Legal Law

Passing the Bar Exam – Guidance on Passing It the First Time!

I work with many clients who take the bar exam once and pass it the first time. There is a particular profile that is consistent with the people who take it once and pass.

In my observation, people who take the bar exam once and pass it are completely focused on preparing for and taking this exam. In most cases, they take time off work and work full time to prepare for the exam. If they can’t take time off work, they try to work part-time or organize their home life so they don’t have distractions at home. Many of the people I’ve worked with who have failed repeatedly are juggling multiple distractions with family, work, and outside activities. My advice is to cancel all outside activities for two to three months before taking the bar exam and dedicate yourself 100% to passing this exam. Do your best to achieve this level of commitment.

Identify your best strategy for a focused study. Some people study better with music, others with complete peace of mind. You may find something that symbolically connects you to performing well, like wearing a favorite pair of sweatshirts or lighting a candle. A favorite color, scent, or object can give you a special enhancement. Some people like to study at the kitchen table, where they can quickly access everything they need to limit the time it takes to attend to daily needs. Many people find it impossible to study at home where they are constantly distracted. A common strategy for many people is to study in a library; any library that is conveniently located. Some people check into a motel during the week and spend Saturday and Sunday nights at home taking a break from studying and being with loved ones. What environment is more favorable for you to do your best quality study? Now is the time to give your best effort.

If you are a parent, it is extremely important that you get the help and support of your family and loved ones. Give the cooking and childcare to your spouse, to your mother, to anyone who is willing to invest in the success of your future. I tell people to bribe their spouse with something really nice if they have a great vacation or something their loved one really wants. Is there a hired person or family member who can move in with you for a couple of months to cook, clean, and babysit? If you can’t pay that person, what can you bribe them with? Make it conditional on your death so they are personally involved in your success.

It is important to take time away from books to clear your mind. In the same way that your body needs rest to rejuvenate, so does your brain, especially when your brain is working hard. Find your own pace and the most productive pace and don’t exceed that. Working too hard creates anxiety and fills your mind with more information than it can take in. Some people work better if they study for several hours and then take a longer break. Others work best by studying for an hour or two and then taking a short break. Whatever your pace, stick with it to maintain your highest level of effectiveness.

Exercise is a great way to take a break and subconsciously integrate what you have absorbed. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen to the brain. It has been proven that people who exercise perform better academically. There are two ways to incorporate exercise into your routine. One is to use exercise as designated rest time. The other is to combine your exercise routine to include studying. Some people study with a book on a treadmill or run while listening to a recording. Do you prefer to relax as a break and combine studying with your exercise time or do you use exercise as a way to take a break? Whatever your strategy, don’t give up on your exercise routine. If you don’t have one, this is the time to start. Walk, run, swim, bike, dance to music in your living room, do yoga or pilates, go to the gym, use weights at home, walk up and down your stairs, incorporate it into a minimum 30 minute routine every other day.

Take a full day each week, as well as an evening to spend with family or friends. Spend this time relaxing instead of partying. Go to the movies, watch one at home, have a relaxing dinner, take a walk or bike ride; conserve your energy for your study. Your day off could be the time when you do the laundry, do the grocery shopping, or clean the house. Be sure to also take some time off to relax. Some people can do laundry while they study. Others find this distracting. Instead of taking the time to go to the supermarket, you can order groceries online for delivery to free up more study time or free time. Save time with frozen meals and takeout; it’s temporary, so make up for it with salads, smoothies, healthy shakes, and exercise.

Pay special attention to your nutritional needs at this time when your brain is working overtime. During memorization and learning, the brain requires additional nutrients, especially B vitamins and Omega-3. Learn about foods, such as whole grains, leafy green vegetables, olive oil, and fish, that are high in these nutrients. A good multivitamin, B-complex, and Omega-3 supplement can help give your brain the nutrients it needs. Learn more or consult your health professional for advice on how to use supplements to increase your nutrients. Avoid sugar, caffeine, and other substances. If you’re sleepy, take a nap instead of bombarding your system with stimulants that will weaken you in the long run. This is an important time to operate all systems optimally. Consider your body’s needs for high-quality nutrition, rest, and relaxation.

Another important factor in making it easier to pass the bar exam is the importance of having a vision and a sense of purpose in becoming a lawyer. If you already have an organization or company that you work with, becoming a lawyer already has a context set for you. If you know what kind of law you want to practice and what sector of society you want to serve or represent, then you have a destiny and a vision for yourself. Always keep your mind on your end goal to see where you are going. This is one of the best ways to stay motivated. People who focus on problems, either avoiding them or solving them, lose their motivation when they move away from them or towards solving them. By keeping your eyes on the prize, you’ll see past the problems and automatically solve or avoid problems as you move toward your goal.

Sometimes we set ourselves up externally so that we have an explanation other than our own shortcomings for failing. If your life is filled with constant distractions, for example, then you have an excuse if you fail. Get help to resolve these factors. It is also important to put this experience into your own perspective. The bar exam is just an exam. Don’t make it bigger than that. This is not a life or death situation! Maintain a healthy attitude with a balance of focus and concentration combined with the big picture. One of the best ways to cope and stay motivated is by accessing states of curiosity, optimism, and humor.

Turn off your phone, screen your calls, or get the phone company’s selective ring feature. Let people know that you won’t be available until after the exam. This includes your friends and most of your family. The limited time you have available is best spent with the people who directly support your process. Who your main support is is who you spend your limited free time with. If you have a child, incorporate your breaks at special times each day with your child as part of your designated break time. Family dinner time, a little after school time, and putting your little one to bed for the night, may be the only time you have to make this bar. It is a worthy sacrifice considering what you will have to offer your family after passing the exam.

If you belong to organizations, committees, or anything that is not absolutely essential to your livelihood, please opt out until after the test. You will have much more to contribute to these groups as a licensed attorney. Passing the bar exam should be your top priority.

Take a good bar review course, hire a tutor, or do both. Law school does not always adequately prepare people for the bar exam. Some schools offer better preparation than others, but everyone benefits from a good bar review course. I have not had a single client pass the bar exam the first time that they have not taken a bar review course. A study partner or support person is also very helpful to ask you questions, use flashcards, and help you build your weak areas to make them stronger. Your weak areas can become your greatest strengths when you work on them successfully.

Take the day off the day before the exam. Go to the movies, take a walk, have dinner with your family and don’t study. If a question arises in your mind, it’s okay to seek the answer, but you risk compromising all the good studying you’ve done if you don’t give your mind this vital time to rest and integrate. You will be much more effective when taking the test if your brain can efficiently access what it has been working so hard to learn. If you normally sleep well despite the circumstances, then it will be easy for you to get enough rest the night before. If you sometimes find it difficult to sleep when faced with a challenge, consider using some special relaxation techniques and think ahead. Hypnosis can be a very useful tool to help you sleep well. You can hire a hypnotherapist to help you or use relaxation tapes that you buy or make yourself. Prepare and plan ahead to ensure you get enough sleep.

Plan ahead what and where you will eat your lunch and breakfast, and eat foods that are easy to digest. Find places to eat ahead of time or plan to bring your own food to make sure your body is comfortable while you take the exam. What foods always make you feel better? Plan every step of what you’ll do on test days, including driving routes, parking, restroom locations, and having extras of all your supplies. Find the room where you will take your exam so you know what to expect. Some of these things can be done the day before.

By using Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Thought Pattern Management (TPM), and Hypnotherapy, we can not only make the bar exam experience successful but positive as well. Reducing test-taking stress and anxiety can create a positive and enjoyable experience. Clients reported that they felt so confident and relaxed that they looked forward to taking the exam and enjoyed the challenge and experience of taking it. With NLP and TPM we can create a successful study strategy, a successful test-taking strategy, and create and maintain whatever emotional and psychological state is most useful and resourceful. Even someone with positive internal states can get better and better by increasing states of concentration and confidence. NLP and TPM learning and memorization techniques are also used to increase study efficiency and improve retention and retrieval of facts when needed.

If you can pass law school, you can pass the bar exam! Now is the time to do whatever it takes to pass this exam. Align yourself with all that you need and then do your best. You can’t do anything better than to do the best you can.

By Pati McDermott, CHT.