Remembering the bar exam: One survivor's tips and tricks to pass the bar exam

It is July 2017. I took my first bar exam in July 2010. Time flies.

Every July, I think of you guys. It was a dark, dark time. I did a lot of Google searches: “bar exam tips,” “California bar exam,” “what do I do if computer shuts down during the bar exam,” “is there life after I fail the bar exam?” Standard stuff.

So for those of you out there in this dark July time, here are my thoughts and words of comfort:

Bar exam tips and tricks

  • You’re not alone

You may feel really alone studying for the bar, but you aren’t. Here I am, seven years after the bar exam, and I still feel it like yesterday. It’s a tradition and a proving ground. This time is the start of war stories, and a way you will bond with other attorneys in a few short months. Almost every attorney you will ever meet will have a good story about studying for the bar exam. Once you come around and out of this July dark time, you will appreciate these stories and the intent behind them. They are an effort to reach out to you and connect with you on a topic you care about.

  • Work out and stay healthy

Keep up your law school routine, and keep working out. Whatever your thing is, do that every day. Go out for a walk in the morning to ground yourself. You are here to do good work and do your best, but exercise will get you out of your head a bit. As it gets closer and closer to actual exam time, nothing can be more important than keeping your body healthy. The last thing you want is to go into exam day tired, sick, and underperforming. Get your 8 hours of sleep. Eat your veggies. Sweat every day.

  • Write confidently

During test day, write confidently. Keep your sentences crisp and direct. Keep track of the big picture. Issue, rule, application, conclusion, IRAC, IRAC, IRAC and repeat. Resist the urge to chase the rabbits. This is not fair, since the law is not super clear. But just pretend. Be clear for today.

  • Use short paragraphs

Remember your bar exam graders are human. They are tired. They had a long day of work, and then they report to duty to read your exam. Related to keeping confident, keep it simple. If you can’t write concisely, at least break everything up into short paragraphs to give the illusion of clarity.

  • Stay away from negative energy

You’ve already made the decision on exam location by now. Regardless of whether your exam location is the same as your law school classmates, commit now to a vow of silence about the exam during exam days. There are plenty of things to talk about on your walk back to the hotel -- the weather, politics, sports. Do not discuss the exam. I repeat, do not discuss the exam. Do not discuss what the answer to any question was supposed to be. This will only serve to make you question yourself. That question, that day, is done. Leave it in the past and stay confident.


Those are my two cents on staying calm during the bar exam. You are so close. Keep going, and good luck!

Emily Montgomery is the co-founder of Juristech and the creator of Citepad, the soft legal keyboard for law students, lawyers, and paralegals. She graduated from UCLA in 2010, and then went on to take the California, Arizona, and Nevada bar exams.