July 29, 2019

Bar Exam Morning Routine

Two posts in two days because it's go time, my friends!! I'll keep my intro short because I know if you have the Bar coming up, I know you don't have time to do frivolous reading.

Related: Bar exam evening routine 

4:30 am

Wake up, put on workout clothes, and go workout. I prefer Orange Theory but you really shouldn't make your very first class the morning of the Bar. I know this sounds like a waste of time and you should be doing a thousand other things last minute before the Bar, but hear me out. You're going to be stressed the morning of the Bar like you've never been. 

Working out the morning of the Bar didn't necessarily give me a "workout stress relief," but when you're trying not to fall on a treadmill during incline sprints, it tends to distract you for a few minutes. Working out is also the best way to wake yourself up and get ready for the Bar. You don't want to roll in to the Bar still half asleep, and you don't want to chug a whole lot of coffee once you find out the ridiculous procedures it takes to go to the bathroom (not to mention, bathroom breaks take time away from you answering questions). 

It also is scientifically proven to make you more focused for the next few hours, which is exactly what you need right now. And a lot of people get too nervous to eat breakfast and then halfway through the morning portion of the test get hungry and therefore distracted, so this will ensure that you have a healthy appetite and can stomach a breakfast big enough to last you through lunch. Lastly, you'll be starting the day knowing that you've already accomplished something. 

5:00 - 6:00 am

The actual workout. Now I'll admit that on the first morning of the Bar I was running on the treadmill, lost in my thoughts, thinking I am so crazy for being here right now, what was I thinking?? and stressing about having enough time to get back home, shower, get ready, and get to the Bar on time. 

But by Days 2 and 3, I felt confident in my choice to get this done in the morning. On the second day during lunch, one of my classmates was talking about how she went to Orange Theory after Day 1 (my law school was obsessed with this place) and how exhausted she felt trying to work out while her brain was like mush. If you're going to work out during the Bar, I definitely recommend before and not after.

6:30 - 7:30 am

I came home from OTF and did a quick rinse with my hair in shower cap. And then if we're honest, on Day 1 I stood there naked in my towel and had a full-blown panic attack. I felt stupid for even attempting the Bar and ridiculous for thinking that maybe I could pass. I cried for what felt like no reason at all and my heart felt like it was racing even though my Apple Watch said it was at a normal rate. I dry-heaved over the toilet for a good 10 minutes. I kept feeling like I needed to go to the bathroom really bad. I later found out that all of these are physical bodily responses to stress, which is totally not surprising the morning of the Bar. So again, I'm glad that I woke up almost 5 hours before the Bar so that I had time for this.

What got me out of this was a feel-good song. On Day 1 I swear I heard the Voice of God as Shania Twain saying "Man! I feel like a woman!" So obviously I cranked that song and started off crying as I sang along (like Emma Stone in Easy A) to dancing around my bathroom in a better mood. 

I did do my hair and makeup for the Bar. Not because I'm one of those girls who "has" to always look good. And not because I thought I needed to (like 90% of girls did not even attempt hair/makeup). But because I wanted to not feel like I was hiding from the Bar or scared of the Bar. I wanted to walk into the Bar with the full confidence that you do walking into a bar on a Saturday night in a new outfit. I wanted to look and feel good. 

7:30 - 7:50 am

I overthought about what to have for breakfast before the Bar. Again, I knew from experience that if I didn't eat something that by 10:30 my thoughts would be can't focus, must eat instead of on the test. I also was worried about having something that would run right through me and I'd have to waste precious test timing going to the bathroom. And during my Practice MBE I actually had too big of a breakfast and felt full and tired an hour into the test. 

I actually talked to my Bar prep professor about this (I think she's an over thinker too because she seemed to have thoughts on this) and she suggested bacon (yummy + protein), scrambled eggs (hi again, protein), and buttered toast (a lil carbs & fat). The classic combo made to keep you awake and satisfied without being too heavy in your stomach and bland enough that it wouldn't upset your already nervous stomach. I did this all 3 mornings and it worked just fine for me. 

If you don't have access to cook on the morning of the Bar and egg-white breakfast sandwich from Chick-fil-a or Starbucks also will fuel you up for this mental marathon without slowing you down. Whatever you do, just avoid high-sugar breakfasts like cereal or muffins or Pop-Tarts because that is a recipe for disaster and just asking for you to have a sugar crash mid-test. 

7:50 - 8:00 am

Last minute check to make sure you have your car keys, license, a shit-ton of pre-sharpened pencils, a big eraser, highlighters (if allowed that day) and laptop + charger + extension cord (if allowed that day).

8:00 - 8:30 am

Drive to the Bar (don't risk it, use Waze because God forbid you traffic makes you late), get there early to get parked, leave your phone/watch in your car, and find the room. I recommend a hype playlist on your way. Obviously on Day 1 I was really into Shania Twain, which I did again on Day 2, and then by Day 3 I was so over the Bar that Tik Tok by Kesha was my hype song.

As soon as you get there, go to the bathroom if you have spare time. Remember, bathroom breaks = less time available to answer questions. Get it all out and resist the urge to drink water. One of my friends did pop some little fruit dummies just to give them a little sugar boost before they went in. 

Double check your bag again. Make sure you have your license and ticket pencils good to go. Remember that once you enter the exam room you can't exit, so don't feel the need to get in there real quick. They have assigned seating so you'll be fine even if you're not one of the first people in there. Again, make sure you know how to quickly and efficiently get from the exam room to the bathroom just in case. Before you go in, try to find a familiar face of a classmate so you don't feel so alone/scared.

9:00 am

This is when our Bar officially "started." They closed the doors but there still was the standard reading of the rules, passing out of the ear plugs, passing out the booklets, etc. The most calming thing I found during this time was to say the Lord's Prayer just because we used to do that before cross country meets when I ran in Jr. High & High school so I didn't know what else to do when I was nervous. 

And then it starts... 

July 28, 2019

Bar Exam Evening Routine

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Ready or not, here comes the Bar! If you're starting to feel like ugh let's just get this over with already!! then I have good news– you're ready! I know literally every single person reading this doesn't feel ready, and that's okay because you can never really feel ready or confidently prepared for the Bar. Just take comfort knowing that everyone in that room with you (even if they're licensed attorneys sitting for a new state) is shitting bricks too. 

Here's I get in the right mindset for the Worst Test Ever:

8:00 am - 3:00 pm

Before day 1, obviously on all the other days you'll be taking the Bar. Get groceries and meal prep for the week. Even if your school is providing lunch, make sure you have breakfast food ready and I really encourage meal prepping supper because you'll want good, normal food but won't want to put in the mental effort to even make a PB&J.

Do all your laundry. I laid out my outfits for each day on a shelf in my closet and had undies, pants, bra, shirt, & socks all ready to go for each day. I went with leggings (it likely will be cold), my favorite oversized shirts from college/law school, and my law school sweatshirt that I could take off if I got hot.

3:00 - 5:00 pm

Before Day 1, do a dry run to the Bar prep center to make sure you know where you're going. Repeat if it makes you feel comfortable. Double check that you have your Bar ticket, license, at least 10 pre-sharpened wooden pencils, and a big eraser in a clear bag. Check to see if the test the next morning allows highlighters or not and pack those if allowed. 

Prepare your laptop! Double check that you're allowed a laptop the upcoming day. Log in to make sure the software is properly downloaded and works. Practice logging in and out to make sure you remember your password for each day/bathroom breaks. Turn off your screensaver (to save time from logging back in) and set your display to always on. Go ahead and disable wifi because you can't have it on with Exam 360. Quit all apps and make sure you turn off all notifications and set your volume to mute. Open up Exam 360 and leave it open, shut your laptop but don't turn it off so you're all set up for in the morning. Test your charger to make sure there's no wiring out and pack an extension cord in case the plug near you doesn't work. Pack up everything so you don't forget it.

5:00 - 6:00 pm

Life as usual. Lounge around watching an episode of the show you've been secretly binging when you take study breaks. I recommend Crazy Stupid Love because a sub-plot is that she takes and passes the Bar. Eat a meal that will put you in a good mood (calories don't count during the Bar). Call your boyfriend or bestie and whine and complain that you have to do this, it's fine.

6:00 - 7:00 pm 

This is controversial because everyone on Barbi and online said don't study the day before the exam! but I actually did and I'm glad. I would've felt like a nervous sitting duck knowing that I was about to take a test over the law the next day and not actually look at any legal words. 

I get it, if you didn't know it by now then you're not going to learn it and cramming won't help. But I do feel like a light review of quickly looking through the Barbri "key cards" and flipping through my flashcards helped at least give me the feeling that I was doing something and the confidence to know "well if I fail, at least I gave it my best shot." I actually sent my boyfriend Ryan the link to my Quizlet flashcards and had him read the first side to me so that it didn't feel so lonely. Again, don't actually study, but I found a light review actually calmed my nerves.

7:00 pm

I turned all the lights off in my apartment by 7:15 pm before the Bar. Because it was summer, there was still enough light coming through the windows that I could walk around and see, but I wanted all the artificial lights to be turned off so my body would start relaxing, unwinding, and preparing for bed. 

I also took a melatonin at this time. I know that sounds ridiculously early but trust me you're going to be a ball of nerves from now til you fall asleep so it helps to have this already working to calm down your brain. Plus, you'll want the melatonin totally out of your system by the time you need to be getting up so you don't wake up feeling groggy. If you fall asleep easily naturally so you don't need melatonin or if you're super stressed and don't feel like you'll fall asleep even with melatonin's help, you can take a cortisol blocker (that's your stress hormone) to try to help your nerves enough to fall asleep.

7:15 - 8:00 pm

Bubble bath time for me. I went all out on the calming. Lavender candles, lavender bath saltslavender bath bomband lavender bubble bath. I soaked and inhaled and prayed and until I started to feel a little better. Then I took my time pampering myself with lotions and moisturizers to make it feel like a little spa night.

8:00 pm

Last check before the morning. Breakfast food is at the front of the fridge, car keys are by my clear bag with all my supplies, phone has a full charge so that it will for sure go off and wake me up even if the power were to go out in the middle of the night and also automatic updates are turned off to make sure your phone doesn't accidentally update/restart in the middle of the night and fuck up your alarm (true horror story from a co-worker's classmate), and a "just checking to make sure you're up/good luck motivational call" scheduled from your designated friend/family member.

8:00 - 9:00 pm

I laid down and read a book on my Kindle (lowest brightness possible) to help me fall asleep. Luckily, I was in the middle of Little Women at that time so while it was a good book, nothing was really too exciting that it would start to wake me up. I would read until I got tired and then the moment I felt a little tired I would stop, even if mid-sentence, and would pull down my eye mask and go to sleep.

If you don't like to read, I also really suggest the app HeadSpace and recommend you do one of the longer mediations to help you fall asleep. The guy has a really calming voice.

July 14, 2019

I Failed the Practice MBE But I Passed the Bar Exam

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When I got my practice MBE results back from Barbri and it said I had a 14% chance of passing, I obviously freaked out. Panic attacks, full on crying in my Bar prep professor's office, calling my boyfriend crying about how I'm screwed, the works. But once I got that out of my system, I thought of this blog post title and decided that I was going to pass the Bar and make this post, so here it is.

Go find a professor to cry on

The Bar is an issue that you should really only go to other licensed attorneys about. I mean really, probably only go to a professor because for most lawyers, once they get licensed they shove all things Bar wayyy out of their head so they're not as much help as you'd like. Our school has a dedicated bar prep professor who has the unfortunate summer job of simultaneously talking scared shitless students off the edge and giving the rest a kick in the butt to keep them on track for Bar prep. I feel like not a lot of schools have these (so if you're in SBA maybe try to get one!), so a good back up would be 1) a professor who taught the "Bar prep" class that most schools have or 2) a professor who taught several core MBE classes. 

Go cry with them and then sit down and work on a personalized plan for you to get back on track. The problem with Bar prep companies is that they can't really personalize for you so their "one-size-fits-all" suggestion on how to improve your MBE results might not be enough for you. Literally get them to help you come up with a week-by-week plan on what to do between now and the Bar. Also use this time to pick their brain on what they thought helped and didn't help when they were taking the Bar. 

Review your wrong answers more than once

You and that failure of an MBE are about to get reallll close. Go through that practice exam and for every question that you got wrong (or guessed and lucked and and got right but you didn't really know the answer), write down the rule of law into an outline. This way you'll start having an outline of what you don't know because I think it worked really well for me to spend the first 6-ish weeks of Bar prep reviewing and the last 2-ish weeks learning what you don't know. This way you'll have an outline of what rules of law you still don't know so you can focus on your weak parts.

Then go back through your exam. This time for each question you got wrong, ask yourself why. So for me, I had terrible timing. I blew through the first half before the break and had over an hour left of time remaining for that section. I realized this and slowed down a lot for the second half after lunch and then looked up and realized I was going to have to speed through the last several questions. What I learned to do was take timed practice tests to get a better rhythm. I figured out how long I should be working on each question and practiced doing X questions in Y time (sorry I can't remember now!) to get my speed down. Then I did it again, and again, and again, until I naturally was spending long enough, but not too long, on each question.

The other thing I realized is that for some reason, every time I had an intentional tort question, I had answered it as a negligence question. To fix that, all I had to do was go back and make a list of what types of issues are intentional torts and what are negligence, and then make that the first thing I look for before answering the question. I realize most people won't have this exact problem but my point is to try to group why you're getting questions wrong and look for a simple fix. 

Focus on your weak subjects 

This kinda goes off the point above. Review how many questions you missed on each subject and focus on your weakest subjects the most. Depending on how bad it was, you can either set aside an hour each day to focus on those subjects or maybe dedicate a whole Saturday to them. It's a fine balance between focusing on your weak area and completely ignoring your stronger areas. This was a problem I had when I retook the LSAT because I ignored my strongest subject and then ended up going down in that subject. You never want any of your areas to have your scores decreasing. 

Like I said above, make an outline of all the rules you don't know and focus on strengthening those areas. Even if you can raise your average on one particular subject just a little, that can be the difference between passing and failing. One of my law professors said something that was my mantra during bar prep – You know what they call someone who passes the Bar by only one point? A lawyer. You don't have to be passing with flying colors in every subject. I mean honestly you can be borderline passing in a few subjects and that will probably be good enough. The goal here is to just not have any subjects that you are bombing.

Practice, practice, practice

So I truly love Barbri and would recommend them, but they have a major flaw. Sometimes for the explanation for the correct answer it's like "this question is asking about X rule, B applies X rule, therefore A, C, D, and E are wrong. Which isn't exactly helpful. Thankfully I found JD advising and her real MBE questions and I really recommend them! Her answer explanations are more like "this question mentioned Y which is how you know it's asking about X rule. if you answered A you got it mixed up with Z rule, if you answered C you missed this one word, if you answered D..." you get it. I spent $200 on their small package of practice problems and their explanations were 1000% worth it. 

Then, I would make a flash card for each question I got wrong and would study just that one thing. Here's my MBE flashcards. They're super specific because they're just what I was getting wrong, but I'm sharing these to show you how I'd study for them. Really figure out why you're getting questions wrong so you can study more efficient. 

Get your timing right

Just like with the LSAT, the last step is to get your timing down perfect. I know I mentioned this earlier, but it's an easily overlooked step. Going through your questions too slow means you run out of time and panic and guess. Going through them too fast means you are missing things. And it's hard to try to pace yourself during the actual exam. 

A better solution is to get almost muscle memory. I think I was doing 30 questions in 45 minutes (or whatever JD Advising recommended, sorry it's been a year!). I'd take a little practice test each day to work on my timing. Pretty soon, I was in a natural flow and spending the Goldilocks amount of time on each question, without really trying. 

Have a glass of wine

Or whatever, you get the point. It's not the end of the world. I strongly believe that the Bar is so much of mental confidence as it is mental stamina and actual knowledge. You don't want to be the girl crying during the Bar! That's just asking for disaster. You need to buckle down, yes, but don't stress yourself out. If you walk into that room thinking you'll fail, you probably will! If you take the time to focus on why and where you're struggling, there's totally hope for you. I mean hey, I increased my pass percentage from 14% to 100% so remember that. 

Lastly, get in the zone. I kept thinking back to Michael Phelps when there was that one Olympics where he hadn't really been training and he did well but, like, not Michael Phelps well? I remembered reading an article about how he had trained but not as hard as he used to and he hadn't really put in his full effort. Then after that impressive but not record-shattering year he came back 4 years later and was a total beast. That was my focus. I was abso-fucking-lutely terrified that I'd fail the Bar by just a few points. And that was my driving factor. When I wanted to quit, I thought about that Michael Phelps article, and how if I slack off even just a little, it could be the difference between trying to and actually achieving my goals. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb, set Screen Time limits on your phone, save TV shows to bing after the Damn Thing is done, and focus. Make it this your fist and last try at the Bar.