What Should I do the day before the Bar Exam?

Hello Everyone!

I am wishing everyone who is taking the bar exam on Tuesday the very best of luck.

Many examinees ask what they should do the day before the exam. Most feel like they should study. Here is what I recommend:

Make sure you have whatever you need with you for the test. Bring snacks, perhaps something to eat during lunch, any medications that you need or might need (cough drops, cough syrup etc.).

Travel to your hotel, check in and get settled. If you are staying at a hotel that is walking distance to the exam, consider pre-ordering lunch to save time on exam day.

Studying the day before . . .

On Monday your goal is to be in as perfect a spot as possible for Tuesday’s exam. Obviously, anyone sitting for the exam will be nervous, anxious no matter how well they have prepared. With this in mind, one of the most important things is to keep the anxiety under control. For one person, it might mean continuing to review the law, reviewing essays. For another person, it might be having a beer or taking a bath, watching a tv show. Any of these things are fine. Whatever you do, make sure it is something that makes you feel as calm as possible and definitely try to get some sleep.

When I took the bar exam right out law school I could not sleep at all. I stayed up all night the first two days. This worried me quite a bit, but I decided to just do my best to rest – I did not not study. I think if I had studied, even though I could not sleep, that I would have had trouble passing. Fortunately it all worked out and I passed.

Here are some reasons why I think it all worked out for me:

  1. Like everyone, I studied hard. But, many who study hard do not pass. I personally believe that beyond studying, I had a positive attitude. No, I don’t believe that you can smile your way through the bar exam. But, I do firmly believe that if you are positive about what you have to do, that it is easier to handle.
  2. The bar exam is not an IQ test. But, it is a hard test. And being able to navigate it without getting frustrated and discouraged is a feat AND it is necessary. Here are some of the things I told myself during the exam: “Damn this is so hard. But, if it is hard for me, it is impossible for some and for some it is easy.” In other words, I calmed myself down in a realistic way. I constantly told myself I could do it and I constantly stayed at it. There was no time to stare up at the ceiling and think, it is simply write, write, write and write on day one. Day two is grueling as well, but you do your best to keep your head above water.
  3. How does it feel when you are passing the bar exam? It feels like you are failing. You have to get used to that and you have to expect it. For example, on the MBEs let’s say you were scoring 70% or 80% in practice. If so, then you know what it feels like to score 70% to 80%. On the bar exam, passing is about 60%, sometimes a little higher. On exam day, if you are passing it might feel, probably will feel, like you are not doing well – 60% is a D after all. So expect the MBEs on day two to feel different, because they are different.
  4. Remember that the test is fair. I know, especially given recent events, that this might seem untrue. And, no I do not agree with everything that goes on. I have had students who were unable to sign up for the bar exam online and had to sit out the July exam, even though they made multiple attempts to sign up with the bar. But, when you are in the examination room, everything is equal. Everyone has to face the same essays, pt and MBEs. No one is given an unfair advantage (July 2019 is perhaps an exception to that with the early release of the tested topics). But, barring anything like that, everyone has the same exam in front of them and the same opportunity.
  5. Tell yourself constantly that you CAN do this and that you CAN PASS. Start telling yourself that NOW. Continue to tell yourself that throughout the exam. It truly can make all the difference on test day.

I know I was not the smartest person who took the bar exam on the days I took it. But, I also know that smarter people than me failed that same exam. There is a lot to be said for just sticking it out and pushing forward.

All the best to everyone who is taking the bar exam on Tuesday!


Lisa Duncanson
Bar Exam Guru
Founder/Program Director
email: barexamguru@yahoo.com