Thursday, July 16, 2015

What to Study in the Last Week

With the bar exam just around the corner, it's time to focus-focus-focus. If you took the right approach this summer, now's the time when all the pieces should come together and when all your hard work should pay dividends.

Unfortunately, not everybody took the approach that worked best for them. Or perhaps life got in the way this summer and now you're playing catch-up. Or perhaps you're taking a commercial program and you're dissatisfied with it. You ditched your pre-formulated study plan and are simply studying like a lunatic. Deep down, you're wondering whether all these long hours and anxiety and stress will be enough. Fear not: You are not alone.

We can't change the past and get back lost time. All we have left is 11 days, so let's pick ourselves up, let's stop stressing, and let's make the most of this time! The last week or two is the most important.

First, be honest and practical about what you study. Think small at this point. Ditch the big outlines and books. Rifle through your index cards instead, three or four subjects per day. If you didn't make cards, then use your lecture handouts or, better yet, your essay book. 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.

Do 25 or 33 MBE practice questions per day, with 45- and 60-minute target times, respectively. Each day, do all of your questions out of one subject only, but switch up the subject every day. That way, you cover each MBE subject once per week. The last time you saw Contracts was 6 days ago, so the law should still be fresh in your head (and so on for each subject). Review every answer explanation! Seriously, if you don't review answer explanations, then don't bother doing practice questions. You'll simply spin your wheels without a shred of improvement to show for it.

For you Virginia applicants, read through Barbri's Virginia Essay Book cover to cover. At this point, just read it and don't worry about writing out answers. Whether or not you realize it, the essay book is your best friend. Big long outlines are not. If you're already comfortable with the essay book, then take advantage of William & Mary’s collection of previous Virginia Bar Exams. Do one exam per day, starting with the most recent exam and working backwards. Just briefly outline your answers with quick, bullet points and compare them to the bulleted answers. Bullet point answers will allow you to complete a full exam in just 3 hours, giving you time study other things the rest of the day. The VBBE love to recycle previous essays. If bar examinees bombed a particular essay on February’s exam, don’t be surprised if you see the same or similar issue on July’s exam. The VBBE test on what they think is important until examinees get it right.

Second, take good care of your body, mind and soul. You can’t afford to get strung out or sick in the last week. Now is the time to begin physically preparing for your exam days too. 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. If you take care of your body, it will take care of you.

Third, take good care of your mental well-being. Emotional meltdowns are a waste of energy. If you feel the urge, get up and go for a walk and think about something fun. Avoid crying in a stupor about your preparation or progress. At this point, you have limited control over both items.

Finally, keep up your confidence! You have to keep your head up. You have to be confident in your abilities, even if you don't feel that way. When you feel an urge of anxiety or fear rushing upon you, smack it back with a pep talk. Believe in yourself -- You got this!

Confidence is more than half the battle against the bar exam. I think it's even more important than studying properly. Because if you walk into the bar exam feeling down on yourself, chances are you're not going to pass. Doesn't matter how well prepared you are; without confidence, you're climbing Mt. Everest with your hands tied behind your back.

You’re rounding third! You're on the home stretch! Take a minute to appreciate just how much effort you gave this summer, how you put your mind to it, how badly you wanted this, and just how much law you now know. Honestly, you know more law right now than you might ever know in your entire career. That’s impressive!

Don’t let up know, finish strong, but finish smart. This last week could make or break you. I wish all of you the best of luck! Knock 'em dead!

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