As I’m sure you’ve heard me say a few thousand times already, I failed the bar the first time. The difference between my first bar prep experience and my second, couldn’t be any farther apart. This was a purposeful design, as my first attempt was spent with a giant cloud of anxiety hanging over my head, and I decided for my second attempt that I could not live like that any more.
The first time I studied for the bar, I took the first month to get my bearings, realized my bearings were wrong and I needed to study how I studied, not how the commercial bar prep program told me to study, and spent the last month doing just that. Basically, I spent that last month cramming in as much information as I could, practicing here and there, and panicking 24 hours a day.
During my second attempt, I learned how to use my time more wisely and was able to spend my final month practicing essays and going through multiple MBE questions – practices that I think influenced my bar score more than reading long outlines could have. Below I’ll outline what I think you should do in your last month before the bar to give the bar your all.
1. Practice Everything
I never understood the benefit to practicing essay questions when I was in law school, but I wish I had. Spending a solid few weeks practicing essay and multiple choice questions will leave you better prepared on test day. This is because in sitting to do 50+ MBE questions in a sitting, you’re building the stamina for the actual exam day. Additionally, there are only so many ways a promissory estoppel question can be phrased, or a Fourth Amendment scenario can be described. In doing thousands of MBE questions, and hundreds of essays, I saw a myriad of topics and began to notice patterns in how certain questions were asked. On exam day, I saw similar patterns and knew how to proceed.
Practicing everything also includes practicing going without snacks, water, or even bathroom breaks for a while (depending on your testing jurisdiction). Spend each day getting a little more familiar with test day processes and procedures, and you’ll feel a lot more comfortable when you show up for the real deal.
2. Get More Sleep, Not Less
I know it can seem a little oxymoronic, but the last month before the bar you really need to get vigorous about your sleep hygiene. Sleep is the number one deterrent of anxiety, mood swings, and health issues. Think of sleep as your secret weapon. Practice going to bed earlier and earlier and getting quality sleep. I guarantee you’ll notice that your study time is a lot more productive.
Also, the week or two leading up to the bar, push yourself to go to sleep and wake up at the same times you would on exam day. This will prep your body to be tired Monday and Tuesday night, and still allow you to wake up feeling rested the following mornings.
When life starts to get stressful, I have a tendency to pull back on my workouts. This is mostly because too much exercise can actually inhibit your ability to rest and relax or deal with stress. But exercise during bar prep doesn’t have to mean CrossFit classes four days a week or training for a half marathon (I did that!). Instead, it should include thirty minutes of movement a day, especially gentle movement. The point isn’t to lose weight or gain PRs, it’s to relax and recover. Spend this time moving for movement’s sake, and you’ll reap the rewards on exam day.
4. Spend Time with Your Family
You are going to feel like there isn’t enough time to spend with your family during your last month, but I promise you there is. Take some time every weekend to hug someone you love, give them some quality time, and try not to talk about the bar – or do if you think it will alleviate your anxiety.
This time is stressful, whether you’re a first time taker or a repeat taker. Everyone is feeling exactly how you feel. Be kind to yourself. Take a minute to breathe, check in with your family, go take a walk, get quality sleep, and practice, practice, practice. I promise you, exam day will come, and you will feel less burned out and ready to do your best.