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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

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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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Bar Exam Wisdom from Legal All-Stars

The bar exam is tomorrow!  I’m praying that what everyone has told me about law school and bar exam prep being harder than the bar exam is true.  I’m ready to kick this test’s ass and to get it behind me.

I have met some amazing legal minds during law school.  I asked a few of them to share some final words of wisdom.

“Don’t try too hard. All you have to do is pass; you don’t have to ace the test.”
Sam Glover, Lawyerist editor-in-chief and ABA Legal Rebel

Bring it on!

Image by pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold via Flickr

“Trust your preparation.  I had the good fortune of studying for the 1997 New York and New Jersey bar exams with my wife (my girlfriend at the time) who was the smartest law student I knew (and is now the most gifted lawyer I know).  If you sincerely completed all of the practice questions and tests the course required, and trained yourself to respond (correctly as often as possible) within the allotted time, you should pass.  That said, I still remember feeling intimidated after seeing the person sitting next to me smiling widely before the exam began on the first day at the Javits Center.  In response, I lowered my head and simply tried to concentrate on the test.  Block out all distractions and solely focus on your goal of passing.  Then, once it is over, let it go and enjoy some time off.”
Ari Kaplan, founder of Ari Kaplan Advisors and author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace

“It is a stupid test. Most of the time, people less intelligent than you pass it. Sometimes people smarter than you fail it. If you pass, you get to be an attorney. If you fail, you cannot immediately be an attorney. Either way, you are a winner of sorts. Eat a decent breakfast and completely wipe the test out of your mind after the last question. Most people use the bar exam as another reason to be unhappy and stressed out. Don’t do that.”
Tyler Coulson, former associate of Sidley Austin, left his law firm to walk across the US with his dog

“Hyperventilating won’t help. Really. The day before the VA bar exam (my first bar exam), I had this mini-panic attack. I suddenly felt the weight of it. However, after a glimpse of rationale thought, I decided that, with less than 24 hours to go, I was better just taking the day easy and letting fate – or rather all of my hard work – take its course. Worrying can be productive but not when it is time to perform.  If you have studied, then simply go out and play your legal instrument. This is one of the last tests of your life where 75-90% will pass. Listen to the symphony in your head and play elegantly.”
Mark Britton, founder of Avvo and ABA Legal Rebel

At this point, there’s nothing more we can do but to walk into the test and do what we know how to do: kick ass.

More Bar Exam Wisdom:

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Bar Exam Wisdom from Arizona Lawyers

The bar exam is a few days away.  All of our work for the last 4 years to get into law school, through law school, and through bar prep will come down to a 2-day test (3 days for some people).

I went to Arizona State University for law school.  Most of my friends and I are taking the Arizona bar exam next week.  In preparation, I reached out to some people who practice law from Arizona, most of who have previously passed the Arizona bar.  I asked them what advice they wished someone had given them before they took the test.  Here’s what they had to say:

Saguaro Sunset

Image by Saguaro Pictures via Flickr

“The absolute worst thing you can do to yourself is speak with any of your fellow test takers about their experience with any portion of the exam.  They will have wax convincingly about seeing issues you did not spot, making you question whether you really studied at all.  Chances are high if you did not see the issue it’s because it was not there.   There is no need to peck away at your self-confidence this way – just turn the subject to something non-exam related, or just walk away.   This is especially good advice after the exam is completed.  Remember, you’ll have long weeks sweating out the results.  There is no need to add to the tension because Billy Bob, who never scored higher than a 72 on any law school exam, uncovered a hidden corporate duty of loyalty issue in that First Amendment question.”
Bill Richards, partner at Bade and Baskin, earned the highest score on the AZ Bar Exam in July 1990

“Before I took the bar, a good friend who had previously taken it told me to trust all of the studying I had done and go in there confident and with guns blazing. That really stuck with me and I took that advice right into the exam hall. I dared this exam to try and stop me from passing! Your state of mind is so very important on the day of the exam. I had people sitting next to me who were completely flustered and wound up missing whole questions on the exam. If you must listen to some arrogant rap music to get your confidence up (Kanye, anyone?). So stay confident and calm (do a yoga class the day before to get centered – I totally did this!) and remember that you worked hard and are ready for this.”
Rachel Rodgers, principal attorney with Rachel Rodgers Law Office

“You will never feel like you’re prepared enough, no matter how much you study. Just accept that! Do your best to remain calm because freaking out just makes you lose focus and forget things. You will, most likely, either run out of time on some questions, or get questions that really throw you for a loop, or both. But remember that EVERYONE is in the same situation, and NO ONE knows the answer to everything. Even the highest scores aren’t ever perfect scores. You only need a D+ to pass, that’s all. Not an A, not a B, not a C. Most of you have never even written C answers in law school, so have confidence in yourselves and know that you can do it! When it comes to the week before the exam, please don’t spend all of your time cramming. At that point you know what you know and cramming will just exhaust you. Focus on your problem areas for one last refresher and try to get out and do some fun things to relax you. The last thing you want to do in the days before the exam is burn yourself out. Lastly, you WILL feel like you failed when you get out of there. It is just part of the process. So don’t be like me and spend the whole night crying and looking into other careers, because chances are you rocked it! Believe in yourself and whatever you do, DON’T talk about the exam when you’re done! You can’t change your answers and usually the people bragging about what they wrote are wrong anyway. Ok, that is all the wisdom I have so good luck and hang in there. It will be over before you know it!”
Jeni Christopher, associate at Schlesinger Conrad, passed the Arizona bar exam in February 2011

“Whatever got you far enough to take the bar exam will see you through it — and allow you to leave the indignity of it far behind.”
David J. Bodney, partner at Steptoe and Johnson 

Good luck everyone!

More Bar Exam Wisdom:

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Bar Exam Wisdom from BarBri Instructors

The bar exam is a few days away.  All of our work for the last 4 years to get into law school, through law school, and through bar prep will come down to a 2-day test (3 days for some people).

Virginia Bar Exam

Image by Philip Larson via Flickr

I reached out to two of my favorite BarBri instructors and asked them to share some final works for wisdom about taking the bar.  Here’s what they had to say:

“Keep your wits about you, and always always put your faith in the curve.”
Douglas Moll, University of Houston Law Center Professor and BarBri instructor

“Bring earplugs – 2 sets.   1 set because you know you’ll be sitting next to someone with tuberculosis and the other set just in case someone ate a burrito for lunch.  Those suckers also can fit up your nose.

“Don’t carb out for lunch unless you want to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon session. Don’t drink a pot of coffee with breakfast unless you want to become a resident of the restroom.  For dinner, eat like a pig.  Carb out like crazy so that you get tired and can fall asleep, despite the anxiety you may be feeling.  In case of emergency, take half a Sominex.

“Bring a pocket flashlight!  True story: On my last day of the California bar, the lights went out during the final performance test for about 2 minutes.  Fortunately for me, someone had told me to bring a tiny pocket flashlight and I did.  Needless to say, I didn’t miss a beat while others around me were quietly cursing me for having one.

“On the morning of the MBE, do 10-15 questions before the test and make your mistakes then.  By the time the exam rolls around you will be properly warmed up.  This advice is gold for those in the parenthetical category.

“Finally, face the bar with a clear mind, a strong will and an open heart (for the hippies!).  It’s just a test.  Beat the living heck out of it.  God bless all of you taking the bar exam this summer, even the non-believers.”
Chuck Shonholtz, BarBri Instructor

Good luck to everyone taking the exam!  As my coach  would say, “Do what you know how to do.”

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