Taking the Bar: Tips from UVA Law Faculty, Administrators

Williams, Garcia

Amber Williams [left] and Jessica Garcia, both members of UVA Law's Class of 2012, study in the Law Library for next week's bar exam.

July 19, 2012

Since graduation in May, members of the University of Virginia School of Law's Class of 2012 have been studying hard to prepare for the state bar exams, which are slated to take place next week.

Members of the Law School's faculty and administration offered the bar applicants a few pieces of advice to ensure the big test goes smoothly.

ShadelMolly Bishop Shadel
Associate Professor of Law, General Faculty

"I wish I'd known to bring lunch! When I took the New York bar, we were at some sort of convention center that was far from anyplace to eat. There was one sad little hotdog cart there, and hundreds of people lined up at it looking for food. Pack PB&J — that's my advice."

BrownDarryl Brown
O.M. Vicars Professor of Law

"My one piece of advice regarding the bar exam, which helped me relax as I went into it, is to remember that the bar exam is pass/fail. That means that making any score above the minimum passing grade is a waste, and proof that you studied too much. In most states, no one will ever know about your way-above-minimum score, even you, so don't worry about achieving one.

Also, bring ear plugs. Some of your fellow test takers may be a little distracting. The guy sitting next me kept periodically muttering, 'Oh, my God. Oh, my God.'"

BallengerMartha Ballenger
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs

"Remember that you have a first-rate legal education, and if you've done a reasonable amount of studying/review this summer, you will pass — which is as good as an — A.' Don't trade sleep for study time, especially the nights before testing days. Find out whether you'll be penalized for incorrect answers so that you'll know how bold to be in your guessing. Have some protein for breakfast, and I've heard that peppermint aids mental processes.

Know that we're all pulling for you. Good luck! From a veteran of four exams (different ones, thankfully)."

DonovanKevin Donovan
Senior Assistant Dean for Career Services

"I can't even remember taking the bar. At all. Not where I was, not what it was like. No memory. I hope the same for all of the 12s in the near future. My advice: Plan a celebration for after and go forward with it regardless of how you feel it went."

SetearJohn Setear
Class of 1962 Professor of Law

"Having never taken the bar, I can only offer general advice: (c). Because studies show that disproportionate percentages of the first question on a multiple-choice test have the answer (c)."

OrtizDan Ortiz
John Allan Love Professor of Law
Edward F. Howrey Professor of Law

"Breathing deeply helps only if you don't hyperventilate."

MorrisEdith Morris
Special Assistant to the Dean

"Almost 20 years later and some things are etched into my memory as if they were yesterday.

One of the simplest and best tips I received was to set my watch to 12 at the beginning of each timed portion of the exam. This made it easy to calculate how much time had elapsed and was remaining.

Wear comfortable clothes. Your answers are being graded, not your sense of fashion.

To borrow a phrase from running, "no new is the good new" — now is not the time to try something "new." Stick to the plan that you've set for yourself. Continue to exercise and eat well.

If you are traveling to the exam site and staying in a hotel, go over the list of items you are allowed to bring into the exam and pack them in a large Ziploc baggie and put that baggie into your suitcase. When you arrive, you won't panic over finding earplugs, pens, pencils, etc. If you wear contact lenses, don't forget to bring a pair of eyeglasses as backup. If you tend to get cold easily, remember a spare sweater or jacket to bring into the exam room.

Resist the temptation to go over the exam's questions with friends after the test. Particularly if you have the multistate or another state bar the next day. If you find yourself dwelling on certain questions, try to do things that help you clear your mind — read a book, do crossword puzzles, get some exercise. Know yourself and what works for you, which may not be the same as what works for your friends.

If something unexpected happens during the test, stay calm, remember to breathe and do not panic."

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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