So this is my third week of bar prep…which of course means I am now a bar prep pro lol. I figured I would share some of my tips for surviving bar prep.
1. You have to find a schedule that works for you. I cannot stress how important this is. Don’t worry about everyone else’s schedule. There will be some people that swear they study 16 hours a day with no breaks. One, I highly doubt that lol and two, I think they are really just trying to psyche other people out and make themselves feel like they are accomplishing something. I do not know about you, but if I tried studying 16 hours straight I would not retain half of the stuff I was studying. If you are a morning person, get up early in the morning and study something, that way when 5pm rolls around, you can call it a day. If you are a night person…well I will not say only study at night because you will likely have class in the morning and the Bar Exam is during the day, but maybe save the MBEs for later in the day when you will be more apt to retain what you review. If you have never used flashcards to study for your tests in law school, do not start now. They take a lot of time to make and they may not do you any good.
2. Go to the class if you can. The Desertion reminded me of this so I definitely wanted to make sure I mentioned this. Make sure to go to the in person classes if you can. I know it is a pain to drag yourself out of bed and go to the classes, but I think it will help you better focus there. I know for myself, I am less likely to zone out if I am sitting in the class surrounded by other people and sitting in front of someone giving me a lecture.
3. You have to make sure to take care of yourself. I know the Bar Exam is a serious test. If you do not pass it, you cannot practice law. However, if you run yourself ragged before the exam or are too sick to take the exam come exam day, it will not do you any good. Make sure to get some sleep and eat something besides fast food all the time. I know there will be some days where you have to burn the midnight oil, but if you are constantly only getting three hours of sleep, you need to go back and tweak your schedule. You do not want to spend two months studying just to oversleep on exam day because you were too tired and did not hear your alarm.
4. Reward yourself after you have been working hard. I love gifts…I love to give them and I love to receive them. I decided to reward myself today with a piece of new jewelry because I had been sticking with my schedule and I had been doing well on my MBEs. Now, I am not saying you need to go out and buy jewelry, but do something that makes you feel good every now and then. You would be surprised how much getting your favorite candy or going to see a movie can brighten up your mood.
5. Know when to push yourself and know when to take a break. We have all reached that point where we have re-read the same sentence of a fact pattern for about twenty minutes and we still cannot remember what we just read. I take that as a sign that my brain is telling me to take a break. At that point you are just spinning your wheels and probably making yourself frustrated. Go ahead and take a 10 or 15 minute break. Let your mind relax and then get back to it. However, a few words of caution, especially when it comes to the MBEs. You do need to push yourself when it comes to completing a set. On test day, you will have to do 100 MBEs in the morning and 100 MBEs in the afternoon. By the end of the morning, you will be mentally exhausted, so you need to start training your brain to handle that kind of mental exertion. Start off with a small number, I would say 30-50 MBE questions per set and then work your way up to 100. If you find yourself re-reading a fact pattern because you are not retaining the information, I would first try powering through it. If you still find yourself struggling, then I would take a break. You have to find that balance of pushing yourself and knowing when to step back.
6. Remember, it is just a test. I know this is kind of cliche, but it really is just a test. If you do not pass it on the first try, it will not be the end of the world. Do not get me wrong, it will suck, but you can survive it. There will be another opportunity to take the test. There have been plenty of people who did not pass the first time and they still turned out fine. At the end of the day, a client is not going to ask you how many times did it take you to pass the bar. All they really care about is whether or not you can help them with their legal issue.