Bar Exam Summer Study Sessions

It’s MAY! It’s time for finals! And then it’s time for what you’ve been waiting for these past three years- THE BAR EXAM!

I am giddy with excitement for you.

What an honor to be allowed to sit for an exam meant to torture you, without the benefit of any real practical application to your profession. Some say the bar exam is nothing more than a hazing ritual. I don’t disagree. I had to do it, so you have to do it. It’s going to be terrible. You are going to be so miserable. Remember the Freshmen Fifteen? There’s a Bar Exam Twenty that no one talks about. Buy your yoga pants and gym shorts now, friends!

Also, be aware that you’re going to have to really be stern with your family and friends. They won’t understand your overwhelming need to study. They will continue to call you, text you, email you, and send messenger pigeons no matter what your Facebook status is. To help, I’m sharing with you a page from my diary back when I studied for my first bar exam. Laugh with me, cry with me, and share this with your family and friends so maybe, just maybe, they will leave you alone.


July 6

7:00 am: The warm sun is beaming through my bedroom window. The bar exam is not today. The bar exam is not tomorrow. I’m going back to sleep.

7:32 am: Fine, I’ll get up. Coffee… No clean coffee cups. I’ll just pour my coffee into a bowl. Crap, that was my last clean bowl. It’s all going to the same place anyway, it’s probably fine to pour my Frosted Flakes into my coffee. Now I don’t need sugar!

7:32 am: It was not fine. My cereal and coffee are down the drain. That was the grossest idea ever. Maybe today is the day I change out of my pajamas…

8:04 am: Weird, I’m still hungry. Thinking about eating breakfast didn’t actually fill me up like I hoped. I will venture outside! I will go to the coffee shop where I can have a real breakfast heated in a professional-grade microwave and an iced espresso concoction. Today is looking up. I will bring my study guides and my iPod and my laptop and I will set up camp. I need a change of scenery, anyway.

8:27 am: Two shots of espresso on ice with a pump of vanilla, a cranberry-orange scone, and my laptop crowd a tiny table in the corner of the local café. I will practice a mixed set of MBE multiple-choice questions. The session is 90 minutes long, and… GO! Wait, that guy in line looks vaguely familiar. Do I know him? Maybe he was in my younger brother’s grade. Did he used to have shorter hair? AH the timer is still going…

8:43 am: Is arson general intent or specific intent? What is that girl over there WEARING? This is NOT FASHION WEEK! When is Fashion Week? Is there a Law Week? Crap, wait, the timer’s still going… Where was I?

9:17 am: Why are the Real Property questions like an ENTIRE PAGE LONG? How come every question in the mixed set is actually about MORTGAGES? WHERE MY EVIDENCE QUESTIONS AT?

9:53 am: Are these questions ever going to END? If Alice didn’t record her deed she doesn’t DESERVE the property! Are you even serious? And why the heck are these little kids drinking COFFEE. Don’t they know it will stunt their growth? Shouldn’t they be at the mall or something? SOME OF US ARE TRYING TO CONCENTRATE! I shake my fist and scowl.

9:57 am: Done. Submit. 50% correct? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I have the urge to throw my pricey beverage at the wall. I panic. It’s July. The exam is a few short weeks away. My stomach does this flip-floppy thing and my eyes well up with tears. My target was 60%. My mind flutters to JFK, Jr., and I remember that he failed the bar like five times (ok, two) and went on to successfully run a magazine and be named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. There is hope. BREATHE. And breathe again. I must get back to studying! I feel a renewed energy and determination. I review each and every practice question in the set to see where I went wrong. I make flash cards for the rules of law I missed and add those flash cards to the shoe box storing my hundreds of other flash cards. I really should have purchased stock in the index card company. Thinking about how much money those execs are raking in right about now, I second-guess my career choice for the tenth time today. Index card executives likely never took a bar exam. I wonder if index card execs used to dream about growing up and becoming index card execs. Do I know any index card execs? STOP! FOCUS!

10:44 am: After that one demoralizing practice session I am wiped. I quickly check Facebook. WHAT? Sarah has just checked in at the beach for the 70th time?! Mary had a baby? JOE IS ENGAGED?? Info overload. I quickly exit out of the site and check my phone. 4 missed calls from my mother, 7 texts from my best friend wondering what I’m up to today, and another email from Beyoncé. Anxious that I’ve now wasted five whole minutes of my day, I regain focus and consult my task list. Up next, a Wills essay.

11:44 am: I checked my answer against the model. I NAILED IT. I found every issue. Take THAT! I will own this bar exam. The bar examiners will probably hire me after they see my stellar answers and ask me to write next year’s exam. Or, maybe if I’m really lucky, I’ll get some fancy job at a bar review company.

11:59 am: One minute until lunch. One minute until lunch. One minute until lunch.

12:00 pm: BREAK! What a grueling morning. I pack up and head home, unable to withstand the jealousy I feel towards every other person I see out and about. How dare these people flaunt their freedom in my face! (And this is why it’s best to never leave your house during bar prep.)

12:23 pm: I’m home, I’m starving, and all that’s left to eat are some Frosted Flakes, a slice of American cheese, hot dog buns, and an ear of corn. Challenge accepted. Bonus: there’s a Judge Judy repeat on right now! This totally counts as studying.

1:00 pm: Fine. It’s time to get back to it. My healthy lunch has given me the focus I need to get myself through a few more hours of studying. I review my highlighted and tabbed Criminal Procedure outline. I do a single Secured Transactions essay and then realize I need to create about a zillion new flash cards. They should really teach this stuff in law school. I do some more essays and some more multiple choice practice sessions. I watch a video lecture about supplemental jurisdiction. (I understand exactly 3.2% of it.) I ignore my ringing phone, I ignore my whining dog, and I ignore my husband. I muscle through an afternoon of uninterrupted studying.

7:00 pm: I’m done. I am a zombie. I probably ate something, I probably watched something on TV, it doesn’t matter because nothing registered in my mind after probably 5pm.


Every day was like that. A whirlwind of rules of law and highlighters and index cards and caffeine. It was a boring and lonely summer. But, I survived the hazing.

Nowadays I love pretending the exam was no big deal, that anyone can pass it, that it’s so simple I did it twice with my eyes closed. I’ve earned that right. You will, too. You just have to get through this one little exam. So, while you still have a couple of weeks of freedom as you “study for your finals,” take advantage. Live it up. Don’t go crazy though, because if you break the law you’ll probably have to report it to the bar examiners.

Good luck this summer!

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