Bar prep and burn out: How to find balance studying for the bar exam


By Ashley Heidemann

After surviving three years of law school stress, what’s several weeks of bar prep? The truth is that the limited time frame, the unique nature of the pressure, and the sheer volume of material leaves many bar exam takers feeling like they’re on an emotional rollercoaster.

While it’s normal to feel some anxiety or fluctuating emotions through bar prep, managing those emotions is one of the keys to avoiding bar prep burn out. These five tips will help you find balance studying for the bar exam.

1) If You’re Feeling Overwhelmed, Take a Step Back to Reflect

Many students start to feel overwhelmed at some point during their bar prep. First, keep in mind that you’re not alone -- there are thousands of bar exam takers out their feeling the same way. Next, take a quick pause to reflect on your situation. Are there ways you can simplify or limit your commitments?

2) Phone a Friend

During bar prep, it may feel like your life narrows to a single purpose: preparing for the bar and passing the exam. While this is the natural result of all the focus and hard work you’re putting in to prepare, you should still take breaks to do things that have nothing to do with the bar exam. One great way to do this is to call a friend or loved one you haven’t spoken to in a while and catch up.

3) Take Care of Your Body

Preparing for the bar exam is a marathon, not a sprint. Like any race, the key to bar success is to balance preparation with recovery and self-care. Your bar prep schedule should not only include lecture videos and practice exams but also breaks, times for exercise, and other necessities.

Maintaining your physical and mental health will help you avoid burnout and perform your best on test day. Some students are less inclined to schedule time to exercise or take a break because they want to study more. But, scheduling time for exercise and mental health breaks will improve the quality of your studying and help you to be more productive.

4) Don’t Skip Sleep

Though often overlooked, quality sleep is another cornerstone of performing well on the bar exam. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night for optimal concentration, mood, memory and other benefits. Occasionally getting more or less sleep than the recommended amount won’t hurt you, but a pattern of skimping on sleep could negatively affect you once test day rolls around.

5) Keep the Right Perspective

Above all, remember that you don’t need a perfect score to pass the bar exam. You don’t need to memorize every single nuance about the law. You don’t need to write a perfect essay. Instead, you just need to pass. Maintaining this perspective throughout your bar prep can help you avoid burnout and find that balance you need to succ

Ashley Heidemann is the owner and founder of JD Advising, a law school and bar exam prep company offering services ranging from LSAT tutoring and application assistance to bar exam tutoring, courses and seminars.