You’ve been studying hard for the bar exam, you’re deep into memorization and sample essays, practicing self-care, and getting plenty of sleep. Maybe you feel like you have everything under control, and maybe you feel like you’re just barely keeping your head above water (that’s ok, most bar exam takers feel this way from time to time!). Regardless, here’s a productive study break you should put on your calendar at least a week before the bar exam: preparing for exam day.
First off, in case you aren’t convinced that this deserves its own study break, hear me out. It is worth taking a little time a week or two before the exam to do your research and get ready for exam day. Preparing the logistics for exam day in advance can give you time to get anything you might need, help things run smoothly (or as smoothly as possible) the day of the exam, and set you up to do your best. Why add unnecessary stress?
So give yourself a much-needed study break that will set you up to go into exam day strong by preparing with the following:
- If you will be taking your exam by laptop, read all of the instructions about laptops, their use, and exam software that you are sent and find on your state bar’s website.
- Make sure that your computer meets all of the requirements for the software’s use.
- Download any necessary software and read all of the instructions that accompanied it. Unless you are otherwise instructed by your state bar, download this software a week or two in advance (it can be complicated to get it working correctly, give yourself time! But keep in mind that some states only allow you to download the software once, so if your computer breaks between downloading the software and exam day, things can get very complicated).
Pencils, Pens, and Other Things
- Check your state bar’s website for their exam-day requirements. California’s rules can be found here. Every state bar has its own rules about what are and are not allowed in the exam room (for example, some states allow bathroom breaks, others don’t, some allow jackets, others don’t). Don’t make any assumptions (many of the rules don’t make logical sense)!
- Compare you state bar’s website against what you normally use in studying and working. Don’t use a mouse? Don’t plan to take one. Occasionally need an inhaler, definitely add it to the list!
- Start a list of what you should take with you. If your state bar allows it, the following are generally helpful for most exam takers:
- At least four pencils;
- A watch;
- Ear plugs;
- Water bottle (be careful, many states don’t allow this);
- A jacket or sweatshirt (many exam locations are large and drafty buildings, especially in February! Be prepared!).
- Start collecting items and adding them to a plastic bag or other approved carrying case. Cross them off the list as you collect them.
- Schedule a time to make a run to the store to get any final items you might need for the exam.
- While checking your state bar’s website for exam day requirements, confirm whether or not your state has a dress code (here’s to you, Virginia).
- If it does, find yourself an outfit (preferably two) that meets the requirements and that you feel relatively comfortable wearing.
- If it doesn’t, find something that you feel comfortable wearing in public.
- Try your chosen clothes on to make sure they fit and are clean (or clean enough!).
- Set them aside, ready for exam day.
- Make a plan for breakfast on the two days of the exam. Make sure you have something nutritious that will keep you going strong through the morning session. Not sure what that is for you? You have at least a week to try a few things to decide!
- Make a plan for lunch on the two days of the exam. This will likely be limited to packing a lunch or purchasing food at the exam center (although if your hotel is close enough, this might be an option also). If you would like to purchase food, be sure that there is a place to do so, that you bring sufficient money for lunch, and that you consider whether there will be enough time to purchase lunch and eat it. You don’t want to have to complete the afternoon session on an empty stomach. If you’re unsure about any of these things, plan to pack a lunch. Make it something that won’t spoil and will leave you feeling full and energized for the afternoon.
Hotel or Room
- Realistically, if you are going to be staying at a hotel at or near the exam site, you should have made your reservations already. But now is a good time to read over the confirmation and see if you need to make any additional arrangements. For example, would a mini-fridge make packing a lunch and eating a healthy breakfast easier? Check with the hotel to see if they have one in the room already or if you can rent one.
- If you will be staying in a hotel or with a friend, prepare your packing list for that too.
- Check out the surrounding area on Google Maps. Is there a grocery or convenience store nearby? If not, does this change what you need to pack?
- Regardless of where you will be staying during the exam, make a plan for transportation.
- If you will be driving yourself and are close to the exam center, practice the drive once to see how long it will take.
- If you will be relying on a friend, confirm with them and set up a departure time.
- If you will be relying on a taxi or ride share, check around to see when you can schedule a pick-up (can you do it today?) and how long it will take to get to the exam center.
- If you will be relying on public transportation, especially in a city you are not familiar with, plan for things to go wrong and budget in extra time!
There are a lot of logistics in preparing for exam day, but one or two study breaks now can set you up to feel comfortable and confident as you head into the exam. It is a short, productive way to set you up to do your best.
Want information on other bar exam tips? Check out these posts: