Check out the latest podcast where I talk about the Four Mental Phases you may encounter during your bar exam preparation!
Four Mental Phases of the Bar Exam
In honor of episode number 4, today I am going to discuss with you the 4 mental phases of the bar exam prep period, so you know what to expect mentally and how you can best prepare for it. These phases are based on what I personally went through when I was studying for my bar exam in California and what I observed others going through as well and just from motoring the forums on the bar exam and getting comments directly from people, seeing what other people are saying, basically what I have boiled the four phases down into are – As you notice in this podcast I have included the epic music effect at the beginning, I hope you liked that. I have also upgraded my microphone quality so I can provide better sounding podcast to you to your home, park, car, and bench or wherever else you might be listening to me right now.
Let me give you a quick overview of what these four mental phases are and by the way I have also written a blog post on this topic, you can find it on my website ipassedmybarexam.com under the bar exam mindset category on the right side of the page. Let me tell you first what these 4 phases are and then I will go into depth into each phase to tell you what is coming and how best to handle it. So to analogize what the four phases are, let us basically take a look at the track and field in the 400 meters race that’s run, so for those of you who are not familiar with what that exactly it is basically a run around the oval shape track and field one time and each face is going to be a 100 meter of the track. So each phase of the bar exam will be about a 100 meters of the track.
In phase one I will call it the kick off which will be basically how you start your bar exam prep. This first phase is going to last about two to three weeks depending on a variety of fact or circumstances, if you are taking the summer bar exam starting you prep around mid-May or so, you are probably will be in phase one until around the first or second week of June. If you are taking the winter bar exam starting the first week of January for your bar prep, it is going to be…this phase will probably last around until mid or late January. Phase 2 is called the grind.
This is going to last another two to three weeks for you Summer bar exam takers this will probably lead you into about late June for you Winter bar exam takers this will probably lead you into about early February. Phase 3 I call it calm and cool on the website, you can also call it essential the home stretch it is those final few weeks before the bar. For the Summer taker and the winter takers actually it is going to take you all the way up from the end of phase two until about the Thursday or Friday before your bar exam the following week and then phase 4 it is what I call the finish. It is basically those final few days before the bar exam and then the bar exam week and then how to prepare for that, so we will go into that as well.
Let us talk about phase 1. On the track and field this right when you are coming out of the blocks, this is when you start up pretty fast you are probably going to be at your highest level of energy throughout the entire race, throughout the entire bar exam prep period and this is also the time when you are kind of figuring out yourself and system and what is the best system to use and how should I go about this during my bar exam prep.
So before I give my recommendation let me talk really briefly about what I called layered studying and the importance of layered studying during your bar exam. You have you twelve or so topics on the bar exam and what ends up happening is you do not just look at each topic once, you ended up looking at each topic several times in layers just like an onion. So you look at it once okay, maybe couple days, couple weeks later you look at it again, look at it again and slowly you start to peel off that onion really hit home the core concepts that you need to learn for each topic.
Understanding layered studying will help you in phase one because my next recommendation in phase one is to actually do your MBE topics in phase 1, that is the torts, evidence, contracts, property, common law and then criminal law/ crimpers. Seven topics, 6 topics depending on how you break it down, but I recommend during this phase one, during this first 2 to 3 weeks you do your MB’s topics during that time and when I say MBE topics I mean doing the MBE questions for the topics and the essays for the topics.
At least getting that first layer done on these topics, the first peel of the onion. So why should you do the MB topics first and again by the way these are all just general recommendations this is all the stuff that I did, I did take Barbri and that is what they did for us as well so ultimately you got to go with what works best for you.
Let me tell you some advantages of doing the MBE because first of all if you do the MBE first you will have literally seen you essentially knock out the MBE topic again this is the first layer but you have seen your MBE questions, you have studied your MBE topics and because of this concept of layering you want to look at that first you are going to have to look at it again, second or third or even the fourth time throughout your bar exam prep and what you have done is during this time when you are fresh and you are just starting off your bar exam prep you have seen basically your MBE and you are able to look at it with fresh eyes.
If you try and learn the MBE later on when you have less energy and less maybe mental focus it might be a little bit harder to learn and you also have less opportunities to do peel more layers of the onion of the MBE, so that is why I recommend you start off with it first. Not only that if you do those topics first you will have covered your entire MBE and you will have covered half of your essay topics, so in a way you would almost have done with half of your bar exam prep.
Again you technically would not have been done because of the layer thing you are going to have to look at these two or three times, but basically you have seen half of your bar exam, you have seen half of your essays and the entire MBE you just have the other remaining essays which will not be as difficult to study for because you will just be studying those other topics just the essay portion, you do not have to study the MBE for those other topics, and then you will have your performance test as well. When we were studying we spent about anywhere from one to or maybe three days per topic for each of these core MBE topics.
If you look at let us say about two to three days per topic that is about twelve to eighteen days looking at the topic, maybe taking breaks or doing other things in between that, that is twelve to eighteen days so that is going to last you about two, two and a half weeks, maybe even three weeks there and you will have essentially covered all that during your first phase.
Let us go on to phase 2. Phase two on the track and field the second 100 meters is basically…you actually is going to slow down a bit, you start to go into stride, start to gallop, you are not running at full steam ahead pace. You keep moving but you are basically gearing yourself up and to put yourself into position to have a successful home stretch and this is just like the bar exam too.
So there is two real things to try and to take away from phase two (1) is to keep doing enough work to reasonable stay on schedule and the (2) is to take frequent break. I am sure you have heard that word reasonable enough throughout your entire law school period and during this phase really is not about sticking to…you know if you are taking Barbri and you are actually on pace with the schedule, please let me know, because I do not know anybody who was actually on pace with the Barbri schedule by the time the third` week hit.
Everybody was behind that thing because the set that bar so high, so if you are taking Barbri and you are not on schedule that is perfectly okay. What happens in this phase a lot of times it is when…sometimes when that inner doubt maybe begins to hit like can I really do this, you start to look for other people for acceptance and belief in yourself that can really handle this thing that is come in there and I want to let you know that, that is perfectly normal, perfectly natural, do not let that get to you if you can because it is normal, it is natural and it is a part of it, you are actually probably experiencing something what you have not before your final weeks during law school maybe lasted up to three weeks, two the three weeks and now you are entering now a fourth week of studying and you are not really used to that so you might start feeling stressed or anxious or whatever else that you may not have felt before, so do not beat yourself up about if you do feel that knowing that it is normal and natural and everybody is feeling it okay.
If you are not on schedule do not beat yourself about that either, okay. Personally I fell behind, this is the phase where I sort of start breaching off kind of what Barbri was telling me to do and started focusing on my own things and developing my own system of what I felt I had to do. I was not reading many review as much I was mostly trying to focus on practicing the essays, practicing the MBE’s and learning the rules in between there, so if you are not on schedule that is ok but do try reasonable on schedule, you do not want to fall too far behind and this phase because you want to put yourself in the position where phase 3 you can kind of hit that home stretch. This phase is very important to manage your energy, so keep moving do not over do and really try and conserve your energy as much as you can.
You will end up winning the bar exam in late July or late February, so do not burn yourself out now where you do not have enough energy to sustain yourself for the next month going through. This might also be the phase where words from other people start to upset and bother you a little bit more, you might hear people saying oh I spent thirteen, fourteen hours straight studying today, well you know good for them if that is what they actually did and then good for them that has got nothing to do with you, that is their prep for their bar exam, you be you, you prepare for your bar exam, I was me and it worked for me, okay so do not worry about what other people are saying, what other people are doing, how they are studying.
Are you studying, are you putting in enough time understand and manage your own self and your own energy and what you need to do to pass, okay. Is during this phase two that I literally would hit, not literally but I would hit that brick wall where it feels like you are literally hitting a brick wall. I just could not study, I know that feeling where you wake up in the morning you are like okay today I am going to accomplish this, this, this and you just could not do it. I wanted to do these things and I could not do it, I could not study and I could not get myself to do it even if someone had paid me I would not be able to do it.
What did I do? I just…I said I got to respect my own mind, my body, my energy I am just not going to study today, you know take a couple hours off, take a day are two off if you need to as well, go on a job, go call your family, go to the spa it is okay if you are taking some time off during this phase you know two hours walk in the park is not going to kill you, you are not going to fail you bar exam if you do that.
It is interesting actually during the end of this phase right before you know what I call phase 3, I actually ended up taking four days in a row off and going to Barnes and Nobles and just engage in pleasurable reading, reading books I like to read, reading leadership or development type of books which actually was very effective for me because it actually expanded my mindset giving me a chance to disconnect from bar and really clear my mind and gave me that energy to sustain myself for phase 3 and phase 4 for the next few weeks and throughout the bar exam.
I know I did for me got four days is a lot of time I got to fight that thought in my mind well I am going to fall behind I am not going to get enough done if I do this, but listen to yourself, listen to your intuition and what inside is telling you if you need to take a break, take a break and do that. So remember with this phase keep doing enough to stay on schedule in a reasonable manner and take frequent breaks.
Now we go on to phase 3, this is the third leg of you 400 meters.. There are three take aways to take to take from phase 3 and this is the last couple of weeks all the way up to that Thursday or Friday before your bar exam. There are three take aways here one is filling in the gaps, things that you do not know yet that you have not learn yet or that you need to improve it is about filling in those gaps. Second is focus, focus is the key in this phase and third is taking simulated practice exams. Filling in the gaps what do I mean by that? You are really starting to get your second, your third, your forth, your final layers of that onion.
You are starting to peel them and really get to those concepts, really getting to a final zone and mindset per topic of what you need to know per topic you know finishing those attack sheets and outline if outlines are your thing. This is where you start to finalize all those things. So in phase 1 you do lots of studying, phase 2 is managing your energy so phase 3 is just reviewing concepts learning there are still some topics you probably have not looked at, some of the essay topic you probably have not reviewed, learning those and getting to that final zone into that final bar exam mindset basically during this phase.
So do not move too slowly on this phase you also do not need to move too fast, this phase is really mostly about composure and focus. you might start having that thought where oh my god the bar exam is only two weeks away, let is just stay compose, stay calm you have put in so much effort up to this point, do not let the little fear or worry throw you off now, just stay compose and increase your focus this is time really to just start cutting out distractions, cutting out people who are freaking out, make sure you are not around people who are freaking out, you do not need to do any crazy studying now, but you do need to focus on continuing to improve and just keeping your calm, keeping you composure.
Do still take breaks during phase 3 but….I did not do any more four days break taking through this period, I would take breaks but I was little more on task and focus here because I was able to manage my energy in the previous phase so it allowed me to have a little more energy to focus and study through this final phase. In the third thing practice; the number one reason why people fail the bar exam is because they do not do practice test under time conditions, I say it again the number one reason people fail the bar exam because they do not do practice test under time conditions. If you have not been doing those up to this point this is the time to do it, take practice essays time yourself for an hour and just do it from start to finish.
I have a couple of articles on the website regarding this, I also do future podcast specifically addressing this issue, but really taking practice is huge, because you practice how you play and you need to make sure you practicing exactly what is going to happen when you are in that exam room, okay. You know most of the material by now it is now time to make sure you are really applying it and really learning how to apply it when it comes to your exam. So phase 3 filling in the gaps, focusing, cutting out distraction and then doing practice tests in this phase.
Let us go on to the final phase now, phase 4 the finish it is those last days before your bar exam and the bar exam week, it is like the final 20 meters of the track and field the last few days. Key take away point here are this is to keep your energy fresh and keep your mind positive. Keep your energy fresh, keep your mind positive. You have put in a lot of work the last two months and you do not really need to push yourself anymore now, you just give yourself some time to blow off some steam to recoup and to let that energy to simmer down because you want your energy to peak during the bar exam days not before. So do not force yourself, and when I say force do not yourself I mean do not force yourself to do questions if you do not feel like doing it.
If you feel like do some more keep in the zone then do it, but if you feel like you are pushing yourself too much you are going to cause some stress or headache do not do it because you do not want to hurt or cut your energy before the bar exam actually takes place. In California the bar exam is three days long and they have studied this that historically many people have had passing answers on the first two days, but it is the third day that really got them and that is because they did not manage their energy or their mind well or they may have thought they had failed and gave up which of course you never, ever should give up especially during the bar exam week. So do not let this happen to you manage your energy, keep your energy fresh and mind positive. You spent way too much time than to crash on day three of your bar exam and not do as well.
Know that you are deserving and worthy and you have and you have put in all this time and effort so now it is time to finish strong. During this time you could do some light essays, do some PT maybe outlining or writing it out, again if you feel like not pushing yourself too much finalize your attack sheets, review your attack sheet how you are going to approach the bar exam, how you are going to approach each question, it is all about keeping in the zone, but not forcing yourself here. So let go relax make sure you eat well, make sure you drink lots of water, make sure you know where the bar exam test room is and you know how you are going to wake up and you got your friends they are going to call you to make sure that you wake up and all the things like that. Yes so really recharge so you can know it down this final week during phase 4.
I hope I provided some value by giving you an idea of the four bar exam mindset phases that you may go through. Some of you may fill this exactly the way I have described it, some f you might not fill it at all, this is what I experience, what I went through, what I saw other people going through so I decided to share that with you so that you can have an idea so you can better understand the process and the system and better understand yourself during this phase and be able to react proactively to it and stay positive through it.
Good luck on your bar exam again my name is Dustin Saiidi you can find me at ipassedmybarexam.com you can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/ipassedmybarexam, I am also on Twitter ipassedmybarexa and also you can subscribe to our newsletter where we send out free tips on bar exam that is on the website as well or you can email me if you have any questions personally and maybe we will feature them in the future blog or podcast, it is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much for listening and good luck on your bar exam and we will talk to you soon. Take care have a wonderful day.