Stress Reduction

The third of the three techniques needed to pass any bar exam is stress reduction.

The key for stress reduction is using techniques that will make your experience of anxiety lower without decreasing you performance. Drugs like alcohol, marijuana, opium and numerous manufactured pharmaceuticals, while they will be effective for reducing stress, will destroy your ability to learn and retain information; therefore, they are not useful for this purpose.

The two best ways to reduce stress and actually increase performance are meditation and/or visualization. Ideally, you would be able to do both, but the world is not ideal and so you may need to choose which to do. If you can only choose one, then choose visualization. Mediation is really a lifestyle change, whereas visualization is a focused technique that can be implemented for a short-term goal (e.g., pass the bar exam).


Since visualization will work for everyone, I will only discuss meditation in outline. Meditation involves calming the mind. Meditation trains the mind to shut out all extraneous information and stimuli (whether the stimulus is generated by mind activity or by external sensory inputs).

[UPDATE:  See my much more detailed post about meditation and the bar exam over at my new blog:  BarExamMind.com.]

For those who want to learn more about mediation, I recommend reading Real Happiness:  The Power of Meditation, by Sharon Salzberg, or getting an audio meditation like Thich Nhat Hanh's Touching The Earth. For those of you interested in a quick, online guide to meditation, check out this website.


If meditation seems too "out there" for you, try its little brother: visualization. Visualization is generally as effective as meditation in the short term. Where mediation normally changes your entire life, visualization is highly effective for a single goal. Since your singular goal is to pass the bar examination, visualization is probably a good compromise. (For a good book on visualization, check out Creative Visualization.)

Here is a good (though somewhat hokey) video explaining the process of visualization as well as its power:

Incorporating Vizualization into Your Study Routine
You need to set aside ten minutes at the same time each day. For example, I always did my visualization when I was in bed during the 10-20 minutes immediately before I went to sleep. In my opinion, those last few minutes before you fall asleep are perfect because, in that tired state, your brain is very susceptible to suggestion. You can, of course, use any period when you can have 10-20 minutes of uninterrupted silence. Next, you start to visualize.

What should you visualize? You can visualize whatever you think will help you, but I suggest visualizing three things that will help ease anxiety and create a positive outlook for your examination taking:

1. visualize walking into a very crowded room (500-2,000 people) with rows and rows of tables. One each table are four laptop computers. Thousands of people are rushing among the tables, trying to find their seats. The people are in a panic; it is chaos. You calmly locate you assigned space. You boot up your laptop and sit down. You wait serenely for the test to begin whilst everyone else is totally out of control. [This visualization is to show you that even in the worst possible scenario where you are surrounded by chaos and extraordinary levels of stress, you will keep your cool and be calm during the examination.]

2. visualize writing a great essay, performance test, or having a great MBE session. You can switch it up and visualize each of these three things on different nights, or you can focus on whatever you feel is your weakest subject. The important thing is to visualize a great testing performance. [This visualization will confirm that you can do well on the regurgitation component of the bar examination – i.e., you will be able to recall and/or explain the required legal concepts.]

3. visualize receiving your results and passing the bar examination. Most states post the results online. Sometimes the results are made available publicly so that everyone knows at the same time who passed and failed (e.g., Oregon), other times you need to log in with an ID and password and you can get the results before anyone else (e.g., California). Check how your state does it and visualize using that process. Continue the visualization by telling your family or significant other that you passed: the sacrifice of the last two months has paid off and you are now a lawyer. This is a happy moment for you, enjoy it. [This visualization gives you the added confidence and drive to take the examination because you have visualized how satisfying it will be to pass.]

4. visualize the swearing-in ceremony.  Check out this post for a video of a real swearing-in ceremony to help with your visualization.

Maybe you think visualization is a bunch of hocus pocus hippie foolishness. I will tell you that I visualized passing the California bar exam before I took it. I visualized the entire examination: three morning essays and one afternoon performance test the first day; two 100-question MBE sessions the second day; and three essays and one performance test the third day. I repeated this visualization at least 3 times a week; it normally lasted for 10-20 minutes. I passed the examination on my first attempt when 60% of the others who took the same examination failed.

For more on visualization and the bar exam, check out BarExamMind.com.



UPDATE 9/6/2009 -- Check out my post on dealing with fear during the bar exam. One of the techniques for dealing with fear is negative visualization (i.e., imagining all the worst things that could happen and becoming immune to them and they fear they engender).

Anticipation of Conditions

The second of the three techniques needed to pass any bar exam is anticipation of conditions.

In order to succeed on the bar examination -- or any important test of ability -- one must prepare for it under conditions approximating that "test" situation. This is why people in the military have live-fire exercises and combat training. You don't just hand someone a gun, drop them off in enemy territory, and say, "Go to it." While failure on the bar exam has much less drastic consequences than failure in a war zone, there are lessons to be learned from the intense and cinematic preparation that an advanced military undertakes.

The bar exam is, for most people, a highly stressed two- or three-day period. For some takers, it may be the most stressful situation they have ever been in. Therefore, understanding what the test will be like and practicing in similar conditions is of utmost importance. There are two central aspects of the bar exam for which one must prepare: 1)performing at a high level for 6-8 hours for two or three days in a row and 2) performing while surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of people who are frantically taking the same test you are.

Endurance and High-Level Performance

A bar exam is a multi-day affair. To my knowledge, all states require at least two days of testing, and several (like California) require three. For those in Louisiana, the test is three days, but it is spread over a week (i.e., Monday, Wednesday, Friday). In order to give your best efforts during each day of the test, you must have practiced this. Visualization is also very helpful, and is discussed in another post.

If you are taking BarBri, the company has a built-in practice bar exam where you show up at the class site and take a test in the same format and under the same time contraints as if you were taking your jurisdiction's real bar exam. This is great and, if you take the test seriously, it will likely be sufficient preparation under this prong of my suggestions to you. Now, by "take the practice test seriously," I mean that you should show up, give your best effort for the full time allowed, and get used to the intensity. unless you are brilliant, your performance on the practice test will likely be far from a passing effort. But that does not matter because the point here is just to see how your body and mind reacts to being forced to test for several days in a row.

For those of you not taking BarBri or another review course that does a sample bar examination, you need to build such practice into your study schedule. When I took the Oregon bar, I was taking BarBri and so used its practice test. When I studied for the California bar exam, I was doing it on my own and so had to build it in. CLICK HERE to look at my California bar study schedule. You will note that I chose Tuesday February 5 and Wednesday February 6 as practice exam days. You will probably notice that I only did a two-day practice exam even though the California bar exam is a three-day exam. I chose to do this for two reasons: 1) I had taken a bar exam before and was confident that if I could perform for two days, I could perform for three and 2) day three of the California bar has a format identical to day one, so I felt that studying rather than doing a practice test would be a better use of that extra day.

Another important thing to note is that I made the practice exam Tuesday and Wednesday. In most states, the bar exam starts on a Tuesday, and California is no exception. Furthermore, in states that use the MBE, it is ALWAYS administered on a Wednesday. Therefore, to anticipate the conditions properly, I practiced the written portion on Tuesday and practiced the multiple choice MBE portion on Wednesday. Had I chosen to do a three-day practice exam, I would have done the second essay day on Thursday. It is important to match the day of the week with the format so that your mind and body synchronize their abilities with the correct days of the week.

Finally, find out the approximate start time of your state's bar exam. Be sure that you start and stop your practice examination within those time parameters so that the practice session is as realistic as possible.

Practicing for Testing at the Testing Center

Once you have practiced for the endurance aspect of the bar exam, you need to practice for the auditory and visual experience of the bar exam. What I mean is that you need to be ready to take a test in a room with hundreds or thousands of people, many of whom are panic-stricken and hyper-stressed. This can be done, in part -- again -- through visualization.

Let me briefly describe my two bar exam experiences:

For the Oregon bar, there is only one testing location for the entire state. All 700-1000 people taking the bar converge on a rented convention hall at a hotel by the Portland International Airport. The majority of these people take the test on a computer and are placed in the same room. When I took the test, the computer-takers room had probably 500 people in it. Prior to the test starting, the power went out to a large portion of the room because the drain on the daisy-chained extenstion cords was too great. My laptop battery would only last about 2 hours. Good thing I practiced hand-writing essays. When the power went out, panic spread. Finally, the power was restored and the test started about 30-45 minutes late. With everyone typing, it sounded like heavy rain. Thank goodness I had my earplugs in. The entire time I was typing I kept wondering if the power would go out. I kept checking my power cord to ensure the green "it's still working" light was glowing. What a distraction. Day two was better since we only needed pencils to take the MBE. There was still panic in the air as a few people actually did not bother to show up for the second day, assuming they had failed.

In California, the number of people taking the exam requires that the bar examiners have several locations to administer the bar. I took it in San Diego, where it seemed like there was a mere 800 or so people in a convention hall taking the test on their computers. I have heard that some locations of the California bar have nearly 2,000 people taking the test. (Check out A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar... for a good summary of the bar exam experience.) With the California bar, the examiners seemed a lot more strict than those in Oregon. We had to put all of our test supplies in a clear plastic bag and leave our backpacks outside of the room. We had to provide fingerprints, signature cards, and photo ID during various moments of the exam. Just silly junk, but distracting nonetheless. At least I did not have to sit through the earthquake that hit during the July 2008 examination!

As you can see, any manner of things -- anticipated and not anticipated -- can occur at the bar exam. If you practice under less-than-ideal conditions, then it is more likely you can adapt to the expected and unexpected distractions and stress that WILL OCCUR during the actual bar exam.

Other than visualization mentioned earlier, I suggest that you set aside at least one block of time to practice essay (and, if your bar requires it, performance test writing) and another block of time to practice MBE questions (unless you are in one of those states that doesn't use the MBE; in that case, double your essay/PT prep). Then, locate a place where there will be a sizeable number of people who will be making at least some noise but where you will not likely be interrupted by someone speaking to you. Ideal places include a busy public library or a coffee shop.

Then, go to your chosen place and write an essay or a PT under timed conditions and do 33 MBE questions in one hour. Try to do this on two or three separate occasions. Of course, be sure to so it at the time of day when you would actually be doing the same thing for the bar examination.

Lastly, if your bar has odd rules for its exam, be sure to incorporate them into your anticipation of conditions practice. For example, the Virginia Bar requires that applicants take the bar examination wearing business attire. how would you like to fail because you weren't comfortable taking a test in a coat and tie (men) or wearing a tailored skirt or suit or heels (women)? Do not let yourself fail for a foolish reason and for lack of practice.

In summary, make sure you do a complete test under timed conditions and pracitce bite-sized portions of the bar exam under unfavorable conditions.

[Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crystalflickr/2317183342/]



"Lack of time is actually lack of priorities." -- Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

"[Diligence is] the necessity of giving sufficient attention to detail to avoid error and prevail against obstacles." -- Atul Gawande, Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance

As I mentioned in my first post, you need to practice three things in order to pass the bar examination: diligence, anticipation of conditions, and reduction of stress. This post addresses diligence.

Diligence is continuous and systematic preparation for the bar examination without interruption or distraction. This does not mean that you should or must study 80 hours per week in order to pass the bar. This can be accomplished in less time than you think. The three steps to perfecting diligence are to eliminate distractions, create a plan of study, and recognize when you have studied enough.

1. Elimination of Distractions

Distractions come in two forms: external and internal. You must ruthlessly eliminate distractions from your study environment. Once you have done so, you will cut 10-20% at a minimum from your study time.

External distractions are things like a noisy environment, people interrupting you to ask you a question, or visual stimuli that attract the eye (such as a television in use or a good-looking man or woman walking by). Eliminate them. If you are studying at a university law library and friends from your law school class are studying there as well, let them know that you do not want to be interrupted. Tell them you will talk to them during lunch. Tell them if they see you walking to the bathroom, then they can speak to you. If you are studying at a public library, you will need to wear earplugs unless you already have the ability to block out the din you find in a crowded public library. If you are trying to study at a coffee shop, stop it! Get away from the sounds, smells, and sights. Study somewhere quiet and isolated, and when you finish early, go to the coffee shop and silently pity the fools who are there studying for the bar. If you are studying at home and other members of your family are present, make it clear that you are not to be disturbed from the hours of X until Y because you are studying. It is almost impossible that you cannot remove or greatly lessen an external distraction.

In fact, if you identify the distraction and do nothing about it, you have created an internal distraction. Internal distractions are those that exist because we want -- on a conscious or subconscious level -- them to distract us. For example, cell phones, e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, and general internet use are internal distractions. No one is forcing you to connect to the internet while you study. Unless you are using an online study tool, you should not connect to the internet during your study time.

Once you have a set study schedule, you can tell yourself, "I will check my e-mail everyday at 5pm, when I have finished studying. Then, if I want to play on the internet for 3 hours straight, it is ok because my important work is done." The same goes for other technological distractions: cell phones, MP3 players, handhelds, etc. Turn the stuff off. If you don't have the will power to turn the device off, then leave it somewhere else. If you don't have the will power to separate yourself physically from the device, then you might want to reconsider your choice of career because legal problems are often complex and require uninterrupted concentration to solve them.

2. Create a Plan of Study

Most bar preparation courses provide you with a study plan. [CLICK HERE for my reviews of a few study programs.] The most well-known is BarBri's catchily-named "PACE Program." When I took BarBri for the Oregon exam, I tried to follow the PACE program for about . . .1 day. It was clear to me that I would never have time to do all the work. Don't forget, the PACE Program is on top of the admonition from PMBR to do at least 50 sample MBE questions per day or risk utter destruction on the bar exam.

I had a wife and two children, and I was not going to abandon them for 70 hours a week so that I could keep up with some study program that BarBri probably created just to say to people who failed the bar, "Well, did you do everything on the PACE program?" "No." "Well, that must be why you failed; it couldn't be our materials." Still, if you think the PACE Program will work for you, then follow it. I think it is unrealistic. Nevertheless, the decision to not follow the program can induce great anxiety in some people. Relax. Ask around; I bet very few of your friends and colleagues are keeping up with the PACE program either.

So, now that you have abandoned an unrealistic study program, what do you do? Design one for yourself. How do you design a study program for yourself? You need to look at the information you need to learn, the amount of time you have to learn it, and your tolerance for sitting all by yourself reading black letter law, doing sample MBE questions, and writing out endless essays and performance tests.

I will use my study plan for the California bar exam as an example. The California bar has between 13 and 18 subjects (depending on how you count) from which the bar examiners may draw essay questions. These subjects overlap with the six subjects on the MBE. There are also two, three-hour Performance Tests, which require little knowledge of the law, but require practical skills to digest, organize, and write out the information into a coherent and high-scoring answer. Since I had recently relocated to California and was not working, I would be able to study whenever I wanted to for the February 2008 exam. Moreover, since I had recently taken the BarBri lecture course for the Oregon bar and was not about to waste $2500 and 2 hours a day commuting to the BarBri lecture course, I decided to study on my own with the BarBri California books and AdaptiBar for the MBE.

Given all that, I had decided to study from January 7 until February 25 in preparation for the test on February 26, 27, and 28. This is seven weeks of study time, during which I promised myself I would not study on weekends except for the weekend immediately prior to the exam. Thus, studying for seven weeks for 5 days a week gave me 35 days. Now, I could not study at home because it was too distracting. I did not live near a law school, so I could not study at a law library. Any attempt to study at a coffee shop or bookstore is insane (due to the unending external distractions) and should never be attempted. Therefore, I had to study at the local public library. Because the library did not open until 9am, that meant that I had an enforced starting point. The library was open until 9pm Monday-Thursday, but closed at 5pm on Friday. Because I wanted to make each day the same, I promised myself that I would end at 5pm or earlier. If I take out an hour of time for a 30 minute lunch and some breaks, then I have 7 hours per day to study, or 245 total hours during which I would study for and pass the bar. Another bonus to this schedule is that it roughly approximates the hours during which the bar examination is administered.

As I discuss more in the "Anticipation of Conditions" post, it is important to train your mind and body to be at peak performance during the correct hours of the day. Now, within those hours, I had to prioritize. I am a pretty good essay writer, so I knew that I could practice writing comparatively less than the multiple choice questions. On the other hand, the written portions of the California bar exam account for 65% of the final score, so if I were a weak writer, I would focus on that for probably 70% of my study time. In fact, in an interview with an anonymous California bar grader (which is unfortunately no longer available online), the grader stated she had only seen one instance of someone who clearly passed the written portion fail the bar due to low MBE scores. On the other hand, she had seen countless instances of people who received scores well above passing on the MBE (e.g., a 152 raw!) fail because they did not pass the written portions of the examination. In short, I realized that one must study and practice the essay and PT portions of the bar exam thoroughly.

I reviewed two subjects a day until all subjects were covered. From 9am until Noon, I quickly read a BarBri outline in the Conviser Mini Review, then went through it slowly and typed out my own condensed outline, working quickly enough to get it done by Noon. Then, I took a lunch break. After lunch, I did the same thing with the next topic. I made sure that I finished by 4pm. Then, I went to the California bar website and read as many essays and model answers on each of the day's two topics as I could. When I was too tired or it was 5pm, I went home. (If you will be taking the Cal Bar, you might also want to check out BarEssays.com for real, graded bar exam essays.)

After about 8 days of this, it was time to review my outlines and do practice questions. Again, I would do two topics per day and include 50 or more MBE questions from AdaptiBar. So, for instance, I might review community property in the morning and write out 1 or 2 essays. Then after lunch I would do torts and write out 1 or 2 essays. While reviewing each outline, I would also make flash cards for any rule of law that had more than one element (e.g., negligence, burglary, all constitutional law balancing tests, etc.) and for the points of law that seemed difficult for me. Finally, I would do 50 torts questions and then go home. Repeat this pattern of doing a California-specific topic in the morning and an MBE topic in the afternoon until all 6 MBE subjects are reviewed. Then, finish up with the remaining California-specific topics and doing random MBEs in the late afternoon. Finally, interspersed within this schedule I had at least one 4-hour block per week where I wrote out a PT in its entirety and then reviewed the sample answers. Note all essays and PTs should be those posted on the California bar website. There you can see well-written answers by actual takers. Reality is important.

Starting about the third week of my studies, I began to create what I call "Issue Pairing" charts. These are charts that allow quick reference to topics that are often tested together. In my opinion, it is not enough to know that when a Wills question is asked you should go through the elements of a valid formal will. You should also know the esoteric points that the bar examiners are likely to ask about. You learn these by going through the essays on the bar website and writing down these issue pairing charts for each topic. CLICK HERE for two examples.

As you can see, each issue statement is fairly straightforward, but then the issue pairing chart expands on the detail of analysis available to you. These charts do not mean that if an essay asks about a document created after a will was executed that you should discuss all the points in the chart, it just means you should think about them. I find issue pairing charts better than mere checklists because they actually help you see the law as a web of possibilities rather than a line from Problem A to Answer B. The bar graders want to see you analyze rather than regurgitate, and using issue charts based on prior essays is a great way to do this.

Finally, about two-weeks before the exam, I started to spend more time reviewing the topics that seemed most difficult for me. For instance, I went to law school in Oregon and never took a community property course, so it was a more difficult topic to review than criminal law. Therefore, I set aside two days during that final period to spend significant periods of time studying community property. Whichever state's bar exam you are taking, you will likely have one or two topics that seem more difficult than the rest.

CLICK HERE for a link to my study schedule for the February 2008 California Bar Exam.

3. Know When You Have Studied Enough

As you can see from my account of my study schedule and a review of my study schedule chart, I packed a lot into each day. The central point is to treat studying like a job: get to work the same time each day, bust ass, and then go home and do something else. The process of studying, like the act of working, should not be constantly present in your life.

What you do not see on my study chart are the afternoons when my brain was fried. I literally felt like I could not learn a single additional piece of information; in fact, it felt like I was forgetting things. If this feeling continued for more than about twenty or thirty minutes, I just stopped studying. But, I stayed at the library and did something else: read a book about tomatoes, grabbed a DVD and watched it on my computer, stared out the window. Sometimes, I would be refreshed and feel like studying again; other times, I would just stay at the library until 5pm and then go home.

You also must know when you have studied enough in the larger sense. If you are reviewing your criminal law outline and realize that you know everything on it, then stop reviewing it. Spend the time learning something else. If you are still several weeks out from the bar exam, be sure to go over the criminal law outline once a week instead of two or three times, and keep up the practice criminal MBEs and essays. What you are hoping to get from studying is a moment of calm where you are at peace with the subject you are studying. If you have ever had this feeling when studying for a college or law school test, then you already know what you are going for with the bar exam.

Post Script: What Diligence is NOT

Having discussed at length what I mean by diligence, it is important to note briefly what diligence is not. Diligence is not masochism. I have already mentioned that I believe one can pass the bar by studying for 7 or 8 hours per day and taking off weekends. I believe it because that is what I did when I passed the California bar. "But you had already taken a bar exam!" you may protest. True, but I studied only a little more when I took the Oregon exam. I did about 8 hours per day on the weekdays and added another 4 or 5 hours each Saturday. In retrospect, it was unnecessary to study on Saturday.

Please note that a form of masochism is to live in psychic state of fear of failure. If you really cannot believe that you will pass the bar without studying on the weekends, then go ahead and study on Saturday or Sunday, but not both days. You must have at least one day off. It is best if you don't think about the bar exam on that day at all, but you probably will. Just commit to not looking at or listening to any study materials.

You will succeed!


Blogging while you study? No.

"Who begins too much accomplishes little." -- German Proverb

Before we get into how to study for the bar exam, I thought I'd cover the topic of blogging during bar exam study.

I have noticed that a substantial number of people write blogs at the same time that they are studying for the bar examination. These blogs tend to be filled with study tips, rants against state bar examiners, links to other bar-exam bloggers, and angst. Here is a link to my favorite bar exam blog that I used to read after a long day of studying for the California Bar.

I will now lay down rule #1: do not blog (publicly) about the bar exam until AFTER you have passed it.

Why do I say this? To begin with, a blog requires lots of psychic energy to maintain. When you draft a post, you want it to be interesting, well-written, and timely. You worry about it before you send it off into the blogosphere where anyone can read it. When you are studying for the bar examination, you do not have time for such a distraction and drain of mental resources.

Next, constant and public worry about failing the bar exam (which is what the majority of these bar-exam blog posts contain) will begin to infiltrate your mind and create an expectation of failure. You may not believe it, but it is true. And, guess what, if you fail, you'll be able to continue blogging about how much you hate the bar exam and your loyal readers will keep reading your posts. This is a sick form of codependency.

Now, I will say that journaling can be a good stress release and can help you with the visualizations you will need to pass the bar exam. (I'll discuss these ideas in future posts.) Therefore, I only condone blogging if you keep the blog private. In other words, set up your blog, post all of your angry rants and angst-ridden soliloquies, but do not make them available to anyone else. Then, when you pass the examination, you can decide whether or not you want to go public with your posts. I realize this does not create the gratification of getting multiple comments per post (I am not immune to this simple pleasure), but your goal is not simple pleasure. Your goal is to become a lawyer. That is not a simple task, and it demands diligence and attention to detail.

So, if you don't have a blog yet, don't start one. If you do have a bar exam blog, go to your settings panel and put it on private. Or, better yet, put it on private and then forget about it until after you take the exam. You won't regret it.

Step 1: Sign up for the bar exam

I know that you will not forget to do this.

My main point in writing this post is to emphasize that you need to get your bar application in as soon as possible. Some states, especially those will lots of applicants, can take a very long time to process your application. Some states ask for strange pieces of information that can take days or weeks to track down (e.g., copies of all driving records from every state in which you have ever possessed a driver's license). Of greatest concern is the moral character investigation that the bar association performs. In some states, this investigation can take six months or even longer. Therefore, you may actually be in a situation where you have received your test results and have passed the bar examination, but you have not yet been certified as having a moral character sufficient to be admitted to the bar. Do not let yourself be stuck in this limbo/purgatory: submit your application as soon as you can.

For your convenience, I have provided links to the bar website for each of the jurisdictions in the US:

Alabama Bar Admission

Alaska Bar Admission
Arizona Bar Admission
Arkansas Bar Admission
California Bar Admission
Colorado Bar Admission
Connecticut Bar Admission
Delaware Bar Admission
Florida Bar Admission
Georgia Bar Admission
Guam Bar Admission
Hawaii Bar Admission
Idaho Bar Admission
Illinois Bar Admission
Indiana Bar Admission
Iowa Bar Admission
Kansas Bar Admission
Kentucky Bar Admission
Louisiana Bar Admission
Maine Bar Admission
Maryland Bar Admission
Massachusetts Bar Admission
Michigan Bar Admission
Minnesota Bar Admission
Mississippi Bar Admission
Missouri Bar Admission
Montana Bar Admission
Nebraska Bar Admission
Nevada Bar Admission
New Hampshire Bar Admission
New Jersey Bar Admission
New Mexico Bar Admission
New York Bar Admission
North Carolina Bar Admission
North Dakota Bar Admission
Northern Mariana Islands Bar Admission
Ohio Bar Admission
Oklahoma Bar Admission
Oregon Bar Admission
Palau Bar Admission
Pennsylvania Bar Admission
Puerto Rico Bar Admission
Rhode Island Bar Admission
South Carolina Bar Admission
South Dakota Bar Admission
Tennessee Bar Admission
Texas Bar Admission
Utah Bar Admission
Vermont Bar Admission
Virginia Bar Admission
Washington Bar Admission
Washington, D.C. Bar Admission
West Virginia Bar Admission
Wisconsin Bar Admission
Wyoming Bar Admission


In most states, the bar examination is a feared obstacle for all those who want to be lawyers. It strikes terror into the hearts of third-year law students and has laid low takers who graduated first in their law school class, who graduated from top-tier law schools, and even those who have been practicing law for many years.

During administrations of the exam, test takers have been known to faint, suffer panic attacks, or vomit. The stress level is intense; the psychic and financial price of failure is high.

It does not have to be that way.

I have passed two bar examinations: Oregon (2006) and California (2008). Pass rates for the Oregon exam are usually between 70% and 80%, while the pass rate for the California exam hovers around 50%, and is often lower (e.g., the examination that I passed had an overall pass rate of just under 40%).

I passed both tests on my first attempt. This blog will give you the tools and techniques to do the same. While I cannot guarantee that you will pass on your first attempt, I believe that if you follow the techniques that I describe, you have a very good chance of doing so.

Success on the bar exam boils down to three things: diligence, anticipation of conditions, and stress reduction. Each of these three topics is discussed in detail in future posts on this blog.

Diligence is simply the requirement that you prepare continuously and systematically for the examination without interruption or distraction.

Anticipation of conditions is the need to understand how the test is administered, to practice under test-like conditions, and to understand how the test is graded.

Stress reduction involves the mediation of anxiety and fear so that these states of mind do not interfere with maximum preparation and performance.

Here is a video version of Episode 002 of the Bar Exam Mind podcast explaining these three pillars for passing the bar exam:

UPDATE:  March 2011

I am doing most of my bar exam blogging now at BarExamMind.com, so please check out that blog for bar exam tips and bar exam advice about how to stay calm and focused while during your bar exam preparation and while you are taking the test itself.

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