There is officially less than 12 hours until bar exam results are posted! Excuse me while I freak out!!
Bar prep is crazy. It’s constant work and preparation for what will be the biggest exam of your life. Planning bar prep is critical to doing well on the bar and making sure you practice everything you need to know to set yourself up for success. Now, I don’t know about other states’ bar exams but for Ohio there are three days: MBE, Essays, and MPT. That means, I need to practice multiple choice, short essays, and legal writing. But, planning out how to get the most out of my days and learn all I need to was particularly difficult. Here’s what I came up with: 1. Every day, I have a Barbri lecture starting at 9am. Obviously that was the first thing to get put in my calendar because to me, the lectures are non-negotiable. I honestly believe that without lectures, I absolutely will fail the bar.
2. After putting the lectures on my calendar, I focused on making sure my time was divided between essays and MBE questions. For each topic on the Ohio essays, I made sure to schedule 4 untimed essays and 1 timed essay. For every MBE topic, I have at least 30 MBE questions on just that topic. I made sure that I’m writing the essays and doing the multiple choice questions within 3 days after I listen to the lecture.
3. Because I’m going to Ireland, I’m missing the first three days of bar prep (NO regret on that, btw). In addition to all the other work I’m doing, I have to schedule in makeup lectures to cover the topics I’m missing. Scheduling those as early as possible helps me stay on track with what I’m supposed to be learning.
4. Once I had all the items I needed to get done laid out, I made sure to schedule them in a way that gives me breaks. I plan to do a lot of bar prep at school, coffee shops, and as a last resort, at home. I’ll need breaks to go get food or coffee, use the bathroom, and chat with my friends. Even though bar prep is stressful and it’s tempting to work non-stop then take a long break, I know I don’t study the best that way. It’s easier for me to focus on something if I know that I’m getting lunch with someone after my lecture or I can go get coffee after my essay.
5. Finally, I scheduled in my other non-negotiables. I HAVE to go to to gym. It’s relaxing for me and gives me a nice break from the day to day work that I do. By scheduling the gym before I “start my day” I can feel good about being productive already and it sets me up to be productive the rest of the day. I also know that I have a husband and dogs that are going to hate me during bar prep. Every few weeks, I scheduled in one day a week that I take a break. In this case, Thursday after 3:30 all bar prep stops, no exceptions. Patrick and I will go to dinner, take the dogs to the dog park, etc.
Now, as for after vendor classes end, I have NO idea what to do. Thankfully, I have an awesome bar passage professor that can help me set a schedule for what I should be doing during that time so I can be as successful as possible.
How have you set up your bar prep schedule?
That’s a scary thought. In only a few short months, I will be taking the biggest exam of my life and hopefully I’ll finally reach my goal of being an attorney. I got an email from my vendor course (I went with Barbri) about the “early start” program and decided the more prep I have over a long period of time, the better I’ll be in the end. So, my calendar is crammed with bar prep stuff for the next four months now.
My father in law has a saying that he loves to tell his kids “plan your work, work your plan”. As someone who has things planned all the time, this saying has always stuck with me. It really applies to bar prep too. There are a lot of things you can do to make bar prep time easier and less stressful for everyone involved. Now, I can’t say all of these will be super helpful because I haven’t gone through bar prep yet but this is what I’ve done so far:
1.Notify your family
Explain to your family what bar prep is really like so they can understand why you won’t be available as much. I sat down with Patrick a few weeks ago and laid out exactly what the bar covered, why it was so difficult, and how high stakes the bar really is. We have a shared calendar where I put all my bar prep lectures, practice tests, etc. I set up my office away from the house and told him to use the front door during bar prep so I wouldn’t be disturbed.
Really, this goes beyond just people who live with you though. I talk to my friends and family ALL the time. While my friends easily understand that they won’t hear from me and it’s temporary, my family doesn’t always get that. Over Thanksgiving my mom and stepdad will be visiting. I plan on sitting down with them with my bar prep calendar and explaining that I won’t be available as much. I hope to schedule at least a few calls to them a week so they know I haven’t succumb to bar prep stress. Then, over Christmas, I’ll give my extended family the “don’t bother me, I’m living but super busy” talk and explaining just how bad bar prep can get.
2. Plan the nitty gritty
I have two dogs. I have a household. I have a husband. Even though I’ll be super busy, those things still need to be tended to. I can’t leave my dogs crated all day and I can’t leave them outside all day in the winter. I can’t ignore everything around my house. I definitely can’t ignore my husband all the time. So, just like I am doing with the phone calls home, I am making a plan on when I can set aside time to take care of things. I have date nights scheduled and drinks with friends. I have Phi Mu alumnae events and trips to the dog park. I’ve planned dinners that can be frozen to make cooking easier. It seems ridiculous to plan these things out but knowing when things are going to occur and having an end date on when you get to take a break has always made me feel more relaxed about the situation.
3. Get help!
Good gracious, I cannot stress this enough. You cannot do it all alone! I’m very fortunate to have my amazing husband who will help take care of the house and the dogs but even with him, there’s always work to be done. Luckily, we’ve been using a doggy daycare twice a week for about a year now and the dogs are gone all day and sleep all night. We have a lawn service we’re using right now (since we don’t actually own a lawn mower) that I would rely on if we need a cut and don’t have time. I’m in search of a dog walker for the non-daycare days and a maid service for when we just get too overwhelmed. Seriously, these services exist for a reason. It’s hard for law students to get over their pride and accept help but sometimes, you just gotta suck it up.
4. Set a budget
Patrick and I have a monthly budget that gets done every month. That’s not the type of budget I mean. During bar prep, you’ll want coffee, junk food, days out, whatever. Set a specific budget for that and only that so you don’t have to stress about “big picture” money and can focus on keeping yourself healthy. For example, I have a $1000 coffee budget since I will most likely be spending a large chunk of time at Starbucks and I cannot function without coffee. I have a small shopping budget for stress relief trips to Target. In the grand scheme of things, as long as the bills are getting paid, I don’t have to worry about what’s in the bank as long as I stay in that budget.
Find someone else taking the bar and set a plan. Do you want to listen to lectures together? Sit in the same room? Get together for a drink once a week? Figure out how you can use other students and friends to just vent. The bar exam is something that non-law students have a hard time understanding. Make sure you take time to vent about your stress and just live for a bit. If you have no one to commiserate with, I’m ALWAYS available!
What other ways are you prepping for bar prep?