The Bar Exam: Five Tips for the Final Days

How can you give yourself a boost heading into the bar exam? For some bar candidates, Wednesday (the MBE day) is the first day of the exam, followed by state law on Thursday. Others have a state exam on Tuesday. And some have state exam days both on Tuesday and on Thursday. Read over these suggestions, so you can make your plans for those last few days well ahead of time.

1. Saturday and Sunday. Get exercise. Run or play tennis or at least walk up and down your stairs. Exercise will relax you and help you sleep, and studies show that exercise will also make you smarter.

This last week-end is just for reviewing what you already know. What makes the bar exam so hard is that you have to have so much information available on the tip of your tongue, so review is key. On Saturday and Sunday recite from memory the most important rules you have already memorized for the MBE. Do a survey of MBE distinctions, e.g., UCC versus common law. And if you have not done so yet, prepare one-page check lists for the major subjects. These are mini-outlines to make sure you have a grip on the big picture. They will refresh your recollection.

Except for these short outlines, now is not the time to create new study aids. No new flash cards, no new long outlines, no new recordings.

If you can, get a full body massage on Saturday or Sunday.

2. Monday, the day before the bar exam (or Tuesday, if Wednesday is the first day of the exam for you). Review your MBE flash cards and your mini-outlines again in the morning. All studying ends at noon. No more MBE practice questions or outlines or flashcards. Plan to relax. Spend time with someone you can count on not to talk about the bar exam. In the late afternoon, watch a movie that will cheer you up, not one that will agitate you.  Try “Master and Commander,” not “Apocalypse Now.” Keep away from electronic devices that will give you the jitters, like email and Twitter.

Get a good night’s sleep.

3. First day of the exam. Plan to stay as close to the exam site as you can, preferably within walking distance. One of my students was late to the exam because her taxi driver got into a fight with another driver.  Being early to the bar exam is worth the price of a hotel room.

You are going to need your energy for the bar exam.  Eat a substantial breakfast, perhaps oatmeal, or bacon and eggs. Stay away from a sugary pastries.  If possible, pack your own lunch. Include a vegetable soup. Include fruit. Include bread. To keep your nerves steady, avoid other bar candidates during the lunch hour.

Get a good night’s sleep.

4. Wednesday (MBE day). Before you leave home on Wednesday, do a couple of MBE questions to which you already know the answer.   This is just to remind you of the way the MBE asks questions.

As to food and sleep, see above.

5. Thursday. If you have another day of bar exam, again see above.

Congratulations! You did it. You should be proud.

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