Bar prep is not enjoyable. When you tell non-law-school graduates about the challenges of the two months of full-time study, many will respond with, “at least it’s only two months!” Nothing propels a bar exam studier to rage and resentment faster than that careless comment. Anyone who has completed bar prep appreciates your pain. This article is designed to provide a little recharge for the second act of the most awful play you’ll ever be a part of.
Unicorns and Rainbows
I was excited to get started with my bar prep. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly unicorns and rainbows, but the commencement of bar prep signifies the end of law school and the beginning of the next, exciting chapter. In the beginning it’s a lot (I mean a lot) of multiple-choice practice. I was a multiple-choice practice problem machine during bar prep. There is something familiar about the patterns and methods employed by the bar prep vendors and boards of bar examiners. The great thing about multiple choice practice problems is that there is immediate feedback, you get to see what you missed and why, and there are analytics to help you focus on your weaker areas. For me, the first half of bar prep was almost enjoyable. Eventually, the music ends and you find yourself staring down the barrel of the second half of bar prep. The cruel reality is that the vendors focus almost exclusively on multiple choice questions in the first half, and as my scores continued to improve, I had a false sense of confidence. My feedback for my MPTs and essays was not great initially. That’s a lie. My feedback for my MPTs and essays was never anything to write home about. Unfortunately, the second half of bar prep is focused on essays and state law (or the UBE topics). Once the essay portion began, the wind was taken out of my sails, and I just wanted to throw in the towel. I was convinced I was doomed to fail. It was awful and difficult to remain focused and motivated.
Reignite the Fire
Take a break. I’m not suggested that you spend a week on the beach away from your materials, but as long as you have stayed on track and on schedule, there will be time for a mental health break right at the midpoint. Take a minute to reconnect with your people, some time to catch a movie, or a little time to just think about anything other than the law or the bar exam. Did you have a hobby before you began this awful journey? Spend some time getting reacquainted with that happy place, just for a day or two. Remember back when you had meaningful relationships with other human beings? Let’s spend a day or two grabbing coffee (or several coffees) with some of those people. I promise a little mental health break, and a break from exam prep will help get you over the mid-prep hump and put you in the right headspace to charge forward with renewed vigor and determination.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Prize
You are preparing for the fight of your life. Every moment that you spend during bar prep, will have a positive effect on your exam. The goal here is one time and done. Taking the exam a second time is a fate no one would wish on their worst enemy (well, maybe that gunner that has annoyed you since 1L year…is that wrong?) so jumping ship in the middle of the voyage is not a viable option. Start your day with a positive affirmation: I will pass this exam the first time; I am a legal sponge; I learn and retain most of what I read, hear, see, or do during bar prep. Remain positive and never lose sight of the end goal. Want a little reminder of why you are working so hard? Talk to that friend from the class or two ahead of you who is prepping for the second (or third) attempt. Imagine what you would tell people if you failed. How would you explain that? Personally, that would have been the worst part, justifying my failure based upon the notion that “a lot of people fail the first time’ or “JFK had to take it several times, so I’m in good company.” It’s a form of self-confrontation and self-tough love, but it will hopefully help to reinvigorate your exam prep.
Most People Don’t Fail
Don’t fool yourself with the propaganda. Pass rates are generally pretty high so you can pass if you stay the course, find ways to stay motivated, and occasionally take time to recharge those batteries. You are not alone, and you can do this. I promise.