Studying for the Bar Exam: 3 Pre-Game Tips

You are about to begin one of the most daunting tasks of your life. Studying for the Bar Exam. If you want pass, you are going to have to treat the study period seriously. So here are some tips your study time.

Before You Begin to Study

1. Make a PLEDGE to yourself, a daily mantra. Begin before you even start studying, and continue throughout the entire process. Mine went something like this,

    “I WILL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO BEAT THIS EXAM!
    I WILL TAKE THIS BAD-BOY ONLY ONCE!!!”

You may think this unnecessary, or even silly. But never doubt: frame of mind is everything.

When I was studying for the Bar, I had a conversation with our instructor. Towards the end, she made a comment I’ll never forget. She told me that I was going to pass.
studying for the bar exam, question marks
“WHAT?! How can you know that?” I shrieked. She explained that after years instructing Bar Prep she could “just tell” who was going to pass, and she was always right. The telltale signs were in the tone of a student’s voice, the conviction with which they spoke, and how they allowed little room in their thoughts for the concept of failing.

When you think about it, this makes sense. We do what we believe we can do. So repeat this mantra to yourself as often as necessary, especially when you begin to panic! For more information on this important topic, see Passing the Bar Exam: How to Harness Your Mind to Succeed.

2. Create Your Perfect Study Spot

It doesn’t matter where, but you will be spending a great deal of time here over the next few months. So put some thought into this before you actually begin studying. For me, this was critical.

So I took about three days and PREPARED MY SPACE.

I know myself. I know that if I sit in one place for too long, I get antsy. I know that if my back hurts, I start focusing on that instead of studying. I know that to avoid this antsy, distracted feeling, I have to change positions frequently, and each position needs to be comfortable.

studying for the bar exam, study space
I had a big house and a big bedroom. I knew I’d be most comfortable there, so I started by clearing out and deep cleaning my bedroom. Then I put a wonderful reclining chair in one corner, with a table next to it and a light just behind the chair.

PRESTO! This was my perfect, main study spot. For repositioning, I also had my bed, and two chaise lounges set up.
 

Then I considered the ambiance. I hate silence. I knew I would need some white noise, or study music for my space. I bought 3 DVD’s with classical music, and wonderful images of waterfalls, studying for the bar exam, relaxationnature, and breathtaking landscapes. My favorite was Carribean Waves.

This helped me so much by creating a coffeehouse-type atmosphere. When my brain was maxed-out I could lay back in my recliner for as long as I needed to soak in the beauty of the Caribbean, breathe, and get washed away for a while.

Now I had my perfect little study chamber. My home for the next 3 months.

So take the time. Be honest with yourself and think about what really helps you zero in on the task at hand. Determine what will help you to focus intensely for long periods of time.

What types of breaks are best for you? What cleanses your mental and emotional palate when you are on overload? Create your perfect study space, and then enjoy!

3. Eliminate all distractions.

I cannot possibly stress this one enough!

Start with a list of potential distractions. This is different for each of us. You know yourself. Make a list. Put it in writing. And then address each potential distraction. How will you handle it? How can you avoid, or at least minimize it? Now on to some general guidelines.

Jobs

FIrst, let’s talk about work. Most jobs, particularly law-related jobs, will allow you some time off to study. Perhaps you could take personal time? Check with your supervisor, and your budget. See if it is possible to stop working for at least 2 months. If it is at all possible, make it happen. Even if it hurts your pocketbook. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.

Life: Get Things Done Ahead of Time

Make a list of “to do’s” that will come up over the next few months. Then, get anything you can done before your study period begins. studying for the bar exam, to do list

  • Pay all bills ahead of time. Or get someone else to do it.
    That’s what significant others are for, isn’t it!?
  • Get all important business done.
  • Get all important phone calls out of the way.
    • If Grandma, Aunt Sue, or your BFF will be pissed if they don’t hear from you for three months, CALL THEM NOW! Include “The Talk” (see below) in this conversation.
  • Get all Dr. appointments out of the way, or schedule them for after the exam.
  • Minor emergencies.
    • The car breaks down.
    • Your child needs to be picked up from school early.
    • Your dog got bit by a wasp.
    • You get the idea.
    • Set up a contingency plan. You’ll need someone who loves you enough to sacrifice for you. Ask them to cover these events if at all possible.

Have “The Talk”
 
You must have a conversation with everyone who is routinely in your life. That includes spouse or significant other, kids, parents, in-laws, friends etc. You must officially put them on notice that you will be in ‘bar prep hibernation mode’ for however many months you need. (I recommend three months, but you will prepare your own study schedule. See Bar Exam Study Schedule.)

Explain the huge mountain you are facing, explain what is riding on the outcome of this exam. Make it clear that you must exit life for a while.

Handling Needy People

Hopefully, you are surrounded by supportive people in your life! They will understand and support your efforts. If that is not the case, then do your best to keep the concessions minor.

For instance, if your significant other is not happy about the prospect of seeing your head buried in books for the next 3 months, then compromise and schedule a date night once per month. You could probably use a little time off, so go ahead. As long as they promise to be there for you the rest of the time, and help in any way they can.

Social Media

studying for the bar exam, social media
Finally, turn off your phone! Block Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat! They are evil and will suck up more of your time than you can fathom.

Seriously, it is far too tempting to indulge in these diversions. When you have your head buried in Contracts, or Article 2 of the UCC, if you get a ping on your phone or computer that someone has messaged you…it will be SO TEMPTING to click on that evil notification!

Now if you have Herculean discipline and are SURE that you can click on it, look at it for just a minute or two and get right back to the UCC, then sure. Go ahead. But MOST of us are not that strong. Just admit it beforehand. Most of us will welcome the diversion. We will tell ourselves that it “will only take a minute,” and we could use the break.

However, if you succumb to this lie, don’t be shocked when 45 minutes later you are still on some online tangent that began with a ping. You can lose hours this way. It is a serious distraction. Turn off all media and notifications while studying if you want to pass.

If that gives you convulsions, just remember that after your study time for the day is over you can indulge in it all you want!

Ready to put your study plan into action? Get started by checking out our video on how to study effectively:

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