10 Things Only Someone Who’s Taken the Bar Exam Would Know

ByBrian Prendergast

1. I never want to do it again.

I will not move to any state that requires me to take another bar exam. Sorry, New York, California, Arizona, Florida, and all the other states that do not allow reciprocity. I would only take another bar if an employer required me to do so and it was a really good job (I mean a really, really good job).

2. As difficult as it is to admit, it's harder on your spouse or significant other.

If the significant other has no prior experience taking a professional exam of this magnitude, he or she can't really understand what you are going through, the random waves of panic and stress that wake you up in the middle of the night, or the mood swings that come from nowhere and are strong enough to make you change religions. Hard as they may try to empathize, it’s not a mental state that can be manufactured. Significant others need to realize that there is nothing you can do to make you feel better, normal, or less stressed, and it’s best to just back off and wait for the calm after the storm (they should be prepared to wait for a while).

3. Sign up for a bar course.

Sure, they are exorbitantly expensive and you can certainly pass the bar without using one, but it adds a certain level of confidence just from being enrolled and having some instruction. Confidence is not something that any bar exam-taker has in abundance going into the test, so it’s best not to deplete what little you have with looming thoughts like, “I hope I don't fail because I didn't pony up a little cash when my entire career was in the balance.”

4. Get out of town.

My girlfriend and I spent the last month before the bar in Michigan at her parents’ house. We had Internet, but no cable and very few distractions. We would get up in the morning, take a walk on the beach, and then start studying. I realize that not everyone has a getaway at their disposal, but if you do, don't waste it. 

5. Find an outlet.

Mine was Breaking Bad and Modern Family. Whenever I was really burned out, I would reward myself by watching an episode or two. Your brain needs to think about other things from time to time. 

6. If you can, plan a trip.

If you are going to put yourself through hell for four months, you might as well have something to look forward to. I know that traditionally people schedule bar trips right after the exam, but to me, that is silly. First of all, at least allow enough time between the bar and your trip so that you aren't stressed about your trip in addition to the bar. Furthermore, if you go right after the bar, you still won't know if you passed and you can’t possibly enjoy yourself as much. I suggest planning a trip for after you receive your results (which is a few months later.) We went to Costa Rica in January and with every dollar we spent, I just said, "F*ck it; we passed the bar!"

7. Test your computer extensively beforehand.

I am actually convinced that I would not have passed the bar if I had to handwrite my exam. Not only would no one be able to read my chicken scratch, but it also puts you at a huge disadvantage from an editing standpoint.

8. Ear Plugs.

They are extremely helpful in a room full of people aggressively typing on computers.

9. Don't eat lunch at the test site.

This is going to sound very middle school, but I had my mom pick me up at the lunch break. We drove to a secluded block a few streets over and I ate my sandwich while looking over some outlines. For one, this gave me a little time to study in peace and prepare for the afternoon. More importantly, however, I didn't have to listen to all the other testers talk about their answers. 

10. Remember that everyone is just as scared sh*tless as you are.

That is the best piece of advice I can give.