Best Advice for Bar Takers

July 24, 2017

Aaaaah, the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think back to taking the bar exam…


Yes, many of you do.  And thankfully you were not shy when it came to giving your tips for getting through this daunting stage.  We asked for your best advice for bar takers, and you so generously provided.




And Facebook was equally kind…

From our friends at KNR:

Kisling, Nestico & Redick – KNR We asked some of our attorneys what their best advice was for bar takers and here’s what they had to say:

Attorney Devin Oddo: Preparation minimizes anxiety – study a ton, consult the Bar Prep materials, take practice exams, participate in study groups, ask questions of professors, etc. so you will know the materials and calm the nerves on test day. It is also important to stay sharp mentally and physically – eat healthy, exercise, get rest, and forget about the test periodically to give your mind a break.

Attorney Kimberly Lubrani: There’s only so many variations of the same questions that may be asked. Do as many sample essay questions as you can.

Attorney Ken Zerrusen: The best advice is to come to grips with the fact that your summer before the August bar exam is going to be no fun; study like crazy that summer and reap all the rewards when your name appears on the pass list in the fall. Remember a goal without a plan is simply a wish!

Attorney Matthew Walker: My best advice would be to relax, get plenty of rest, and most importantly trust in your preparation.

Attorney Kristen Lewis: Don’t panic. You have studied hard for the exam so be confident in your preparation.

Attorney & Managing Partner Rob Nestico: Make sure to define all legal terms and its application to each question. Have a condensed outline for each course on one page to review the nights before each test day. Also, get good rest and have a snack for during exam.

Attorney April Hanlin:
1 – Get a hotel room to yourself within walking distance of the test site.

2 – At the end of each day, DO NOT discuss the test questions or your answers with anyone who also took the test. This will likely induce panic, not relief.

Partner John Reagan: Try to relax. The hard work and preparation are done. Getting stressed out before and during the exam will not help your performance. It will do the opposite and stress you out.

Don’t try to cram at the last minute. If you are comfortable, you can review your notes and outlines each evening for the subjects you are least comfortable with. But be sure to eat well, stick to your exercise program, and get your rest.

Don’t listen to what others say during breaks or evenings about the exam questions and the answers they wrote. They could be wrong, and it will mess with your head. If you wrote a completely different answer, you might still earn a higher score.

Be sure and complete all answers. A blank response earns no points – even if you attempt an answer you might get it right.

Because we promised a goody-bag, we’re sending it out to Adam VanHo, who responded thoroughly on both Facebook and Twitter.  We think Adam should start blogging because he already started to here:

VanHo Law These are my suggestions:

(1) DO NOT STRESS. Yes, the test is important, but if you stress, you’ll overthink your answers and then panic in subsequent questions about the things you wish you had put in your prior answers. Whatever you do to reduce anxiety and stress, do it — and then do it again.

(2) Once an answer is done, DO NOT go back and think about it ever again — it’s done, the answer is submitted, move on to the next questions/essays.

(3) DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE about the test during those three days — that is especially true of other test takers, but also includes family, friends, strangers in bars and even your pet dog. All it will do is cause anxiety and make you second-guess yourself and your answers. Once the test is over — just like a criminal trial that ends in an acquittal — you can tell whoever wants to listen all about it. In the meantime, you have the right to remain silent — USE IT!

(4) After each day of the test, go out and get dinner — walk if possible to help clear your head. Have a good meal and a beer or glass of wine (“a”, not “a lot”). You need to relax, and this will help.

(5) I do this still when traveling for cases: if possible, get a hotel room with two beds. One will be for sleeping — the other for spreading out your study materials. It’ll be more comfortable to study on a comfy bed and will give you more space to spread out than a cramped hotel room desk.

(6) Repeat Rule Number One.

(7) Cone of Silence. Don’t take phone calls, texts, etc. during the exam. And avoid all social media. They’ll cause stress and violate Rule Number Two and cause a needless distraction. Once the exam is over, you can catch up on who broke up with whom and what dumb thing your sister, Lindsay Lohan, Donald Trump or whoever did — but until then, you need to wrap yourself in a cone of silence.

(8) If possible, go someplace quiet and uninhabited this weekend. The week before the bar exam, I went to my great-grandmother’s house in rural northwest Ohio. My Great-Grandmother was in the nursing home, there was no cable TV and my great-aunt told the entire population of Payne, Ohio (population 1,500) to stay the Hell away from me under the penalty of death. I am convinced that if it wasn’t for that week of silence and studying (and some bike riding), I would not have passed the exam on the first time. I realize it’s too late to do it now, but even if you can get a weekend to yourself, it will help.

(9) DO NOT — DO NOT — DO NOT — let your spouse or significant other convince you that they should come support you. They will be a distraction (no matter how much they promise not to be) and distractions can eventually cost you points on the exam. You can see them and have a wonderful weekend afterward — but until the exam is over, they need to disappear.

(10.) RELAX. Needless anxiety and stress have been the deaths of many, many bar exam takers. I know a person who graduated in the top five of her class who kept flunking the exam — and the reason wasn’t that she didn’t know the materials, but that she let anxiety wreck her ability to translate the materials to pen and paper. If you go into the test with anxiety, and the anxiety level stays consistent or increases, your scores will feel the impact.

Good luck and Godspeed!

Good luck to everyone, from all of us here at the Akron Bar Association!


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