Squashing Stress, Preventing Panic During Bar Exam Crunch Time

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 17, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Can you feel that? Breathe it in. It's the smell of panic, also known as the "holy [expletive] the biggest test of my life is coming up in two weeks and OMG WHAT THE [EXPLETIVE] AM I GOING TO DO?!?"

I sympathize. I've been there. The only exam in my life where I thought, "I might fail" was the California Bar.

Fortunately, I survived. So will you. Here are a few tips to ensure that, even if you do survive the test, you won't have a massive stroke minutes after submitting the test materials.

Perfection is the Enemy of Passing

You won't remember everything. That's OK. It's also OK not to do every essay and practice question provided by your prep course. You have strengths and weaknesses. Work the strengths occasionally, to keep them "tuned up" and work the weaknesses more often.

And know this: even the test grader doesn't have the black letter law memorized for all subjects. Make reasonable arguments, heck, make up some law if you have to. Just don't pull all-nighters for the next two weeks. You may remember the law if you do, but your ability to make well-reasoned arguments and analyze the problems will be greatly compromised.

Besides, a single subject isn't dispositive. You can nail one subject, while barely passing others.

Stimulants, Maybe?

A few guides on stress recommend cutting back on the caffeine. That's easier said than done, but if you find yourself drinking six pots of coffee per day, snorting caffeine pills off of the back of your outlines, or in the case of my 2L Income Tax final, shotgunning energy drinks, it may be a good time to step back and evaluate how your study methods are affecting your health.

Eat Regularly

For some people, stress makes them abandon food. Others head straight for the "comfort food." Eating a normal diet will not only give you (nearly) as much energy as those stimulants, but it'll ensure that you don't get sick on test day.

Exercise Daily

Though I never envisioned that I would be providing advice on exercising, nor did I think I'd actually exercise, it is one thing that really did help. A combination of test and unemployment-induced insomnia and the physical aftermath of three years of Lexington, Virginia's infamous nightlife (that cow ain't gonna tip herself, ya hear!) provided the motivation to start. When I did, I found that the midnight trips to the gym eased stress and allowed me to calmly evaluate my study schedule as the bar date approached.

Some stress-relief guides recommend "moderate" exercise, like yoga. Pfft. Let's be honest, yoga isn't real exercise, right? (Sidebar: Don't be mad, Yoga enthusiasts. Namaste.)

A Final Thought

And whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of buying "hypnotic" CDs to "put you in the right mindset" and help you with "positive visualization." Seriously, if a website has a logo that looks like it was made in Windows Paint and the site itself looks like a bad 1990s Geocities freebie, what they're selling probably won't help.

Keep calm and ____ (insert verb) on. And God be with you.

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