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Recap of the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam

I survived the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam!   I never want to do that again.  I’m grateful for the love and support of my family, friends, and professional mentors during this time.  I wanted to share my top 5 tips of what I’m glad I knew or wish I knew going into the test.

  1. An assortment of Jolly Rancher candies

    Image via Wikipedia

    Eat a Filling Breakfast: We had to be at the convention center at 6:45am on Day 1 of the test and we weren’t going to break for lunch until 12pm.  In the week before the exam I did a breakfast experiment and found that oatmeal made with ½ cup water, ½ cup milk, raisins, sliced almonds, and brown sugar kept me full all morning.  I was so nervous on both mornings of the test that it was hard to force myself to eat, but I knew that would be better than getting half way through the morning and being starving.

  2. Sleep:  I’ve heard it takes the body 2 days to feel tired after a bad night of sleep so the night that really mattered was 2 days before the test.  I often have insomnia, especially when I’m nervous.  I took a sleeping pill 2 nights before the test to ensure that my body and brain would get adequate rest.
  3. Take the Free Lunch:  ASU did a very cool thing and provided lunch for us during the bar exam.  It was nice not having to worry about getting lunch in just over an hour and having to deal with the general public.  ASU even humored a superstition that many people in my class have and provided Jolly Ranchers for us.  It was also nice to see some friendly faces from the school.
  4. Prepare for Arctic Conditions:  When the Arizona Bar Exam is in Phoenix, it’s held at the convention center, and it’s freeeeezing.  I heard about this and wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt on Day 1.  By lunch, my lips were blue and I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers.  I asked a proctor if we could raise the temperature in the room and she dismissed my request saying that “It’s always this cold.”  For Day 2, I wore a thicker fleece and I was more comfortable, thought by the end of the day, my feet had started to go numb.  I should have brought an extra long-sleeved shirt, fingerless gloves, and a lap blanket.
  5. Do What Works For You:  When I’m running in a race and being passed by other people, I often remind myself that I need to run at my pace.  The same idea works for the bar exam.  It didn’t matter how fast or slow the people around me were going.  There was no need for me to freak out when someone finished and walked out of the room with an hour left on the clock.  All that mattered was that I was thinking clearly and answering the questions to the best of my abilities, and ultimately passing.
Standardized Test

Image by biologycorner via Flickr

I gave it my all on this test.  When I walked out, I had no brain power left.  Since the test, I have been sleeping a lot and slowly been regaining my cognitive functions.  I’m glad that I’m spending my first week after the test on vacation where I don’t have to see anything related to law school or the bar exam.

To the loved ones of people taking the bar exam:  The best thing my family did for me during my bar prep was to give me space.  From the time I graduated until the bar exam, my family never called me.  I occasionally called them to let them know I was alive.  They knew to leave me alone and let me do what I needed to do.

I need to give a special shout out to the woman who went into labor during Day 2 of the New Jersey Bar Exam.  She calmly finished her exam, walked across the street to the hospital, and delivered a healthy baby boy 2 hours later.  You are a phenomenal person.  I hope the labor pains didn’t interfere with your ability to pass the test!

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  1. […] some insight into last week’s travails, read Ruth Carter’s recap. Ruth is a graduate of the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. And she also was kind enough […]

  2. laura wilson says:

    Hi Ruth,
    Here’s my bar exam report from Vermont. I was also very nervous and so planned my food and ate carefully, only fruit and some low fat yogurt. I was most nervous about Day 1, Essays. I am a reasonably good writer, but I am not that fast, and in practice exams, particularly MPTs, I tended to get bogged down and paralyzed. I was really worried this would happen on actual exam day. But it didn’t! I just went into a super-focused zone and told myself that I would write and keep writing no matter what. I finished all the essays, on time, and there was only sub-part of one question for which I had to follow the Barbri instructor’s advice and “make something up and back it up intelligently.” All in all, essay day went far more smoothly than I feared–no breakdown, no paralysis, everything completed and on time.
    The MBE was difficult. Especially the morning session. I felt a lot of the questions were fairly advanced, and although usually I finish practice exams with 15 min to spare, this time, I only had 2 min to spare, so very little time to go back and check any unsure answers. The afternoon went a little better, I felt more confident, and I finished with 14 min to spare. Even though I found many of the questions difficult, I didn’t run out of time and I only had to make totally random guesses for 2 questions, no more.
    I agree, gave it my all and it was exhausting, but I did it. So tired now. (But taking the MPRE on Friday) Good luck to you and thanks for your great postings!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Congrats on being done!!

  3. I had the pleasure of sitting for bar exams in three states earlier in my career. It never gets easy, or enjoyable. For all of you who received passing scores today on Arizona’s July, 2011 exam, congratulations and welcome to the learned profession. Being a lawyer is not always fabulous, but it’s usually interesting work, and no one can ever take this away from you. Celebrate judiciously and enjoy the lawyer jokes.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks so much Steve! I’m excited for the next adventure.