What Is Taking The Washington Bar Exam Like?
Oftentimes one of the biggest contributors to our stress is worrying about the unknown. This is especially true when the comes to the bar exam. I previously took the Michigan bar exam, so I definitely understood the general “gist” of what taking the bar exam was like when I took the Washington bar exam. However, when I decided to sit for the Washington bar exam, I found myself nervous all over again. I frequently wondered what it would be like. So, if you find yourself preparing for the bar exam and want to know what is taking the Washington bar exam like, keep reading—I have detailed my experience from February 2017. I have also included some tips that I learned along the way.
What Is Taking The Washington Bar Exam Like?
Sunday, February 19
Given that I was making the trip from Michigan, I decided to fly into Washington a few days early. That way in case anything happened out of my control, I would likely make it to the exam on time. I flew in and drove directly to the hotel. While in Washington, I stayed Hotel Murano because it was so close to the bar exam testing center. I wanted the ability to be able to quickly get to the exam without having to worry about the hassle of parking in a city that I was unfamiliar with. Overall, I highly recommend doing the same thing.
After taking a few bar exams, the best tip I have is to eliminate all of the possible obstacles and stressors that are in your control. For me, one of those was worrying about traffic and parking. So, I booked the Hotel Murano so that I could quickly walk to the testing center.
After settling in at the hotel, I decided to walk around Tacoma for some local food. I looked for activities to distract me. Towards the evening I retired back to my room and reviewed my one-sheets. I wanted to get to bed early since I was sleeping in a new place and knew that it may take me longer than usual to actually fall asleep.
Monday, February 20
I had a few goals for Monday—the first was to get up early, since I knew I would have to be up early the next two days. So, I set my alarm for the exact same time that I would be getting up the next few days. I found that this helped a lot, especially in the respect that it made me tired Monday evening, and thus made it easier for me to get to sleep for Tuesday!
Another goal I had for Monday was to walk to the testing center and to take a peek inside. I found with the Michigan bar exam that it eased a lot of my stress to take a look at where I would be spending the next two days—I wanted to know what is taking the Washington bar exam would be like! So, I made the quick walk across the street and checked out the testing center. The main doors were open, but most of the conference rooms were closed. So, I looked around a bit, found the bathrooms, then left. While there was not much to see, it helped reduce my stress tremendously to know that I walked around the testing center and saw it with my own eyes.
The next thing on my list was to make sure that I had a game plan in place for my breakfast and lunch the next few days. I was fortunate enough to have my husband make the trip with me. After some exploration we decided that getting breakfast from the hotel was the best option. If I was alone, I would’ve likely figured something else out. The hotel was packed with other examinees all on the exact same schedule as me.
As my tip noted earlier, I am of the firm opinion that eliminating any and all stressors is the best thing you can do for yourself if you are taking the bar. And trying to get breakfast at a hotel full of people trying to eat and get out the door at the exact same time sounded risky. But, since I had my husband there, he got up to collect food and coffee while I was getting ready. This worked well for me. I am also a big coffee drinker, so I wanted to be sure that I had coffee to drink while getting ready, so that I knew I had my caffeine fix prior to the exam.
For the rest of the day I relaxed. I felt a little antsy, so I looked at my one sheets again. Then, I put together my Ziploc bag. I double checked the instructions/policies so that I didn’t bring any restricted items into the room. Then, I picked a restaurant for dinner in Tacoma, and I went back to my room to watch a “feel good” movie. Watching a happy movie is my favorite night before test ritual. But before the movie, I was sure to set multiple alarms. I wanted to do this before I got too comfortable, just in case I fell asleep! I highly recommend you do the same so that you don’t oversleep. After the movie, I thankfully fell asleep.
Tuesday, February 21
I definitely woke up to my first alarm, likely due to test day anxiety. Still, I was happy that I set multiple alarms—better to be early than late! My previous bar exam experience taught me to dress in layers to the exam, as you never know what to expect in terms of room temperature. As I got ready, I was sure to get in my caffeine fix, as I wasn’t sure if I could have anything but water during the exam.
I walked over to the testing center and immediately encountered a large group of people congregating on the second floor near the exam rooms. The doors were still closed and people were hanging out—chatting with friends and sitting on the floor. Much to my surprise there was a coffee and tea station that also had water. I thought that this was a really nice! I grabbed some water and tried to relax while waiting for the doors to open. Shortly thereafter, they made an announcement and welcomed us to line up to get into the room. There were people who checked our Ziploc bags and test cards and ID prior to letting us in the room.
The room was set up so that each person sat next to one other person. The desks all faced the front of the room. (I found that this was much nicer than my previous bar exam experience, as there weren’t other people staring at you and there was much more room at each table for each examinee.) Each row was clearly marked and I found my seat. I set everything down, plugged in my computer and got my exam software up and running. I had a lot of anxiety about it working, so I wanted to get there early in case I encountered any issues.
As the start of the exam grew closer, they told everyone to take their seats. Many students went back into the hall or stood around while waiting for the exam to start. Everyone hustled back into the room when they told us to take our seats. I sat down and met the person seated next to me.
The morning portion of the exam was the MEE. Once the exam started, the time flew by. The proctors walked up and down the rows during the exam. They gave us a 15 minute warning as time wound down. After that warning was given, we were not allowed to get up for any reason. After they called time, it took a few minutes to collect all of the exams and for the proctor to give instructions about when to be back to the exam room after lunch. Given the length of time that you will have to be seated during this time, be prepared! If you have to go to the bathroom you are out of luck—so try to go before they call 15 minutes!
For lunch, you get one hour. I headed back to the hotel. Again, I was lucky enough to have my husband handle food for me, so I ate in my room. After lunch, I walked back to the testing center.
The afternoon portion was the MPT. It went similar to the morning. They told everyone to take their seats and then they gave the directions. Once everyone had a booklet, they started the time. I felt like the afternoon portion went even quicker than the morning. Again, once they gave the 15 minute warning, no one was allowed out of their seats. Once the exam was over, they gave instructions about uploading the exam and then released us.
Wednesday, February 22
The second day was very similar to the first. The testing center had coffee, tea and water available for the examinees. The only real procedural difference was that there were no computers allowed in. Otherwise, it was the same. When we came into the room, everyone stood in line and showed the people at the door what was in their Ziploc bag, as well as their ticket into the exam and their ID. The seating arrangements were also the same, so that was nice. After getting through security I knew exactly where to go.
Day two of the bar was the MBE. They gave instructions, passed the exam out, and gave us the signal to start. I found that time passed a little slower for me on the MBE. I think my tiredness was to blame for that. Once the morning portion finished, we had an hour for lunch again. I resisted the urge to look up any law when I got back to the room. However, I know a lot of people do check their outlines. I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” approach here. I would just proceed at your own risk.
If you are in a position where you are staying at a hotel around the testing center, you should plan on either booking another night, or getting a late check out. That way you aren’t dealing with checking out of the hotel the morning of the MBE (and packing up your car etc). I was in the position, since I flew in from out of town, that we were staying another night at the hotel. So, I didn’t have to deal with checking out on the MBE day, which was really nice.
Overall, I thought my Washington bar exam experience was pretty good. The testing center was nice. The drink options were great. I even found the proctors to be pleasant. Hopefully the overview of my bar exam experience is helpful to anyone wondering what taking the Washington Bar Exam is like?
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