The bar exam is stressful, intimidating, and downright terrifying. It’s a test that lays the groundwork for your law career, so for many students, failure is not an option. With that said, the day before the bar exam is probably the most stressful day you’ve had up to this point in your life. It might fill you with panic and uncertainty, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
The good news is that the day before the bar can turn from a bad one to a good one with a few simple steps. While the bar exam is intimidating, there are things you can do to ease your mind and boost your chances of success. We’re going to take you through some of the do’s and don’ts for the day before the bar exam.
We’re going to start with the don’ts. Let’s get the hard stuff out of the way.
Don’t Pull an All-Nighter
First and foremost, you want to avoid staying up late. We know that you’re stressed and ready to study all night one last time, but it’s important that you get some rest. In fact, getting less sleep on the night before an exam can drastically reduce your performance.
Getting too little sleep has been linked to many adverse health effects. One example is a lack of mental clarity and concentration. For people that stay up all night, the attention span is reduced and mental place keeping becomes disrupted.
Another impact of sleep loss is an impaired ability to drive a vehicle. People who had less than three hours of sleep—or stayed up all night—are just as dangerous behind the wheel as someone with a moderate buzz from alcohol. So, not only can it impact your test score, but it can put you and others in harm’s way if you’re driving to the exam location.
Don’t Talk about the Test
Another thing you should never do before the bar exam is talk about the test. This seems counterintuitive, but the more you talk about the test the more stressed or anxious you’ll be. Unfortunately, there is no way around this. Plus, this is the one time where it’s more responsible to ignore your problem instead of facing it head-on.
So, instead of talking about the test, take some time to focus on things that make you happy. Spend some time with friends or family, have a nice meal, play some video games, and keep your mind off the test—nothing you do the day before will make the problem go away, so why dwell on it?
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Superstitious
Lots of people are superstitious. Whether you believe in that sort of thing or not is up to you, but it can have positive results. Even if the superstition doesn’t come true, it can create a placebo effect. For example, if you think chocolate is essential brain food, it might become one for you.
Furthermore, superstitions can increase your confidence. If you’re wearing your favorite studying shirt you might feel more confident than if you were wearing a random shirt. Examples like this might sound silly, sure, but you’ll be surprised by how well this works for the mind. Even if something feels weird, if it brings you comfort, it’s almost always worth it.
This one will probably make you scratch your head. You’ve spent days, months, or maybe even a year studying for the bar exam…just to simply stop the day before the big test? While it goes against every instinct you have, you should avoid studying on the day before an exam.
This is because studying can cause you to fall into many of the other don’ts the day before the bar exam. For example, studying can cause you to stay up too late or make you think and talk about the exam, which are major don’ts before the bar. Plus, studying the day before can cause mental fatigue that prevents you from doing your best work.
While we advise against studying the day before the bar exam, there are studying methods you can use that are safer than pulling an all-nighter. Try using techniques like the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique breaks study sessions up into short intervals to keep you mentally fresh. There are also other methods like the 9/20 rule, which is 90 minutes of studying followed by 20 minutes of rest.
Still, make sure you don’t stay up late, and go to bed at a reasonable time. Regardless of where you are study-wise, sleep is always more important on the day before the bar exam.
Don’t Hit the Snooze Button
If you’re waking up with an alarm, like most humans, you likely hit the snooze button a few times before getting out of bed. While hitting the snooze button feels good in the moment, it can ruin your morning. This is because your brain is most likely finishing up the last sleep cycle (REM) before you wake up.
When you lay your head back down on the pillow to sleep, you’ll enter REM sleep again. Unfortunately, this part of the sleep cycle is deep and hard to wake up from. In fact, if you do this multiple times, it will only get worse. Sadly, it turns out that getting an extra five to ten minutes of sleep is hurting you instead of helping you.
Don’t Let Stress Take Over
Finally, don’t let stress take over. Stress is the enemy of productivity and can cause you to spiral into unpleasant bouts of anxiety and paranoia. While stress is essential sometimes, it’s the last thing you want to be feeling the day before the bar exam.
Unfortunately, stress is difficult to manage. You can’t always control when it comes or how it impacts you. With that said, we recommend using meditation techniques to take your mind off stress. If you’re not a fan of meditation, make an effort to exercise because it has similar mood-boosting effects on the mind and body.
While there are more things you shouldn’t do on the day before the bar exam, these are the major obstacles you’ll face. If you can conquer these, you can begin to focus on what you should do on the day before the bar.
Now that you know what not to do before the bar exam, it’s time to look at some methods you can use to boost your chances of success.
We’ll start with getting organized. Organization is one of the best bar preparation methods out there. Being organized is challenging, yes, but it can make test day less of a hassle. You don’t want to be scrambling to find your laptop or pencils with only an hour to spare, right?
There are many ways to get organized, but we recommend starting simple. Gather all of the materials you’ll need for the exam and have them ready to go before test day. Furthermore, you can organize your items so that they’re easily accessible. Every state has different requirements, but here is a list of some things you might want to have organized for test day:
- Your laptop
- Chargers for your phone or laptop
- Earplugs or headphones
- Water bottles and snacks
- Your outfit
- A watch
If you know where all of these items are in advance, you’ll have a more relaxing morning before sitting for the test. Plus, you’ll avoid unnecessary stress.
Have Some Carbs
Have you ever looked at what athletes eat the night before a big game? Usually, it’s a meal filled with carbs, fat, and protein. This is because athletes need a lot of energy to participate in games and remain focused. Plus, eating that type of meal right before the game leads to a crash.
With that said, you might not be an athlete, but the bar exam is long and strenuous. If you want to stay focused, it’s important to provide your body with the fuel to do so. Therefore, make sure you leave yourself time to relax and have a nice dinner.
Take the Night Off
When it comes to things to do before the bar exam, we don’t have many activities for you. This is because it’s best to take the night off and rest. Don’t open a book to study. Instead, binge Netflix or do something that’ll take your mind off the impending exam.
We know how ridiculous this sounds, but resting before the exam will give your mind and body time to recover. A night of relaxation before the exam will leave you feeling calmer and more focused on the day of the test.
Focus on Positive Visualization
You should try and make the day before the bar a positive one. Instead of focusing on failing the exam or how difficult it’s going to be, take a glass-half-full approach instead. Picture yourself conquering the exam. While it sounds silly, picturing yourself passing the exam boosts your chances of passing it.
The science is new but it’s clear that there is a relationship between success and positive thoughts. In fact, the process of hyping yourself up has helped weightlifters lift heavier weights—just because they pictured themselves doing it. The good news is that even if you’re not a weightlifter you can still achieve this, because it’s all mental.
We know that it gets repetitive hearing things like “stay positive,” but being positive is a true game-changer.
Set Multiple Alarms
One alarm is not good enough. If you’ve used one alarm you know how tempting it is to hit the snooze button and forget about it. Unfortunately, hitting the snooze button one too many times can cause you to miss the exam, which is catastrophic. Still, even if you don’t miss the test, waking up late or too close to test time will make you feel groggy and fatigued.
To prevent this from happening, it’s best to set multiple alarms. If you use your phone, set a bunch of alarms and keep them thirty minutes apart. With that said, we recommend using separate alarms. For example, you can use your phone alarm alongside a louder, traditional alarm. This has a chance of waking you up more successfully.
With these alarms, you should also leave time for a good morning routine. Instead of getting ready and heading right to your test location, set your alarm early enough to enjoy your morning. Have a light breakfast and relax before running out the door.
Plan Your Celebration
This relates to our visualization method. Positive thoughts will only take you so far, so we recommend planning your celebration in advance to give you some extra motivation. If you’re confident that you know everything you need to know, what’s holding you back from getting a head start?
You don’t have to go crazy, but make plans to celebrate after you take the exam. Even if you don’t know what your score will be, having something to look forward to after the exam helps relieve stress and anxiety. Plus, we think you deserve to relax and take a breather after weeks or months of heavy studying.
So, don’t be afraid to plan your victory and cut loose after you take the exam. It will give you more confidence on test day and give you a nice motivational boost.
The day before the bar exam is a tough day and your future hangs in the balance. While this is a heavy weight to carry, don’t let it get to you. Don’t give in to stress or the temptations of pulling an all-nighter. Instead, focus, relax and visualize your success on test day. With that said, we wish you the best of luck!