Taking bar exam practice tests under testing conditions is incredibly important. I’ll use a few illustrations that will illuminate why.
Practice Makes Perfect
Have you ever been on a sports team? Or in a theatre company, dance company, or orchestra? Hopefully you have so that you can relate to what I’m about to say.
Think about the recent NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors. If they didn’t practice incessantly, would they have won? If each player had not spent years building up their physical ability, strength, and endurance, would they be on the team? If the team hadn’t spend months practicing together, would they be the champs?
Of course not.
The coach wants the team to win, so he is going to put the players through their paces. Each player needs to build up their skills, stamina, and endurance. The team needs to become a well-oiled machine capable of destroying its opponents.
Now think about a theatre company. Would they ever just put on a production without endless rehearsals, up to and including a number of “dressed rehearsals”?
If you’ve ever been in a professional production you know that the answer to that is a resounding NO!
The director wants the show to succeed. He is going to drill those actors until he irons out every wrinkle. That includes the acting, pace, costumes, props, and lighting. He wants no surprises once the curtain goes up on opening night.
If a player on the team doesn’t keep up his stamina, he will sit out the game on the bench. If an actor doesn’t practice in costume, she may fall flat on her face opening night when she trips over her gown.
Like the famous question, “How do you make it to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, practice, practice!!!
What Does This Have to Do with the Bar Exam?
Think about this question. Should students who are about to take the biggest, most important test in their lives, go in without “dressed rehearsals”? Using the examples above it is easy to see how going in without practice runs could wind up biting you in the backside.
If you’ve never sat through two days of constant testing before, how do you know what obstacles you may encounter? Without practice tests you may not discover that dehydration and a horrible headache set in by 2pm, so you need to drink a lot of water on test day.
Or conversely, you may not find out that drinking too much makes you run to the bathroom every 30 minutes. That will cost you precious time if you don’t limit your intake on test day.
What if you don’t anticipate that 3:00pm lull? If you never ran through the process you won’t know until test day when the clock strikes three and you find yourself nodding off to sleep instead of answering your MBE questions.
And if you’ve never tested in a room as cold as a meat locker you may not know that being cold locks up your ability to focus. The importance of layers here cannot be overstated.
The examples above are only a few of the possible things that could throw you off your game on test day. Yet they illustrate a clear point. You need some trial runs in order to perform your best.
How to Run Bar Exam Practice Tests
First, find out everything you can about your testing situation. Sometimes your school will have a bar prep instructor who can tell you anything you need to know. Or you could talk to people who’ve taken the exam at your testing center and ask questions.
How many people where in the room? Was it hot or cold? How hot/cold? What were they allowed to bring in with them? Where are the bathrooms and what is the protocol for breaks during the exam?
It is good to know as much as possible beforehand. Then, try to simulate the environment the best you can when you take your Bar Exam practice tests. Some bar prep courses have practice test days that try to mimic the actual test environment.
If yours does, take advantage of it. Go in as if it were the exam. Take it seriously.
Make It Happen
If you have no such opportunity, then try your best to create it. Practice with distractions, as there will always be distractions during the bar exam.
There will be 100’s if not 1000’s of other test takers in the room with you on test day. They will all be stressed out. It’s an intense environment. It can also be noisy. If you are in a room where everyone is typing essays, it will sound like heavy rain.
For me, my nemesis during those two days was a person who had a cold sitting to my left and back a few rows. This person’s constant, loud, disgusting coughing and sniffling was maddening until I put in my earplugs. Even the plugs did not completely drown out this incessant noise, but at least I was able to concentrate a bit better.
So practice someplace that is noisy. Maybe a coffee shop, a bustling bookstore, or a library that is public and loud.
Start small by practicing mini-MBE’s. In other words, start by doing 33 questions in one hour with all that noise. See how you function. Identify what bothers you most and find a solution. Then do it again, and work up to 66 questions in 2 hours, and 100 questions in 3 hours.
Then do the same with the essays, and practical portions of the exam.
Build Up Stamina
If you do this routinely, you are conditioning yourself. You are building up your stamina and endurance, much like the NBA players prepping for the big game. After you have your endurance, it’s time for the marathon.
Either through your school, or on your own, run through at least one full exam in real time. Again, try to get as close to the test conditions as possible when running this exam.
If you have time, do it twice. Or three times. You will be so glad you did on test day!
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