It takes a combination of persistence, self-confidence, fortitude, and of course a lot of hard work, to pass the bar exam. While you may start bar prep brimming with these positive qualities, maintaining that same level of motivation throughout 2+ months of intense (and, let’s be honest, usually boring) studying isn’t easy. Every student preparing for the bar will experience moments of self-doubt, anxiety, and fatigue leading up to the exam. If you’ve had a series of low scores on practice questions or are really struggling to stay on schedule, the negative feelings may be even more acute. For those times when your motivation is lacking or your confidence is waning, you have to find a way to refocus your energy so that your study plans don’t get derailed. A proverb from the Talmud states that “a quotation at the right moment is like bread in a famine.” When you’re struggling with bar prep, a meaningful quotation might be just the pick me up you need. Here are a few of my favorite quotes to help you stay motivated during bar prep:
“What may be done at any time will be done at no time.” – Scottish Proverb
Procrastination is the enemy of bar exam success. Don’t assume you will be able to make up for a late start or a lack of focus early on in the process. 8-10 weeks of sustained studying may seem like a long time, but you’ll likely need every minute of it in order to fully prepare. Use this quote to remind yourself of the importance of sticking to a study schedule.
“The first days are the hardest days…” – The Grateful Dead
One of all my time favorite quotes, this piece of wisdom holds true for pretty much any new situation, including studying for the bar exam. Bar prep can be extremely frustrating during the first few weeks – you may be overwhelmed by the quantity of study material, intimidated by the amount of work assigned, or discouraged by a low score on a practice exam. But, as with any new endeavor, it’s the first days that will likely be the hardest. If you can push through those first couple of weeks, you should be able to develop a manageable routine for bar prep. If you’re feeling particularly discouraged by a low practice exam score, you may also want to keep this quote from business leader Nido Qubein in mind: “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Self-belief is key not only to performing well on the actual exam but also to staying motivated during bar prep. If deep down you don’t believe that you can master the material and skills necessary to be successful on the bar, you will likely be less motivated to complete all of your study tasks. Although you certainly don’t want to be arrogant, you do need to have a healthy dose of confidence when it comes to your ability to pass the exam. Believing that you will be successful with the right amount of preparation is crucial to achieving your goal.
“The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.” – Bobby Knight
While you may not admire the actions of chair-throwing former NCAA basketball coach Bobby Knight, he was spot on with this statement. While self-belief is a necessary part of bar exam success, it is not sufficient. It’s also crucial that you have a good study schedule and the discipline to stick to it. Whether you were at the top of your law school or the bottom, every student will need to prepare for the bar exam in a diligent, consistent, thoughtful way. Of course, finding (and sustaining) the will to prepare isn’t always easy. If you’re not sure whether you have the energy to complete that last set of MBE practice questions, use this quote from Stephen King to remind yourself of the value of hard work: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot hard work.”
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
There will be some productive days and there will be some terrible days while preparing for the bar exam, but no single day will determine whether you pass or fail. If you’re experiencing a rough patch, make an effort to put it behind you. A few bad days won’t lead to a bar exam disaster as long as you’ve been working diligently throughout the preparation period.
When your days are comprised of completing multiple choice tests and reviewing outlines, it can be difficult to feel inspired by the work. Keeping a few helpful quotes in the back of your mind (or taped to the front of your textbook!) may be just what you need to push through the difficult moments. Borrow these quotes or find some of your own and keep them in a prominent place to help you stay motivated during bar prep.
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