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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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A Day In The Life of Bar Prep

I’ll admit it – studying for the bar exam is hard, lonely work.   My days are long and boring.   I’m trying to keep my stress in check, and it’s starting to be a challenge.

I initially felt guilty when I banned everyone from house for the duration of bar prep, but now I’m so grateful I did that – and so is everyone else.  I can do my own thing all day without bothering anyone and then I decide when I interact with the world.  It sounds self-centered (and it is) but it’s necessary.

In case you wanted to know, here’s what a day in the life of my bar prep looks like.

  • 5:45am: Get up, Work out, Shower, Breakfast, Check email.
  • 7:30am: Study – often using the Pomodoro Method.  I turn the French doors into my to-do list every day.
  • 11:15am: Lunch.
  • 12:00pm: Meet up with my carpool group.  The highlight of my day is getting to play with my friend’s dog, Oscar.
  • 1:00pm: BarBri class.
  • 5:00pm: Relax, Dinner.
  • 7:00pm: Study, sometimes in the pool when I need to avoid all distractions.
  • 11:00pm: Bed.

Studying for the bar involves a lot of sitting which results in my body getting all types of sore.  During my study breaks, I often ice my sore back, neck and shoulders.  I’m grateful when my massage therapist, Thomas Porter, runs a special so I can afford him.  I told him that he needs to run one the week before the bar exam.

My one weekly indulgence is still watching Deadliest Catch on Tuesday nights.  It reminds me that studying is nothing compared to working on a crab boat in the Bering Sea.

Every so often I have a mini freak out and I reach out to my lawyer friends who have survived the bar.  Their calls and emails keep me grounded.  They all say that if I follow the BarBri program that I’ll be fine.

Here are my tips for everyone who has a loved one studying for the bar:

  • If you’ve never studied for the bar, you have no idea what this is like.
  • A lot of the time, we’re not in a good mood.  Don’t be surprised if we have a short fuse when it comes to distractions and annoying things.
  • Don’t take it personally if we don’t have time to hang out or even return phone calls.
  • We can be optimistic about passing the bar and not be pleasant to be around in general.
  • If we’re in a bad mood, it’s not your job to make us laugh.
  • When we take a study break, there’s a good chance we don’t want to talk about how studying is going.  We may have nothing to talk about because all we do is study so fill us in on what’s going on in the real world.
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