Keep Calm and Study On: 5 Tips to Stay Sane During Bar Review

By William Peacock, Esq. on May 20, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's bar review time, and there's no easy way to say this: your life sucks.

For the next few months, you'll be studying incessantly, neglecting relationships, and nervously pull at your hair, hoping and praying that you don't fail because if you do ... actually ... for the majority of you, it makes no difference: you're unemployed anyway. Welcome to 2008-2013.

Been there. It gets better. We promise.

Even still, it's an expensive test, and no one wants to suffer through bar review more than once. So yeah, there is a little pressure. It's all good though. Though you may be afraid, shoot, you may be petrified, here are some tips for survival:

1. Acceptance is the First Step

You may fail. Especially in the harder states, there is a good chance that you'll be one of the many that fail. The most annoying thing said to me in the months preceding the bar is, "You'll pass. I have faith in you." Ugh.

I thought I was the only one who cringed at that statement, until I stumbled upon this brilliant rant by someone named BA (note, a few f-bombs are dropped). Read the rant. Commiserate. Panic didn't hit for me until the last week or so. Reading that somehow helped.

2. Bar Exam Class?

Are you the "oh look, something shiny!" type? If so, self-study probably isn't an option. Take a bar review class. I took Kaplan PMBR because it was free (former employee here). Others took BarBri. There was little difference.

When you choose a class, however, try to find one with a non-panicky friend. I had a law school buddy in my class. Her presence meant I had to show up, had someone to vent to, and had someone to share notes with when the lecturer went all Busta Rhymes with the lecture notes.

3. Stick to the Plan -- Sort Of

It's aspirational. Kaplan and BarBri both have study schedules that suggest dozens of practice essays and hundreds of MBE questions per week. Accept now that perfection is impossible. Do what you can, and revise your schedule for what your weaknesses are (mine was estate planning black-letter law).

Also, here's a dirty rumor that may calm some anxiety: one of our bar lecturers told us that the practice MBE questions and essays are more difficult, and graded more severely, than the real thing. This is to ensure that you are over-prepared. Sadistic bastards.

4. Inspect the Tech

Want to have a severe stroke? Try using a nine-year-old laptop with a creaky power plug during the exam.

The best (and only sane) practice is to do your prep with the same laptop you'll be using on test day. You don't want to have to get used to a new keyboard, or worse, deal with unexpected crashes, during the bar.

If your laptop is at all questionable, get a new one now. The cost is less than the cost of a retake.

5. One Final Tip

Skrillex. And other minimal-lyric music.

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