Four Things I Wish I Knew About My Online Bar Exam
Are you worried about taking an online bar exam? Are you curious about what others who took the bar exam during a pandemic experienced? In this article, I’ll discuss four things I wish I would have known before taking an online bar exam! The first two are exam-day specific, and the second two points relate to preparation for the exam. Be sure to keep them in mind when mentally preparing yourself for exam day!
Four Things I Wish I Knew About My Online Bar Exam
1. Technical glitches might happen, but do not panic!
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people taking an online bar exam at once is bound to produce some sort of technical malfunction. Whether your computer crashes or whether the exam software website lags, the key is not to panic!
I sat for a July online bar exam. My jurisdiction’s test-takers had to log into a website multiple times in order to receive a password. During the second module (out of five), the exam software’s website crashed as hundreds of test takers logged into the site at the same time! Worries about whether or not I would have the full hour to complete the second module flooded my mind. To make matters worse, panicked exam takers swamped the exam software’s technical support phone lines. I couldn’t get through.
Overall, even though the exam software company temporarily resolved the issue in about 15 minutes, the emotional stress I put on myself affected my confidence going into the later modules. One thing I wish I would have kept in mind was not to panic!
On the off chance a software or computer issue does occur with your online bar exam, the key is not freak out when it happens. Panicking will only prevent you from thinking clearly, and it could derail your entire exam strategy. Ultimately, every online bar exam taker should know: Technical glitches are possible! The key is not to panic and continue the exam as calmly as possible in order to prevent panic-induced mistakes!
Check out these tips for staying calm before and during the bar exam!
2. Use your break times wisely!
Given the added stress of taking an online bar exam during a pandemic, many jurisdictions have been more flexible in the way they structure their exam format. My jurisdiction allowed for breaks in between each module and an hour for lunch. Now, you might think, “The more breaks I have in between questions, the more time I’ll have to relax in between questions!” While this is most likely true, don’t let pesky thoughts of how you could have performed differently creep into your break time.
For example, because of my jurisdiction’s exam constraints, once I completed one of my modules, I was unable to return to it and modify my answers. I dreaded each break. All I thought about was my answers, why they might be wrong, or information I forgot to include. However, I should have focused on things I had control over—getting a snack, using the restroom, and taking a brief moment to decompress. Instead of focusing on what I could have done differently, I should have been thinking ahead about what I needed to do.
Some jurisdictions might allow exam takers to revisit an exam answer. If they do, revisit your answers as needed. Ultimately, though, if given breaks during your online bar exam, use your breaks wisely! Get a snack, use the restroom, or stretch your legs. DO. NOT. LOOK. BACK. Concentrate on what you have left to do and regroup for the rest of the exam.
Here are some tips on what to eat during the bar exam to keep you performing at your best!
3. It is necessary to practice taking the exam under similar exam constraints!
This means taking all practice exams in the same place (even the same chair!), learning not to fidget or make noise, and practicing the test using the same tools you will be given on exam day. A bar prep course will prepare your mind to take the exam, but only you can figure out what works best for you when physically taking your online bar exam.
Before my online bar exam, the BLE informed test takers that we would be unable to highlight or underline the exam questions or use scratch paper to take notes. As underlining helps me work through a question and highlight key issues, I became extremely worried about my ability to comprehend a question or synthesize an answer. However, the BLE required test takers to complete multiple practice exams. This allowed me to become familiar with the exam software and figure out how I would attack a question without being able to underline or highlight. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised on test day and didn’t waste time trying to figure it out.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the physical toll that sitting for an online bar exam would take on my body. I took my practice exams on the same laptop, but I did not take them in the same room which I would be sitting in on exam day. While I thought my chair would be comfortable in the short term, as I took the exam, my back and legs hurt. I kept fidgeting. My eyes felt strained. I managed as best I could. I wish I would have known how to truly train my body for the physical constraints of sitting for an online bar exam.
Thus, if you’re taking an online bar exam, sit in the same chair. Use the same lighting. Train yourself not to fidget. Try to duplicate what exam day will feel like so it feels routine come exam day.
4. Preparing for an online bar exam during a pandemic will be a challenge! The key is to dedicate one place solely for bar prep.
Studying for the bar exam is difficult on a normal day. Studying for and taking an online bar exam during a pandemic makes it so much more stressful!
For many people, this means studying for and taking the bar exam in the same place—your house. This can make it difficult to separate “Bar prep life” from “home life,” but it’s imperative that you do so. Learning how to separate the two will help you feel more relaxed come exam day.
I live at home, and I struggled with working around my relatives’ schedules when figuring out when/where to study. Sometimes I would have to study upstairs. Other times, downstairs. downstairs. Occasionally in the kitchen. By constantly having to relocate, I never felt steady when I studied. This made it difficult to concentrate, and going through an outline often took twice as long as it should have.
I wish I would have known to carve out a separate place as my own—a place dedicated solely to my online bar exam preparations. I did this as bar prep progressed, and it made a world of difference. By designating one place as my “Bar Prep Zone,” I was better able to concentrate on my studies. When I was “in the zone,” I was able to focus, and when I left that area, I left bar prep stress behind. I was able to separate my personal life from my bar prep life, allowing me to take the necessary breaks to relax and decompress. You might have to be firm with the people you live with when making your own space, but it is worth it!
Taking an online bar exam during a pandemic will undoubtedly be difficult, and there are many things to keep in mind when preparing for it. However, keep these four tips in mind in order to mentally prepare yourself for exam day!
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