In less than three weeks now, the bar exam will be over. That thought likely brings a mix of relief and panic, but this is the perfect time to think about what you can do to maximize your efforts in these final days.
Check In With Yourself
You’ve been studying for a while now, so take a moment to think about what’s working well and what’s not worth your time. It’s easy to listen to how others tell you to study and follow that advice to the letter without considering if it’s working for you specifically. While you may not have taken this exam before, you’ve been preparing yourself for exams for a long time now and you have a sense of your learning style and what study techniques tend to bring you the most success. Be realistic with yourself about what approaches are actually getting you results and which ones feel like simply going through the motions. Trust yourself to identify if things are going well or if you need to re-think your preparation.
Practice And Practice Some More
Even if you’ve been following a well-planned schedule, attending or watching lectures, memorizing, and doing practice questions, it’s time to increase the time you spend practicing MBE questions and essays.
It can be hard to get out of memorization mode and trying to learn everything, but at this point, accept that the sheer volume of information means that you cannot know every single rule, and so, while you need to keep reviewing, practicing is going to be the best measure of how prepared you really are. Just like with your 1L exams, the bar exam tests your ability to apply the law, not just recite it. So you should be doing MBE questions and essays every day from this point forward.
For the MBE, do all of the practice questions you can get your hands on. If you’re in a commercial prep course, you’ve likely been provided with a large bank of questions, so take advantage of that. Consider purchasing full-length exams of questions from past exams from the NCBE so that you can take a full MBE exam under timed conditions and then get feedback on your current strengths and weaknesses.
It’s critical at this point to not only see how many questions you are answering correctly, but also identify WHY you are missing the questions you are answering incorrectly. Do you not know the law? Did you mis-read the call of the question? Keep track of your mistakes so you can see what is getting in your way so you know where to focus your efforts.
The essays can be harder to focus on because they take more time and students often get tired and more easily distracted when working on essay practice, but it’s critical to hone your essay skills now. If you need to cover a lot of questions, you can outline some answers instead of writing them out to save time and see if your application is correct, but keep writing out full answers on a regular basis to make sure your writing and the structure of your answers continues to improve, and to get yourself ready for the marathon writing you’ll do on the actual essay exam.
For both essays and the MBE, time yourself and create exam conditions whenever possible. The more conditioned you are to the strictures of the actual exam, the more prepared you will be.
Take Care Of Your Health
When working so diligently, it’s easy to get carried away and start studying for 16 hours straight to try to maximize your study time in the final weeks. But you have to remember that while studying needs to be a priority, you need to focus on the quality of your study time and prevent burn out before the exam.
You’ve likely heard the analogy that the Bar Exam is a marathon, which means you can’t show up to it exhausted and drained or all of your preparation will be useless. That means it’s important to eat well, exercise, take study breaks, and get enough sleep. It’s important for your body and mind to get breaks and rest. You also need to address your stress and anxiety. I’ve written about using yoga and meditation when preparing for the bar exam, but you can find any techniques that help you stay relaxed, focused, and balanced.
Don’t Forget About Exam Week
As overwhelming as these final weeks can seem, make sure the week of the exam is as low-stress as possible by making sure you have made all of your arrangements. Planning ahead will allow you to focus on the exam, and not worrying about where you are going to get lunch during the break, or how it will take you to get to the testing center.
- Travel: Decide how you are getting to the exam, both in terms of whether you have to actually travel and what your commute will be like each day to the testing center, whether from home or a hotel. If you need a hotel and haven’t booked one, do that today!
- Food: You’re going to need to eat to keep your body and brain working efficiently, so think about where and what you’ll be eating. Plan ahead so you can make sure you’re eating food that will keep you going, not put you to sleep, know where to get food and how much time you will have for breaks, and any rules about snacks or beverages in your jurisdiction.
- Rules: Don’t forget to go over what you are and are not allowed to have with you at the actual exam and to make sure you have followed any rules for laptops or other testing specifics. You don’t want to get flustered on Day 1 because you brought something that’s not permitted, or your laptop does not conform to the requirements of your jurisdiction.
The take away here is preparation on all fronts – intellectual, mental, physical, and logistic, is key. Be prepared in these key areas and you can ensure you will perform to the best of your abilities.