So you had a bad first day of the bar exam…what now? In all honesty, you were probably expecting this to happen, but now that it’s actually happening you’re in a complete state of panic. Maybe you feel like you missed all the main points on several essays or maybe you simply ran out of time on the MPT. Whatever it is that has you currently biting your nails, I assure you is not worth the fear or panic. You’ve spent several months preparing for this beast of an exam so it’s likely that you did a lot better than you think. Additionally, the written portion of the exam tends to be a bit more forgiving than the MBE because you have the opportunity to amass points even if the limited time caused you to outline your answer, as opposed to drafting your arguments in the most eloquent manner. But as a recent bar exam taker, the dread is still fresh in my mind, so I know this is all easier said than done. But here are three things I wish I knew in advance when I faced a similar struggle:
1. Don’t Talk to Fellow Bar Exam Takers, Call a Mentor Instead
As you leave the exam room, no matter how distraught and downtrodden you may feel, I beg you to please resist the urge to discuss the exam with any of your fellow exam takers. I know it will be tempting to discuss, with someone who’s similarly situated, how horrible the third essay was or how unfair it was for the examiners to give you a twelve-factor test to apply on the MPT. But you must fight this temptation! Chances are this person may have walked out feeling confident, and their confidence will only make you more fearful. This person may have also answered the question completely differently from you based on their analysis. The great thing about this is that you could have both gotten full points for these varied answers, but hearing a different take in that vulnerable moment may only drive you to tears.
So if you walk out feeling panicked, here’s what you do. Pick up the phone and call a mentor. Call someone who understands what you’re going through in this moment. Maybe this is a bar exam tutor who did an excellent job at boosting your morale during exam prep. Maybe it’s a former law professor that you have a good relationship with or maybe even an attorney. These are people who have probably gone through exactly what you’re currently facing and they will likely know exactly what to say to calm your nerves and get you feeling confident and ready for day two.
2. Shift Your Focus to Day Two
Now that you’re done with day one, you’re going to have to face the fact that there’s nothing that you can do to change the outcome. You’ve already submitted your exam so your fate is now in the hands of the exam graders. S,o regardless of how you do, even if you get a low score on the essays, you still have a whole portion of the exam remaining, the MBE. This is no small portion. The MBE gives you 200 multiple choice questions in which you have the opportunity to save your total score and still pass the exam. However, the MBE portion is extremely challenging, and it will require your complete focus and stamina. Therefore, it’s time to flush all the thoughts about day one from your mind and focus on day two. Regardless of how today went, all hope is not lost. You still have a chance to conquer this beast.
3. Forget About it and Go to Sleep
If you do nothing else during this anxiety riddling moment, please apply this tip! Forget about the essays and go to sleep! Emphasizing what I mentioned in the previous section, you need to let today go and rest up for tomorrow. You have just overcome a difficult step that not many people experience. You have completed the first day of one of the most challenging exams that exists. Literally, just one more day stands between you becoming an attorney. Embrace this moment. Revel in it, then go to sleep. It’s important for you to be well rested for the MBE considering the extreme time crunch.
After my first day, I made the mistake of reviewing flash cards and answering MBE questions in the hopes that it would make me better prepared. However, in retrospect, this made no difference and only served to make me more anxious when I missed questions that I thought I should have already known.
So, as the day winds down, kick back for a little, maybe grab your favorite dish for dinner and find something that’s completely mindless to watch on TV. Then, before it gets too late, go to sleep and ease your mind, because tomorrow is a new day, and you will own that exam!
P.S. Don’t forget to upload your essays the second you get access to Wi-Fi. Good luck!