The February 2011 bar exam is exactly one month and 16 days away. So, you’ve only got 47 days to learn every crevice of the law, including areas you didn’t even know existed (who thought you’d have to make a separate outline for Commercial Paper?). Forty-seven days probably seems like a long time. Why not wait a few more weeks to start studying – the passing odds are in your favor, right? I say no – don’t risk it. The bar exam marks the beginning of your professional career as an attorney. So treat it the same way you would professional legal work: dedicate yourself.
In my opinion, the best way to tackle the bar exam is to have a plan. I’m not a bar exam expert, but I am a bar exam veteran. Planning helped me to relax and feel prepared on the day of the exam, which was key for my stress level. Below are some tips that I followed in planning for the bar. I can’t guarantee that you’ll pass, but hopefully this advice will help calm your nerves.
1. Listen to your review course. You paid all of that money to BARBRI, Pieper, MircroMash or whatever class you chose. Use it. These companies specialize in preparing you for the bar exam. It might seem like a pain to follow their schedules of outlining and test-taking, but their programs are designed to help you succeed.
2. Stick to a schedule. Like I said above, treat your study time like you would a job. Set the hours that you will work each day, and adhere to your schedule. A routine will minimize distractions and keep you focused.
3. Establish a work zone. Designate a study spot where you can camp out for the next month and a half. Make sure that you have access to everything you need: computer, books, Internet, bathroom, and food. Building familiarity with a spot may help you jump right into work-mode whenever you’re there.
4. Plan your accommodations and travel now. Are you taking the exam out-of-town? Will you need to drive there? Will the test center have parking? Is there anywhere nearby to eat during the exam breaks? Don’t wait until the last minute to sort out these details. Research your travel, food, and parking options now. Even better, enlist a friend or family member to help you out (and if you’re traveling to the bar exam, consider bringing some one along who can drop you off at the test site, bring you food, and help keep you calm).
5. Practice writing exam answers. You are probably taking the test on your computer, but technology can play tricks at very inconvenient times. Don’t let a technology glitch stress you out on exam day. Handwrite some of your practice tests over the next month and a half so that you’re ready for computer meltdowns.
A little preparation can go a long way in helping you get ready for the bar exam. Good luck.
This post is authored by Mary Kate Sheridan, Vault.com’s law editor. She covers legal news and trends relating to top law firms, law schools and the general legal industry. In search of a practical use for her writing, she wound up on the liberal arts path often-traveled: law school. After law school, she worked as a litigation associate in a large New York law firm. Mary Kate holds a BA in English from Mary Washington College and a JD from Columbia Law School.