You’ve been studying the black letter law like a champ. And now, the bar exam is almost here. The next step is to make a logistics plan that will set you up to pass! Even though meticulous planning may not be everyone’s forte, some attention to detail is necessary for a calm(er) exam experience.
Here are some important things to consider before the bar exam arrives:
Note: This checklist assumes you’re opting to stay in a hotel during the exam, which most people do. If you’re staying at home during the exam, keep reading and adjust your plans accordingly.
WHAT TO PACK FOR THE BAR EXAM
Begin with what must come with you when you go to the hotel prior to the exam.
- Testing-related materials: First and foremost, research your state’s bar exam requirements for what you need to bring to take the test. Here is a sample list:
- Government-issued photo ID
- Documents for proof of admission
- Laptop (including charger, mouse if applicable, and laptop case)
- Pens and number 2 pencils with working erasers
- Select study items (be VERY sparing with these, we do not recommend any heavy studying, if any, during the bar exam)
- A couple plastic Ziploc bags (often people are required to bring testing materials in this)
- Any other documents or items your state requires
- First, check to see if your state has a dress code for the bar exam. If it does NOT, keep reading, if it DOES, dress exactly as they instruct.
- During the exam: Expect to need 2-3 outfits, depending on how many days your bar exam is.
- LAYERS – to account for changes in temp and prioritize your comfort
- “STYLE” – Trust your instincts. Some people will want to dress in jeans and a nice top to feel more confident, while others might prefer super casual yoga pants or something similar. Do not dress to impress your peers, as that is irrelevant to whether you pass the bar exam.
- Between exam days and downtime: Bring 2-3 outfits, again depending on how many days your exam is.
- COMFORT – Focus on bringing ultra-comfortable sleeping and/or lounging clothes. You’ll most likely be hanging around the home or your hotel room, given that you’ll want to rest and relax.
- Pajamas (a set for each night)
- Coat or jacket (Check the weather!)
- Shoes and socks (and maybe even a pair of slippers!)
- Belt, if needed
- Food: Focus on balance and food that is safe to digest and will fuel your brain, such as protein, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.
- Snacks – Think about food items that are easy to pack, such as granola bars, nuts, apples, etc. If you’re bringing cold items, check to see if your hotel room has a mini-fridge.
- Meals – Again, trust yourself. Some people pack all their meals to ensure they will have balanced, familiar food with them. This is a great approach because it takes away uncertainty. However, if you opt-out of bringing full meals with you, check the area surrounding your hotel for grocery stores and restaurants where you know you can pick up food that will be nourishing. (Not fast food, save that for the post-exam reward.)
- Beverages – At a minimum, be sure that you have access to water at all times, either by bringing a water bottle that is refillable or picking up bottled water when you arrive at your hotel.
- Personal Care:
- Body Wash/soap/face wash
- Medicines (ones you usually take, plus ibuprofen and/or antacids)
- A comfort item, such as a pillow or blanket from home
- An eye mask
- Music, movies, free time items
- Money, including single dollar bills for vending machines and transportation
- Glasses and/or contacts, contact solution
WHERE TO GO FOR THE BAR EXAM
- Hotel: As mentioned, most people opt to stay in a hotel during the exam, usually within walking distance of the test site, if at all possible. This will eliminate commute stress or the possibility of unforeseeable delays. If you haven’t already, check the surrounding area for hotels and book ASAP.
- Commute: If you do have to commute, whether by public transportation or car, remember to plan, plan, plan. Use Google Maps or some other GPS app to figure out the projected amount of time. Then, if possible, practice the commute in real life. And regardless of your circumstances, always allow extra time.
- Testing Site: Find out the exact address (and where the entrance is) and route to the testing site. If possible, go there before the exam to check it out. The last thing you want is to be trying to find the right entrance to a big building on the morning of the exam.
- The Plan: After you have all the above info, make a specific plan. This includes what time your alarm will be set (set multiple alarms!), what you’ll wear, eat, and do before you leave for the exam, exactly what time you’ll leave, how long you anticipate it taking to get to the test site, what you’ll have in your hands, and so on. This should include the exact materials you’re required to have for checking in, so double-check those rules!
KEEPING YOUR COOL DURING THE BAR EXAM
- Double-check: To minimize anxiety by avoiding unexpected complications, be sure that:
- All fees are paid
- All registration materials are done and confirmed (and printed, if necessary)
- The laptop is registered, if applicable
- Software for the exam is installed on your computer and works (test it!)
- You are aware of any rules regarding bringing non-required items, such as food, as well as the expectations around using the restroom before, during, and after the exam.
- Plan ways to stay calm: Pack headphones, download a white noise app, a meditation app, or anything else that might be helpful for you to have a moment of reprieve from whatever is going on around you.
- Distance: Make every effort not to hang around groups of people during the breaks, and even in between test days. Very little good (if any) can come from hearing other people’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences around the bar exam as it is happening.
- Other considerations:
- Pay bills ahead of time so you’re not juggling outside responsibilities during the exam days.
- Let the family know you’ll be off the grid if their texts or calls might be distracting.
- Plan something to look forward to, small or big! For example, will you watch a satisfying Netflix show after each exam day to give your brain a break? Or get a massage the day after the exam is over? Incentives can be very helpful!
Of course, this guide is not exhaustive. Our goal is to empower you to take control of your bar exam experience to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible. Best of luck!