You are just about to finish the morning session of the bar exam. Your mind is still processing all the issues raised in the last essay question. The proctor calls time, and you gather your stuff. Time for lunch! As you go to pull out the earplugs you have been wearing to keep out annoying noises during the exam, consider this – maybe you should leave those earplugs in place until you get to the safety of your hotel room, car, or some other place that is free of people who just finished the morning session of the bar exam. Why do I say this? Because people will immediately walk out of the exam and start talking to no one in particular about the various issues they spotted, and others will join in on the conversation adding their own opinions.
Take my advice – walk away as quickly as you can. Do not engage. Do not pay any attention to what they are saying. Go to your quiet spot, a nice place to have lunch, or just your hotel room. Anyplace you can relax and get nourished for the rest of the day. Listening to how others approached the exam will do nothing for you now but stress you out. It’s done. You’ve answered the questions to the best of your ability after weeks or months of preparation. While it is possible you will gain confidence about your own approach to the questions, it is more likely that it will put doubt into your head and cause you to obsess. But remember, up to half of all the people taking the bar exam will fail. There is a good chance the people discussing those issues will be part of the “fail” side of the equation. However, the damage is now done. You will no longer be able to relax or prepare yourself properly for the afternoon session.
Don’t get caught in this trap. Plan ahead. Avoid the nearby lunch places where everyone else races to grab a bite. Know exactly where, and with who, you will be spending your lunch break. It’s okay to be a little unsocial right now. Maintaining your stress level and confidence have to take priority. Making new friends or being perceived as engaging should not be a concern for you at this time. Again, walk away.
So, what should you do? Consider these possibilities:
- The night before the bar exam, go to a really good grocery store. Pick up a premade sandwich or other type of meal. Almost every hotel room has a refrigerator where you can put your meal, or meals. If your hotel room is within a short walking distance from the test center, then you just make a beeline for the hotel, go to your room, and enjoy your lunch in peace.
- Before the exam, figure out what restaurants or fast food places are within walking distance of the test center. Download the app for the restaurants you like. Order and pay for your food through the app as soon as the morning session is over, then just walk over and pick up your food without worrying about lines. Find a quiet place to eat, like a park or a plaza.
- If you already live in the city where you are taking the bar exam, or have travelled to the city with a family member or significant other, have someone drive over and pick you up outside the test center. That person can then take you away from the potentially toxic environment for a little while. Just don’t go too far away so you don’t risk developing stress about getting back on time for the afternoon session.
- If you are lucky enough to be taking the bar exam with a law school classmate who is also a good friend, make an agreement beforehand to meet in a designated spot, or nearby location. Eat lunch together. Talk about things friends talk about – summer plans, potential moves, children, etc. – DO NOT DISCUSS THE BAR EXAM!
- If you are stressed out and don’t feel you can eat much, grab something like a smoothie. Maybe you already packed a protein bar and a bottle of water. Take a walk around the block or in a nearby park. Food is important, but it is not the only thing you should concern yourself with at this point. Calm your mind a bit to prepare for the afternoon ahead. A good walk will do that for you, especially if you can listen to some music you like while you are walking.
Don’t leave anything to chance. Do what you can to prevent negativity from seeping in to your thoughts and disrupting your confidence. Don’t worry, it’s only for a couple of days. It won’t be long before you can be social again.