Question: I’m flipping out one week before the Bar Exam, what should I do?
First, take a deep breath, be assured you are far from the only person in this position. Things aren’t hopeless. Especially if you have a good brain in your head, a good head on your shoulders, and can read quickly.
To some extent my advice would vary based on what state you will be taking the bar in because some states offer different practical tests and are known for focusing on specific areas of the law, while other states mainly focus on the same subjects as the multistate. My advice would also vary based on how you got yourself through law school. I was the type who really just read the book the night before the exam. Other people are outliners and copious note takers. What were you?
If you are the type who needed what was going on in the classroom and could use the direction, look and see if you can find one of the 5 day multistate courses some companies offer and/or an online course that you can complete or get pretty far through prior to the bar. I am not familiar enough with the online bar prep courses to know if there is one you can get through quickly. Such things didn’t really exist when I took the bar. But if I found myself in the situation you were in right now, I would take a look.
Moving on from that, here is some general advice.
First step, get your hands on some bar review books. I used BarBri books and they served me well. I went to the class the first day and never went back, so for me, the classes weren’t necessary. Whatever books you get, make sure they are relatively recent.You don’t want out of date law.
Second, you won’t have much time to do sample tests, but you might want to get your hands on some of the essay questions and answers offered by your state. Many states offer this kind of information on their websites. This will give you a sense of what the examiners are seeking and what kinds of questions they ask.
Your main focus should be on the multi-state topics.Those are:
The reason for this is two-fold. First you need to pass the multi-state, second because the states will test on multi-state topics as well.
Then, you need to identify what are the main topics that your state tends to test on. Some research should show you the answer to that question. Those should be the secondary topics you focus on. This is where those questions/answers you find can be useful.
I will remind you something about essay writing. When bar examiners grade your essays they are looking for a number of things, and only part of that is whether you know the law. They are looking for you to IRAC. And the law is just the R of IRAC. That means you might still pass an essay question even if you have no idea what the law is. So if you don’t know the law do the following:
Address the Issue
Make up a rule that seems to be logical
Analyze the issue with your made up rule
Deliver a Conclusion
This is the other reason I tell you to focus on multi-state. You have to know the law for the multi-state to pass it. As I have explained, not necessarily so with the essay portion.
If your test has a practical section, well you should just be aware it has it, what kind it has, and read some information on what the state is looking for in its practical section. You won’t have time to focus on that so I wouldn’t otherwise dwell on it.
In the end, the thing to remember about the bar exam is that you don’t need an A or a B. You just need enough points to pass. So calm down and focus on learning enough to get enough points. Fretting over the fact that it is late and you have a lot to do won’t help you any, let your angst and irritation at yourself go away. It won’t help you pass and is now pointless, wasted energy.
And I 100% agree, you need to go into the bar exam with a fatalistic and relaxed attitude. If you walk in freaked out you are more likely to fail. The bar exam is as much about stress management as anything else.
I hope you find this advice useful. If you want to ask any follow-up questions feel free.
Good luck on the exam!