You have been diligent about your studying. You followed a schedule, listened to all the lectures, completed a bunch of practice exams and took note of the feedback you received on those practice exams. Now it’s a week before the bar. Suddenly, your drive and motivation seems to wane. Should you panic? How can things fall apart so badly when you are in the final lap? But have things really fallen apart? I don’t think so.
Why Does the Week Before the Bar Feel So Different?
Consider the possibility that because you were disciplined in your bar preparations, how you feel now during this last stretch before the bar is completely normal. Let me explain what I mean with my own experience. When I went through bar prep, I was completely disciplined – I “winged” nothing. I had a schedule in place for what I would study, when I would do practice exams, and when I would start reviewing material I had already worked through. The week before the bar, all lectures had already been completed. And because it was in the age of “snail mail,” there was no real time to send in practice exams for feedback. As a result, the only real option was to review and tweak all the “attack” outlines I prepared during the course of my bar prep.
And to be honest, that is all the energy I had left to do. I actually felt like my brain had no more room for new information. So, I just did what I could. I simply reviewed my outlines, testing myself along the way to make sure I remembered “what comes next,” or “the elements of ____ are.” I may have even gotten together with classmates to issue spot fact patterns we had not already worked on. Then, on the weekend of the bar, Sunday I think, all that stopped. My brain literally said to me that’s enough. I just couldn’t study anymore. I actually felt like I was ready and wanted to get it over with. So, I went shopping with a friend, and we talked about a trip we would be taking soon after the bar. I rested, tried to relax, and tried not to panic.
Trust in Yourself if You Have Already Done the Work
Despite what others want you to believe, studying for the bar is like no other professional hurdle in the world. Most other professional licensing exams are broken up, so that those taking a particular exam do not feel like it is an all or nothing activity. Yes, the MPRE separately tests ethical issues, but we get no relief here. The bar exam might still include ethical issues in the essay questions. For this reason, you must continue to stay fresh with topics of professional responsibility, even if you already passed the MPRE long before the bar exam.
Think of the bar as a really extended week of finals. And, because of that, you should approach it with the same consistency, and habits. Hopefully, one of those habits is making sure that you get a decent amount of sleep.
Just google “the importance of sleep to test-taking.” You will be provided with article after article discussing studies that have shown students are more likely to remember the information they have studied after a good night’s sleep. The theory is that during sleep, your brain consolidates the information you have been studying, making it easier for you to retrieve the information during an exam. When you “cram” for an exam, then go into the exam with little or no sleep, having spent your time going over, and over, and over your notes, the brain has not had the opportunity to internalize the information. This raises the possibility of two scary scenarios. First, that you will “blank out” during the bar exam, not remembering what rule applies to a given set of facts; or, if you remember the rule, you’re not quite sure how to apply that rule to the facts – insert a scary crying emoji face here!
So, relax and get some sleep. Take a stroll with a loved one or go shopping with a friend. During the week before the bar exam, don’t stop studying. Instead, keep reviewing what you have already relearned, enhancing your confidence that you have done what you can to pass the bar exam. Eat well, exercise, and finally – get some sleep. Your brain will be in a much happier place.