Is It Normal To Not Feel Ready For The Bar Exam?: In short, yes. Many students do not feel “ready” for the bar exam. Everybody wants one more month to study (and yet everybody doesn’t want that because they want to take it and get it over with!).
We have very few students – even our highest scoring students – that feel “confident” going into the exam. Most feel worried, anxious, and not ready for what awaits them.
Is It Normal To Not Feel Ready For The Bar Exam?
The students we most worry about are the students that say they are “confident” they are going to pass. Consistently, it is these students that fail (or come very close to failing!!). We get much more worried when a student feels “confident” about an exam. They do not seem to have the level of reverence (for lack of a better word) that comes with taking the bar exam! We are much less worried about students who have a healthy level of anxiety and worry that they will fail. This is not to say that you should worry. This is to say that if you are worried or if you don’t feel ready that is very normal!
If you find yourself feeling anxious because you are not ready for the bar exam, remember:
- You are not compared to a “perfect” score or “model” answer in many ways. When graders grade, they naturally compare you to your peers. So if you have been studying solo (or not around a lot of people), remind yourself of this.
- You do not need a perfect score to pass. If your jurisdiction requires a 270 out of 400, that (or 135 out of 200) that is a 67.5% — which is a D+. And this is a scaled D+ (so really you could probably get in the 50’s and still pass, depending on the scale!)
- Remind yourself of all the hard work it took to get here – in law school and studying for the bar exam. That effort is not wasted. It will manifest itself in results. It is true if you completely slacked off on your bar studies, didn’t review some subjects, or hardly answered any essays or MPTs that you may be in danger of failing. But if you completed most of the work and studied hard, then you are in good shape to pass.
- Most students never feel ready for the bar exam. It is a very difficult test. And it is extremely normal to want (or feel like you need) more time to study!
But I REALLY do not feel ready!
If you really do not feel ready and cannot shake the feeling of anxiety, ask yourself why you feel anxious!
- Sometimes students cannot even articulate why. They just feel a general all-over sense of anxiety.If you cannot even articulate why, it may just be the exam itself that is giving you anxiety. Remind yourself that this is normal and use whatever calming exercises you need to in order to get in the right headspace!
- Sometimes students don’t feel ready because they still don’t feel comfortable with a subject — say, Civil Procedure, or Secured Transactions. You can (a) review this subject (or get a last minute tutor or go over it with a friend to lessen this anxiety) and (b) remind yourself that it is normal not to feel great about every subject! You do NOT have to know every subject well to pass!
- Some students don’t feel ready because they have not “memorized” everything. Well, I hate to break it to you but even if you had three years you may not have everything memorized. Review the highly-tested areas of law before the exam. (Our MEE one-sheets are great for this if you are in a UBE/MEE jurisdiction). It will help you feel better and solidify what you know. And remind yourself that you cannot and will not know everything. And that is okay!
- Some students worry about timing. If you find yourself in this boat you still have some time to get in a timed exam. You do not have to take a full, two-day timed exam. But you should take, for example, a one-hour, two-hour, or three-hour timed exam at the least. If anything, take it because it will help you feel more confident going in!
Above all, it is good to take a break, remind yourself that feelings of anxiety are normal, and use whatever stress-reduction techniques work for you (a massage, going on a run, talking to a friend, etc.).
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