The bar exam is scheduled to take place in the morning, and you need to know whether to cram a few more practice questions in? Or, do you brush up on the Rule Against Perpetuities? Do you have your mnemonic for the hearsay exceptions down cold? Also, don’t forget to relax, and breathe, and whatever you do, don’t stress!
Basically, the night before the exam can be a difficult time for many test-takers. The reality that there will be no more opportunities to study, no more practice exams, no more rehearsals, can be daunting. For me, I was fine preparing for most of my practice exams, because I knew full well that these were simply practice.
Arriving to my hotel before the bar exam and realizing this exam was for all the marbles—that was scary.
Here’s what you need to know about making the most of the night before your bar exam.
It’s Okay To Review—A Little
There are always a few subjects that are heavily tested but that trip me up. Hearsay exceptions are one of those subjects. Civil Procedure’s service of process rules also trips me up.
The night before I took the Uniform Bar Exam in July 2019, I allowed myself a little bit of time to brush up on the subjects that I knew would be heavily tested but that I also knew I struggled to remember well.
I needed to review for two reasons. First, I needed the extra glance at those subjects. The more I could review them for memory, the better. Second, I needed to know that I gave the exam absolutely everything I had. I was afraid if I didn’t pass, I would always wonder if maybe a little extra review would have helped. Or, maybe I would second-guess my decision not to review.
However, even though I allowed myself a little time to review, I did not go crazy and pour over any other subjects. Likewise, I didn’t try to learn anything knew. My goal was only to make sure these difficult subjects for me were fresh.
The problem with doing too much review is you can only really focus on so much information at a time, especially when you are under enormous stress. The night before the bar exam, you will be nervous. You will be anxious. You will be stressed. Focus on the material you need to keep fresh, and let everything else go. You’ll be surprised how you can recall the material you know well during the exam.
Take Time To Relax
I’ll be honest, trying to relax before the bar exam was not easy for me. The day of the exam in July 2019, my husband and son were staying at the hotel with me. They were going to walk with me to the test site, but there was a major traffic jam at the elevator, and if I waited too long I wouldn’t make the exam on time. My husband, meanwhile, had no choice but to wait for the elevator, as he planned to push our one-year-old in the stroller.
Knowing I had to walk to the test center on my own was suddenly terrifying. I felt enormous pressure to pass this exam knowing all the sacrifices my husband and son had made to help me get there. I didn’t want to let them down.
The truth is, most of the stress we feel we have heaped on ourselves. My husband would not have loved me or respected me any less if I didn’t pass the bar exam. My son would have loved me just the same, too.
The wonderful thing about realizing that we add to our own stress is that we can also alleviate much of that stress. There are great ways to ensure you are relaxed. Take a walk. Try meditation. Make sure you take deep breaths. It’s good to be a bit nervous, and you will be nervous no matter what you do. You just don’t need to psych yourself out.
The number one most important job you have the night before the bar exam is to get as good a night’s sleep as you possibly can. Learning to manage stress should be part of your bar preparation routine. Whatever that looks like for you, do that before the bar to make sure you’re rested.
The absolute last thing you want to do is stay up half the night reviewing material or tossing and turning and get to the test center massively sleep deprived.
You Can’t Cram For The Bar, But You Can Relax
Just remember, no matter what you have or haven’t covered, you absolutely cannot cram for the bar exam. The exam is far too comprehensive and analytical to try to cram new material in at the last minute. Don’t try! Instead, use your time before the exam to lightly review one or two subjects you need to keep fresh, and then, relax.
You will be far more successful on the exam if you’re rested and relaxed than if you’re stressed. Remember, the exam will pass, and your loved ones will continue to love you unconditionally no matter what happens.