bar exam experienceHow to plan your bar exam experience

Many people travel to take the bar exam. This means that you are not sleeping where you normally sleep or eating what you normally eat. Which means that you have a lot to plan out ahead of time! It is important to take time to plan your bar exam experience so that you minimize anxiety and unnecessary stress, and maximize your chances of passing the bar exam.

You may be surprised by what you actually prefer when you take the bar exam. We have found that people value different things when taking the bar exam. For example, some value convenience. Others value luxury. Others value alone time. You may value something else altogether– like frugality, or spending time with supportive friends and family.

Your preference impacts where you choose to stay, what you choose to eat, and various other decisions you make about the bar exam.

We recommend that when you plan your bar exam experience, you consider this important question: what do you prefer when you are stressed out? For example, maybe when you travel on vacation you like to stay in a luxurious big room, but when you are stressed out, you care more about convenience–planning exactly where you will be, not having to worry about traffic, etc. Or maybe you generally like to be around people but when you are stressed out you prefer to be isolated.

If you have trouble considering what you prefer, think about what you did (or do) during final exams in law school.

  • Do you get to the exam room super early, worry about traffic, and want to know exactly where you will be and when? If so, you may value convenience when you are stressed.
  • Do you prefer to be by yourself and not chat with other test takers before or after the exam? If so, you may value alone time when you are stressed.
  • Do you prefer to treat yourself to a nice breakfast, rich latte, “spa day” or something to get you relaxed before or after exams? If so, you may value “luxury” or treating yourself.
  • Do you prefer something else? Maybe you call a parent or friend before or after the exam? Maybe social or family support is really important to you.

These are just some questions you may want to think about when planning your bar exam experience. You may find that you prefer a variety of things. The important thing is to think about it ahead of time!

bar exam experienceWhere you stay:

If you are traveling to the bar exam, where you stay will be affected by what you prefer when you are stressed out.

  • If you prefer convenience, you will likely want to stay as close to the testing center as possible. This minimizes concerns about traffic, parking congestion, delays, etc. You may be able to walk to the testing center and perhaps even visit your exam seat ahead of time.
  • If you prefer alone time, you may want to stay farther away from the testing center so you are not constantly surrounded by test takers. Some even prefer to book an Air BnB rather than a hotel so that they don’t have to interact with other test takers.
  • If you prefer luxury, you may want to book a hotel room farther from the testing center so you can be by yourself and get a better room. You may also prefer to book a suite or a hotel with a big bath, spa package, or something similar.

What you eat:  

  • If you prefer convenience, you may want to pack “on the go” snacks or have a family member or friend make sure that lunch is ready for you in between portions of the exam.
  • If you prefer alone time, you will likely not want to eat anywhere near the testing center. Some students eat lunch in their car or arrange to eat somewhere nearby by themselves or with a family member or friend who did not take the exam.
  • If you prefer luxury, you may want to plan a nice meal the day before the exam and/or the days of the exam. You may also want to treat yourself between exam sections to reward yourself for your work.

Other decisions relating to your bar exam experience:

  • Guests: There are other decisions you will inevitably make when you plan your bar exam experience. For example, some test takers prefer that a significant other or a parent stays with them during the exam. (This can make things less stressful – maybe you can be dropped off at the testing center rather than worrying about parking, or maybe whoever is staying with you can make sure a spot is reserved for lunch in between exam portions. However, some people find it more stressful to have someone with them and prefer to be alone.)
  • Activities before and after the bar exam: You may also want to consider what you prefer to do both before and after the bar exam. For example, if you value convenience, you may not want to plan anything too intricate or too far away from your hotel room the evening before the bar exam. If you value alone time, you may prefer to avoid other test takers altogether both before and after the bar exam (you may prefer, instead to celebrate post-bar exam with friends who did not take the bar exam). If you value luxury, you may want a massage or relaxing evening planned the evening before the bar exam.
  • Forums, blogs, and social media. Another thing to consider when planning your bar exam experience is how much interaction you want with the online community. Even if you are “alone” you can be surrounded by people with opinions on every single bar exam question. Consider ahead of time if you want to delete your social media and ignore blogs and forums. Or if you want to interact with and commiserate with others. It really depends on your personality and your preference. The important thing is to consider this ahead of time rather than spending hours on a forum after the essay day only to realize you are extremely stressed out and can’t sleep that night.

While planning out your bar exam experience may seem like an unusual idea, it can be quite important to do so. Not only will you make informed decisions that are tailored to you, but you will also make decisions that are good for your mental health. Further, the less anxious you are, the more likely you are to be successful on the bar exam.

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