Recently, I took the February 2016 bar exam and I’m happy to report I passed! Studying for, and taking, the bar is incredibly difficult and exhausting. The purpose of the bar exam is to test your legal knowledge to ensure competent attorneys are practicing and protecting the legal rights of individuals. Unfortunately for new lawyers, that means six weeks of studying, cramming, and three days of rigorous testing.
Luckily, I was able to get through bar prep and the exam relatively unscathed. I credit a lot of that to my husband, who was my unending support system. It’s very difficult to understand what it’s like to take the bar until you’re actually doing it. My table partner during the bar made a great analogy: you have a haystack of knowledge and the questions test the head of the needle hidden in there. It’s overwhelming and the calmer you can be going in to the exam, the better off you will be. So, here’s what really happens when you step in that room to take the bar.
First, you’ll go through security where they will check to make sure you have your ID and aren’t bringing in anything “illegal” (by bar standards). You’ll find your seat, meet who you’re sitting near, and get set up for the day. For us, the doors opened an hour before testing started so there was a lot of standing around and talking.
Then, you’ll finally be set to go and the instructor will tell you about getting to the exam, what the day will be like, and the rules. You’ll do all the administrative stuff like signing paperwork, fingerprints, logging in, etc. You’ll be handed the first part of the exam and read all the instructions with it. The instructor will read the instructions she has to (think typical standardized testing rules) and let you know how much time you’ll have.
Now, it’s exam time! The time itself will go by very, very fast. It’s easy to tune out other people typing and the person next to you making notes or having a mini panic attack. Around the time when there are about 5 minutes left, people will start to get up for a bathroom break before the next section starts which can be a little distracting but it’s not too bad. Then, time is called.
After you finish that section of the exam, the proctors will collect all the paperwork and start to hand out the next section. You’ll redo the instructions and testing until you’re done. At the end of the day, the instructor will give you what time to be there in the morning and the day is over.
You’re ability to do well on the bar is related to how calm you are and your mindset going into the exam. I wish when I had taken the exam that I knew what to expect and could plan accordingly. Be positive, know what to expect, and trust that you have the knowledge to pass the exam!