Unfortunately, on the bar exam and in life, we cannot account for every possibility. We can do everything we can to prepare for all outcomes but sometimes we still cannot capture all the things that the exam throws at us.
I recently watched an episode of “Edge of the Earth” on HBO, where some of the best athletes describe their most challenging experiences. A major takeaway for me was how snowboarding and mountain climbing require you to be able to adapt to the things that the mountain and weather may throw at you. Similarly, for the bar exam we are often spending time preparing for curveballs and adapting to them and responding quickly and with the preparation we have acquired over weeks or months under our belts.
If things do take you by surprise, here are some things you can do:
In the rare case that something not only surprises you but goes wrong at the test center or during a remote exam, proceed with the exam but be sure to report the incident. For example, during the remote bar exam administration, some test-takers experienced technical issues. The best thing you can do is to feel assured that there is a process to take care of the incident and get your head back in the game the best you can. It is easier said than done, but thankfully the weeks you spent preparing and three years of law school have equipped you for quick recovery. Remember finals? Oral arguments? The show must go on! The same for the bar exam.
Familiarize and take necessary time-sensitive steps
If you are reading this after you took the exam, and you are grappling with an incident that you are not sure is reportable, call the Board of Law Examiners for your jurisdiction to learn more information and ask what your jurisdiction requires to make a report. For example, in New York, the remote administration crash incidents called for a faxed statement of what occurred by a specific deadline.
You can take a moment or two to regroup. Even if it is for the real thing, and you need to breathe in between a few questions – take the time you need. For example, if you go blank on an essay question, one of the first things you should do is go back to the basics.
If you are on the other side of the exam and now second-guessing yourself on some executive decisions, you made, you can also take some time to breathe and let some of the worry go now.
Give yourself time to stress out
Actually, allocate time to think about the ways you should have answered or did answer, etc. Get it out of your system. But when that time is up, decide to let it go.
All the things you put off devoting your time to during your studies is now yours again to use as you wish! Use that time to do all the things you have postponed, especially the things that makes you feel good about yourself and less like dwelling on or controlling the outcome. Sure, it does not help that the exam results take a long time to release. Our law school exam scores were not immediate either.
- Get back into hobbies
- Try something new
- Call your friends
- Find a new show
- Plan a trip
If you did not have a chance to get into breathing exercises, meditation, or other self-care during your bar study, maybe now is the time to do that!
Tap into previous experience
What is the worst thing that can happen? This is a question I have been asked a lot during bar prep. Luckily, that “worst thing” has already happened to me, and I am still alive. It was the crash of my remote exam and having to withdraw. The worst thing turned out to be a great thing for me, because my anxiety pretty much diminished after I overcame what I perceived as the “worst thing” and learned what is on the other side is a whole lot of growth and experience that can be applied toward another exam attempt. I am sure you have had mishaps during law school that once felt like they would be the end of it all, but you overcame it, and you are still standing. Whatever the outcome may be, you are prepared to handle it and succeed despite the roadblocks.
We are still living through the aftermath of the covid-pandemic, with new changes daily. In fact, Covid is rising across the nation again. You continued to invest in your studies through it all, and despite other things you were experiencing because the fact is that other aspects of our lives did not come to a halt for the exam.
It may have been a wild ride preparing for the exam under covid restrictions and taking a test that implemented covid-precautions and guidelines. These are experiences that generations before us never experienced. Extend yourself some compassion!
Be proud of all of you have accomplished including sitting for the exam during this time.