The bar exam is a critical component of the law school journey. For most, job opportunities hinge on the results, and passing it is required in order to obtain a law license. So, the stakes are high when preparing for the exam; as passing the first time is a priority. Most preparation plans were designed pre-COVID, but as test takers have had to navigate changing test dates and the transition to remotely proctored exams, new challenges have arisen.
If you are preparing for the remote test in February, we are here to share our top five learnings from this fall to help you feel ready for the exam.
- Outline your study schedule. The bar exam is a comprehensive, two-day test covering a wide variety of subjects that you may or may not have covered in law school. It is not uncommon to dedicate upwards of 400 hours spanning 8 to 10 weeks to prepare for the exam. Therefore, it is important to outline and stick to a study routine. The February test dates are less likely to be moved than we witnessed with the past July exam dates, but if they are moved, don’t let the change in dates throw a wrench in your plans. Take stock of how much time you still have and work backwards from the new test date to determine when you should begin preparing.
- Communicate your study plans with your family, friends and roommates. Having the support of family, friends and roommates is important when preparing for the bar. This has been heightened during COVID, as more test takers have to study at home versus at a library or coffee shop. Sharing your study plan with those around you can help hold you accountable and provide you quiet, uninterrupted time to focus.
- Leverage the resources at your school. While preparing for the bar during a pandemic might be new territory, you are not alone. Some law schools offer additional support to help students prioritize and adjust study schedules to accommodate shifting test dates. In addition, some school staff have increased communication with students to help pass along announcements on changes from the State Bar of California and help direct students to additional resources to answer questions. Lastly, with one round of students having already completed the remote bar, tapping alumni who can share their feedback and tips for taking the remote exam can help ease nerves.
- Test your equipment. The State Bar of California approved administering the February test remotely, similar to the October test. The remote software and testing requirements make it critical that test takers have access to a secure internet connection to download each question and upload answers and to film proctoring-related recordings of each session. This includes having access to a microphone and webcam. Make a checklist before the exam of the items you need ready on testing day – including chargers, back up batteries if your keyboard and mouse are wireless, etc. Then, familiarize yourself with the guidelines, specifically the technological requirements and features of the exam softwareso that there are no surprises on test day.
- Secure your testing location. Because the bar exam is remote, it is important to have a quiet place to remain uninterrupted on the testing days. Not only does this allow you to focus, but it is imperative to minimizing background noise and movement, as any of these can flag a concern to the remote proctoring system and put test results at jeopardy. Contact your law school to see if they are able to make available study rooms and offices, with the privacy required by the state bar, to assist students lacking a suitable testing environment at home.
Preparing for the bar exam can be stressful under normal circumstances but navigating this test amid a pandemic has brought new challenges. Remember, you are not alone. To be successful and ease anxiety, be prepared and leverage the resources around you.