How to Support Those Preparing for the Bar Exam
We think it’s fair to say that preparing for the bar exam can be incredibly stressful and challenging. This is true for those who plan to take the bar exam as well as those who are trying to be supportive of those taking the bar exam. While preparing for the bar exam, it can be difficult to juggle personal obligations that fall outside of studying. If you have a friend or loved one who is studying for the bar exam, you may be wondering how you can support them as they study. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some tips on how to support someone preparing for the bar exam.
How to Support Those Preparing for the Bar Exam
1. Understand the process
First and foremost, it’s essential to understand the bar exam and the preparation process. The bar exam is a comprehensive test that assesses a candidate’s knowledge of the law. It typically takes two to three months to prepare for the exam, and the exam itself lasts for two days. In order to succeed on the bar exam, most candidates treat studying like a full-time job. This means that they are studying 6-7 days per week and spending 6-8 hours studying each day. If a candidate is also working, then they are squeezing in study time amongst work projects and other personal obligations.
One of the biggest (and easiest!) ways to support a candidate preparing to take the bar exam is to simply be understanding of the task at hand. Know that studying for the bar exam is the equivalent of a full-time job for the vast majority of candidates. By acknowledging this fact or chatting with a bar exam candidate with this understanding, it can save some explanation and show some support to applicants. The bottom line, here, is that even if a candidate is not working, their studies will consume most of their time.
2. Be patient
This goes hand-in-hand with understanding the bar exam that we described above. Patience is key. For many bar exam applicants, studying for the bar exam is not only incredibly stressful, but it’s also an unfamiliar process. An applicant might think they have time to commit to a family outing early on only to later realize that studying is more time-consuming than they thought. Other applicants might step away from social media and put their phone in the other room as they work their way through the material. This might mean that they’re not responding to calls and texts as quickly as they otherwise usually do.
What can you do when your friend or loved one is acting this way? Simply put, exercise patience! Try not to judge the quality of a friendship or relationship when that person is preparing for the bar exam. If something isn’t urgent, let them know! An email or text with the phrase, “This isn’t urgent, but I want to let you know…” or “no need to respond, but I want to make sure I tell you…” can be incredibly helpful and take some pressure off your bestie who’s preparing to take the bar exam.
3. Offer practical support
While many bar exam applicants won’t have a response to “how can I help you as you’re preparing for the bar exam,” you can certainly still offer some suggestions! Instead of asking, “how can I help?” try “would it be helpful if I…?” So, what might be helpful? Practical things like running errands, pitching in with household chores, cooking meals (or sending over some meal prep kits!) can be invaluable. Sometimes applicants find setting aside a time each week (or day) to chat helps them regroup after studying. Sharing a meal or coffee periodically through bar prep can be incredibly helpful for some applicants (but it might be too much for others). In any event, providing support that allows applicants to continue to focus on bar prep can be invaluable.
4. Encourage self-care
Many bar exam applicants prioritize studying over their own self-care. Offering general reminders for self-care as your loved one studies can be incredibly helpful. This could be something as simple as reminding them to take time for themselves. If you live close by, you can also offer some concrete steps in furtherance of this goal. Offer to meet up for a long walk, or make a commitment to attend a workout class together. Encourage things such as getting enough sleep, exercising, or meditating. Sometimes, a simple reminder gives a bar exam candidate the permission they need to take some time for themselves!
5. Be a cheerleader
This one probably goes without saying, but words of encouragement are so important to those studying for the bar exam. This is especially true if your loved one is studying for the bar exam alone. Preparing for the bar exam can be an incredibly lonely and isolating experience, and it’s so easy to get caught up in negative thoughts when you have a bad round of multiple-choice questions or if essay feedback isn’t what was expected. Be their cheerleader and offer words of encouragement. Let them know that you believe in them and that you’re proud of their hard work. Hopefully, they’ll start to believe it as well!
6. Offer to Quiz
When preparing for the bar exam, memorization is key. After all, applicants will need to be able to recall legal concepts and rules when they write essays and answer multiple-choice questions on exam day. For those who are on the sidelines supporting bar exam takers, you can still be part of this process! Quizzing the bar exam applicant in your life can be incredibly helpful in their journey as they prepare for the bar exam! There are a few ways in which you can do this, but the possibilities are really endless.
If board games or trivia are usually a part of your routine, ask the applicant if they want to incorporate MBE practice questions instead of the questions that came with the game. This means that they’re not missing out on the next social event and are also studying at the same time. (Just remember to make adjustments to the time if you play in a timed setting!) If you have to travel with them, ask for an outline to quiz them while you’re on the road. If you’re meeting up for coffee, throw some legal concepts into the conversation periodically. This forces the candidate to work though and talk through legal concepts while still getting the benefit of your company!
7. Be there for them
This one might seem incredibly obvious, but it can be hard to do in practice, so we wanted to make sure we mention it here. This one, though, doesn’t just extend to while your loved one is preparing for the bar exam! Being there also counts when bar exam results are in hand (whether they be good or bad). While some applicants might not be incredibly talkative while preparing for the bar exam and others might take a step back from social activities, knowing that there is someone there when they need them and cheering them on can be helpful. Listening to their concerns, offering support, and being there for them when they need it are so incredibly important to their well-being.
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