COVID-19 continues to throw plans into flux – would-be bar examinees feel this acutely. Because each state gets to determine when and how to administer the bar exam, there is no one consistent plan this year for the test. Several states plan to administer the test as usual in July, while a number of others have rescheduled it for September or later.
The July exam administration is mere weeks away and students in the states that have not postponed it are watching the news warily. States that have previously started to reopen are rolling that back. What does that mean for the bar exam? The short answer: no one knows. It could be that the states going forward with the test in July will ultimately postpone, but this will leave many examinees in the lurch. Travel plans and logistics and study plans should be completely set by now, but those can all fall through upon the word of the powers that be.
Those are things out of your control, so let’s focus on things that are in your control. Do your best to stay flexible about any changed circumstances and, most importantly, focus on your physical and mental health. It’s normal to feel anxious in the weeks leading up to the exam, and the extra stress of pandemic caused uncertainty is likely to compound that anxiety. Do what you can to manage that.
Keep telling yourself the exam is in a few weeks until you hear otherwise
When I was studying for law school finals, it was easy to fantasize that something would happen that would cause the tests to be postponed. That has now happened on a huge scale for the bar exam. Don’t get complacent. The last few weeks are crunch time – this is the time to get those rule statements down cold and be well versed in linking them with the relevant facts. Keep writing every single day. Shoot for four or more essays right now. Whether or not the exam gets postponed, this practice will serve you well.
If the exam is postponed, you’ll have the new challenge of retaining everything you have already learned, but it is easier to manage that than it is to cram everything in the week before because you thought the exam would be pushed out. In the event of a date change, plan to keep reviewing your outlines and attack plans. Rewrite all of the essays that you were least comfortable with. Rewatch all of the subject matter videos provided by your course.
If you have already completed all of the MBE questions available, analyze your weakest areas and start from the beginning on those questions. It will feel terribly monotonous, but retaking the exam because you failed to keep up the preparations will feel even more monotonous. Even if the exam is pushed out to an unknown point, you can still prepare well.
Do the best you can to make the exam experience comfortable
The COVID-19 world requires us to wear masks to keep ourselves and others safe. You probably know by now that not all masks are created equally. Because you will likely need to wear a mask during the exam whether you test in July or in the fall, you need to practice wearing one during your studying. Take practice exams with the mask on and do your best to keep it on for as many hours as you would need to on exam day. If that mask isn’t working well for you, consider another brand. Keep trying until you find one that is comfortable enough to wear for hours. You need to make sure it fits well. When you find the right mask for you, order extras. Something may happen to it during the exam, so you’ll want to have a spare.
While the examiners will do their best to keep everyone distanced, it is ultimately your responsibility to limit the spread of the virus by using the mask responsibly.
Stay on top of updates and look into cancellation and postponement policies
Things are changing every day. You need to watch your state bar’s website and social media outlets closely to see if there are any updates. Pay very close attention to anything the examiners release about the test format. They are working with multiple stakeholders to determine the best way to administer the test, and in some states, that may mean scrapping the traditional test altogether. If your state has diploma privilege, make sure you keep track of all of the requirements to obtain this.
New rules about masks, consent forms, and logistical adjustments will be evolving as we get closer to the test. Some states require you send in a consent form acknowledging your risk of exposure before they will allow you to enter the exam room. Return that in a timely manner, and adhere to the policies. If you are feeling at all unwell, you have a responsibility to report that and stay home.
Other states may still be allowing examinees to postpone without fees. If you are concerned about your exposure, look into that. Those deadlines are fast approaching, if they have not yet passed.
If you haven’t already booked travel, choose the options with easy cancellations
Most examinees will have already booked travel arrangements at this point, but if you have not, ensure that anything you book has generous cancellation policies. Some credit cards come with built in travel protection, so look into those policies ahead of time to see what options you have.
Watch out for different state policies for people traveling in and out of the state. If there is a mandatory quarantine period, you should get in touch with the bar examiners to see what your options are.