Preparing for Next Week’s Bar Exam

The following is an excerpt from Bar Exam Success: A Comprehensive Guide. (It may not be forwarded or reproduced without the express permission of the author.)

“Come to the edge,” He said. They said, “We are afraid.” “Come to the edge,” He said. They came. He pushed them…and they flew.” –Guillaume Apollinaire

This exam is your time to push off and fly, to soar to success. Of course you may feel fear, but keep the excitement and empowerment that comes with meeting the challenge front and center. Let power flow through your veins. You’ve got this!

You are close now. For many readers, the bar exam begins in just a few days. You are ready to go. Sure it’s scary. But you have done the work and this is your bar exam to pass.

Some things to remember when you go in. The fact patterns that will be placed before you are stories. Just stories. They may be about contractual agreements entered into and broken, marriages fallen apart with assets left to be divided, crimes of passion. Read them like puzzles, every fact is there for you. Let it be interesting! Think of yourself as walking through the ultimate cocktail party where each cluster of people tells you stories and problems.  

Have you ever thought about the bar exam as a “cocktail party?” I know there is an alcohol pun there. Unintended. What is intended is something I have been reiterating from page one [of Bar Exam Success: A Comprehensive Guide]. You can view this whole bar exam experience as “punishment” if you so choose, or you can see it as a welcome challenge. You can grow and learn from every aspect of preparation and performance.

So, go back for a moment to the party image. For each person at the Bar Exam cocktail party, you have advice –good, solid, sound, and rationally reasoned answers to their questions.   In your mind are rules that help unravel how each of those stories can play out. If they might well go one way or another, say that with some lawyerly form of: “Defendant will argue; plaintiff will argue; and the likely conclusion will be….”

Read your exam questions, your “bar stories” carefully. Feel the incredible power that comes with knowing you can and will pick each fact pattern apart and put it back together in a logical way that answers the questions asked.

Take in and appreciate the positive feeling that comes from having this many rules at your command. It’s like being ready to run a marathon knowing that all your muscles are strong. The intellectual flab has melted away these past two months, through the long hours of mental work out.

There are few if any times in your life when you will have this many rules in this many subjects, memorized, at your fingertips, and ready to go. Enjoy this. Appreciate yourself and how hard you worked to get to this place.  In daily work as a lawyer, one may almost always look up information.   Here, all the rules you need are packed into your memory –in a usable place, ready to be called upon.

Appreciate how strong your wings are. When Day One of your bar exam approaches, push off despite the fears. Push off with as much confidence as can muster. You are ready.

And, if you cannot “study” any more, but cannot relax and are looking for something productive to do in the last hours before the marathon begins, read on….

A Walk through your bar days.

The famous race car driver Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet. Your “opportunity” comes when you walk into that exam room and stays with you until the last “time” is called. When you start your engines, be ready to succeed!

Notes to yourself for bar days

Alright, let’s say it’s Tuesday, Day #1 of your bar exam. What is your POA (plan of action) this morning? You have your timing down, you have your approaches and your systems for reading and answering the types of questions that will appear on this morning bar exam session. What do you want to remember before going in to your first segment of your exam: _______________________________________________



What will lunch look like? Who do you want to lunch with? What will you try to eat?



What about the afternoon session? What might appear here? What would you want to look at or listen to at lunch to get you pumped up for the afternoon?



What will you do this evening?



Tip: Have a tasty and healthy dinner. Do not experiment with foods that might make you ill. Do not drink excessively. And remember, no matter how you think you did, the first day is over. (I always think of the Cat Steven’s song, “Tuesday’s Dead,” on Tuesday evenings of the bar exam. Bar exams often start on Tuesdays.) It’s all about the future now. Do not look back. Do not second guess yourself or allow in any doubts. I have seen far too many students fail because of a perceived “defeat” early on that they carried into later session. Let go of whatever is done and do your very best on each and every minute of what follows, until the last time is called. Success on this exam is not about perfection. It’s a pass/ fail test. This is your Olympics; but in this competition, winning the bronze is every bit as good as gold.

Now Day #2. Wednesday, MBE day. What do you want to do this morning? Look over your one sheets for MBE subjects, do a few MBEs as warm ups over breakfast?_______________________________________________



Day #2 Lunch?



Afternoon? 100 more questions. It is OK to be exhausted but push on through these last laps. Write here what you will do to give yourself a boost if you find yourself dragging around 3pm.




CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!   YOU DID IT!!!  After the bar, maybe head to a bar, one that that serves drinks! Or go to a nice dinner? Or sleep? Or? What will you do to celebrate!


#barexam, #lawstudent, #lawschool,

Author: Sara J. Berman

Sara J. Berman, a graduate of the UCLA School of Law, is a Professor of Law and Assistant Dean at the Touro Law Center. She formerly served as a Director at the Washington DC-based Center for Legal Education Excellence.

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