Advice + Ask The Edit

Ask The Edit: 14 Tips for Bar Exam Takers

Next week, the newest crop of aspiring lawyers will walk into convention centers and lecture halls to take the 2017 Summer Bar Exam.   To those about to rock, I salute you.  Yesterday, one of your fellow victims test-takers asked for some advice about preparing for the exam. So I’ve compiled the best advice I received and the best decisions I made (or didn’t) below.

To those who have no interest in this post, check back tomorrow for new fashion content and return to your blissfully bar-free lives.  If you intend to read on, be prepared, this is the longest post I’ve ever written.

Pack Your Suitcase Now. The stress level during the 72-hours before the exam is high.  Small tasks feel monumental.  Packing your suitcase today ensures that you have everything you want to wear and bring ready to go.  Just make a list, and check things off of it.  Then, double check that everything is packed the night before.

What to Pack.  Some items I would not be without:

Bring medication.  Tylenol, antacid, antidiarrheal, anti-constipation, allergy medicine, band-aids, etc.  You may need it, you may not.  But if you need it, you do not want to be hunting for a pharmacy.

Bring one bar prep book.  Yes, just one.  If you’re doing BarBri, the Mini-Conviser is the book to bring.  I tell you this not so you will study, but because you will likely not be able to stop yourself from studying.  You will leave the exam and be suddenly overcome with an earth-quaking desire to know the difference between a modification and an accord.  And in that moment, it is far better to look up that information than to allow the thought to fester.

Bring two test-center packs. The WA test center asked exam-takers to bring pencils, highlighters, erasers, etc. in a Ziploc baggie that could only contain those items plus one room key, one ID, and one credit card.  Pack your Ziploc baggie now, in fact, pack two of them.

(Maybe) Bring an analog watch.  You will not be allowed to bring your phone into the testing room.  If you use your phone as a watch, go buy a watch, make sure there’s a new battery in it.  You don’t want to leave the test center for lunch without a way to know what time it is.  Can’t wear a watch inside your test center?  Buy a cheap one you don’t give a damn about and leave it in the area where people store their bags.

Bring your glasses. Contact wearers, do not forget spare pairs, and bring your glasses.

Do Not Do Anything New.  I don’t drink coffee regularly.  On the morning of the exam, I was dead tired.  But I did not drink any coffee because I did not know how it would affect me.  This advice goes for new medications (sleeping pills included), beauty products, food items, and anything else you might be tempted to do for the first time. This is not the time for an adverse reaction.

Make Everything a Habit.  In the week leading up to the bar, I got up at 6:15am.  I showered.  I ate a granola bar and drank one glass of water.  I did not eat or drink anything else all morning.  I then went upstairs to my office, put in my earplugs and studied for three hours, non-stop.  I took a one hour break, came back and did it again in the afternoon.  I also put my phone in the other room while I was studying.

I wanted my actions on test day to be routine.  I wanted my body to be prepared to sit for long periods, to not get hungry for a snack at 10am (my usual breakfast time), and to be ready for bed at 11pm.  Sounds easy, but it’s surprisingly difficult to stick to a rigid schedule when you don’t have to.

Travel 24 Hours Before, at Minimum.  I was planning to fly over the day before the Wednesday bar.  A LOT of readers jumped into the comments to say I needed to go Monday night, and I am so glad I did.  Yes, it cost me another $150 for a hotel, but it was so worth it.  It gave me a cushion in case there were travel problems.  It let me visit the convention center the day before to get the lay of the land.  And it gave me time to relax, study a little, and not feel stressed about traveling.  A+ advice.

Do a Reconnaissance Mission.  Visit the test center the day before.  Time the drive/walk.  Find the parking lot you’re going to use.  The building you’ll be in.  The door you’ll walk through.  Locate the registration tables.  Ask if you can just look inside the room.  Find the nearest restroom.  Don’t let where you’re parking, where you’re going, or where you’re using the restroom to be a surprise on test day.  You can’t afford to be lost.

Also, take note of the temperature of the room.  You don’t want to be wearing shorts if the room is going to be 50-degrees.  Nor, do you want to be wearing a sweater if there’s no AC.

Read the List of Probitied Items List 10x.  Read it today, right now, I’ll wait.  If you need special permission to bring your inhaler/cough drops/extra contacts/etc., make sure you have it.

There is typically no food allowed in the testing room.  My colleague got a doctor’s note to bring in four Jolly Ranchers for “low blood sugar.”  He was concerned he might need a jolt half-way through to keep him awake, and sugar works just as well as coffee.  They approved it, but he had to remove the exterior wrappers.  Seem crazy?  If you get a petty tyrant checking your pockets and Ziploc bag, you don’t need the stress of having to throw things away or be without them (esp. if you can’t be without your meds or glasses).  You may get a reasonable person, and it may turn out okay, but why risk it?

Make Sure Your Tech Conforms.  Do you have a Macbook with a touch bar?  You better make sure that’s allowed.  In WA, you had to inform them in advance and prove you’d disabled the touch bar on the day of the exam.  You also need to download Examsoft and make sure it works far in advance of the test.  There will be tech people in the room (at least there were in WA) but you don’t want to need them for anything.

Do Not Study the Night Before.  Like I said above, you likely won’t be able to stop yourself from studying.  But skim, don’t cram.  I downloaded the BarBri app and did multiple choice the night before.  It helped me stay in the zone, but if I didn’t learn anything, no big deal.  Some of you might be able to ignore this all completely, if so, you’re mentally stronger than I am.

On the Topic of Food and Drink.  The night before the bar exam, I ate an egg sandwich from Starbucks’ that I’ve eaten 100x before.  After the first day, some classmates and I went to a restaurant that one of us had been to before and had cheeseburgers.  Do not eat sushi.  Do not eat potato salad.  Do not drink alcohol (or if you must to decompress, limit yourself to one drink and drink what you usually drink).  Do not decide that this is the night to try Thai food from an unknown source.  You get the picture.

If you’re going to bring your lunch, do not bring anything that must be refrigerated, as you may not have access to refrigeration. Same goes for microwavable things.  Do not bring anything spicy or that may force a trip to the restroom.  I would bring PBJ, a mandarin orange, some Cheez-Its, and a bottle of water.  Think boring and bland but filling.  If you’re the kind of person who gets a mental boost from having a specific treat (all hail the Fudge Graham), pack it.  You’ll need/deserve it.

If you intend to go out, know where you’re going the morning of.  Know what’s on the menu.  Ask the server what will take the least amount of time, and order that.  Give him your credit card when he delivers your food.  Leave before you think you need to.  If you’re really concerned, order your food to go and eat it in the hallway outside the exam room.

Build in Fail Safes.  I was taking the bar at the same time as some of my classmates.  We all agreed we would meet in the lobby at a certain time.  We swapped room information, so that if someone was missing, we could go get them.  I got a wake-up call in addition to my cell phone alarm and my iPad alarm.  Every year, someone sleeps through the start time, don’t let it be you.

You Will Think You Failed; This is Completely Normal.  In the weeks leading up to the bar, I felt wholly unprepared.  I even toyed with the idea of postponing until July.  My readers, without exception, commented that they all felt the same way before the bar.  Feelings of inadequacy of failure, of concern are completely normal.

I didn’t complete an essay and left 10% of an MPT unfinished.  I also missed 9 out of 10 contracts questions.  I still passed.  Unless you’re in California or some equally cruel state, your odds of passage are better than your odds of failure.  And if you fail, you can take it again and pass.  There’s no shame in retaking the bar.  SCOTUS Justice Cardozo failed multiple times, so do lots of other great lawyers.

Don’t Quit.  Twenty minutes into the bar exam, a guy got up, collected his things, and left.  Five minutes later, it happened again.  In fact, it happened four more times before the first hour was up.  Odds are most of those people didn’t complete the essays, and just gave up.  Everyone has a moment when they think they should quit.  It’s better to fail than quit.

Test Tips. The Bar is a test of “minimum competency.”  You don’t have to know everything about a subject, you just have to know enough to analyze the problem in a “lawyer-like manner.”  Here was the strategy that worked for me.

First, I skimmed all six essays very quickly to figure out which subjects I was dealing with.  This took <10 mins.  I then numbered the essays 1 to 6, six being the essay I felt the least confident about.  My strategy was that if I ran out of time (which I did), it was better not to complete an essay I wouldn’t get as many points on than one I knew well.

Second, I made one critical error.  I am a family law savant.  My Father is a divorce lawyer, so I’ve been typing dissolution agreements since 7th grade.  The February bar had a common law marriage question.  Instead of remembering this was a test of minimum competency, I wrote a bible.  Mis-take.  This is why I ran out of time.

Last, this left me with only 11-minutes to write essay number six, a securities question.  I barely know securities law.  So I pulled a trick that a friend suggested, make up a logical rule based on what you know, then follow it through your analysis.  Might it be the wrong rule, yes.  But it’s better than writing nothing.  I am absurdly glad that this was the essay I ran out of time on because I didn’t feel like I’d left many points on the board.

One last tip that relates mostly to the MPT: pay attention to the example.  If one of your questions says that your essay should follow a sample they give you, for god sake follow it.  Our MPT cruelly required numbered paragraphs, and they disabled the numbering function in Examsoft.  Lots of people just skipped the numbers.  Do not do this.  If there’s a sample, look it over first so that as you’re forming your thoughts, you’re comporting them to the sample.

Any other bar exam tips?  I know this is a lot, probably too much, but once you’ve lived through and passed the bar, you become something of an evangelist about survival.  And never forget, failing just means you can come back and do it again in February.   

LEAVE A COMMENT

    39 comments

  1. Mel says:

    1. If you are taking the VA bar, remember that you have to wear a suit and shoes with rubber soles. Pack accordingly.
    2. Day-of, arrive at the test site earlier than you think you should. It takes a while to sometimes even get from the parking lot to your seat.
    3. During the test, ignore everyone else around you. Watching other people will just freak you out.

    July 18, 2017/Reply
  2. AAR says:

    Also re VA bar. Last year no sneakers were allowed; I’m unsure if that’s the rule this year, though. This is despite the legend that all VA bar takers wear their suits with sneakers. So: Wear a suit, Wear “quiet” shoes, Do not wear sneakers/athletic shoes.

    Additionally re VA bar. My cell had s*** service in Roanoke (why is it in roanoke – God only knows… or a local legislator with a great bribe may know). Don’t allow yourself to feel anxious about google maps working the morning of. Play it like 2009 and print off your map to the testing center, etc.

    Don’t lose your mind. It’ll all be okay. Finish the test, don’t quit, make up law if necessary, and structure your essays coherently. Make it EASY for the graders to give you points. “Oh, she organized her answer in IRAC form, I’ll give her a point.” “Oh, she recognized an alternate rule in this instance, I’ll give her a point.”

    July 18, 2017/Reply
  3. Sara says:

    I took the (Ohio) bar before electronic devices. Your advice is sound from top to bottom.

    Consider carefully who you room with/eat meals with during the exam period. Will these people build you up or make you more anxious? If you do agree to eat meals with others, decide ahead of the exam whether you will discuss the exam at all (or leave it off limits until you are home).

    I know money can be tight, but I would not room with a friend for the exam unless perhaps you have slept in the same room as them before…snoring does not aid your preparation!

    I agree with keeping to a schedule as well as getting to the exam site much earlier than you feel you need to; perhaps stay within walking distance, if possible.

    July 18, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      We had a rule, we went around the table at dinner, everyone got to ask one question. We only did this because you do not want uncertainty to fester. We then started talking about something else.

      July 18, 2017/Reply
      • Kate says:

        I avoided everyone (including everyone I knew) like the plague those two days. I ran right out of the testing room outside during breaks to get a breath of fresh air. I was lucky to be staying at a hotel very close by my testing center so beat a retreat for lunch. I stayed at a Homewood Suites so I knew I’d have a fridge and other basic kitchen amenities; the night before the test I stocked up some food. I spent my lunch sitting in a peaceful hotel room, eating in blissful silence before I had to return. The evening between the two days I took a long bath and went to bed early after a light dinner. It made a world of difference. Even as I was making a hasty exit, I could hear people all around me saying things like “trespass to chattel” and “community property.” I also went to the post office during lunch the second day to mail my books home to myself so I wouldn’t have to see them again once the test was done.

        July 19, 2017/Reply
    • Cara says:

      Amen to not discussing the questions. Can’t remember the exact question but it was about adverse possession. At lunch, my friends all had a different answer than me. Went through the whole afternoon thinking I was an idiot. When I checked my notes back at the hotel, I had actually been right.

      July 19, 2017/Reply
  4. Helena says:

    Goodness, just reading this post brought me back 15 years to the 2 days in July I spent taking the bar exam, which may have been the hardest 48 hours of my life (and I’ve endured some hardship, believe me). Something about this experience makes you question everything you’ve ever done and your future security. I honestly thought I would never get a job, much less become a lawyer, and spend my life in debt and meandering the streets (none of this came to transpire). I swear, I am not that dramatic. It’s just that nervewracking. So, to anyone reading this before taking the bar, good luck, and if you have the same crazy thoughts I did all those years ago, I promise you, everything will be fine.

    July 18, 2017/Reply
  5. SM says:

    DO not feed into other people’s anxieties. As I was leaving the first day of the FL Bar exam, a friend from law school approached me crying. I politely told her that I couldn’t really engage and kept walking. I still had another day of the Bar left and I didn’t need that in my life. Lastly, plan to do something fun to mark the completion of the exam. DO NOT re-hash the essay questions afterwards.

    July 18, 2017/Reply
    • Laura says:

      A million times this.

      Also, I would wager that if you don’t know if the day before, you will never know it. I remember walking out for lunch and seeing masses of people furiously. The ship has sailed. I went to the movies the day before. If you’re reading an article like this about how to be prepared to take the bar, you’ve probably followed the Barbri study schedule and You. Will. Be. Fine. Just relax and remember how many really stupid lawyers there are out there. They all passed.

      July 18, 2017/Reply
      • Laura says:

        Furiously *studying*. Stupid phones.

        July 18, 2017/Reply
      • Belle says:

        Yeah, I’m just one of those people that if I start to think about an issue, I need 30-seconds to look it up and then move on. But actually, I need to learn Torts studying the night before, the day before, skip it.

        July 18, 2017/Reply
  6. wellfedfred says:

    Always remember there is an angel on your shoulder who can rescue you.
    My first bar exam had 4 or 5 crazy long essay questions. Staggering out of the awful room people were still wondering what to make of the Property question – illegitimate children, unrecorded deeds, transfers to nominees, gaps in chain of title, an entail that dated back to colonial times … someone had a cruel and evil sense of humor. I had identified these issues, I’m sure there were more that I failed to perceive, and I just wanted to find a quiet well-ventilated place to vomit. Walking next to me was an elderly gentleman, who looked and sounded like Dracula. He was smiling and one of my classmates asked him why. “I am much much older than you and I have lived troo many bad times. I give answers under property law of Hungary after Nazis left but before Communism. Small specialty, yes, but today – useful .”

    Me? I passed. My only good essay was Contracts – I’d been a TA in a Legal Writing seminar and the prof’s favorite topic was Covenants Not to Compete. Yup. I paralyzed ’em.

    And of course I brought my own food and wore comfortable shoes.

    July 18, 2017/Reply
  7. Jessie says:

    Thank you so much for this! With one week left to go before day 1 of the exam, my relief at having a light at the end of the tunnel is starting to morph into panic about all the things I can’t quite seem to get right or remember (today’s edition: there’s no way I have the capacity left in my brain to retain all the elements of all the torts I’m supposed to know). Thanks for thinking of the July bar takers and writing this post.

    July 18, 2017/Reply
  8. Jen says:

    ^ Yea to all of the above.

    MPT – My thought was don’t gloss over it and give it a little extra effort to set yourself apart.

    It’s not something anyone could really “study” for so we were all on equal footing there. Just like law school, it’s a forced curve, so you have to do something to set yourself apart from the other answers. In my state the MPT was worth 3 essays. So if you tanked the MPT you’d have to make up for that by doing well on 3 other essays, if you were middle of the pack it’s a draw, but if you ace it then you’ve got some leeway when it comes to the other essays.

    Use all of the time proportional to how much the MPT counts, even if you’re anxious to move on other the other essays and show the graded all that knowledge you’ve stuffed in your head.

    Proofread your MPT. They say spelling doesn’t count…butwho wants tot read a slopy sentnce just bc it was typed to fast ? 🙂

    July 18, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Also, don’t pull outside knowledge into the MPT. We had one on lawyer ethics for hiring an attorney when he had represented an adverse party. One of the test takers was chatting that night at the hotel bar about finding the “hidden” contracts issue. The MPT is a CLOSED universe, nothing not in the packet matters. Period.

      July 19, 2017/Reply
  9. Sel says:

    My advice comes to you from the 2010 and 2013 bar exams (in different states) so times may have changed and it may no longer apply. But just in case:

    1. Make sure you know of a reliable Internet connection (at your hotel, near the exam site, etc.) where you can upload your exam, in case it doesn’t upload at the exam site. I had an essay exam that stalled and wouldn’t go through at the site. The proctors told me it was saved on my computer (but was locked) so after the exam was over, I had to find another place with Internet to upload. I ended up having to go to the lobby of another hotel (where I wasn’t staying) because my hotel’s Internet was not working.

    2. If your computer/exam software stalls in the middle of the exam, do NOT stop and try to fix it. Raise your hand for a booklet to handwrite your exam and go at it. There was a girl in my 2013 bar exam who spent 45 minutes trying to get her exam software to work *during* the exam hours. Bad idea. She wasted a lot of valuable time that she couldn’t get back.

    July 18, 2017/Reply
    • Sel says:

      One additional piece of advice: Don’t talk about the exam outside of the exam room. I think this is part of the instructions the proctors will give you. But even after you go home at the end of the day, try to refrain from hashing out your answers with your friends, fellow bar-takers, etc. It will only stress you out and you can’t go back and change anything. Try to talk about something else, anything else besides the exam and the law. Your mind will need a break, and it’s critical that it gets that break.

      Good luck! I will be rooting for you! 🙂

      July 18, 2017/Reply
  10. Kimberly says:

    DO NOT discuss the answers to questions during the breaks! If your friends do, walk away. All it will do it unnerve you and make you doubt yourself. I was fortunate to take the TX bar in Dallas where I lived so I got to sleep in my own bed, which was WAY better than my friends who stayed in hotels near the exam site and were kept awake by trains, sirens, and helicopters (exam site was next to a hospital). Dress for comfort. I took a kitchen timer that counted down and disabled the buzzer to keep me on track per question.

    July 18, 2017/Reply
  11. J says:

    I took (and passed) the bar exam 15 years ago, and really enjoyed reading this post. I remember the misery of studying and the massive feelings of failure, etc., but now…strangely with time, thinking about this experience/achievement is truly a good memory. It’s worth it – don’t give up – and know that you’ll remember this experience forever. Good luck test takers!

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  12. Isheeta says:

    Hi Belle,
    Loved your blog, been a regular reader for many years,
    No advice or experience just my best wishes to you for the exam !

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  13. Nicolette says:

    I’m in love with this chain of comments. I’m about to start the whole studying process and It’s nice to see end-goal tips to keep in mind before and during the studying. Now I know to find people I trust to keep me on schedule and who I can help in return. Solid advice that I never would have thought of, I tend to be a lone wolf. Any tips for PA in particular?

    July 19, 2017/Reply
    • R says:

      I took the bar a few years ago in PA. Not sure if this is the case, but then you could choose between 3 locations – Philly, Pittsburgh, and Carlisle. I can’t speak about the Pittsburgh location, but between the other 2, I definitely recommend Carlisle. Smaller room, less people, you can drive there without a problem, and hang out in your car over lunch. The Philly location was in the middle of the city and you had to either sit in the lobby with everyone else or go out in the wild during lunch and the room is huge. Plus, the Carlisle hotels were cheaper & quieter (I live in the middle of a city so noise generally doesn’t bother me, but I wanted peace and quiet in this case).

      PS – in case you couldn’t tell from the above, yes I took it twice. Most important advice – no matter what state – is not to get totally psyched out if it doesn’t work out the first time.

      July 19, 2017/Reply
  14. Monica says:

    I took the bar 13 years ago, but all of this rings true like it was yesterday. I think those 48 hours stay with you forever!

    My advice is to not panic! Easier said than done. I had a lot of trouble finding my assigned seat. They did not make it easy for some reason (my year, my state- hopefully, not across the board). I eventually found it. There were people who actually left the room without taking the exam because they couldn’t find their seat, nor could they find anyone to help them. That blows my mind!

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  15. Carla says:

    MO bar July 2011 and IL bar February 2011. In MO, at least in 2010, everyone tested in one of two hotels in Jefferson City. Not 5 star, but adequate rooms. I went the Monday before also, and met up with one of my study group. As soon as I got to town I went to a grocery and bought (reasonably) healthy snacks, Baby Bel cheese, granola bars, lunchables, etc. No mini fridge but just kept them on ice in a small cooler. We “drilled” through the Mini-Convisor and our flash cards, but no essays or multiple choice questions. If it wasn’t in the CMR or on one of my cards, it didn’t get a review. We had food in the room, so just stayed locked-in, avoided other class mates. Since the test room was in my hotel, I just went to my room for lunch. Isolated yes, but it kept me focused. In spite of passing in MO, I was still pretty anxious for IL the following February. I followed the same routine though, and passed. Don’t recall much of any essay other than I was in the group that tested IL admin law for the first time in 20 years. Yay. Now… no. More. Bar. Exams. Ever. Ever!

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  16. Mary G. says:

    From the political advance world, they always say the most important advance you’ll ever do is for yourself. You advanced this well, Belle.

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  17. Elisabeth says:

    My comment is going to be a little different. I took PA right after I graduated and VA four years later. Deep breaths for test takers – it’s honestly not as bad as you are thinking it is. PA seemed like a breeze after BarBri and I managed to pass VA with a half-assed sit by the pool and glance at the study books approach. The essay question I got the most points on in PA was the one on which I made up a law.

    I do not recommend talking about the exam or looking up anything in between day 1 or day 2. Just don’t do it. If your friends can’t help themselves, eat alone. I ate and had beers after day 1 with a friend who I knew didn’t really care about the exam (lobbyist who was going to continue being a lobbyist) and wouldn’t talk about it. Yes, I had beers. Both the night before the exam and the night in between days. One beer isn’t going to kill you if it helps you relax.

    I am not saying don’t be prepared, by all means, do what you need to do to feel comfortable, but there are certainly personalities who will get so wound up by worrying about all the prep that it’s counteractive to their productivity. Do what works best for you. Know what you need to bring, definitely make sure your tech is compatible, etc., but don’t work yourself into any more of a tizzy than necessary.

    It’s going to be okay.

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  18. Jen says:

    Bring ear plugs even if you don’t plan to use them. The typing is louder, plus the fire alarm went off during my exam. Hundreds of test takers glanced up, didn’t see spoke and just kept on working.

    July 19, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I agree on earplugs. Some states provide them and don’t let you provide your own. The ones in WA stunk.

      July 19, 2017/Reply
  19. Christine says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I’m one week out from the New York exam and the panic has definitely started to set in. I know it’s not the end of the world if I fail, but I just don’t know how I’d find time to study for a retake with the hecticness of a big law schedule (my job starts in late September whether I pass or not). It’s so comforting to get advice and hear from people who have survived the exam in the past.

    July 19, 2017/Reply
    • Anon says:

      Usually your law firm will give you time off before the exam to study.

      July 20, 2017/Reply
  20. Alison says:

    1. If you can bring unwrapped food, try some jelly beans. Flavors you like and have popped in your mouth during some of your practice test sessions. I needed the sugary pick me up.

    2. I was wiped out after day one. The anxiety, adrenaline, and brain power took it out of me. I drove home, got a sandwich on the way, and jumped in the pool for a few minutes-alone. If you don’t have a pool, think about going for a short walk and stretch (if this is normal for you). My body thanked me the next day, it got my mind off the questions, and helped me relax to be able to fall asleep early-but not at 7pm.

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  21. MCW says:

    Thank you for writing practical, non-panic inducing bar advice. I’ve shared this with everyone I know who is testing next week. Truly, from a longtime reader, thank you. And congratulations on the new job!

    July 19, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      There’s no reason to panic. You’re going to be stressed, it probably can’t be avoided, but you can also set yourself up for success. And no one has died taking a Bar, at least, I don’t think so.

      July 19, 2017/Reply
  22. Ariella says:

    I will just disagree with the recommendation to “Travel 24 Hours Before, at Minimum.” I took two bars: NJ and Wisconsin. I took the written exam in Wisconsin and the MBE the next day. There WAS a direct flight from Madison to Newark, but I was worried I wouldn’t make it, so I took a connection through Detroit. I made it to NJ on time (10:30pm EST), drove to my hotel, and took the bar the next day. And I passed both bars. So … it certainly CAN be done, and I would definitely rather do something like this than wait until February.

    The only real advice I would have had was to practice hand-writing stuff before you go in there if you’re not accustomed to it. But I was recently told that most bar exams are now typed, so I guess that’s like Old Person advice. I definitely agree that you should not study the day before the exam or in between exams. You will not learn anything. The day after I took the Wisconsin written exam, I went to a nearby bar and played pool and ate a burger and fried cheese curds (God bless Wisconsin). Good luck to all those bar-takers out there!

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  23. Kate says:

    If you do go buy a new watch, make sure it makes *no* sounds. None. Get the guy in the store to confirm any sounds have been disabled. I bought a cheapie basic digital watch and didn’t do that; I was totally in the zone writing an essay and didn’t notice an alarm was going off on it until someone behind me threw a wad of balled up scratch paper at my head.

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  24. cee says:

    this was fantastic belle! thank you!!!

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  25. Karen says:

    The very best thing I did pre-exam was go to a friend’s birthday party the Saturday before the test. No one else there was taking the exam, and most people weren’t lawyers either. Getting dressed, going out, and socializing with non-lawyer/law school people made me feel like a normal person again. I really think that mental refresh helped me a lot more than the extra few hours of studying ever would.

    I also took the test during the Great ExamSoft Meltdown of 2014, where ExamSoft’s servers were overloaded and no one could upload their exam. Somehow everyone survived, and all the exams got uploaded. 🙂

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  26. Rachel says:

    I took the bar exam four years ago this month (how is it 4 years already?). Like you, Belle, I was a non-traditional law student so I had years of work experience before law school and the exam, bu there’s something about bar prep that just breaks a soul. Here’s my advice that I haven’t seen elsewhere on this thread:

    Make sure to get a really good night’s sleep on Sunday night. You probably won’t sleep well Monday night so only let yourself get one night’s sleep deficit.

    Stay at a hotel with a continental breakfast. It was just one less thing I had to worry about the two very stressful mornings of the exam.

    Have plans Tuesday night with friends who are not taking the exam. Go out for dinner so you can talk about something other than this horrible test you are taking.

    Have plans Wednesday night with your spouse, significant other, friends to mark your return to normal life. Plus it gives you something to look forward to.

    July 19, 2017/Reply
  27. Katie says:

    Frequent reader, infrequent commenter here. I took the non-UBE Bar exam in my home state in 2015, then took the UBE in a different state this February (February 2019.) I was anxious about juggling work and studying, and was definitely anxious about the Bar itself once the exam rolled around. I know this post is old, but I wanted to comment that these tips were a godsend, especially given that I needed to make up a criminal rule. I followed my made up rule to its logical conclusion, and happily passed the exam. (I discovered later that my made up rule wasn’t too far off base—a litte bonus! My takeaway: even if you can’t remember an exact rule, you have enough context to answer in an intelligent way.) A couple of notes for July test takers: my testing center didn’t allow test takers to wear or bring watches or fitness trackers of any kind, nor did it allow test takers to bring light jackets or warm layers (fleeces, cardigans, hoodies, etc.) with pockets. Make sure to check your testing center rules! For test day, I wore sneakers with socks (the testing room was freezing cold), leggings (no pockets, although pants pockets didn’t seem to be an issue), a long sleeve tee, and a chunky open cardigan without pockets.

    April 9, 2019/Reply