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Pass the Bar Exam — Guidance to Pass It the First Time!

by Pati McDermott, CHT

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I work with many clients who take the bar exam once and pass it the first time.  There is a particular profile that is consistent with the people who take it once and pass.

In my observation, the people who take the bar exam once and pass are completely focused on preparing for and taking this exam.  In most cases they take time off work and work full time on preparing for the exam.  If they are unable to take time off work they try to work part time or organize their home life so that they are without distractions at home.  Many of the people I have worked with who have failed repeatedly are juggling multiple distractions with family, work and outside activities.  My advice is to cancel all outside activities for two to three months prior to taking the bar exam and devote yourself 100% to passing this exam.  Do the best you can to achieve this level of commitment.

Identify your best strategy for focused study.  Some people study better with music, some with total quiet. You might find something that symbolically connects you to performing well like wearing a favorite pair of sweats or lighting a candle.  A color, scent, or favorite object might provide a special enhancement for you.  Some people like to study at the kitchen table where they can access everything they need quickly to limit the time it takes to take care of day to day necessities.  Many people find it impossible to study at home where they are constantly distracted.  A common strategy for many people is to study at a library; any library that is conveniently located.  Some people check into a motel during the week and spend Saturday night and Sunday at home taking a break from studying and being with their loved ones.  What environment is most conducive to you doing your best quality study?  Now is the time to give your best effort. 

If you are a parent it is extremely important that you enlist the help and support of your family and loved ones.  Turn the cooking and childcare over to your spouse, your mother, to anyone who is willing to make an investment in the success of your future.  I tell people to bribe their spouse with something really good if they pass like a great vacation or something their loved one really wants.  Is there a hired person or family member who can move in with you for a couple of months to cook, clean and do childcare?  If you can’t pay that person what can you bribe them with?  Make it conditional on your passing so that they are personally invested in your success.

It is important to take some time away from the books to clear your mind.  In the same way that your body needs rest to rejuvenate, your brain needs that also, especially when your brain is working hard.  Find your own rhythm and most productive pace and don’t exceed that.  Working too hard creates anxiety and crams your mind with more information than it can integrate.  Some people work best if they study for several hours and then take a longer break.  Others work best if they study for an hour or two and then take a short break.  Whatever your pace is stay with that to maintain your greatest level of effectiveness.

Exercise is a great way to take a break and to unconsciously integrate what you have absorbed.  Exercise increases the flow of oxygen into your brain.  It has been proven that people who exercise perform better academically.  There are two ways to incorporate exercise into your routine.  One is to use exercise as designated break time.  The other is to combine your exercise routine to include studying.  Some people study with a book on a treadmill or run while listening to a recording.  Do you prefer to relax as a break and combine study with your exercise time or do you use exercise as a way to take a break?  Whatever your strategy, don’t give up your exercise routine.  If you don’t have one this is the time to start.  Walk, run, swim, ride a bicycle, dance to music in your living room, do yoga or pilates, go to the gym, use weights at home, go up and down your stairs - incorporate this into a minimum routine of 30 minutes every other day.

Take off one full day each week as well as one evening to spend with your family or friends.  Spend this time relaxing rather than partying.  Go to a movie, watch one at home, have a relaxing dinner, go for a hike or a bike ride; conserve your energy for your studying.  Your day off might be the time when you do your laundry, get groceries or clean the house.   Be sure that you also take time off to relax.  Some people can do their laundry while they study.  Others find this distracting.  Rather than taking time for the supermarket you can order groceries online for delivery to free up more time for study or time off.  Conserve time with frozen foods and delivered take out - it’s temporary so make up for it with salads, smoothies, health shakes and exercise.

Pay extra attention to your nutritional needs at this time when your brain is working overtime.  During memorization and learning the brain requires additional nutrients, especially B vitamins and Omega-3s.  Learn about the foods, such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, and fish, that are high in these nutrients.  A good multivitamin, B Complex, and Omega-3 supplements can help you to give your brain the nutrients it needs.  Educate yourself or consult your health practitioner for advise on how to use supplements to increase your nutrients.  Avoid sugar, caffeine, and other substances.  If you feel sleepy take a nap rather than zapping your system with stimulants that weaken you in the long run.  This is an important time to operate all systems optimally.  Consider the needs of your body for high quality nutrition, rest and relaxation.  

Another important factor in more easily passing the bar exam is the importance of having a vision and a sense of purpose in becoming an attorney.  If you already have an organization or a company that you work with then becoming an attorney has a context already set up for you.  If you know what type of law you want to practice and what sector of society you want to serve or represent then you have a destiny and a vision for yourself.  Always keep your mind on your ultimate goal to see where you are going.  This is one of the best ways to stay motivated.  People who focus on problems, either avoiding problems or solving them, lose their motivation when they move away from them or get closer to solving them.  If you keep your eyes on the prize then you look beyond problems and solve or avoid problems automatically as you go along towards your goal.

Sometimes we set ourselves up externally so that we have an explanation other than our own shortcomings for failing.  If your life is full of constant distractions, for example, then you have an excuse if you fail.  Get some help in resolving these factors.  It’s also important to put this experience into its proper perspective.  The bar exam is only an exam.  Don’t make it bigger than that.  This is not a life and death situation!  Keep a healthy attitude with a balance of focus and concentration combined with the bigger picture.  One of the best ways to cope and stay motivated is by accessing states of curiosity, optimism and humor.

Turn off your phone, screen your calls or get the selective ring feature from the phone company.  Let people know that you will not be available until after the exam.  This includes your friends and most of your family.  The limited time you have available is best spent with the people who are directly supporting your process.  Whoever is your main support is who to spend your limited free time with.  If you have a child incorporate your breaks into special moments every day with your child as part of your designated break time.  Family dinner time, a little time after school, and tucking your little one into bed at night, might be the only time you have to spend during this bar preparation time.  It is a worthy sacrifice considering what you will have to offer your family after passing the exam.

If you belong to organizations, committees, or anything that is not absolutely essential to your livelihood cancel your involvement until after the test.  You will have much more to contribute to these groups as a licensed attorney.  Passing the bar exam must be your top priority.

Take a good bar review course, hire a tutor or do both.  Law school does not always prepare people adequately for the bar exam.  Some schools offer better preparation than others, but everyone benefits from a good bar review course.  I have not had one client pass the bar exam the first time who did not take a bar review course.  A study buddy or support person is also very helpful for quizzing you, using flash cards, and helping you to strengthen your weak areas to make them strong.  Your weak areas can become your greatest strengths when you work on them successfully.

Take the day off the day before the exam.  Go to a movie, go for a hike, have dinner with your family, and do not study.  If a question comes into your mind it’s okay to look up the answer, but you risk compromising all the good studying you have done if you don’t give your mind this vital time to rest and integrate.  You will be much more effective at taking the exam if your brain is able to efficiently access what you have been working so hard to learn.  If you typically sleep well despite the circumstances then allocating sufficient rest the night before is easy for you.  If it is sometimes hard for you to sleep when you are facing a challenge consider utilizing some special relaxation techniques and think this through in advance.  Hypnosis can be a very useful tool for helping you to get good sleep.  You can hire a hypnotherapist to help you or utilize relaxation tapes that you purchase or make yourself.  Prepare and plan ahead to ensure that you have sufficient sleep.

Plan in advance what and where you will eat your lunch and breakfast and eat foods that are easy to digest.  Scout out eating places in advance or plan to bring your own food to ensure that your body is comfortable while taking the exam.  What foods always make you feel your best?  Plan out every step of what you will be doing on the days of the exam including driving routes, parking, bathroom locations, and having extras of all your supplies.  Find the room where you will be taking your exam so that you know what to expect.  Some of these things can be done the day before.  

By utilizing Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Thought Pattern Management (TPM) and Hypnotherapy we are able to not only make the bar exam experience successful but positive as well.  Reducing stress and anxiety about taking the test can create a positive and enjoyable experience.  Clients have reported feeling so confident and relaxed that they looked forward to taking the exam and enjoyed the challenge and the experience of taking it.  With NLP and TPM we can create a successful study strategy, a successful exam taking strategy and create and sustain whatever emotional and psychological states are most helpful and resourceful.  Even someone with positive internal states can be enhanced and improved on increasing greater states of focus and confidence.  NLP and TPM learning and memorization techniques are also used to increase the effectiveness of studying and to improve retention and retrieval of facts when they are needed.

If you can pass law school you can pass the bar exam!  Now is the time to do whatever it takes to pass this exam.  Align yourself with everything you need and then do your best.  You can’t do better than doing your best.

Pati McDermott is a Certified NLP Master Practitioner, a Certified NLP Health Practitioner, a Certified TPM Master Practitioner and a Certified Hypnotherapist.   She has many years of experience helping people to successfully pass the bar exam.  She has been offering private sessions in person and by telephone to clients throughout the United States, Canada and internationally since 1990.  She can be reached at 877-881-4348 or by email.  Her web site address is

© 2007 by Pati McDermott

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