For better or worse, it’s finally over! It’s normal to have a little anxiety about how it all went, but after spending so much time and focus preparing for the test, you may find it difficult to get your mind off of the bar exam. Now that the test is over and there’s nothing you can do to change your answers, it’s important to live in the present so that you aren’t constantly worrying about what you could have done differently or whether your name will be on the pass list. Use the following strategies to help you decompress and control your anxiety about the results.
Because the bar exam feels like such a high stakes, all or nothing proposition, it can be difficult to not worry about your results, especially when you’ve spent the last several weeks focused solely on studying for the test. But worrying about your results won’t change them, it will only hinder your ability to relax and decompress after all those weeks of hard work. If you find that worries over the bar exam are creeping into your thoughts and causing you anxiety, try to compartmentalize those thoughts in your mind. Anytime you start to think about the exam or feel nervous about your results, acknowledge the thought and then file it away. Visually picture yourself moving that thought to the back of your mind, and then select another thought that will bring you back to enjoying the present moment. Compartmentalizing your thoughts can help you control them, so that they don’t cause you unnecessary distraction or anxiety.
2. Pack it Away
It will be nearly impossible to stop thinking about the bar exam if your bar exam materials are constantly staring back at you from the corner of your desk. One of your first tasks when you complete the exam should be to pack all of your outlines and books into boxes and move them to a location where you won’t see them on a daily basis. Moving these materials out of sight really can help them stay out of mind. The physical act of packing them away can also be quite satisfying – it’s an almost ceremonial act that brings a sense of finality to your bar preparation.
3. Have Your Comeback Ready
Don’t be surprised if your friends and family undermine your attempts to limit the time you spend fretting about your answers or worrying about your results. Of course they mean well, but constant questioning like, “how do you think it went?”, “do you think you’ll pass?”, or “when do results come out?”, won’t make it easy to forget the exam. These types of questions are inevitable, so if you’d rather not talk too much about the exam or speculate about the results, it’s best to have a comeback ready to go. Something like, “I’m relieved it’s over and trying not to worry about the results” is usually sufficient to close down further questioning.
4. Don’t Trust Your Gut
The bar exam is a grueling experience meant to test not just your knowledge of the law or your analytical skills, but also your stamina. You’ll probably walk out of the exam feeling mentally worn out, if not completely exhausted. Which is why you shouldn’t put too much stake in or rely too much on your own judgment as to whether you passed or failed. After so many long days, it’s impossible to remember exactly what you wrote down or to objectively evaluate your own performance. Students who walk out of the test feeling 100% confident may fail and students who are convinced that they didn’t get a single MBE question right might pass. So if you’re feeling a little uncertain about your odds of passing, don’t make too much of it. Your results might surprise you in the end, and even if they don’t, fretting about them now won’t make a difference.
5. Let Yourself Feel Proud
Whether you passed or failed, just preparing for and taking the bar exam is a huge accomplishment. You’ve spent a long time getting to the point where you can even sit for a bar exam, so you should feel proud of how far you’ve come. Acknowledging this accomplishment and reveling in it, even just a little, is comforting and can help you stay relaxed as you wait for results.
The days and weeks following the bar exam may be filled with a strange mix of emotions: relief that you don’t have to study anymore, excitement that you completed the test, exhaustion from the hours you’ve spent concentrating over the last few days, fear of how difficult the questions were, and anxiety about whether it was enough to pass. Don’t let these emotions control you over the next few weeks. Instead, make an effort to put the exam behind you and decompress, so that you can enjoy this period of waiting. You’ve earned it!