1. Make a schedule that reflects your study habits. If you are an 8-hour-a-day study person, don’t ramp it up to 12. The last four will be a waste.
2. Mark your study area territory. If possible, make it a protected space. If you have young children, find a public library with quiet space.
3. Get your study tool box together. Whether you are working from an on-line study system or from books, make sure that you have all of the tools that you need to move from topic to topic without having to worry about batteries or pencils.
4. Set out guidelines. If you are studying with a group, set out guidelines about the things that matter to you. Food? Drink? Timeliness? Each party’s responsibilities? Sharing? In what form? Bar study time is no time for study-group drama.
5. Manage yourself. Eat right and get exercise. The Four Food Groups are not “sugar, fat, salt, and caffeine.” Exercise is more than getting out of your chair to meet the pizza delivery person.
6. Manage your friends and family. Explain (over and over) that the Bar Exam is the huge mountain you must climb before becoming a lawyer. Sound both sad and disappointed that you won’t be able to take off two days to celebrate July 4. Promise (and keep your promise) to show up to family dinners and events after the exam. If you do not yet have a job, these people will be quivering with anxiety about your job search. Promise to keep them up-to-date after the Bar Exam.
7. Manage your test days. Have you registered to type the bar exam? Do you have a place to stay that is near the test center? Have you made a trial run from where you will sleep to where you will take the test? If you are taking the bar exam in two states in three days, do you have a Transportation Plan B?
8. Know what you know. The Bar Exam will not contain nuclear physics questions. Do not get rattled when you encounter issues that you have not studied or you have forgotten, or questions that could have more than one answer. Grads of 1984 are still confounded by a question that could have been about privacy or search and seizure, and by a question that required knowing The Rule in Shelley’s Case — not that the Rule was abrogated in all 50 states, but the substance of the Rule itself. Answer the questions in the context of the subjects that you have studied.
9. Take professional advice. Review the advice from the Board of Law Examiners, which probably included some or all of the following:
- Set out a time for answering each question beginning 12 o’clock. Beg, borrow, but do not steal a reliable wrist watch for this.
- Read each question at least twice. Stop and think before you write or type.
- Follow the directions, which might ask for a letter to a client, a memo to a partner, a pleading, or any other kind of legal document. Give the graders what they have asked for.
- Assume that the bar exam graders know nothing and that you will get a point for everything that you write down.
- Do not freak out, loose your cool or get nasty in your bar exam writing. Bar exam graders will refer you to the Character and Fitness committee for review and for consequences which may include delaying or denying admission.
- Leave your cell phone at home, If it rings in some jurisdictions, you and the phone will be removed instantly. You may then sign up for the next bar exam.
10. Stop talking to other test takers two weeks before the exam. They will remember things that you have never heard of or remember them in ways that you know are incorrect. Stay focused on what you know.