Ginger Bredemeier is a licensed California attorney, and is the Past President of NAPALSA and graduate of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.
ATTENTION! In case you were not yet aware, everyone has advice about the bar exam. People (otherwise known as those individuals who have graduated just prior to you, but whom have already passed the bar exam) will tell you that it's hard, but doable. Then, these same recent bar passers will proceed to give you every study tip imaginable, tips that "worked for" them, every tip of which will most likely be entirely inapplicable to you. People will tell you they barely studied, still passed, and tell you not to worry. Bar study programs will give you similar encouragement, more knowledge than is possible for the human brain to absorb in eight weeks, and the opposite advice, which is to study every moment of every day. And you will never, ever be able to study the recommended amount of time, because unknown to the bar exam study guides, there actually are not 27 hours in a day. Well, you could meet the recommended number of hours, but you would have to forego eating, sleeping, and any other generally necessary bodily functions.
BUT, take heart, bar sitters, I am about to bestow my entirely inapplicable advice, summarized into one short phrase: "Use common sense." If I learned one thing important in law school, it's that common sense isn't always common, so here are my top five pieces of unsolicited advice on how to pass the bar exam:
* Remain calm. Above all else, do not let your anxiety subsume your knowledge. If you were moderately diligent during your legal studies, you have retained more knowledge than you think. The bar exam only requires that you relay this stored knowledge in written form. You earned your law degree in this same method, do not fret unnecessarily.
* Develop a reasonable schedule. This isn't as rigorous as the Reasonably Prudent Person, just plain English reasonable. If you're tired, sleep. If you're hungry, eat. If you need a two hour break to walk your dog and watch "Days of Our Lives," that's okay. Use the remaining time to study smart.
* Know your substantive strengths and weaknesses. If you barely passed contracts, you probably aren't going to have the entire UCC memorized and ready to execute an essay with lawyerly application. Allot appropriate amounts of time to review all of the possible bar tested subjects, but also be sure to reserve enough energy to get the basics solid on the subjects you struggled with during law school.
* Don't over study. Law professors have always told me that students who know the rules really well, often study themselves out of an "A" because they jump to the conclusion in their examination. Depending on your jurisdiction, the bar exam is probably like law school: the points are in the application. Any person can look up a rule of law or statute, lawyers are needed to assist their clients in the proper application of the law. The bar exam is about demonstrating you can do this.
* Keep going, even when you don't feel confident. No platitudes about the bar exam being a marathon, not a sprint, or other such analogy. Just KEEP GOING. There are times when it will feel exhausting and demoralizing, and you will have doubts. Remember those who supported you, encouraged you, taught you, nurtured you, and mentored you all through law school. For the heart of the matter is: you were designed for this, trained for this, EDUCATED for this very test of mental strength and tenacity. And you are ready.