10 tips for managing bar review will get you through until the exam. This will all be over soon, and successfully, too, if you follow these steps.
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 hours. The last four will be a waste.
2. Mark your study area territory. Minimize distractions, and, 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. 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, get exercise, and get regular sleep. The Four Food Groups are not “sugar, fat, salt, and caffeine.” Exercise is more than opening the door to the pizza delivery person. Sleep is not 15 minutes between jolts of caffeine.
6. Manage 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 with your pals. Promise (and keep your promise) to show up to family dinners and events after the exam. If you do not yet have a job, everyone will be quivering with anxiety on your behalf. Let them know that you are doing appropriate job search activities while studying, and 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? Do you have emergency cab fare? If you are taking the bar exam in two states in three days, do you have a Transportation Plan B.
8. Caring for content. The Bar Exam will not contain nuclear physics questions. Do not get rattled when you encounter issues that you have not studied, 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 about 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. Focus on the subjects that you studied.
9. Review the advice from the Board of Law Examiners, which probably included some or all of the following:
a. Set out a time for answering each question beginning 12 o’clock. Beg, borrow, but do not steal a reliable wrist watch for this.
b. Read each question at least twice. Stop and think before you write or type.
c. Follow the directions, which might ask for a letter to a client, a memo to a partner, a pleading, or another document. Give the readers what they want. (NOTE: They prefer complete sentences, too.)
d. Your test will be scored against something that looks like a very complete model answer. You get points for everything including that noting that something is “A Constitutional Law Question involving state action.”
e. Mind your manners. Do not freak out, loose your cool or get snarky in your bar exam writing. Bar exam graders are authorized to refer candidates for another level of review by the Character and Fitness committee, and consequences may include delaying and denying admission.
f. Leave your cell phone at home. Should it ring in some jurisdictions, you and the phone will be removed instantly. You will then take the February bar.
10. Stop talking to test takers two weeks before the exam.They will remember things that that you have never studied or they will remember things that you know are incorrect. Stay focused on what you know.
Susan Gainen created a suite of training programs for law and other students (Alternative Careers, 2nd Career Law (or other) Students, I’am a 3L…What now?, Job Search Skills Outside of OCI, Job Search Skills = Business Development Skills, and Professionalism Has Attached). She is also an artist who has taken responsibility for the historic, pre-historic, and whimsical creatures of her hometown, Saint Paul, Minnesota (Lost Cave Paintings, Wild Parrots of the Winter of 2013, Tiny Wild Hummingbirds, Pandas and Frogs from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul, and Saint Paul’s Backyard Roosters’ Haven.) She speaks at the invitation of Career Professionals, Deans of Students, Student Bar Associations and other student groups, Alumni and Bar Associations, and Bar Review Vendors.