The bar exam is coming up soon. Some of you have already started studying. Especially if you need to work full-time while you prepare, starting earlier rather than later can be a great strategy. For others, maybe you haven’t decided yet whether you want to take the next administration of the exam or not.
If you failed the last bar, it’s understandable (and completely normal) to need some time to pick yourself back up and get into study mode. If you’re a first-time taker, you may wonder whether the next administration of the exam is right for you. For all of you who haven’t determined what your next few months will look like, here are some red flags to consider in deciding whether and when to take the next bar.
Time is Not on Your Side.
When you peruse your schedule for the next two months, do you even have time to study? If you have a huge project on your desk at work, travel plans, or if you need to take care of people or commitments that will significantly drain your available free time, you might want to consider postponing until the next exam. If you can’t give the bar the time and attention it deserves, it’s not worth the stress and effort required.
You’re Beyond Burned Out.
If last month brought you bad news about results from a previous bar, consider whether you’ve had adequate time to process all those negative feelings (disappointment, regret, shame, exhaustion, futility—the list goes on). If not, you definitely should not be diving into a stack of flash cards right now. You won’t retain the information as well. That said, if it is feasible for you to take the next exam, and you decide you want to do that, it has been about a month since you got the bad news, so ask yourself if maybe it isn’t time to get back up in the saddle. You’re likely an excellent candidate for studying early as well since you probably have to spend some extra time changing the methods that didn’t pan out for you before.
Your Personal Life Is in Upheaval.
Don’t under-estimate the ability of an unstable personal life to wreck havoc on otherwise calm, intelligent, organized people. If you’re non-academic life is in disaster mode right now, you might be surprised just how significantly this can erode the concentration, positivity and drive required to pass this exam! I have a colleague who is an awesome lawyer, but it took trudging a rough road to get there. He failed twice before passing. When he got the bad news for the first time, he had just decided to leave his home state and move in with a relatively new significant other across the country. After all, life doesn’t stop for the bar exam!
Unfortunately, the new relationship turned out to be really volatile and distracting, and he ended up moving home in shambles just weeks before the test. Bad idea. If you have even a sneaking suspicion that you’re setting yourself up for this kind of disruption while you’re trying to study, consider insulating yourself better, or perhaps even taking the next exam after things have time to settle down. That said, students manage to pass this exam every year despite moving, planning weddings, having children, getting laid off, dealing with illness, hardship and all manner of other obstacles. It’s not impossible to succeed in the face of these sorts of events, but if you know now that you’re getting yourself into an uphill battle, you might want to rethink your plan.
You’re Convinced You Will Fail.
It’s important to go into an exam like the bar feeling confident and positive. Not only is this just a healthy mental state to occupy generally, it will also come through in your writing. If you are still beating yourself up about failing last time, or so convinced you will fail this time, you’re not in the right headspace to take this test. And frankly, no amount of tutoring, studying, or outside assistance is going to change your mind for you without your help. Save yourself the study hours and wait to take the exam until you’re not actively fighting against your own best interests.
You’re Unwilling to Change.
Whether you failed the exam before or are taking it for the first time, you’re in the same boat—you don’t know how to sit for this exam and earn a passing score. Why? Because no one in your position does. This process doesn’t come naturally. It can be counter-intuitive, and it has practically nothing to do with how smart you are or how well you did in law school. If you can’t let go of your own ideas about what it takes to pass this test and listen to the guidance of your bar study course, tutor, books, materials, etc., then you should sit this one out.
If your study program is warning you that your essays are missing the mark by a long shot, or your tutor tells you that you need to drastically change the way you do analysis, and you’re not going to heed this advice and revise your process, you’re going to become your own worst enemy. There are no bonus points for re-inventing the wheel with the bar. And guess what, all anyone else can do is point you in the right direction. You need to do all the heavy lifting on your own.
The bar exam is one of the most time-consuming, stress-inducing—not to mention expensive—professional hurdles out there—which leads me to some hyperbolic running metaphors: There’s no point in ambling toward the finish line here if you’re wearing a blindfold, have a broken leg, or have decided to jog because it’s easier and you think it will get you there just as well as sprinting. Wait to compete in this race until you can get yourself in the physical, mental, and emotional shape necessary to give yourself a fighting chance at passing. Otherwise, what’s the point?
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Does it Make Sense to Skip This Bar Exam?
- I Just Failed the Bar. Should I Take the Next Bar Offered or Take a Break?
- 5 Tips for Studying Now for the February Bar Exam
- Winning the Bar Exam Game: 5 More Reasons to Get a Tutor
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