(1) It is shrouded in mythology. I am from California. My parents are both attorneys that took the bar exam in California. I grew up surrounded by lawyers. And every one had a bar exam story. The bar is one thing that all attorneys have in common. It is challenging and overwhelming and in states with low passage rates, over half of the people who take it fail! This creates a mystique around the experience, which causes increased anxiety for all of those studying. There are also a lot of really unfortunate myths floating around relating to the bar exam, many of which will be addressed on this website.
(2) The amount of law you need to learn. In California there are 13 bar exam subjects (depending on how you count them). That is a lot of law. It can be very overwhelming when you compare it with your law school career, when you used to study for perhaps four finals at once — not 13.
(3) The focus on test-taking skills. Many people may not realize it, but other than testing the law, the bar requires you to be an excellent test-taker (time management skills and essay writing skills are definitely also being tested).
(4) The time pressure. You have to do a lot of work in a short amount of time. You must adhere to strict time restrictions for each question (which believe me, is not easy!).
(5) Fear around multiple choice. A lot of folks hate multiple-choice questions. To be honest, I don’t like them either. But, in California they are approximately a third of the test (in many jurisdictions they are half of the test). You need to realize that multiple choice is an important part of the exam and an area where you can practice and get better.
(6) YOU must own the preparation process. No one can study for the bar for you. Yes, you can attend hours of lecture and spend hours upon hours in the law library “studying”. But you must own the process and make sure that you are studying smart and putting in the time. No one is able to hold your hand through this process. You must do it yourself! No one can take the test for you.
(7) The amount of pressure we put on ourselves to pass. One of the most common statements made by students is what happens if I fail. Yes, it is terrible if you fail the bar exam. I hope that you don’t have to live through that! But it is important to maintain perspective to keep the anxiety from getting out of control and becoming detrimental to the work you are doing to prepare.
Keeping in mind these seven things that make the bar difficult will help you study smarter. If you need help, ask for it!