Hello, readers --
By this point, some of you may have scrapped your study plans for frantic desperation: Practice questions, practice essays, outline after outline, or index card after index card; then pass out (or freak out); then repeat. You feel the need to maximize every hour -- every minute! -- leading up to the exam. Otherwise, you're convinced you'll be a goner. Sound familiar? While I don’t recommend this plan, I do understand.
Rather than lecture you about how you should have studied earlier or how you should now be studying, I’m better off just helping you not totally screw up the next two weeks. So here are some pointers to keep in mind.
1. Review Smart
- If you’re comfortable with all of the major issues for each subject, then move onto the details. If you’re still trying to nail down all of the major issues, focus on them—and forget the details.
- Think small at this point. Ditch the big outlines and books and opt for index cards or shorter outlines, three or four subjects per day. Start with the important subjects and work your way down.
- At least three times before the exam, run through all of the short answer questions.
- Pop off 25 MBE practice questions per day—but review each explanation! If you don't have time to review more explanations, then doing more questions will be a futile effort. Do not waste your time.
- Pop off 7-10 practice essays per day. If you went through Barbri’s Virginia Essay book cover to cover, switch over to William & Mary’s collection of previous Virginia Bar Exams. Do the four or five preceding bar exams. The VBBE love to recycle previous essays. If bar examinees bombed a particular essay on July's exam, don’t be surprised if you see the same or similar issue on February's exam. The VBBE test on what they think is important.
- NOTE: When you read through previous bar exams on the William & Mary website, you will recognize that you read the same essays in Barbri’s book. Re-read them anyway; it’s good practice. Also, some of William & Mary’s model answers will be different from Barbri’s model answers. That’s fine, too. Some essays will have more than one acceptable answer. The point is, just do as many essays as possible. You want to be in essay-mode from this point forward. Let no essay scare you!
- You can’t afford to get strung out or sick in the next two weeks. You’ll risk being out of commission for some time or, even worse, you'll carry your exhaustion or sickness into the exam days. Now is the time to begin physically preparing for your exam days. Get sufficient rest (minimum 7 hours per night, preferably 8 hours), eat healthy foods and drink lots of fluids. Your body needs to be physically prepared for two grueling days.
- To adjust their bodies, some of my students prefer waking up and falling asleep at the same hours they will be waking up and falling asleep on exam days. If those hours are abnormal for you, or if your body simply needs some time to properly adjust, this plan-ahead works well.
- With two weeks to go, emotional meltdowns = DEATH BLOW. Avoid crying in a stupor about your preparation or progress, or lacks thereof. At this point, those issues cannot be wholly addressed. Also, avoid crying in a stupor about the bar exam that lies dead ahead. Fretting over it won’t make it come sooner and go away or get any easier. It's coming. Deal with it. But remember -- it's just an exam, not the end of your world.
- This one’s crucial! You have to keep your head up. You must be confident in your abilities, even if you don’t quite feel that way. The bar exam is your opponent. It will win by finding your weaknesses and exploiting them. Don’t let that happen. Build an impenetrable wall around yourself. When you feel an urge of anxiety or fear rushing upon you, smack it down with a pep talk.
- Again, I cannot stress this point enough. If you walk into the bar exam feeling grim about your ability to pass, chances are you’re not going to pass. If you find yourself stewing like this, opt for keeping your head high and go in swinging. You have nothing to lose.
- IF you feel there’s a strong possibility you’re going to fail, or IF you want to know what to expect IF you fail, then read below. Otherwise, move onto #6.
- OK. Worst case scenario: You fail. That’s it. You fail. You retake it in July, you pass, and you move on with your life. A couple months of setback; that’s all there is to it.
- First, put your predicament into perspective. If you barely studied, then you deserved to fail. If you didn’t study properly, then get a tutor and study correctly the next time. If you missed passing by just a few points, then know that you’re not far from passing in July.
- None of the predicaments above involve embarrassment. Many attorneys before you failed the bar exam, many of them smarter than you. And your friends and loved ones won’t think any differently of you either. You’ll think they will and you’ll be too self-absorbed to think otherwise—but you’ll be wrong. You’ll think you let them down, too, and still you’ll be too self-absorbed to think otherwise—but you’ll be wrong again. A few clowns might silently judge you, maybe even a colleague, but I doubt it. You have a Juris Doctor. That means you’re smart and you have drive. So if you want something, go get it. Period. If you want to talk about your plan in getting there, contact me any time. But you CAN pass. I know you can.
- You’re almost there! Your bar exam woes are nearing their end point, only to be replaced by long nights at the office. Oh - joy of joys! Take a minute to appreciate just how much effort you gave this winter, how you put your mind to it, how badly you wanted master this goal, and just how much law you now know. Honestly, you know more general law right now than you might ever know in your entire career. That’s impressive!