You have finally made it. It’s the week of the bar exam. You are feeling tired, nervous, anxious, and just ready to be on the other side. You have lost touch with friends, family, current events, and everything else that keeps you feeling like a sane and productive member of society. The question is: now that you are near the finish line, what can you do to maintain your sanity? Unfortunately, how you have worked your way through law school and bar prep is very individualized. There may not be a discrete set of things each of you can do to maintain sanity in those final days and hours before the bar, but what I can offer are some common-sense tips to keep you healthy and feeling…okay before the big day.
Stick With What Works For You
You have experienced stress before. You managed to make it through law school. You had tough semesters in which you had four, five, maybe even six final exams. You survived that. You engaged in experiential learning opportunities throughout law school, none of which law school really prepared you for. You survived that too. You studied for, and did well on, the LSAT, MPRE, and countless other exams in your journey to become an attorney. You survived all of that. My first bit of advice is to stick with what has helped you to survive all of the challenges you’ve already overcome. The week leading up to the bar exam is not the time to change up your routine. Of course, you should follow the instructions of whatever bar prep service you have chosen, but you need to stay in touch with those habits and methods that helped you get to the bar exam. Step one is to maintain the status quo by doing what works best for you. It makes no difference what anyone else is doing, stay in your comfort zone to help alleviate unnecessary spikes in your stress level.
Think Positively; Be Positive
The next thing that you should do is a little positive visualization. That’s right, during the last few days leading up to the exam, strike a power pose, look at yourself in the mirror with confidence, and tell yourself (say it out loud) “I can do this. I am prepared for this. I will pass this exam on the first try.” There are countless studies that extol the virtues of positive thinking prior to tackling a stressful exam, speech, or evaluation. Each and every day of that last week, take five minutes to visualize your success and convince yourself (your harshest critic, always there with an insult and a knee to your confidence) that you can handle the stress of the exam. More than that, convince yourself, despite any fear, anxiety, and misgivings you may have, that you are going to pass.
Self-Care is King: Take a Bath and have a Proper Meal
During the week leading up to the exam, it is time to take care of yourself. Over the course of the last two months, there is a pretty good chance that your personal hygiene, diet, and physical health have taken a catastrophic hit. Let’s face it, you have been exceptionally busy re-learning, learning, and trying to retain an insane amount of information. With each piece of information you have wedged into one of the folds of your brain, you have sailed perilously close to the brink of insanity. During the last week before the exam, take back who you are. I promise, you will feel better. I am not talking about abandoning the work you have left to do, I am simply suggesting that a little self-care will go a long way toward returning you to the land of the living. Take time to shower each day, maybe do your hair, put on clean clothes, etc. Once you are feeling human again, spend a little time preparing an actual meal for yourself, rather than the Ramen or Mac-n-Cheese you’ve been living on because it’s quick and easy. After you have cleaned up and eaten proper food, make yourself get plenty of sleep. The stress of test day will only be aggravated if you are exhausted. Getting eight hours of sleep each of the days leading up to the exam will help your mind focus, help you retain information, and generally enhance your performance. Finally, find time to exercise. This can make a huge difference in your mood, stress level, and well-being.
Know What You’re Getting into Before You Get There
Finally, spend some time reviewing your state’s exam procedures and exam content. You have no doubt had visibility on these throughout bar prep, but it can help to calm your nerves if you know exactly what you are walking into. To that end, it may be beneficial to talk to a former law-school colleague who successfully sat for the bar exam, to find out what to expect at your testing center. Don’t let them go too into the weeds, but they can help quiet fears about the bar exam procedure and may be able to give sound advice about the best way to handle the nights between test days. Take advantage of the network you have created.
You Got This!
Just remember, you know a lot of people that have taken this exam and passed. You can do this. Good luck and stay sane.