A very sweet bar studier e-mailed me last week for some advice. We ended up chatting on the phone for a bit and the first thing I noticed was that she sounded exhausted. She was working full time and studying and although there were seven weeks left in her preparation, she had already been studying for about six weeks. With work, life, and studying, she hadn’t taken any time off. And it was really starting to show.
So many students think there is no time to take a break.
The bar exam is mentally exhausting. It is also physically exhausting. And your mind actually needs sleep and rest to perform at its best. If you are feeling that you are burning the candle at both ends and yet not getting anything done, it is likely that you are so exhausted that your brain can’t process information as it should!
And there are risks to not giving yourself a break. You might get sick. You might burn out. You might become more anxious and have trouble dealing with the stress of taking the bar exam. All of these are bad things. So go ahead, take a break. It isn’t going to hurt you or be the reason that you fail!
And what do I mean by a break?
A break is not lunch away from your computer. A break is not a 20-minute phone call with your mom or your best friend. A break is at least half a day (but I recommend an entire day) away from the test and work. Do something that makes you feel good! Get away from your desk. Clear your head! Talk to people who aren’t taking the exam. Go to a movie. Do whatever you do to make yourself feel better.
Here is the trick, though. You must not feel guilty about not studying.
Taking a break is a critical part of studying.
Go ahead, give it a try. I imagine that when you come back to studying after your break you won’t find that you don’t remember anything or that you have fallen behind. I expect you will find that you are actually able to retain more information and work more efficiently. So you are studying more effectively because you took time off! Wow, who knew?
Many students want permission from someone to take a break. Here it is—I officially give you permission to take a break. So go for it. You will be glad you did!
If you’d like all our new reviews and tips sent straight to you, sign up now for our free mailing list!
Did you find this post helpful? Check out some of our other articles for more great study tips!
- Working AND Studying?! Here is some expert advice!
- Can Meditation Help You Study for the Bar Exam?
- Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
Image by mmagallan via stock.xchng.
Ready to pass the bar exam? Get the support and accountability you need with personalized one-on-one bar exam tutoring or one of our economical courses and workshops. We're here to help!
Thank you. I had just commented on one of your articles about being afraid to take breaks. I was one of the students who needed to hear it was ok. You have no idea how much I appreciate this.
You are so welcome! Hang in there with your bar prep!
I totally agree – the breaks help me to feel rejuvinated to get back into studying again. I’m working and studying as well, so even though I feel crunched for time, I still need those breaks to help me feel sane again 🙂
Livy: You are so wise! Glad you are finding a way to balance studying and breaks. Good luck with the last month or so of prep!
I have a question- How often are breaks okay? And for how long? I’m following Barbri’s schedule and feel that there is not enough things for me in the schedule to keep me busy for 8 hours a day every day. Even with adding more things (More MBEs, MPTS, and essays) I still have more free time than I anticipated. Should I use this time to memorize?
Where are you studying for the bar exam? Most people feel like the BarBri schedule gives you plenty of work (between lectures and homework) but everyone is different. I think studying 8 hours a day M-F, part of the day on Saturday and taking Sunday off is completely reasonable. If you feel like you are already practicing quite a bit, then yes, studying substantive law sounds like a good idea. I hope this helps!
I’m wondering if you feel it’s okay to take the day off during the last two weeks of bar prep. I’m feeling pretty burned out studying for two exams (NY/NJ) and could use a day.
Absolutely! If you are suffering from burnout you absolutely must take some time off. Getting rest and feeling better is much more important than what you will learn in a day of exhausted studying. Good luck!
My best friend’s bridal shower is 10 days before the bar exam and she’s insisting that I go and not understanding the intensity of bar prep at all. Do you think taking the afternoon off just ten days before the exam is bad?
Hi Sarah: So sorry I am just seeing this comment. You can definitely take an afternoon off 10 days before the bar exam. You have been studying for months, and as long as you plan around it, it should be just fine. I wouldn’t want you to miss this type of milestone for the exam! If you had to travel far, or had to take multiple days off, I would be more concerned. I hope this is helpful.
Thank you so much for your response and comforting words!
Have a wonderful day!
Hi Ms. Burgess,
I am taking the bar exam this July 2018. On July 12, I have a friend’s wedding who is very dear to me in Bermuda. Is it possible to take two days off to go to this event? Or, a day and study the next day at the hotel room. I am not sure what to do. I will be working full-time through the first part of bar prep, then from June 20th until August 1st, I have taken off from my job. Any advice or insight would be greatly appreciated.
I think this is doable, but you will need to plan ahead and make sure you’re really only taking off a day or two. Given that you’ve already got a compressed study timeframe, it will be very important to plan around this time in advance, and make sure you’re staying on track before the trip. Best of luck!