Most of the focus of a typical bar exam preparation program is on learning the law, practicing the essays and multiple choice questions, and review. But it’s important not to lose sight of another aspect of bar preparation, which is less complex, but equally as important: exam day logistics. You need to be equally prepared for where you’re going to stay, what you’re going to wear, how you’re going to get to the testing center, what you’re going to bring, and what you’re going to eat and drink and when. It’s important to think through these things in advance, so that on the day of the exam you can focus all of your energy on the actual exam.
By the time I took the Oregon Bar Exam in Portland, I had gone through the drill once before, so I had an idea of what worked well for me.
Where to Stay
Since I didn’t live in Portland when I took the exam, I needed to find a place to stay. The February exam was being held at the Holiday Inn by PDX, but I noticed that this hotel had multiple hits on the bed bug registry and did not earn high marks from bar examinees. From past experience, I also decided that it would be best to stay a safe distance from the exam. I chose the Hyatt Place because it seemed comfortable and offered free continental breakfast (I love free breakfasts). The only downside to this hotel was that I heard planes flying overhead at all hours of the night, but that was just a product of the hotel (and exam) being near the airport. It was nothing that ear plugs couldn’t take care of.
What to Wear
The most important thing you can do is to dress in layers and be able to change at a moment’s notice. Some exam rooms are hot, and some are cold. Portland is cold in February, and the exam room at the Holiday Inn was colder. It seemed like nobody bothered to turn on the heat until midday (if there was any heat at all). I actually took the exam with my coat zipped-up and a hat on. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll be freezing when you take the exam. When I took the California Bar Exam in July, I would start each session with a sweatshirt on and be in a t-shirt by the end as I warmed up.
How to Get to the Testing Center
Given that I had flown into Portland for the exam, I rented a car because they were relatively inexpensive at the airport, and Uber had not reached Portland yet. Renting a car turned out to be a great idea because I could store all my belongings in it during the exam. I didn’t see anybody leaving backpacks outside the exam room (unlike during the California Bar Exam in Santa Clara where the hallways were lined with backpacks).
What to Bring
I’m not talking about what to bring into the exam room. Your state bar will have a list of what you can and cannot bring into the testing center during the exam. The Oregon State Bar will send you this list before test day. But what else should you bring and leave outside of the testing center in your car or in a backpack in the hallway? When I took the Oregon Bar Exam, I brought a small lunch, a water bottle, my outlines, and ear plugs (for the airplanes), as well as my wallet, keys, cell phone, etc. I left most of these things in my car during the exam. It’s important to bring food since the lines at places near the testing center may be long. There was no place to grab food near the Holiday Inn where I took the Oregon Bar Exam.
What to Eat and Drink and When
Finally, you should plan your meals and drinks. Make sure to eat a normal lunch like the one you usually eat. It’s best not to be hungry, so you are full of energy to take the exam, but not too full, so you aren’t sleepy. In addition to meals, you’ll have to think about bathroom breaks. If you’re the type of person who uses the bathroom frequently, you’ll want to experiment with drinking less water or drinking water at set times in order to avoid wasting precious exam time in the restroom. Every morning, I woke up very early, had a big breakfast, and drank plenty of water before 7:00 a.m. I’d keep a big bottle of water under my desk during the session, but I wouldn’t touch it. After 7:00 a.m., I would avoid all liquids until the minute time was called on the morning session. At that moment, I would down my entire water bottle and then continue avoiding water until the end of the day. Just before the afternoon session, I would use the restroom and hope that I could last through the afternoon. Usually, I would end up taking one bathroom break a day at most.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Do You Know Your Way from San Jose?
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- Are You Wasting Time Studying for the Bar Exam
- What are You Waiting For? It’s Time to Study for the Bar Exam
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