Thursday, June 23, 2016
With the law school terminal exam, the bar exam, about a month away, bar studiers are typically anxious and nervous for a variety of reasons. Some are overwhelmed by the limited amount of time remaining, others are fearful of not retaining and recalling information, and certain others are fearful that all the time and effort studying will not yield expected results. These are all valid fears and concerns but should not distract bar studiers from developing the skills necessary to successfully attack this exam.
One skill that bar studiers tend to avoid is writing answers to essay questions and I have heard a variety of justifications for why but the common theme is “fear.” Fear of what an answer to an essay question might reveal about knowledge of the law, ability to recall the law, lack of organization, ability to use facts effectively, ability to develop arguments and counter arguments, etc... The most significant fear is the negative impact on moral and motivation. Practice essays can be tough on moral and motivation but can help bar studiers uncover and acknowledge strengths and weaknesses. Bar studiers, you have time to learn the law, memorize it, and develop better writing skills. If you do not know what challenges you face, how can you positively progress? Below are four points highlighted in my students’ weekly messages about essays:
- Just do it. If you wait until you are fully comfortable with the law to write an essay; you will never do it. You will never be fully comfortable with all aspects of each and every subject area but you can get better by writing.
- Build your muscles. You must dive in to build tough skin when it comes to critique/feedback. When you are faced with the unknown you will develop a strategy. You do not want to face your worse fear, the essay, on the day of the exam. It just won’t work. “Remember that no one shows up for a marathon without preparation so why should you?” (Dean of Student Engagement quote)
- Keep it real. Be completely honest with yourself and the people who are trying to help you. Complete timed questions, honestly critique your responses, and start to do it closed book.
- Close the book…or you will never get the timing right and you will never memorize the rules. Only after you have made a good faith attempt and done your best should you look up rules you do not know or understand.