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1. KNOW YOUR STATES REQUIREMENTS Make sure you know any and all quirky rules your state may have about testing procedure. All states have strict requirements about what is allowed in the exam area. For example, many states require test-takers to place all items in a transparent bag in an effort to prevent cheating. However, not all requirements are this obvious. The night before I (Amy) took the Colorado Bar Exam I finally decided to take a look at the rules provided by the examiners. Much to my dismay, I discovered that hats were absolutely prohibited in the testing area. Being the loyal (and superstitious) New Yorker that I am, I had not taken a test since 7th grade without my Yankees hat, and I completely panicked. Needless to say, this was just about the worst time to find something new to panic about. This may seem like a trivial example (particularly to you Red Sox fans), but it easily could have been something quite significant. The point is, be prepared. 2. TAKE A REVIEW COURSE Maybe you think you don’t need a review course. Maybe you’re right. To find out, take this little quiz, giving yourself one point each time you answer “true.” I took every subject offered in law school. I aced every exam. If you scored above a zero, take the test again, and this time be honest. Seriously, we are not saying this because we publish bar review materials. We are saying this because we have both taken (and passed) the bar exam, and we know what is involved. A review course provides you with the materials you need, saving you the hassle of trying to figure out what to study. If you consider the amount of law tested on the bar that is unique to the bar exam (see below), a review course can save you a lot of time and trouble. Plus, a review course should provide practice questions, which are invaluable in helping you determine in which areas of law your knowledge is lacking. Choose a review course that best suits your study habits, and attacks your weaknesses, but choose one soon. Certainly, you can pass without a course, but the risk (and headache) hardly seems worth it. 3. DONT STUDY WHAT YOU KNOW OK, we don’t mean that literally. You know not to neglect a topic just because you think you know it, never mind that Amy and Lesley said you shouldn’t study what you know. The point is, don’t over-study what you already know. Once you feel relatively confident with a topic, move on to one with which you feel less confident. Revisit the topics you know periodically, but focus on the ones that make you feel uncomfortable. Face your fears. I (Lesley) know someone who went into the bar exam feeling very confident because he really KNEW the topics he had studied. The problem was that the exam tested other topics as well, and he failed. Don’t get the wrong idea. It was not that he had studied only a few topics, as much as it was that he over-studied the topics he knew, thus creating a false sense of security. The second time he took the bar, he faced his fears, studied the topics he didn’t like or know, and passed with one of the highest scores in his state. The moral of the story is: it is better to know a little bit about everything, than everything about a little bit. 4. NEVER MIND THE OPINIONS OF FOOLS Trust your own study methods. You have made it through law school, so you have had at least 19 years of schooling to figure out what works best for you. Now is not the time to experiment with new study techniques, or to question the old ones. As tempting as it may be to compare your progress with others, little good can come of hearing how others choose to study. We remember one classmate who studied texts intensely until all hours of the night for the three months preceding the exam, while another classmate did nothing more than practice questions while working the graveyard shift at a gas station for the four weeks preceding the exam. To each his own. The pressure of learning the breadth of material necessary to pass the bar is overwhelming enough without trying to introduce a new way to learn it as well. 5. DO WHAT YOU LIKE The same approach to studying applies to test-taking. Approach the bar exam as you would any other exam. Do whatever makes you most comfortable, whatever you usually do for exams. Bring appropriate (and quiet) snacks (if allowed in your state), carry a good-luck charm, use your favorite pen, wear comfortable clothing. Unless, of course, you are in Virginia, where the dress code is a suit (or so we have heard from disgruntled Virginia attorneys). 6. FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW Or at least forget what you think you know about state-specific law. This is one time when experience may actually hurt you. For the multistate exams and for many, but not all, state portions of the bar exam, the law tested is generic. The questions are based on generally applicable legal concepts and theories. Therefore, many things you may have learned from the real world while practicing law or clerking during law school will be inapplicable (and thus wrong!) on the bar exam. So suspend your knowledge of the “real” law, and open your mind to “bar exam” law. Don’t worry that this may hurt you after the bar exam: you’ll forget it all in much less time than it will take you to learn it. 7. THERE’S MORE TO LIFE… One of the worst things you can do is to lose yourself in studying. Your brain (and your family) can only handle so much of one thing. Allow yourself (or, if necessary, force yourself) to enjoy some type of physical activity, or, at the very least, something mindless. The best way to learn is to study a topic intensely for a short period of time and then take a break. Without the break, your mind has no opportunity to absorb the information you have just studied. And, we all know that physical activity is one of the best stress relievers ever (remember all that endorphin stuff?). So, study torts, then play tennis. Study corporations, then take walk. Study property, then have a good cry. Whatever works for you. If you don’t think you’ll do this naturally, schedule it into your routine. 8. DO WHAT YOURE TOLD When taking the exam, read instructions carefully and follow them. We repeat. READ instructions. FOLLOW them. This may sound elementary. We know what you’re thinking. “I’ve made it this far, I obviously am capable of following directions.” And we agree. However, there is a big difference between being able to do something and actually doing it. Trust us. Publishing bar review materials has brought us into contact with more law students and attorneys in need of this lesson than you might imagine. Bar examiners know this and they will test how closely you have read all of the question. For example, one essay question on our exam detailed a man protecting his property with a spring-loaded gun. Now, we all know what torts issues are triggered (pardon the pun) with such a scenario. A careful reading, however, revealed that the question called for us to discuss the criminal implications. Had either of us failed to read carefully, we would not have correctly answered the question. Therefore, our advice is this: Read the question. Read the question again. Do what you’re told. 9. BE A SLAVE. TO TIME, THAT IS. Know how long you should spend on each question and do not stray. Another one of the worst things you can do is to not answer a question for lack of time. Take a watch to the exam and keep it on the table in front of you. Check it often. If you see that you are running out of time, quickly finish the question you are answering and MOVE ON. It is better to write a little bit for each question than to write a novel for one question and one sentence for another. Even if you think you won’t have time to finish an answer, at least try. Putting something on the page definitely has better odds of earning you points than putting nothing there at all. 10. THERE’S MORE TO LIFE (PART II) Once you have taken the bar exam, let it go. Forget about it. Move on with your life. If there is one time in your life when you should be absolutely free of any worry, it is the period of time from “Pencils down!” to “You passed!” After all, when it’s over there is nothing (at least nothing legal) you can do about your score. Worrying about it will not change that. Now is the time to take a vacation, pay attention to your family, make amends with all the people you may have been abusive towards while studying, and take time for yourself. Keep in mind that this is not life or death. Whether you passed or failed, it’s only the bar exam. Amy Poggioli is the Director of the Editorial Department, and Lesley Yosses is the Legal Editorial Manager at MicroMash Bar Review. MicroMash publishes the leading computer-based review course for the multistate bar exam, and state-specific bar review courses for 25 jurisdictions. Both Amy and Lesley are licensed to practice law in Colorado.

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