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Eye on the Prize: Advice for Passing the Bar Exam

JD, Suffolk University Law School

Towards the end of law school, there are some momentous occasions: your last class, for example, and last exam. I have a fond memory of going to Flash’s for fun (aka girly) drinks with my friends every year after our last exam. And then there is graduation day. You may start thinking of all the fun things you’re going to do with your free time and then you remember the bar exam. That dreaded exam for which you will study during the next 2 months before you spend 12 hours over 2 days doing a brain dump of everything you learned in the hopes of passing and becoming a lawyer. Whew! Luckily there are some simple steps you can take to help you through this process.

First, take a bar exam course. This may sound like a no brainer, but I’m sure there are some students out there that can’t stomach paying thousands of dollars and think that they can do it themselves. You may be able to, but don’t chance it. What’s a couple of thousand dollars anyway when you’re paying tens of thousands for law school? So pay for a bar exam course and get your money’s worth. Go to all of the classes. Do all of the homework. Take the practice exams. And follow the study schedule provided to you. These courses, while not perfect (don’t get me started on a sample essay I read while studying that was clearly wrong), have perfected a technique to getting you to pass the bar exam. So follow it exactly.

Second, between the classes and the studying, take some time for yourself. During the week decide what time to stop studying and stick to it. On the weekends, find something fun to do for a few hours each day. You need the break for your sanity and to allow all the information you learned to sink in.

Third, enlist friends and family to help you study. I found it worthwhile to study with a friend, but many may not. Do what works for you. My husband helped as well, doing flash cards with me and coming up with acronyms for a list of terms I needed to remember. The dirtier the acronym, the more likely you are to remember it. Plus, it put a smile on my face during the exam when I recounted it for an essay.

I also have a few pieces of advice for taking the bar exam. (1) Eat a good breakfast. Sound familiar? (2) Wear layers. You want to be prepared if the room is too hot or too cold. (3) Go into the exam with a positive attitude (i.e. I know everything and will do a great job). Keep repeating this mantra until you believe it. You need that confidence to pass. (4) Pack a fun lunch. I remember eating a peanut butter and Fluff sandwich and it provided me with a momentary sense of happiness during the stress of the day. (5) Don’t discuss the essays during the breaks. It’s so tempting to talk about an essay and discuss what you wrote and compare notes with your friends, but you will always hear a person mention something that you forgot and then you start to freak out and think about all the other things you must have forgotten. You need to keep your confidence for the afternoon session so stay out of those discussions.

Lastly, during the entire bar exam process, keep your eye on the prize. I will never forget that feeling of opening the envelope one October afternoon and learning that I passed the bar. My hope is that every law student experiences that. Best of luck!

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