Anyone who has studied for the bar exam can relate to how annoying it is to hear any of these five things. We hear students complain about these statements all the time. So we took the liberty of compiling them into a list.
Top Five Most Annoying Things
People Say to Bar Exam Takers:
1. “When I took the CPA exam…”
Please. The CPA exam, your engineering/teaching/whatever exam is not the same as the bar exam. We are not saying your exam isn’t hard or that people don’t fail it. But please stop trying to compare it to the bar exam – a two or three-day test that is offered twice a year with a low passage rate.
(The only people who are allowed to complain are those few-and-far-between people taking the Master Sommelier exam to become master wine tasters. Their exam is legitimately the worst. But even then, we’ll only listen politely if you pour us some wine.)
2. “You’ll be fine!”
I don’t know why this one annoys everyone but it does. It might be the kind of thing where if everyone has their expectations up that the person will pass, they don’t want to let even more people down if they fail.
Or it might be because this is usually said by people who have no idea what you’re studying for, have probably confused it with the LSAT, MCAT, or Boards, and given their lack of knowledge about what you’re even studying for and their lack of knowledge about your preparation, it would be better if they would not say anything rather than assume you’ll be fine.
3. “Here’s what you need to do….”
Even bar exam passers are guilty of saying this. “Buy a bunch of flashcards. Handwrite all your outlines onto the flashcards. Also, find 3,000 hours of free time to do that…and maybe you’ll match my MBE score of 135!” People who think they can give you the “solution” without even know where you are coming from or what your approach is or how you define the problem in the first place, can be the absolute worst.
4. “Why are you studying so hard? Your test isn’t for a couple of months!”
We know you didn’t have to study for your CPA exam that long, but let us remind you that the bar exam is not the CPA exam!
5.”Did you pass?”
I always say, “Asking someone if they passed the bar exam is asking someone if they are pregnant. You only ask if you already know the answer is yes.”
There are a couple exceptions. Your mom is allowed to ask. And anyone who put up with you on a regular basis during your bar prep is allowed to eventually ask. But that guy you ran into at a coffee shop from your 1L year? Not allowed to ask. Your dentist? Not allowed to ask. And anyone who has the nerve to post a question about whether you passed on to your Facebook page is only not allowed to ask but should be publicly reprimanded for their poor decision.
Why do people say these things?
They say them because they care, or they want to encourage you, or they are interested in your life or they want to help in some way or they don’t know what else to say. But the problem is, they are said prior to any discussion of your feelings, or your approach, or even what you need (or don’t need) from them. They speak before listening. (And it is probably because we’re all out of practice when it comes to listening.) And they speak to someone who is already overworked, overstressed, and over it.
So someone who hasn’t thought much about what they’re saying or why they are saying it says something to someone who is oversensitive to everything that is said (and probably overanalyzing it like an MBE question and evaluating its logic). It’s a mismatch. A misalignment of the stars.
Why do bar takers get so annoyed by these things?
Many bar exam takers get annoyed, but not everyone does. Some people don’t get bothered at all. In fact, there is a range of emotions that people feel. I think they correlate with the same range of emotions that people have when someone says, “You look really tired today!” When someone says that to you, how do you respond?
I have heard a range of reactions from “I am! I have been working a lot lately…” to “You don’t look so great yourself.” to “Your boyfriend kept me up all night.”
This range of reactions stretches from not taking it personally, to getting annoyed, to being downright sarcastic. This is pretty close to the range of reactions that bar takers feel when you say any of the above five things.
Where to go from here?
If you’re on the receiving-end of these comments, take a deep breath, try to see where they are coming from, and that they mean well. Then, maybe pretend to get a phone call at some point during the conversation . . .
If you’re the one talking to the bar taker, here are some less annoying things to say: Ask questions about how it is going, how they feel, if they have any celebrations planned for when the bar exam is over, and what kind of drink you can get them.
The bar exam is stressful enough that there certainly doesn’t need to be any additional outside sources of stress. If bar takers can change their attitudes (and maybe nonchalantly share this with people who are the most guilty of the above five statements) and non-bar takers can change their conversation style, the bar exam process would go more smoothly for everyone involved.
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