bar exam so that when test day arrives, you’re ready to perform your best. To help you feel more confident, remind yourself of these five reasons why you are going to pass the bar exam:
1. You’ve Studied! You’ve Prepared! You’ve Practiced!
A big part of passing the bar exam is simply putting in the preparation time. Think about all the hours, days, weeks of studying that you’ve done leading up to the exam. Even if you’re feeling like you don’t know everything there is to know, you’ve still done a lot to get ready for this challenge. Every lecture you listened to, every outline you reviewed, every flashcard you made, every practice MBE question you completed, and every essay you wrote has improved your knowledge and skills. That hard work is valuable, and it will make a difference. (For those of you who genuinely feel like you haven’t spent enough time and effort studying over the last few weeks, all hope is not yet lost. There’s still a lot of work you can get done between now and test day. Also, see number 2 below!)
2. You’ve Spent the Last Three Years Getting Ready for this Exam
When you’re bar prep outline books first arrive, you may wonder whether you learned anything at all during law school. It often seems like you’re having to teach yourself new rules or sometimes even entirely new subjects during bar prep. But you did learn a lot during law school that is going to help you pass the bar exam. Even though you probably feel like you don’t remember anything that was covered last semester, let alone during 1L year, you’ve probably retained more than you realize. And while you may feel intimidated by the amount of information covered during bar prep, take heart in knowing that your law school classes have given you the basic ground work for success. Law school not only exposed you to the fundamental legal rules, but it also helped you refine your analytical, writing and test-taking skills. Every final exam that you took, every writing assignment you completed, and every Socratic dialogue you engaged in has helped you gain the skills and knowledge you need to pass the bar.
3. You Know How to Be Successful on Standardized Tests
By the time you graduate from law school, you will have completed a lot of standardized tests – the MPRE, the LSAT (or maybe the GRE nowadays), the SAT, the ACT, and the dozens of state standardized tests from elementary, middle and high school. Although many law students claim they don’t like standardized tests, the fact of the matter is you wouldn’t have been admitted to law school if you didn’t have at least some minimum level of success on standardized tests. The bar exam is just another standardized test. You’ve been taking and succeeding at these types of tests since you were a kid, and you need to start believing that the bar exam is no different!
4. You Know How to Perform Under Pressure
There’s no denying that the bar exam is a high-stakes affair. The pressure students feel to pass the bar exam leads to added stress and undue worry. So you need to change the narrative: instead of letting the high-stakes of the bar exam stress you out, use it to your advantage. Remind yourself that you know how to perform under pressure because you’ve done it before, whether it’s on law school final exams, an important work project, or even a game-winning moment from a sports league. Let the importance of this exam motivate you and buoy your confidence, rather than drag it down.
5. You Have to Pass and Only Pass
Last, but not least, keep in mind that on the bar exam, you only need to pass. You don’t need to get the highest score. You don’t need to spot every issue. You don’t need to get every MBE question right. You only need to get enough points to hit that passing mark. Periodically reminding yourself of this fact can give you some much-needed perspective if you feel like you’re still missing too many questions or your practice essays aren’t as complete as the model answers.
It’s true that you need to do a lot of studying to pass the bar exam. But you also need something a little more intangible: self-belief. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” Start believing you can pass the bar exam and you’ll be on your way to making that belief a reality.
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