As the bar exam draws nearer and you’re creating your action plan, don’t forget to think about what you’ll do after you’ve finished the first day of the exam. It’s an important, though perhaps overlooked, period of time, and there are a few things you should (and should not) do in order to ensure you’re mentally and physically prepared to tackle the next day of testing.
Don’t Stew Over what Happened During the Portion of the Exam you’ve Just Finished
This is obviously something easier said than done, but obsessing over what you did or didn’t do on the first day will not be beneficial and, in fact, could be to your detriment if you still have another day of testing ahead of you. If you absolutely cannot help it, set a timer and allow yourself 30-60 minutes to replay the events of the day in your head, and then make a conscious effort to put those thoughts to rest and move on with your life.
Do Something that isn’t Mentally Taxing, but will Keep you Busy and take your Mind off the Test
Watch a movie, go for a walk, listen to a podcast, read a magazine, play games on your phone, or go out for dinner. These are probably things you haven’t been doing while studying for the bar, so it should feel good to engage in something mindless and enjoyable.
Going out for dinner might be a controversial suggestion, as some people advise against putting your nutritional intake into another person’s hands, but it’s a great way to burn some time and have a good meal. As long as you choose a reputable location and are mindful of your food selections, the risk is minimal. If you know someone who isn’t taking the bar who can join you for dinner (more on this topic below), that can be a great option to help pass the time. Also, it’s perfectly fine to have a glass of wine or whatever your drink of choice is if you’d like, but make sure you limit yourself to just one.
Avoid other Test Takers and Social Media
To socialize, or not to socialize, that is the question. I think it’s generally best to avoid other bar exam takers because of the strong likelihood that the conversation will inevitably turn to the exam. However, if you have a group of close law school friends that you are absolutely 100% certain will adhere to a “no talking about the test” pact, I can certainly recognize the appeal of not being left alone with your thoughts during the hours of down time you have to keep yourself preoccupied between test days.
That being said, if you have the option of socializing with any folks who are not currently taking the bar exam (and have not taken the bar in the past), I would recommend choosing that option instead. Non-test-taking companions are probably still going to be curious about the experience or feel obligated to ask how it’s going, so you may want to give them a polite heads up that you’d rather not talk about it for the time being. Some people prefer to be alone during this time, and that’s ok too.
In my opinion, the issue of social media is much more clear-cut. You have no idea what you’re going to encounter when you open up Facebook or Twitter and don’t need any negative energy in your life at this moment, so it’s best just to avoid them. Delete the apps from your phone so you aren’t tempted to take a quick peek.
Limit any Additional Studying
If you venture out to do something in the evening, make sure you’re back home or in your hotel room relatively early in order to give yourself plenty of time to unwind. Although last-minute cramming is both not recommended and not likely to make a substantial difference in your performance, if spending a little time reviewing outlines or flashcards reduces some of your anxiety and allows you to sleep better, then I think it makes sense to do so. I would try to wrap up any review by 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. Take some time to get all of your things in order for the next day, and then…
Relax and Get Some Rest
Relaxation does not come naturally for everyone. If you need help reducing some of the anxiety you may be feeling as you gear up for day two (or three), consider taking a hot bath, listening to music, or engaging in meditation. Doing breathing exercises or yoga can relieve stress and calm your mind, helping you to get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed, focused, and ready to take on the next day.