Bar exam anxiety all boils down to coming face to face with a really important test that stands in the path of your dream, and not feeling prepared to conquer it. That's really it.
There is only one cure to that debilitating feeling of stress: 1. Become ready to take the bar exam
It is this "becoming ready" process that you can seek solace in each day. It is taking the actions which you KNOW are providing measurable progress towards your goal which cures the anxiety.
Let's look at something other than the bar exam. Let's look at health and fitness. If you have excess weight to lose and need to strengthen your body, it can be a source of anxiety or worry for you. But if you meet with a health coach or dietician or trainer, and they explain exactly what you need to do to achieve your goal of losing weight and improving your physical conditioning, then you are now armed with a plan.
But let's say you thank them very much for their actionable plan, but then go home and fail to take the actions they have proscribed. Will your anxiety decrease? Will you feel good about your anticipated progress 3 months down the line? No. Of course not. And that's because KNOWING what you need to do and THINKING about what you need to do CHANGE NOTHING.
If you follow the meal plan to the letter; if you do the push-ups and lunges they instructed you to do; if you drink the 80 ounces of water they said to drink... If you DO THE WORK, consistently, day in and day out, you will not go to bed each night with the anxiety you would be if you didn't do any of it. You know that change is happening, because you're taking action.
It's the same with bar prep. On exam day, you need to successfully perform the bar exam tasks: MBE, essays, and performance tests. That's it. So if you're not taking action that directly relates to becoming successful at those tasks, then you are going to be racked by bar exam anxiety.
Practice, practice, practice!
If you’ve read my book, you will know that I advocate taking practice exams - a lot of them. In fact, on my program, you will practice every. single. day. Whether it be MBEs, essays or a PT, you will be practicing.
Sounds sucky, right? And that is why so many bar examinees don’t do it. The truth is, it does suck. It is SO HARD to pull out the essay question, set the timer, and start typing. I’m not going to lie, and you would have no respect for me if I tried to sugar coat it anyway.
But that’s only one side to the story. The other side is this: after you get going - after you do the first few practice tests - it gets a LOT easier. In fact, I came to look forward to taking practice essays. That’s because the practicing pays off and you really start to know what you’re doing. It feels so satisfying to confidently answer an essay question...to know that if that had been the real bar exam you would have felt damn proud of what you wrote. That feeling - that confidence - removes ALL exam anxiety!
See, it all comes down to this: it could have been the real exam. Every former essay question you answer was the real exam for someone. And to know that you just nailed it makes a HUGE difference in your confidence. You will feel prepared, which is the name of the game when it comes to the bar exam.
I wish I could transfer to you the feeling I had as I was studying for the bar exam and doing a lot of practice tests. In the beginning, it was as if the bar exam was a big monstrous blob weighing down on top of me. It invaded every waking (and sleeping) thought, causing me physical discomfort (upset stomach anyone?) and anxiety.
For every practice question or practice test I completed, the blob shrank and had less power over me. And if I had a good long study session some days, the blob just left completely. I would feel so accomplished and confident after taking practice tests that I would - get this - be able to go home and watch TV without feeling any guilt whatsoever. I know, right?
It’s all because I was being proactive and actually doing something productive. I knew the practice test I just took was going to have a positive effect on the bottom line. I’d bet almost anything that you don’t feel this same sort of confidence and assurance by just reading outlines. Why do you think that is???
So I know there’s no way I can sweet talk you into believing that taking practice exams won’t suck. And I’m not even trying to do that. But what I am trying to do is give you a glimpse into how great the results are. Every time you sit down to practice you are in control of the bar exam blob and doing something about it. You will be getting better and better at performing on the exam and you really get the law cemented into your brain. Not to mention the fact that if you answer enough prior questions, there is a small likelihood that you will face something on the real exam that you haven’t already handled during bar prep.
My study approach actually makes it painless to start. When you first start doing essays and performance tests, it is easy. There's far too much information to share in a single article, and this only scratches the surface of the advice I can offer. If you want a deep-dive into all the nitty gritty of how I did it and how you can do it, too, I compiled all the details of my simple, revolutionary, and incredibly effective approach in Fck The Bar.