The first day of the bar exam is daunting, to say the least. Students know that 2-3 long testing days are ahead of them and, although many are eager to get the process started after weeks of preparation, most still feel nervous, overwhelmed, or even unprepared. It’s important to start the bar exam marathon on a positive note, so take a deep a breath and use these suggestions to help you have a successful first day.
Give Yourself a Break.
A successful first day actually starts by preparing well the night before. You’ll need physical and mental stamina to make it through the exam, so you should take the day before the exam off from studying to give yourself time to relax. Try to do something fun that will distract you from thinking about the test and then go to bed early. If the thought of not studying at all sends you into a panic, then briefly review 2 or 3 subjects that you feel less confident about, but don’t overdo it. Given the amount of material covered on the bar exam, it’s unlikely that you’ll gain much by cramming on the last day. Instead, use this time to rest and recharge for the upcoming days.
Know the Exam Rules.
The last thing you need on day one of the bar exam is to add to your stress by being confused about where you need to be, what time you need to be there, or what you can (and cannot) have during the test. Review the rules regarding the exam, double check the start time and location, and make sure you have all the items you need to be packed and ready to go. You don’t want to get flustered when a proctor confiscates your energy drink or dismisses you for bringing in a highlighter, so be sure you know the rules and are in compliance.
Don’t Discuss the Test.
Whether it’s before the exam, during a lunch break, or at the conclusion of the day, absolutely avoid talking about the test with anyone. Talking about the test with other anxious bar takers will only heighten your stress or make you second guess your responses. Make polite small talk and answer any direct questions about the test with the most generic of responses (“Halfway done!”, “Hope it’s going well!”, etc.). Better yet, avoid talking to anyone during breaks and use this time to rest and refocus. On a related note, completely ignore the person who is obnoxiously declaring (loud enough for everyone to hear) that the test was “easy” or that they “totally passed.” I guarantee you that this person did not do as well as they think they did and is likely trying to compensate for the fact that they are completely terrified of failing.
Move On From Hard Questions.
Every student on every bar exam will feel completely stumped by at least one or two (and sometimes a few) questions. It could be a poorly written question, or maybe it’s a topic you just don’t know that well, or perhaps you’re just getting fatigued towards the end of the day. Whatever the cause, don’t let a couple of challenging questions demoralize you or sabotage your performance on other parts of the exam. Remember, you’re trying to pass the bar exam, not AmJur it, so you don’t need to get every single point available. If (when) you come across a question that stumps you, do your best to put down an answer, even if it’s just a guess, and then move on.
Pay Attention to Your Pace.
Despite spending weeks preparing for the big day, students often struggle to manage their time effectively during the exam. Students are either so amped up that they fly through the test and therefore fail to fully analyze each question or so overwhelmed that they get bogged down early on and fail to complete the test. Take a couple of deep breaths as soon as the exam starts and try to stick to the time allotted for each question. Be sure to check your progress periodically and either slow down or speed up as needed.
When the first day of the bar exam is finally over you’ll likely be feeling a mix of exhaustion, relief, apprehension, and regret. Do your best to curtail any negative thoughts and get some rest. Trust that your hard work will pay off and remind yourself that you made it one step closer to finishing the last test you’ll ever have to take.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Test Anxiety and the Bar Exam – How to Handle It
- Passing the Bar Exam One Asana at a Time: Learning to Relax
- A Final Pep Talk Before the Bar Exam
- Five Things to Do Your Last Week of Bar Prep
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