Published: Feb 08, 2021
The February bar exam is just two weeks away (I know, you probably didn’t need the reminder). For many people, this is about the time you start to really freak out and wonder if you’ll ever feel ready. This is normal—you are cramming your brain full of complicated legal concepts. Some studiers even see a drop in practice scores around this time, which could happen now that you’ve covered most of the materials and have more to remember, and in some programs, questions are designed to focus on your weak spots as you progress.
Easier said than done, but try not to panic. If you’ve put in the time and stayed the course, you’re right where you need to be. The most important thing you can do during these last two weeks is take care of yourself while maintaining a reasonable study schedule. Here are a few more tips for getting through this last push to the finish line.
Take a Day Off
If you find that your brain is spinning and your practice scores are plummeting, it could just be time to take a break. After all, your brain needs some down time to process all the information you’ve been putting into it. It seems counterintuitive, but a day off could actually be the most beneficial step you can take during this time. Not only will it help you clear your mind, it will help quell some of the panic and nerves. Do something that is completely unrelated to the law and easy on the mind—whether that’s binge-watching an entire TV series or dancing to bad pop music while you clean your home. This separation from the exam will help you return to your study materials with a clean slate, ready to refocus.
Create a “Freak Out” Sheet
At this point, you are in the memorization stage, and your review materials should be getting leaner and leaner (i.e., from full outlines to one-pagers). In addition to your outlines, you might try creating a separate, one-page cheat sheet—which I personally named my “freak out” sheet. We all have sticking points where it seems like no matter what we do, we just can’t seem to remember a concept correctly. These are the things that will wake you up in the middle of the night, flash through your mind while you’re trying to cook dinner, or have you worrying the morning of exam day. Any time I encountered one of these concepts, I would add it to my “freak out’ cheat sheet. This way, when the panic struck, I had a quick reference to review and reinforce the concept. This sheet can also serve as your last-minute cram sheet for the night before/morning of the exam. Some will tell you to stop studying during these times, but let’s be honest: Many people are unable able to completely put exam materials away during those final moments. By at least narrowing down your focus to your stickiest topics, you can save yourself from panic-paging through entire outlines the night before the exam.
Put in the Practice
If you haven’t done much practicing, now is the time. By now, you have hopefully completed at least one full practice exam through your test prep program. If you’ve done that, you most likely don’t need to do another full practice exam, but you should dedicate plenty of time to practice questions. Be sure to complete enough questions under timed conditions—writing out full answers—that you know you’ll be able to do it on exam day. Once you’re confident in your timing, you can cut it down to just outlining answers, but it’s important to keep doing real problems to make sure you’re spotting all the issues.
You should also spend time practicing in conditions as close to real test day as possible. This is especially true if your exam is going to be administered remotely—and many of them will be this month. Make sure you are comfortable with the testing software and all of its bells and whistles. Familiarize yourself with exam day rules and practice accordingly—for example, you might not be allowed to use scratch paper during a remote exam but will have access to a “virtual scrap paper.” On the other hand, if you’re in person, there may be other conditions to simulate. If you’re in a jurisdiction that requires formal attire, take a few practice exams in the clothing you’ll wear on exam days. No matter where your test will be, make sure that exam day is not the first time you are using the exam tools and playing by your jurisdiction’s rules.
Take Care of Logistics
You know what you don’t want to be doing the night before the exam? Setting up your home testing space for a remote exam; planning out snacks and meals; choosing an outfit; figuring out transportation (if you’ll need it); and worrying about all the small, logistical details that go into test day. Get everything set up now. Figure out where you’ll take the test. Set up the space and practice in it. Test your technology. Set up child care, pet care, or other arrangements to make sure your family, furry friends, or roommates won’t interrupt. Prepare your meals and snacks. Pick out an outfit. Anything you can do ahead of time, do it. You’ll have enough to worry about before and during the exam—don’t add unnecessary stress by setting yourself up for a last-minute scramble.
Prime for Exam Time
Now that the exam is closing in, it’s time to make sure you’ll be at your physical peak during the test. It’s possible that during this time of exam prep, you’ve fallen into some poor habits—such as turning into a night study owl or living off of junk food. In these final weeks, try to get yourself on a regular sleep schedule so that by exam day, you aren’t struggling to wake up by exam time or falling asleep during the mid-afternoon hours. Attempt to squeeze in some fruits and vegetables to maintain your energy levels. And, in these pandemic times, consider a stricter self-quarantine to reduce your chances of getting sick before the exam. This is also a good time to adjust any habits that could hinder you on test day. For example, if you normally drink tons of coffee throughout the day, you might want to cut back to an amount that you’ll reasonable be able to consume during the exam.
With the bar exam so close, you might be wishing you had more time. But on the flip side, that light at the end of the tunnel is getting really close. Stay calm, follow these tips, and think of how great it will feel once you’re done!
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