Sunday, July 27, 2014

Last-Minute Tips

I trust that all of you are putting the finishing touches on your studying, and also preparing for your travel on Monday. Here are some last-minute tips I'd like to share.

First, about tomorrow night and Tuesday night. To study or not to study? 

That's up to you, really. If you would prefer to go for a run, get some dinner, watch some T.V., and then go to bed early, I think that's a great plan. If you would prefer to get some dinner, then do some light studying before lights out, I think that's a great plan too. It's like the moments before a big athletic event. What do you see athletes doing? Some of them laugh, joke around and goof off. They perform best when relaxed. Most athletes, however, jump or jog around, stretch out, and get pumped up. They perform best when they're mentally prepared. 

For the bar, many of you fall in the latter category. You will feel the need to review some material the two nights before testing. You'll be fidgety, still unsure about a couple issues, and will want to keep your mind active and thinking about the bar. That's normal. But just know that whatever you study is pretty much irrelevant at that point. What you're really doing is keeping your mind on the bar and not in relax-mode. That's the important takeaway. You never want to let your guard down, especially not the night before the exam.  If watching T.V. helps you do that, do it. If doing a quick set of MBEs helps you get there, then do that. 

If you want to study, make sure you cap yourself after about two hours. Don't go overboard! Again, you're not really "studying." You're simply keeping your mind on the bar and not in relax-mode. 

Second, sleep.

Don't be an idiot here. Do what you normally do. Do not change your routine. Because by doing so, you throw in a variable, and that's risky. 

So if you sleep on five hours every night, don't change your routine. If you try to get between 7-8 hours, try to get 7-8 hours. If you need 9+ hours, get 9+ hours. A word to wise, though: falling asleep before bar exam days is tricky, so just factor that in. Your mind will be racing, you'll be anxious, you'll be unsure. Try to put as many of those distractions out of your mind. Tell yourself that, by getting a poor night of sleep, you'll be jeopardizing tomorrow. Do you really want to jeopardize tomorrow?

Third, talking about the exam between sessions

This one's like studying the night before. If you don't want to, don't. If a person doesn't want to, respect that. But most of you will have to talk about the exam during lunch and at the end of the day. Don't suppress the urge; it will only distract you. But, like studying, don't get carried away. Talk about it -- then drop it and move on. 

Some other pointers here: First, just because someone had a different answer, doesn't mean yours was incorrect. For some Virginia essays, several approaches can be correct. You also don't know how the VBBE will weight the various issues within each essay. Second, answer what the VBBE asks you to answer, nothing more. Some examinees will write about extraneous issues, trying to show off to the VBBE. That approach will get them no love. Third, watch out for fellow examinees who try to scare you afterward by talking about irrelevant issues or making a big spectacle about the ones you forgot or the essay on which you struggled. They're only trying to psyche you out with hope that doing so will give them an advantage. Chances are, you're going to forget an issue or two. You're going to screw up on an essay as well. That's OK. Passing does not mean perfection; far from it, in fact. Don't let some stranger make you think differently. Don't let him throw you off your game. Stick to your plan.

Fourth, ABC: Always be Confident.

You can't pass without it. Tuesday and Wednesday will really test your confidence. You have to push hard through all of it. Messed up a morning essay? That was the morning. Now's the afternoon. Four more essays to make up for it. Messed up on an afternoon essay? Move on. Nothing you can do about it now. Get ready for the MBEs tomorrow. Messed up on an MBE question? Focus on the other 199 questions. 

We often fret over all the issues we missed, the questions we know we got wrong, but never about the majority we got correct. The essays we aced. The MBE questions we knew cold. Nope. All we think about is the negative. I'll talk more on that post-exam. For now, give it your best, keep your head up, keep moving forward, and let the chips fall where they may. 

Rest and relief await you in just a few short days. Good luck, everybody! You can do this. You will be fine. The bar exam is not the end all-be all. Life will go on, even if the worst happens. Keep telling yourself that. 

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