I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently with people who are retaking the bar exam. The hardest part of retaking the bar is always starting to study again. After you get through the first few days, you’ll be back into a groove. Here are five things to keep in mind:
1) Be kind to yourself. Having to retake the bar exam brings up a lot of emotions. Give yourself some time to feel the sadness, anger, frustration and grief. Then push through it and study. The only thing you can do now is to once again give the exam everything you’ve got. It may feel like you are alone, but you are not. Lots of people have had to retake the bar and do so successfully. Many people are feeling the same things you are right now. Reach out to them. Seek support from loved ones and from your law school. You are smart and capable. You will pass the bar this time. Keep telling yourself that.
2) Start with a subject you like. Many people feel like they should start with their weakest subject so that they will have more time to work with it. Getting back into studying is difficult enough. Start with a subject you feel pretty good about. You can get to that tough subject next.
3) Remember that you have done a lot and you know a lot. You’re not starting from zero. Spend some time taking stock of the materials you have, and deciding what study materials you can use, and what you want to make anew. You don’t need to do everything all over again. You don’t need to watch all of the lectures again. Use the materials you have. You have laid a very solid foundation for yourself. That gives you a leg up.
4) Prioritize practice. You’re not seeing anything new for the first time now. You have already been through this process. Use all of that extra time to practice actual bar questions. Do MBEs and essays every day. Do MPTs at least once each week. Practice practice practice. Reflect on that practice every time you do it. Add every rule that you learn or clarify through a practice question to your outline or flashcards. Keep a journal of tips for yourself based on your common mistakes.
5) Take care of yourself. Self care is an essential part of any bar study plan. It is especially critical when you are retaking the bar. Make sure that you build in practices that are good for your physical, mental, and emotional health every single day. Give yourself a daily opportunity to wind down. Pay attention to your stress level and your physical exhaustion. You need to be well to be productive. It’s important to build in wellness practices early on, and maintain them as the exam gets closer and more stressful. (This will be important to maintain after you earn your law license as well.)