I asked my bar prep students for their suggestions for reducing stress and maximizing study results in the last week before the bar exam. Here are their eleven best suggestions:
- Get up early and do your most challenging studying first. Plan to study for different parts of the bar exam every day, and to cover different subjects. For example, you might do MBE questions first thing in the morning, essays in the evening. Do not try to devote whole days to single subjects. Take a five-minute break every hour. Work steadily. Make sure your plan is realistic. Trying to cover unrealistic amounts of material just causes stress and reduces how much you can learn. Stick to your plan.
- Use stress-reduction techniques. When you plan your daily study schedule, make sure you include not just study time but also exercise time. Get exercise every day. That means vigorous exercise like running or climbing the stairs, not just walking. Pray. Do yoga. Use meditation or hypnosis tapes. Get a full-body massage the last week before the exam.
- Stay away from electronic devices that intensify stress, like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and text messaging. Turn your cellphone off. Use earplugs while you are studying. Put an autoresponder on your email account that tells your friends that you are tied up, but you will be in touch with them again after July 26.
- Avoid trying to multitask. You cannot study effectively while talking on the telephone, cooking, using Facebook, taking care of children, or even watching television. In fact, studies show that multitasking kills learning.
- Get plenty of sleep. This one may seem unrealistic as you cram this last week, but it is vital.
- Schedule some time one day this week for taking care of yourself. Get a haircut, do your grocery shopping, go to the bank, do laundry, clean your room.
- Schedule 15 minutes every day for having fun. Walk your dog, play a musical instrument, horse around with your children. Read something enjoyable before bedtime.
- Have one supportive person you can speak to for 10 minutes a day. Avoid people who are competitive or who make demands on your time. Give that person a short daily report on the progress you have made that day. Be positive.
- Breathe deeply. Breathe in for seven counts, hold for one count, exhale slowly for seven counts. Repeat until calm. Relax. Smile.
- Focus on how much you have done to prepare for the bar exam, not on how much you have not done. Look back with satisfaction on your weeks of bar study. Think about how little you knew, and how unclear you were, when you started.
- Finally, one suggestion that always amuses me, because I think the person who made it could not have been serious: Listen to Barry Manilow recordings while you study, to increase the pain. Then, they said, you will never want to take the bar exam again.
If you do what you plan to do every day, that’s all you can hope for. Your results on the bar exam are in the hands of the gods.
Originally published 2013-07-13.