Do’s and Don’ts the Day Before the Bar Exam
The bar exam is finally here! After months of studying, stress, and probably a few tears, you’re just a day away from the big test! We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite do’s and don’ts to keep in mind the day before the bar exam.
Do’s and Don’ts the Day Before the Bar Exam
Don’t study the day before the bar exam
This one may seem counterintuitive, but try not to study the day before the bar exam! We give this piece of advice for a couple of different reasons. The first, and probably the biggest one, is that after months of studying, there won’t be a lot of new material you will be able to retain the day before the bar exam. For example, if you went through and started memorizing Decedent’s Estates in mid-June, but you still don’t understand per stirpes distribution, you’re unlikely to suddenly understand it the day before the bar exam. Instead, you’ll likely make yourself more stressed because you will find yourself focusing on what you don’t know instead of thinking about all of the material you do know and have memorized!
Instead of studying, go for a run, check out that documentary you’ve been meaning to watch on Hulu, or pick up that novel that’s been sitting on your bookshelf. These activities can help take your mind off of the bar exam so you feel a bit recharged before sitting for the exam the next day.
We know that completely stepping away from studying will not work for some students. If you fall into that group, and you know that not studying will only increase your anxiety and test-day worries, we recommend being very intentional in the material you cover. In short, the day before the bar exam is not the day to review a new concept. Instead, pick a topic you know well and review your outlines on that topic or run through some multiple choice questions you’ve already completed. By sticking with something you know, you’ll realize all of the material that you already understand, which can be a great confidence boost going into the bar exam!
Do allow enough time for travel
Are you taking the bar exam in-person but away from home? Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go! If you’re driving, make sure you account for road construction and give yourself a little bit more time in the event you run into traffic. If you’re flying, you may want to arrive a few days in advance in the event you experience an unanticipated delay or cancellation. This might also be the perfect time to test your new carry-on suitcase so as to avoid lost luggage.
If you are staying away from home, be cognizant of check-in and check-out times. It’s much better to know if you have to pack and bring everything with you on the second day of the bar exam to appease a check-out time in advance! This is something that can easily be handled if you give yourself an extra 15 minutes in the morning!
On a similar note, think about when you want to arrive at your hotel. Do you want to get there right at check-in? Do you want to eat dinner at home? Make sure that you’re giving yourself plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed!
Don’t wait until the last minute to make reservations
This tip goes hand in hand with our travel tip, above. Don’t wait until the last minute to make reservations! Remember, there are hundreds of students also taking the bar exam who will need accommodations. While some boards of law examiners negotiate room rates at area hotels, these rooms tend to be small in number and move quickly. If you want to stay near the testing site, book your room right away! This is something you can do months ahead of the bar exam!
When booking a room, pay attention to the parking that might be available at the test site. If you’re considering booking a room a bit further away, make sure you’ll be able to easily get to the exam site! The last thing you want on exam day is to show up late because you couldn’t find a parking spot!
Do make sure to bring everything you need
Not sure what to pack? We’ve put together a list of things to bring with you to the bar exam! This goes beyond clothes and pajamas. Make sure you have the appropriate ID with you. Don’t forget your laptop charger! If your jurisdiction only allows you to bring in materials with a clear plastic bag, make sure you have a few ready to go! Also, make sure to determine whether your jurisdiction has a bar exam dress code. Some jurisdictions only allow students to take the bar exam in professional attire, so you may need to bring a suit instead of leggings.
Finally, be sure to pack for different temperatures! We know July can be stifling hot in most jurisdictions, but remember that you’re taking the bar exam indoors! Make sure to bring a sweatshirt (check your jurisdiction’s regulations as to whether it can be hooded or not!) in the event you need to add an extra layer due to some cooler than expected air-conditioning.
Don’t feel compelled to talk about the bar exam immediately afterward
It’s not unusual for students to chat about bar exam questions during lunch or at the end of the exam day. Do not feel pressured to take part in those conversations! This can cause unnecessary stress and worry, especially if you still have another half of an exam left to go! Remember, other students don’t have any more insight into what a particular question is testing than you do! Students who are convinced that question #3 was an evidence question testing hearsay might be wrong. The impeachment analysis you incorporated into your answer could very well be correct!
If talking about the bar exam makes you nervous, don’t talk about it! Let your friends know in advance that you don’t want to talk about the bar exam as soon as you walk out of the exam room. Chances are, they won’t want to discuss it, either! Instead, enjoy your lunch period chatting about anything else and head into the second half of the exam feeling just a little bit recharged!
Keep in mind that you’ll likely walk out of the bar exam knowing that you missed rules or weren’t entirely sure what a question was testing. This is normal! You’ll still likely receive at least some points, even if you think you completely bombed a question!
Do a test run
No, we don’t mean doing a practice test the day before the bar exam! We mean doing a practice run of what you think you might encounter on exam day! Is the exam in an area you don’t frequently visit? Drive to and from your hotel to the exam site the night before! Make sure you know where the parking ramp is, and you can even practice walking from the parking ramp to the exam site! This will allow you to know exactly how far you might be walking, so you can plan accordingly on exam day!
You might even be able to get access to the venue the night before! This can be incredibly helpful so you can see how the venue is set up so as to minimize any surprises on exam day. Depending on your jurisdiction, applicants may be sitting on both sides of a table. If you’re not used to taking exams with another student sitting almost directly across from you, it can be helpful to know in advance so it’s less of a shock on exam day!
Don’t let the first day ruin the second
The first day of the bar exam can be challenging, stressful, and completely draining. It might also be completely different from your expectations. Even if the first day does not go as planned, don’t let a negative mindset carry into the second day! You still have half of the bar exam to go, and there are plenty of opportunities to make up for any points you think you may have not earned on the first day!
Instead of dwelling on the first day, try to clear your mind so you can go into the second day of the bar exam confident! Grab a leisurely dinner, watch a couple of episodes of your favorite TV series, or go for a walk (check out the hotel gym if an outdoor route isn’t an option). Taking some time to reset and recharge can help you tackle day two of the bar exam!
Do eat breakfast and lunch
While it may be tempting to forgo breakfast, make sure to get eat something the morning of the bar exam. It can be something as simple as a yogurt, granola bar, or bowl of cereal. This will not only keep your stomach from growling, but eating in the morning can help you remain focused during the first half of the exam! If you’re staying at a hotel, check and see if they have a continental breakfast. There are usually quite a few grab-and-go options so you don’t have to spend a lot of time on breakfast. Also, some hotels have to-go breakfast bags that contain a variety of non-perishable items. These can be a great option not only for breakfast but can serve as a back-up in case you can’t find a spot for lunch!
Lunch on the day of the exam can be tricky, so it’s best to plan in advance. The time you have for lunch may be limited. If you’re taking the bar exam away from home, packing a lunch the night before might be the safest option. That way, you have a lunch ready to go with plenty of time to eat and recharge. Sometimes law schools provide lunch to their students if there is a large number of students taking the exam at a particular location. Check with your law school in advance to see if this is something that they do. Finally, the on-the-go breakfast bag might also be a suitable option, especially if you plan to order out and run into unforeseen circumstances.
One thing to keep in mind is that even if the location for the exam is surrounded by restaurants, that does not always mean they are appropriately staffed for the huge influx of students that are all coming to eat lunch at the same time. Be careful if pursuing this option. You don’t want to wind up rushed and without a meal because of a kitchen backup!
We wish you the best on the bar exam! Good luck!
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