How to beat the bar exam by doing extra things to improve your odds

By Stefan Borst-Censullo, Esq.

To begin off I want to apologize to you, the good reader, for my contribution to this over stuffed cannon of “hey so you’re about to take the bar, here’s some tips.” However, you have obviously decided to read this post, so you are either very bored or beyond desperate. In any case I hope this will help you realize either that ALL HOPE IS NOT LOST or alternatively assist in further procrastination before you dive head-first into the hours of MBEs.

The main lesson that I, an underemployed, heavily indebted, but FULLY LICENSED ATTORNEY can impart on you  is to remember what the bar is really testing. The bar is not measuring your intelligence, your commitment to the pursuit of justice, or the goodness of your soul. Rather the bar is a relentless ritual. Plenty of great advocates have failed the bar multiple times while undeserving folk (like yours truly) somehow managed to sneak past the graders.

The bar is nothing more than a ritual

Our esteemed elders in the legal community insist that we need to endure simply because they too went through it. The way to pass this exam involves the time old method of “embracing the suck.” Translated from its original grunt, that your best bet is to focus on improving your chances of survival through trying your best to put in eight good hours of studying a day in some sort of organized methodology of covering as many subjects as possible.

Given the razor-thin edge between passing (which feels like this) and failing (seen here), it’s understandably unnerving to think about how little of your fate is out of your control.

A few extra things that help improve your odds

  • Don’t take chances with your computer. I bit the bullet and replaced my five-year-old Mac once it started showing its age. The “hey I’m going to turn off without warning” thing was annoying enough while I was streaming Bobs Burgers, and it would have been panic inducing during the test.
  • Spend good money on a quiet hotel. With all the understandably massive levels of stress you’ll have during the actual testing days, there’s no guarantee you’ll have a good night’s sleep. But a place with thick walls and dark curtains is a nice place to decompress.
  • Don’t skimp on exercising and eating right. I have no clue whether my habits of long distance running and healthy snaking contributed to me passing or not. However, I can tell you that I maintained my focus during both my studying period, and the extent of those grueling three hours without a blood sugar drop or an emergency run to the restroom during the MBEs. So do your best to get 45 minutes to an hour a day of some sort of movement (walking a pet would suffice) and eat whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean proteins like your mom told you to do years ago.
  • Imbibe some mood-elevating media. Inevitably during the course of your studies, you are going to have moments/days full of self-doubt. Furthermore, walking into a room of a few thousand stressed out type-A personalities undergoing the most important test of their lives is a bit intimidating. Therefore, do you best to take the occasional break from studying to look at a cute animal (your friends who went to med school even approve). On the way to the test, listen to family friendly inspirational music, or really anything from friend of the legal community Freddie Gibbs. When things got especially bad I (reflexively) turned to this preview of “Elysium,” because repeatedly seeing Matt Damon murder rich people in space somehow reminded me why I was taking the bar in the first place.

Finally I have to say that the best advice BARBRI gave me during the extent of this test was remembering that taking the bar is a privilege. Plenty of people (not me, though) would trade places with you in a second. In addition, YES, becoming a lawyer (even in this job market) is worth the pain. So seriously, I wish a sincere “best of luck” to all of y’all. This is an experience you will justifiably hate, but the reward is sweet.