Five tips for keeping your sanity during bar exam prep

Many bar exam students find themselves stressed out during bar exam preparation. Some are stressed out from the very first day of bar exam preparation while others find that their stress level increases as time goes on. 

The good news is that your stress level is something that you can control from the beginning. Below are five tips to help you stand on solid ground and keep your sanity during bar exam preparation.

1. Exercise, sleep, and eat healthy. We know this is common advice for keeping your stress levels low — and that’s because it works! Exercise invigorates you. Sleep helps you focus, understand information and encode what you have learned. A healthy diet promotes brainpower and is good for you all-around.

Do not plan on giving up your health to spend 14 hours a day in the library. No one can learn information for that long every day! Instead, make time to take care of yourself. This will help you study smarter.

2. Write it out! It is a good philosophy to not worry about what you cannot control. Sometimes writing it out can help you identify your worry, name it, and conquer it head-on. 

When you write out your worries, it is helpful to make two lists: “What I can control,” and “What I cannot control.” After you write your list, go through the column of things you can control and figure out how to address them. Consciously decide not to dedicate too much mental energy to the things you cannot control.

For example, if you are worried about a Secured Transactions question being on the essay portion of your bar exam — well, you cannot control that and there is no point in worrying about it! But if you are worried that you do not know Secured Transactions well enough, you can design a study schedule that ensures that you spend extra time preparing for it.  Which brings us to the next point. . .

3. Make a study schedule. Make a schedule with a birds-eye view of your bar exam preparation. Figure out which subjects you will tackle each week. Plan when you will take half-day and full-day exams. A schedule can ease your mind and help you feel more in control of your life and your knowledge of the bar exam material.

4. Spend time with positive people. It is a good idea to surround yourself with classmates and friends that maintain a positive perspective on bar exam preparation. This will help keep your stress level in check and dissolve any anxiety you may feel. For the same reason, it is a good idea to avoid people who are negative or stressed out. Stress is contagious and sometimes just being around someone who is stressed out can make your own stress level skyrocket.

5. Incorporate breaks into your schedule. We recommend you take frequent breaks. In fact, we recommend that you take a break:

  • ·      Every day: Have something to look forward to every day (even if it is brief!). Watch your favorite television show, go on a bike ride, cook dinner, or do whatever helps you relax.  Plan one thing every single day to reward yourself for your hard work.
  • ·      Every week: Take a quarter day, half day, or full day off once a week. Plan to sleep in or stay out late, garden, go for a run or do whatever else you like to do. This will help you remember that there is a life outside of the bar exam. It will also help reenergize you each week and help you focus when you study.
  • ·      At the end of your bar exam preparation: Whether you plan a post-bar exam vacation or a nice dinner, make sure you plan a way to reward yourself. This will help you to stay positive and motivated throughout your bar exam preparation.

Developing these healthy habits at the beginning of your bar exam preparation will help make bar exam preparation less stressful and more pleasant.

Ashley Heidemann is a bar exam and law school tutor. She graduated as the Number 1 student in her class of over 200 students at Wayne State University Law School in the class of 2011 and received a score of over 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam. Her website can be found at