10 Things You Will Do While Studying for the Bar

1Fail a Practice Exam. You will take a practice exam—whether it’s a set of MBE’s, an essay, or a performance test—and find that you are clearly below the passing range. Such performance is to be expected in the first week, as you are in the process of learning. The unsettling thing is that the failures keep happening, and eventually they will come frighteningly close to the date of the exam, and the fear of impending doom will start to mess with your brain. Some people who pass the bar never “pass” a practice exam.

2Resent Anyone Who Says You Will Pass. You have always been “successful,” “smart,” and “a great test taker.” Family and friends who are non-lawyers know this about you, and they choose to remind you anytime you mention that you think you are about to fail big time. You understand that they are generally correct, but you know for a fact that your loved ones don’t know what they are talking about this time. Being told that “of course you will pass” only results in a blood-boiling rage. You already aren’t seeing non-lawyer friends often because of your busy schedule, but their attempts at understanding and encouragement will make you more and more removed as the test date approaches.

3Abandon Something You Normally Do. Some aspect of your life, something that you were able to maintain throughout even law school, will fall by the wayside. If you were a cool, work-life balance kind of law student, that might mean you stop playing guitar or surfing or making cool jewelry holders for a few months while studying. If you don’t have a fun thing to let go of, then the things that do go will be disturbing. You might start showering at alarmingly low rates, eating erratically, and talking to friends and family basically never. You will amaze even yourself.

4Buy Something Ridiculous. At some point, you will make a stress purchase that makes no real sense at all. If you need socks, maybe you’ll buy five dozen because that seems reasonable at the time. You might decide that now is the time to restart your POG collection, just so you can remember what it felt like to be a child again. Perhaps most bar trips are booked while the recent grad is in the midst of studying, because stress combined with wanderlust can be an expensive combination.

5Have Some Kind of Sleep Issue. Whether you are awake at three in the morning anxiously criticizing yourself and what you did for the day, or randomly taking a three hour nap in the middle of the day because you can’t focus on the assignment at hand, your sleep will be more irregular than it was during finals.

6Gain or Lose Weight. The stress of studying for the bar exam will affect your eating habits in one way or another. Maybe you’re the type that enjoys a good stress eat and can’t work out until you have finished all the work for the day (spoiler alert: that never happens). Or maybe you’re the type that likes to control that which you can control, so your diet and exercise routine turns into the embodiment of perfection. Either way, you won’t be the same person you were when you started the summer.

7Pick Up a Weird Habit. You will do something that surprises you. Maybe you will start eating fast food or frozen pizzas or Wherther’s Originals. Maybe you’ll start watching America’s Next Top Model or listening to disco music or spend hours on YouTube watching Broadway musical performances. Or, you might start biting your nails, over-plucking your eyebrows, or grinding your teeth.

8Drink Alone. There will come a day when the anxiety of the day will result in you drinking a beer in your underwear at three in the afternoon. Or, you may use alcohol as a study tool, to ease the stress and allow yourself to focus on that outline you can’t seem to get through. Or, you may just find it too hard to schedule hanging out with people, so any drinking you do ends up happening in your apartment, solo.

9Have a Weird Run-in with a Stranger. You will live in a bubble, and everything you do within that bubble will make sense. You will dress terribly, shower rarely, and be either too thin or too fat for your current clothes. You will only discuss the law for so long that you will be unable to have any other kind of discussion. The stressed, frazzled person you are will at some point confuse or insult someone who simply does not understand you. Maybe you will call something arbitrary and capricious and then laugh hysterically and, arguably, manically. Maybe you will explain that you filled out the wrong form, but you will do so in a way that no working professional will understand. Or maybe some customer service representative will waste your valuable time, and you will become the kind of jerk that yells at someone trying their best to do their job.

10Cry. You will cry at some point. You might cry in response to studying for the bar – after failing a practice exam, feeling overwhelmed, or being afraid of failure. Or you’ll break down about something wholly unrelated to but still caused by bar study – when the hotel you want to book is all full, when watching an episode of The Bachelorette, or when you run out of shampoo a week before the exam.

Post image from Shutterstock

Kate Currer is a writer, stand-up comic, and attorney. Her other work can be found at katecurrer.tumblr.com. Her shortest writings can be found on Twitter @KateCurrer.

53 Comments

  1. Knute Rife

    June 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I didn’t cry.

    • Al

      June 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      Wait till you get back your results……lol j/k.

      • Joe Downey

        March 8, 2013 at 11:06 am

        Then Al once you pass call Satan on your Cell Phone and sell your Soul Since you are now a Lawyer you do not need a Soul since you will not use Morals or Ethics.

  2. Cris

    June 6, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Absolutely 100% true.

  3. Frank Watkins

    June 6, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    I suppose this applies to some of the test-takers. After all, some people do fail or struggle. But for the vast majority, the bar exam is a breeze. If you don’t believe me, check the bar passage rates for your school. It’s amazing how students at top law schools never feared getting a C or D in classes against the nation’s top students, but waste their last free summer convincing themselves that they will be in the bottom few percent against the masses. Please don’t fall victim to Barbri’s scare tactics or your own paranoia. Last summer was the most enjoyable of my life. I listening to the lectures, made an outline, and then spent my days poolside. The real misery is working in Big Law.

    • Frank Hater

      June 7, 2012 at 9:02 am

      Wow. Thanks Frank for letting the silent majority know that we’re stupid because we’re spending 10-14 hours per day studying instead of “spending [our] days poolside.” When you get a chance, look back at the top of this post and read #2 for us. That should help you understand where the anger in this reply comes from.

      • Joe

        June 7, 2012 at 9:23 am

        I’m with Frank Watkins, that is. Frank Hater, all I can say is that you’re playing into their hands, son. And no one said YOU were gonna pass.

      • Carson

        July 5, 2012 at 9:28 am

        “Overstudying” just means you care! Keep at it, don’t waste time reading mess like these comments, and keep trucking. Seriously, if a person thinks that studying 10 hours a day is a waste of time then let them. You keep moving forward, do whatever you need to do to feel confident, composed, and prepared for the first day of the bar! It will pay off in the end. I tell myself now, “wow I probably studied too much.” But I’d rather have that feeling than the opposite of not having studied enough. Good luck everyone! And if you are freaking out and having meltdowns, I promise the way to handle it is to go chill with friends for a bit, take a coffee break, go walk on the beach or in a park. Clear your head and realize that life will go on (one way or another). Just stay calm and you will surprise yourself with the results. And most of all, ignore negativity! Good luck!

    • Mac

      June 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      Hey Frank Watkins. The bar might be a breeze, but good luck getting through life. Just a heads up, arrogance is never attractive, even when it is warranted. It doesn’t make you look cool. It makes you look like a douche. And FYI. where you went to school has no bearing on how smart you are or whether you will actually be a good lawyer. Social skills and common sense are far more relevant than an A in contracts from Harvard.

    • Steve in DC

      May 29, 2013 at 9:03 am

      With the new-fangled technology, studying and spending time poolside are not mutually exclusive.

  4. Jack

    June 7, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I was one of those people that never passed a practice exam, and I passed the MBE with flying colors. Believe it or not, I even had a high enough score to waive into the DC bar.

  5. Joe

    June 7, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I’m with Frank. Because of some lingering law school issues, I only studied for the last month of the Bar Bri course and it still wasn’t that bad or stressful. I still found time to socialize and hit the gym and I spent the nights both before and during the bar exam at the inner harbor in Bmore dining on crab cakes and beer. Its a two day stress test. Its meant to make people flip out, second guess themselves, work inefficiently and collapse under pressure. Get over it. Its not like they’re gonna shoot you if your adjusted multistate score is a 125 or lower.

  6. John

    June 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Nothing shameful about putting in the work necessary to pass, if that means working 15 hour days from graduation to bar, or picking up the books a few weeks beforehand and having a pleasant time of it. All that matters is passing. Whatever works is good. Whatever doesn’t is not useful.

    • ataturkey

      June 3, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Dude, if you’re going to be a lawyer, you will be working 15 hour days after you pass the bar. The bar is easy as pie, it’s law firm life that is hard (or so I am told, I avoided that like the plague).

  7. Nadene Reid

    June 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you Frank Watkins. I swear, if I hear one more time that I’m not allowed to go out whatsoever in the next 8 weeks I will scream. I’m studying, but I’m also taking time for a breather here and there. Sue me!

    • Guano Dubango

      June 8, 2012 at 7:19 am

      It was my experience that you will need to study hard, but then will also need some time to recharge your batteries. You can do this by relaxing, or exercising, or otherwise, as the case may be.

      When I was completing my LLM, I often provided companionship for 3 attractive females in need of this break from studying.

      • r. dernister

        June 13, 2012 at 8:54 am

        Guano Dubango, we’re changing your name to Big Pimpin’, yo. Three ‘hos and an LL.M. Just sayin’ . . .

  8. Fizay

    June 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    So basically what real grad students go through on more or less monthly cycles

    *SOB*

  9. BarPrepper

    June 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I had my first bar exam meltdown today.

    Got overwhelmed and started crying. I’m scoring 42-50% correct on the practice question sets.

    • Bar Passer

      June 8, 2012 at 8:52 am

      Bar Prepper,

      I would focus on the explanations rather than your score in these first few weeks. Flash cards really helped me solidify some of the concepts, too. Good luck!

  10. Julya

    June 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    While I was studying for the bar I had the movie 4 Weddings and a Funeral on constantly in the background. I watched im 30 times….I hate that movie. I passed the Texas bar the first time.

  11. guy mcguber

    June 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    What a waste article… the bar is NOT HARD…. and everyone passes.

    • Koala

      June 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      We all know law students aren’t known for their math skills, but if everyone passed then the pass rates would all be 100%, wouldn’t they?

  12. Second Timer

    June 9, 2012 at 8:00 am

    I’m almost offended by reading comments like “everyone passes.” You are reading the message of someone who did NOT pass the first time. I am sitting for the bar exam again this summer, but believe me when I say, I will pass! Honestly last year was very stressful for me because of non-related bar factors. Last year, I did a majority of things on this list and didn’t pass, so please do not allow this bar exam to consumer your everything. This year, however, I feel much more calm and realizing this exam (and process) is designed to make people freak out. Certainly I don’t know if I will pass this year, but I am claiming that now and so should you. Take care, everyone and thanks for your commentary!

  13. Barely Passed

    June 12, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Keep in mind that you pass the Bar with a D-. You don’t need to make an A.

  14. amber

    July 4, 2012 at 7:02 am

    I haven’t bought anything ridiculous yet, YES, something different to look forward to. I went three years of law school not crying about anything, about two weeks ago I realized I cry so much now I’ve taken to getting up in the a.m. and just having a good ol’ cry to circumvent having to do it later in public. :)

  15. VAfoLovaz

    July 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

    regarding 4: I bought a fish tank, guitar, and car. Crap.

  16. fla bar failure

    July 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    i just failed a practice test with a 50%. it is my worst score so far. we have 12 days until the bar and i just had my first “i’m going to fail” panic attack. its the first time this whole summer i really believed i was going to fail. :(

  17. Anonymous lady

    September 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I started downloading a ton of porn in the library while “studying” That library restroom saw more action from me than it probably had in the 200 years it existed.

    (and I’m a girl)

  18. River Dancer

    September 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    While studying for the bar at a libary, I began to randomly get up and river dance. I have no Irish Blood in me, not even close. Then, I would begin to bellydance. This typically happened during K Law Review. Good Luck All!

    • Jerry

      September 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      Dude, it sounds like you’d be better off finding a woman to bone!

  19. Legal Clerk

    September 26, 2012 at 8:02 am

    So I am on pace to take the bar exam in feb of 2014 without a law school degree. Now whether I’ll pass or not is a toss up however I do know the exam anxiety has already began creeping up on me. I have so much to learn in a year… here we go

  20. Neil

    December 4, 2012 at 9:15 am

    So true:

    1) Graders marked mine 38… out of 100. I copied from their sample answers…
    2) In my immediate family, there are three attorneys. My dead grandfather was an attorney. All passed on their first try. All said I would pass no problem. No pressure or anything. I thought familial love could never be questioned…
    3) I moved into an apartment so I could study… stopped sleeping with my girlfriend because she said my sleeping was “too erratic” for her. She’s a swing shift nurse…
    4) I bought a motorcycle after passing the bar. Three days after passing the bar. I thought “hey, I passed. I’ll have a great job soon…”
    5) See 3.
    6) Forget exercise. Take the bar. I lost 12 pounds…
    7) I started studying with a girl I knew was going to fail because it made me feel smarter. She failed…
    8) Three nights before the bar, I went out with friends (who weren’t taking the bar) and said “I’m on a mission.” I got drunk and proclaimed loudly I was going to take home the hottest girl at the bar. I woke up, mid blackout, mid coitus, not sure how I got there. I dated that mail lady for three months. Her nickname was USPS. She delivered…
    9) Ran into an ex at Starbucks. Asked her how far along she was. Turns out she wasn’t pregnant.
    10) My girlfriend, two weeks before the bar, told me I wasn’t paying enough attention to her, and it was either her, or the bar. I chose the bar. First time I’ve cried since I was ten.

  21. Joe Downey

    December 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Maybe Human Sacrifice since to be a Lawyer you must have no Morals. Ask Leland Delagraza of the Texas UnLawful Practice of Law Committee. The Un lawful portion is the part where you will not lie steal or anything criminal to get what you want

  22. Joe Downey

    December 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Human Sacrifice since you have no soul once you are a Lawyer. Mister Shakespear was correct

  23. Cindy

    March 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Those are all so true!!!! I’m so glad that time of my life is over.

  24. Michael Walsh

    May 21, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    That “you will fail a practice exam” thing is a scam that bar review courses unleash upon you to make you think that they are turning you from a failure into a bar passer. I went through 3 years of law school at a top 20 school without getting a below-average grade, and I’d literally never failed any exam in my life. Sure enough, my first two practice exams during bar review came back with failing scores. I never turned in another practice exam after the second one, but I passed the bar just fine.

  25. Kristen

    May 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I watched “Bachelorettes in Alaska” every week while studying for the bar. I looked forward to it so much. It was the only thing in my life that summer which required no thought whatsoever.

  26. J Thomas

    May 28, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    When I was studying for the bar I developed a brief case of bruxism – to the point where I clenched by jaw so hard that I chipped a tooth. It was a small chip and I didn’t get it repaired because I see it as a badge of honor. I passed the Michigan Bar on the first try about 10 points shy of a perfect score.

  27. Sarah Parisi

    May 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    #11 Dream about it. Everyone I know who took the Bar had at least one dream about it. Years later some still have nightmares about it.

  28. Suzanne Fluhr (JustOneBoomer)

    May 28, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    I found out I passed the PA bar exam in November of 1980. Since then I got married, gave birth to and raised two sons and attended one of their weddings 3 weeks ago. I am sorry to say that the happiest day of my life was when I found out I passed the bar exam.;-)

  29. M Walter

    May 28, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    You missed masturbation … I think it goes with th cry section … Masturbate, cry, repeat, welcome to the bar!

  30. Hal

    May 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Better to find a woman to get off with. I humped a 2nd year while I was studied for the bar and she was great to relieve the stress.

    • John Meyers

      July 13, 2013 at 11:56 am

      I humped your mom and she wasn’t bad either

  31. kimboslice

    June 8, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    this article isn’t funny and all the comments are stupid

  32. Joseph

    June 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I’m with Frank. I have taken 2 bar exams, and never once did I do any of these things. It’s not that hard. Anyone who isn’t working full time or dealing with some sort of major life crisis/transition while studying for the bar has a pretty easy 2 months.

  33. Lexloca

    June 25, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    When i was studying for my first bar exam, i packed my kid off to his grandparents for the summer, stocked up on Oreos and locked myself in the extra bedroom to study 10 hours a day. Pased on the first try. The second bar exam, i was working full time and studied my outlines evenings and weekends. Pased on the first try. Third bar exam, i glanced through the Martindale-Hubble summary of the law of that jurisdiction and just decided to wing it. STILL passed first try. The moral is, it doesn’t necessarily take studying to insanity to pass. I know that, being paranoid overachievers, recent law grads will still stress themselves out studying and worrying about passing the bar but, just remember, this time next month it will be over for most of you and, unlike me, you won’t find it necessary to take it in more than one state!

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