How to Approach the Week Before the Bar Exam

You’ve spent months preparing for the bar exam and it’s finally down to the last week. A lot of students will start feeling their anxiety building in the days leading up the exam and it’s totally normal to be wondering what can be done in this last week. There are some things all students should make sure they’re doing to assure they’re fully prepared to crush the bar exam.

1. You should be taking care of your physical health.

Get yourself on a solid sleep schedule, if you aren’t already. If you’re having problems with insomnia—which isn’t unusual in times of stress—now is the time to deal with it before the test days come. You want to arrive at the bar well-rested and ready to go.

It may sound like a small thing, but you need to be overly cautious about your health, even if it seems extreme. Wash your hands more frequently, take vitamin C supplements, and avoid eating or drinking anything unfamiliar. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from students who were totally prepared for the exam, but failed because of things like they were distracted with a cold or showed up the day of the bar exam with food poisoning.

2. You should be taking care of your mental health.

One of the best things you could do for yourself in this last week is to keep your stress level as low as possible. That means going out of your way to do things you know relax you as well as avoiding situations that are stressful. I’ve seen too many students who studied well and then blanked out on the test because they were so stressed out in the days leading up to the bar exam.

Be practical. Now is not the time to sort out any relationship problems and you shouldn’t be getting into any big arguments with anyone close to you. Unless it’s an emergency, it can and should wait until after the bar. If things like the news or social media stress you out, do a week-long media blackout for yourself.

Whatever you need to do to keep your stress level low, do it. Don’t be afraid to make up low-stress rules for yourself and enforce them even when you’re with friends and family. Also make sure you’re setting aside time to relieve stress. That could mean taking a bubble bath, playing video games during study breaks, or going for a run in the morning. You should be doing whatever works for you and feeling no guilt about taking care of yourself during this time. It will pay off.

3. Don’t plan for a cram session.

It’s extremely unlikely that during a cram session you will cram anything new into your brain in the last week of studying. Instead of thinking you’ll do some kind of “quick recap” of every single subject on the bar—there are just too many—pick out a few subjects that you feel are weak points for you and focus on those.

A cram session usually leads to students blanking out on the test, because they’ve over-worked themselves to the point of stress in the last couple days before the bar exam. You want to avoid this as much as possible and just focus on whatever you’re least confident about. You’ll fill out your bar prep and walk in with confidence the first day of the exam.

4. Have a positive plan of attack for the test days.

Have the days planned out logistically so that they’re completely seamless. That means knowing exactly where the test location is, knowing where to park, having your hotel plans sorted out if you’re staying in a hotel, finalizing all childcare plans if you need them, making sure any medications you take are fully refilled, etc. Taking care of all of this ahead of time will help you feel more prepared and in-control when it comes time to take the test.

Also make sure you know the rules as far as what you can and cannot bring in to the exam. You don’t want to have spent so much time preparing for the exam only to be disqualified for having brought something in that you weren’t supposed to. Yes, they really are that strict.

Ultimately, you just want to be at the top of your game, mentally and physically. Focusing on bringing your best self to the exam will be the most important thing you can do yourself in this last week.

Good luck next Tuesday!