With the Bar Exam fast approaching, we wanted to provide a few practical tips for the bar exam you may not think about. Here is our top 10 list…
Before the Exam
1. Start sleeping early. If you haven’t done so already, begin adjusting your sleep schedule for the exam now. That means don’t stay up until 2am cramming. Your body needs time to get in a sleep routine, and if you want to have any chance at falling asleep early the night before the exam, get the ball rolling now. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man (or woman) healthy, wealthy and wise!”
2. Exercise! Try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. After sitting on your rear for 8-12 hours reviewing, you need to get your heart pumping and your legs moving. Not only will you physically feel better, you will mentally feel more refreshed. As an extra benefit, you will also have a much easier time falling asleep at night.
3. Make your decision regarding earplugs now. If you are worried about being distracted during the exam by unwanted noises, try wearing earplugs. But, don’t wait until the bar exam to try them out! Believe it or not, using earplugs can be extremely distracting if you are not used to wearing them. Although they block out external noise, they amplify any noises inside your head. No, not the voices in your head! But, if you swallow, have any mints in your mouth, or click/grind your teeth, it will be annoyingly amplified and distracting. So, try earplugs now to see whether you’ll want to use them come exam day.
4. Reserve a hotel near the test center. If you live more than 45 minutes from the test center, we highly recommend staying at a nearby hotel. The last thing you want to deal with is rush hour traffic on your way to the exam, and then rush hour traffic on your way home. Staying at a nearby hotel also ensures you will arrive at the test center on time. Don’t let unexpected traffic, road construction, train delays, or bad weather make you late for the exam. Spend the extra $50-100 and consider it an insurance policy for your legal career. As a side note, we’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that there is a higher passage rate for those who stay at a Holiday Inn Express.
5. Do not use sleeping pills! So, it’s the day before the exam and (a) you totally ignored tip #1, or (b) despite your best efforts, your nerves are still preventing you from falling asleep. While taking a pill seems like an easy solution, it is a recipe for disaster the next morning. A more practical (and fun) alternative? Have a couple glasses of wine! It will take the edge off without having the drowsy side effects in the morning. Obviously don’t drink the whole bottle, just enough to relax.
On Exam Day
(Note: Each exam center has its own set of rules, including a list of approved items you can bring into the exam. Double check this list before exam day!)
6. Nutrition is important! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the bar exam is no time to skip it! But, what should you eat? When choosing what to eat for breakfast, the most important thing to consider is your blood sugar levels. The goal is to keep your blood glucose within the optimal range of 90-120. If it goes too low, your ability to concentrate and focus will diminish significantly, and your mood will shift in a downward manner. If your levels are too high, you will feel tired and weak (a.k.a. food coma). Because blood sugar is elevated most rapidly by sugars and simple carbohydrates, the goal is to avoid carby foods at breakfast like pancakes, waffles, Danishes, processed cereals, etc.
Eggs, cottage cheese, bacon, chicken sausage, and Greek yogurt are all great high protein, low carb options. Also, try to include some slow digestible carbs like whole grain toast, whole grain cereal, and unsweetened fruit such as berries, apples or oranges.
The key is to maintain your energy and glucose levels throughout the day. So, in addition to a good breakfast, be sure to eat a healthy, low carb/slow carb lunch like a salad with chicken or salmon, a whole wheat tortilla wrap or a bun-less chicken sandwich. NO PIZZA, NO BURGERS AND FRIES, and NO CHOCOLATE SHAKES!
7. Get to the exam early! Because you should always expect the unexpected, be sure to arrive at the exam at least 1 hour early. There is nothing worse than frantically rushing around before the exam. What if you get lost or stuck in traffic on the way to the exam? What if you have trouble finding a parking spot? What if you forget your pencils, power cord or laptop fan in the car? The last thing you need is additional stress. So, allow for ample time to arrive at the test center and get settled.
8. Bring a wrist watch (If your test center allows it!). You won’t be allowed to use your phone, and you can’t rely on there being a functional/easily viewable clock in the exam room. We highly recommend a Rolex, both for the immediate boost in self-confidence and the ability to distract your neighbors with unexpected bling. If out of your price range, consider be-dazzling a Casio.
9. Keep your breath fresh! Not just for the sake of those sitting next to you after lunch, but more importantly, to keep your mind focused. In case you didn’t know, the scent of peppermint has a stimulating effect on the brain. We recommend bringing one of those little containers of Icebreaker mints or Altoids (If your test center allows it!) , and popping one every hour or so. The stronger the mint, the better. Trust us on this one. It really works!
Some testing centers do not allow food or gum. Although, we’ve never heard of anyone having a problem with a small container of mints, you should bring a few extras and stick them in your pocket just in case. We have done this in CA, NY and NV with no problems.
10. Make sure your laptop is good to go! If you are using your laptop, here are a few things to consider:
(A) Be sure that you have Exam Soft loaded and working properly;
(B) Make sure your laptop battery is fully charged and bring a spare. There is no guarantee that the power supply at the exam center will be reliable. If power cuts out 5 minutes into the exam, guess who’s handwriting their essays….not you! Because you came prepared! (Some exam centers may not allow spare batteries. Check your admission ticket for any restrictions);
(C) Bring an external mouse. Using a mouse will allow you to navigate/highlight/copy and paste much quicker during the essay and Performance Test portions of the exam;
(D) Finally, bring a laptop fan if your computer tends to overheat (If your test center allows it!). You can find a small, quiet fan for under $10. You don’t want your laptop overheating in the middle of an essay!
That’s all for now. We hope you found these tips helpful!
Team Lean Sheets
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