Studying for the bar exam is among the most challenging academic experiences you’ll ever endure. Most first-time takers begin bar study immediately after finishing three rigorous years of law school. And for repeat takers, preparing for the bar exam typically begins after getting the difficult news that a prior bar exam attempt was unsuccessful.
The process of fully preparing for the bar exam takes months, and many people start to feel burnt out in the last month of bar study. If you’re experiencing burnout as the bar exam nears, you can take steps to combat these feelings and restore your energy before you walk into the testing center to sit for the exam.
Here are five ways to beat burnout in the last month of bar study.
1. Acknowledge How You’re Feeling
The term “burnout” refers to a type of academic or career-related stress that is characterized by physical or emotional exhaustion. Although “burnout” isn’t technically a medical diagnosis, studying for the bar exam can lead to some of the health consequences associated with burnout like excessive stress, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and sadness.
If you’re overwhelmed and unable to keep studying, the first step is acknowledging how you feel. If you have a therapist, make an appointment to discuss what you’re experiencing and how to deal with the stress of bar study. If you like to journal, take an hour to write about some of the feelings you’re experiencing. It might help for you to reflect on why you decided to go to law school and envision receiving the news that you’ve passed the bar. You can also talk to a trusted friend, parent, or mentor about how to overcome these feelings.
2. Take a Few Days Off (Really)
Once you’ve acknowledged that you’re feeling burnt out, give yourself permission to take a few days off from bar study. This may seem counterintuitive, but the only way you’ll be able to move forward with studying and sit for the exam is to rest and recharge your batteries.
You should consider making a plan for your time off and pick a few activities that you know you’ll enjoy and will help take your mind off the bar exam. Can you squeeze in a trip to the movie theater or your favorite restaurant? What about a long hike or a yoga class? Try to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise during your break. Try to avoid your computer screen and put your test prep materials completely out of sight.
3. Identify Your Priorities for Your Remaining Time
After you’ve taken a dedicated break from bar study, you need to identify your priorities for the time you have left until the bar exam. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish and the areas to which you need to dedicate your attention. If you’re unsure about where you need to spend your time, an experienced bar tutor can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and develop a study schedule.
In the weeks leading up to the exam, we recommend that students spend as much time as possible doing closed-book MBE questions, practice essays, and performance tests under timed conditions. Although it’s tempting to continuously revisit areas that you feel most comfortable with, you’ll have to push yourself to confront less familiar topics in order to fill gaps in your knowledge of the law. Although working through new topics as the exam draws near may be uncomfortable, learning new rules can give you a sense of accomplishment that helps combat some of the feelings associated with burnout.
4. Commit to More Frequent Study Breaks
In the final weeks of bar study, you should take more breaks than you did at the beginning of your study period. Sitting for more than three hours at a time is not only mentally unhealthy, but can put a strain on your body too. In order to pass the exam, you’ll need to be physically and mentally able to handle two days of intense test-taking!
Unless you’re taking a fully-timed set of practice essays or MBE questions, try to take at least one 10-minute break every two hours. Be sure to stand up, get fresh air if you can, and take time away from your desk or study area. Do not study during meals and focus on eating healthy foods with plenty of nutrients to combat stress.
5. Avoid Unhealthy Distractions
As the bar exam approaches, try to avoid unhealthy distractions and coping mechanisms. Try not to spend too much time on social media — seeing other peoples’ vacation photos while you’re stuck indoors studying isn’t going to help you feel any more excited about the bar exam. You should also reduce your alcohol intake, as drinking can exacerbate anxiety and disrupt your sleep patterns. Although tempting, binging on fast food and ice cream in the final stressful weeks of exam prep will only worsen your fatigue.
It Might Feel Impossible, But You Can Overcome Burnout!
Don’t let burnout derail the hard work you’ve already put in to bar study. In the crucial final weeks leading up to the exam, taking these steps can help you beat burnout and perform at your best on the bar exam. If you need help making priorities and staying accountable to a study plan, consider working with one of the experienced bar tutors at Bar Exam Toolbox.
Note: If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, you should consult with a doctor right away. This post is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a qualified professional.