Are you feeling stressed as you prepare for the bar exam? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. But we’ve got you, and you’ve got this. Here are six tips for managing bar exam stress to help you get to a place of calm and confidence.
1. Make It Fun
Schedule something to look forward to—a nice meal, movie night, whatever! You can even turn studying into a game. Games can be a welcome break from “serious” studying yet be a helpful tool for retaining information. Use your flashcards to play ‘Bar Prep Jeopardy‘ or ‘Who Wants to Be a Lawyer?’, complete with lifelines (e.g., phone-a-friend) and a prize.
2. Mix It Up
The same old, same old, can get boring—so shake things up! Here are some possibilities:
- Change the who: Switch from solo to group study (or vice versa). But be sure to study with people who have study habits that positively align with yours and will allow you to study productively. Avoid people who are overly stressed—you don’t want their stress to rub off on you.
- Change the what: If you’re sick of studying Real Property, switch to Torts (but be sure to reverse it later). If you can’t bring yourself to answer another multiple-choice question, practice essays for a while. It may be more refreshing than you think.
- Change the where: A new location may lead to a new, more positive attitude. Study at a new coffeehouse (lattes not included), or at the public library (quiet—and usually no law students!), or in a park (don’t forget sunscreen).
- Change the how: If you’re tired of reading, watch a video lecture, or have someone quiz you. If you have children, this can be a great way to involve them in your studies and increase family time.
3. Take Care of Your Mental and Physical Health
At the risk of stating the obvious: bar prep isn’t easy. But it will be much easier, and you will be more successful if you take care of yourself. Here are a few suggestions:
- Eat well: Proper nutrition is vital for focused learning. For example, omega-3 fatty acids (avocados, anyone?) and Vitamins B, C, D, and E may improve performance on cognitive tests and overall brain health. On the flip side, fried, packaged, and fast foods containing trans fats reduce performance in thinking and memory tests.
- Exercise: Even a short walk will make you feel refreshed and ready to hit the books with focus and energy. If you can’t tear yourself away from your studies, download the audio file for a video lecture so you can listen while you exercise.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: There are plenty of people who want to help you—just reach out. Talk to your family, friends, professors, a licensed mental health professional, etc. Sometimes, just talking can reduce bar exam anxiety and help you conquer this seemingly impossible task.
- Get some sleep: Seven to eight hours of sleep can improve cognitive function. Inadequate sleep leads to learning and memory impairment, decreased attention, and poor academic performance. Avoid all-nighters and get some shut-eye.
4. Take a Break
And speaking of rest—your brain needs it! A few 30-minute breaks during your day will help your brain process information more efficiently and heighten your potential for success. But what to do during those all-important breaks? Here are some possibilities:
- Draw, color, write in a journal
- Watch a TV show or take a power nap
- Meditate or practice yoga
- Cook a healthy meal
Enjoy your break without guilt, and return to studying rebooted and reinvigorated.
5. Focus on You
Students sometimes psych themselves out when they hear about what other students are doing. Everyone studies differently, so use a study plan that works for you. Take time to visualize your success. Imagine yourself taking the MBE®, recalling the law, quickly discarding the incorrect choices, and calmly answering all the questions within the allotted time. Picture your name on the “pass” list. You’ve got this!
6. Maintain Perspective
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of rules and exceptions and exceptions to exceptions, and… you get the idea. But consider this:
- You got through law school and already know a lot of law tested on the bar exam. Think of bar prep as a refresher course.
- Don’t focus on perfection. It’s OK not to know everything. You don’t need a perfect score to pass the bar.
- If you fall behind in your studies, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, create a catch-up plan, and execute.
- Have you ever studied TWO months straight for an exam? Probably not, so imagine how prepared you’ll be if you stay focused and continue to study hard.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these bar exam tips. Now be sure to implement them while studying for the bar exam to manage your stress. And remember to relax, stay confident, and optimistic. You got this!
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