#BarPrepLife: Deep into bar prep

GUEST BLOG by Lauren Thedford,
SMU Law School graduate and BARBRI bar review student

Hello,

I’m officially deep into bar prep. Here are my thoughts:

Fill in the blank learning is wonderful

I learn by writing what I’m studying, so the fill in the blank method is great for me. Also, colorful pens are clutch in these situations. Not only do the pretty colors make me happy (yes, it’s that simple), it helps the words to stand out so I can see if I’ve missed anything.

Fill in the blank also keeps me pretty attentive. The only time it becomes an issue is crim law (because there are so many elements to fill in for common law crimes we don’t even pay attention to anymore), but I think that’s just because it’s crim law…

The crazier the example, the better my retention

The BARBRI lecturers are basically stand-up comedians, thank God. I’m not saying you would pay to see them talk about torts if you didn’t have to pass the bar, but they try to keep it interesting. Thus far we’ve experienced all sorts of violence with the Family Guy™ crew. If you really want to get the point across that improper sexual touching constitutes an offensive contact for battery, Quagmire is the key.

Unfortunately, the combination of fill in the blank learning, colorful pens, and funny characters leads me to doodle in my lecture book. I remember a martini is a part of Brian’s person for purposes of Stewie’s battery, but after that I began drawing a nice little martini picture and missed a few fill ins.

My brain has already begun to turn into bar prep mush

Even the most basic of math skills are falling out of my head and I misplace things almost immediately after someone hands me something. However, I still run through elements in my head whenever someone looks like they might fall (Negligence? Did I cause this? Am I in a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction? Joint and Several liability applies unless I’m told it doesn’t. Do I have a duty to aid!?! You get the picture. Also, they never actually fall and I’m just over here making up my own MBE question). So, basically my brain is doing something, it’s just not very useful in society.

I love the reward system

I already knew this about myself, but to incentivize getting bar prep done and catching that little arrow (oh yes, I did it), I force myself to complete things before I get to do something fun. Graduation gift card? That looks like fun, but you have to finish your BARBRI AMP, first. You want to eat ice cream? Too bad, that CMR is not going to read itself. Mom calls me disciplined, but whatever you want to call it it’s a bit weird and it works for me. Worth a try if you’re motivated by food and leaving your study spot. 🙂

Twitter is a great place to find other bar prep commiserates

It makes me feel a little bit better when I see other tweeters going through the same struggle. I mean, we are all in this together, although I do hope someone helps with the curve…

If you haven’t already, check out:

  • #BarPrepJams for study music
  • #BarPrepLife for general thoughts and funny stories
  • BarPrepProblems for those problems that, but for bar prep, you wouldn’t have (disclaimer: I have no idea if that even makes sense, but it sounded cool)

For more articles written by law students during bar prep, check out:

See you on twitter at @barpreplife,

Thed

How balance, sleep, down time and saying “no” can help you pass the bar exam

By Stephanie Chandler, Esq.,
BARBRI Manager of Legal Education

It is important to embrace balance in every aspect of your life, especially when it comes to law school and the bar exam. You already know how important it is to stay focused and regimented in your studies. It is equally important to make sure you are getting some down time each day.

BALANCE

During law school, it was so easy to burn the candle at both ends, procrastinate on assignments and pull all-nighters. Unfortunately, Red Bull isn’t an acceptable food group. Studying for the bar exam is a strenuous process and you are going to need to work hard.

You should be spending 8-10 hours per day studying, seven days a week. You do not want to extend much beyond 10 hours a day, as you are going to fatigue your brain and get diminishing returns on your efforts. Sleep and adequate rest are irreplaceable and necessary for memory retention and performance.

SLEEP

For those who may be unfamiliar, sleep is that thing you avoid when you are binge-watching Netflix at 1 a.m. or staying out until close on bar review night. It is also what keeps you from turning into a living zombie who chases caffeine instead of brains. It may be possible to get by on inadequate rest during law school, but it’s not going to fly during bar review.

Getting enough sleep is important in terms of being ready to work hard each day and in making it through two months of intense daily study. In order to prepare yourself, you may be well-served to assess your sleeping habits and make any necessary changes during the time between graduation and the first day of your bar review class.

I don’t fall asleep easily. I am not sure that I ever did. However, I explored different sleep-help options and I ended up finding gold. My secret weapon was yoga. Specifically, this video.

Other helpful sleep tips:

  • Turn off your phone, TV, tablet, computer, etc. The blue light from the screens will keep your body awake.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise too close to bedtime.
  • Use your bed for sleep only. Don’t study or work in your room. It will help prime your mind to recognize your bedroom as a place of rest.
  • Cut caffeine by the afternoon.
  • Listen to meditation/relaxation podcasts or a white noise app.

DOWNTIME

Although you may have heard this a thousand times, it is so important to regularly take time for YOU. You may feel anxious about doing it, but just let it go. You need to decompress so you don’t go crazy.

Each day is going to arrive with its own challenges. That may seem horrifying, but it’s part of the game. You need to identify and work on your weak areas now so that you can be a rock star on the bar exam. That means you are going to spend about two months getting wrong answers and taking constructive criticism on your writing. This is a normal part of the process and it does help you improve (even though you may feel like throwing your computer against the wall).

What do you like to do in your free time? Check out this blog for ideas.

SOCIAL PLANS

For everyone else, summer is a fun time of picnics, weddings and baby showers. You will be living outside of this world from late May through July.

“But wait, Stephanie, you’ve been spending all this time about how we need to focus on ‘me time’ and balance and Kumbaya!”

Downtime is just as important as the time you spend studying, but that doesn’t mean you can spend an equal amount of time devoted to each pursuit. Remember, you need to be studying 8-10 hours per day. That still gives you adequate time to socialize. However, you may want to keep in mind that you probably shouldn’t party the way you normally may. (You know what I mean. Back away from that second Corona.)

Many students have family events taking place during their bar studies and ask me whether they can attend. I can’t tell you whether to go or not, but there are some factors I think you should consider: How far away is this event? How much time would you need to take away from studying? How are you feeling about your bar studies? Are you on track with your assignments or do you feel behind?

You need to think about your needs as a student, and as a person. Consider your life after the bar exam and whether you will regret missing out on sharing in your friend or family’s special day.

THIS IS A TIME FOR YOU

A big factor in studying and sitting for the bar exam is your emotional state. Honor it. Get enough sleep. Focus on you during downtime. Know your boundaries and have the freedom to say no to others.

Given all the time you will spend hitting the books, it may not seem like you are focusing on yourself much at all. But let me put it this way – you get to take the bar exam. You earned this and have worked hard to get to this point in your life. Not many people qualify to sit for the bar, but you do. Trust in your drive, ambition and strength. You can do this!

If you want any podcast recommendations, or have questions or concerns, you can reach me at Stephanie.Chandler@barbri.com.