There’s no question that during your bar exam preparation you’ve given some thought to the 101 ways that the exam could go all the way wrong. You’ve heard the horror stories right? The computer crashes during the essay portion of the exam or perhaps the infamous software crash that has already reared its ugly head a few times. Maybe you’ve heard about the GA examinees who suffered food poisoning (myself included), the California exam takers who witnessed a fatal car accident during their lunch break or the GA examinees who were incorrectly told that they failed the exam.
If these stories have kept you up at night, you’re not alone. Experiencing a bar exam disaster is horrendous and in some cases such disasters have had a direct correlation to a failing score. I wish I could tell you that there’s a way to ultimately prevent every disaster, but that just wouldn’t be true. Some of these disasters are inevitable and entirely out of your control. However, there are safeguards that you could institute to help diminish the likelihood of a disaster happening to you. In fact, I’ve outlined five different safeguards that may be of some help. Now these safeguards aren’t bulletproof, but if they don’t quite work, I’ve also assessed two ways in which you could possibly overcome these disasters and ultimately make it to a passing score.
So let’s jump in!
Five Ways to Prevent a Bar Exam Disaster
1. Complete a Diagnostic Check of Your Computer Beforehand
As a product of the millennial age, I’ve learned time and time again that technology is essentially the home base for Murphy’s Law. What is Murphy’s Law you ask? “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Yes, you heard that right, that brand new laptop that your parents gifted you for graduation will defiantly work its way to crash from a virus during the bar exam. This is for sure not a disaster you want to experience when you’re halfway through an essay you’ve been scratching your brain to complete. Therefore, you should do yourself a favor and complete a diagnostic check on your laptop shortly before the exam. No, it does not matter if your laptop is brand new or if it has the strongest antivirus software installed, because Murphy’s Law will usually prove victorious despite these factors. I recommend getting it checked out at least a week before the exam. Ensure your operating system can support ExamSoft and also ensure that it’s healthy enough to take on six hours of rigorous usage.
2. Practice Handwriting Essays
Now I know we touched on diagnostic checks in the section above, however, even that preventative measure isn’t foolproof. We all know that Murphy is lurking around the corner to attack, so you have to show him (or maybe it’s a her) who’s boss. One way to do so is to make sure that you are comfortable handwriting your essays. If you’re of the millennial age, the thought of handwriting anything may give you a panic attack but this is a very real possibility during the exam. If your computer crashes for some reason, you will be asked to handwrite. I also recall that during the GA exam if you showed up late, you were required to handwrite regardless of being registered to use a laptop. Therefore, make sure you’re prepared for this disaster and practice handwriting several full essays under timed exam conditions.
3. Complete Practice Exams in a Somewhat Distracting Setting
Another great safeguard is to prepare for distractions during the exam. Yes, someone will have a consistent cough, or a defiant sniffle during the exam. In a room filled with hundreds or possibly thousands of people, this fact is inevitable. Therefore, it helps to prepare. You can prepare for this by completing your practice exams in a somewhat distracting setting. During my exam prep, I completed many practice questions in the library around other people. I believed this would be the most realistic example of the room on exam day. Yes, there were people moving around and there were people sniffling/coughing. However, practicing in this setting got me to a point where I barely noticed these distractions, so incorporate this into your daily practice routine.
4. Being Cognizant About Everything You Consume
You are what you eat right? And this saying stands true especially on bar exam day. The things you consume can certainly affect your health on that day. It’s important that you are especially cognizant of each and every item you put into your body. Exam day is not the day that you should be trying something new. Therefore, it’s important to actually have a strict meal plan for that day and actually practice consuming it beforehand. If coffee will keep you running to the restroom, it will be important to stay away, but find an alternative that will keep you awake. You also want to ensure that all your meals serve to give you energy and not make you lethargic. Incorporating a meal plan into the bar exam dress rehearsal we discuss below, will be key to avoiding a disaster.
5. Completing a Bar Exam Dress Rehearsal
Finally, a bar exam dress rehearsal is a great catch all way to prevent an exam disaster. Practicing step by step the possibilities of that day is a great way to stay ahead of all impending disaster.
But let’s keep it real. Even if you’ve incorporated some or all of the above, there is absolutely no way that you can be prepared for every single kind of disaster. So if Murphy is victorious, and you are unsuccessful as a result, you may be able to overcome this disaster by taking advantage of the appeals process or by assessing the disaster that caused the result and incorporating measures to prevent them from happening again.
Depending on the state in which you sit for the bar exam, they may allow for an appeal based on the allegation of an essay being unfairly graded or based on an allegation of some kind of extraordinary circumstance. Therefore, if you suffered a bar exam disaster, there’s a possibility that you may be able to appeal your score and be successful.
In the alternative, if your state does not allow for an appeals process or if you appeal, and you’re unsuccessful, it will be important to assess the disaster that you believe caused your failing result. If there is some type of a safeguard that could have prevented this disaster be sure to incorporate it into your practice so that you can be as prepared as possible for the second time around.