The bar exam is an all-encompassing experience. However, as much as we would like to put the real world on hold for the bar exam, we can’t. And as life continues on, so do life’s challenges.
What am I talking about? While in bar prep, many folks are forced to deal with serious life issues that may come up—splitting up with a significant other, dealing with a health emergency or loss of a close family member, a tragic medical diagnosis of someone close to you, you get the picture.
If you are presented with such a challenge during your bar prep, what should you do?
Be Kind to Yourself
If you are going through a challenging personal time when you are studying for the bar exam, it is very important to be kind to yourself. Recognize that you are going to need time and emotional energy to process what is going on around you. You must give yourself space (sometimes in the form of a break) to get a handle on what is going on with you emotionally. This is critically important, because if you ignore these emotions tied to a challenging personal situation, they will likely bubble up at the most inopportune times, such as in the final part of exam preparation and even during the bar exam itself.
In addition, these emotions can cloud your judgment as to how your studying is going. Anxiety about a situation completely unrelated to the bar can bleed over to feelings of doubt about your ability to pass. Increasing your anxiety about the bar exam and constantly questioning your ability to pass will hinder your performance come exam day. You must take a step back and ask yourself, “Why do I all of a sudden think I don’t know any law or feel I can’t complete this essay question? What has changed from before?” By taking a step back, you may realize that it isn’t your studying that you are actually anxious about. You need to give yourself time to cope with what is going on in your life so you have the freedom to prepare as you need to.
Remember: This Is Just a Test
If you are in the middle of a challenging personal situation and want to move forward with taking the bar exam, make sure you keep the exam in perspective. Although bar results do have many ramifications, you still must consider that this is just a test. If you don’t pass, life will continue to move forward and you will have the opportunity to sit for it again.
If you are in an extreme situation, you may want to consider postponing the exam in order to give yourself the best chance at passing. Each jurisdiction has different rules about doing this, but depending on your situation, this may be something you want to explore. Taking the test without adequate preparation may not be worth the time and/or money. In addition, finding out you have failed the exam (even if you didn’t prepare adequately) is a tough thing to overcome as well. You don’t want to go through that if you don’t have to.
However, there are some students who find that a challenging personal situation actually puts the exam in perspective for them so they don’t feel so anxious about things. It really depends on the individual. But no matter what, take some time to sit with how you are feeling and think through the best way to proceed. Only you can decide what is best for you.
Ask for Help
This may be the most important advice of all. You must ask for help if you need it. And this doesn’t mean just speaking to a counselor or therapist (although if you are depressed or seriously struggling, I recommend you consider these options). You can reach out to trusted friends, mentors, family and even bar tutors on how you can deal with what is going on and still prep for the exam. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Keeping your feelings, stress and anxiety inside is not going to help you move forward.
This blog post is important to me because I know many students who find life getting in the way of studying. And it is critical that you do what you can to cope or decide to postpone the exam. If you are going through something like this, you are not alone. Use your resources and your support network to get through.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some of our other articles for more great study tips!
- Studying for the Bar Exam? Loosen Up!
- Please DO NOT Spend All Your Time Studying Law
- Can I Take a Break?